THIS Ryman One North clash contained play of high quality and both sides will reflect on periods of dominance when they might have seized the points reports the Essex Enquirer.
Harlow were largely the better side in the first half and deserved their lead, but East Thurrock came back strongly after the break and in the closing stages came close to snatching the spoils.
In the end honour was deservedly even, with both goalkeepers basking in glory after some fine saves.
Rocks introduced new signing Sam Higgins straight into the action after his return from Blue Square Bet South but for much of the first half he was clearly rusty and failed to impact on the play – though his moment of glory was to come in the second half.
Harlow were generally sharper to the ball, with East Thurrock showing lethargy when they didn’t have possession and a propensity to dwell on the ball in defence, with Harlow quick for forage and strike incisively at the heart of Rocks’ defence.
The first clear chance fell to the home side after ten minutes when Clark Akers found space on the edge of the box and drilled the ball goalwards, only to be foiled by Richard Wray’s diving save.
At the other end, five minutes later, home stopper James Hassell was forced into a full stretch save to push Reiss Gilbey’s well struck shot away for a corner.
Play was largely in the opposing half though and Akers caused anxious moments when hesitancy in the visiting backline gave him time and space to shoot. His effort went over the bar and he would have been flagged for offside anyway, but it was a warning for the Rocks.
Their tenacious midfielder Stanley Muguo was guilty of several fouls around the box and severely tested referee Wilson’s patience, though his teammates were more concerned about the opportunities he gave the home side, with Wray being forced into another fine save to deny Lee Roache after the striker got on the end of a set piece delivered into the box.
The goal that Harlow had threatened finally arrived on 29 minutes when David Cowley drifted wide to the left and dug out a high, looping cross which dropped at the far post where Simon Peddie found himself with two players to mark but picked the wrong one as Akers rose unchallenged to nod home from close range.
The impetus was with Harlow and they went close to a second goal when Muguo, in fairness somewhat harshly in this instance, was adjudged to have fouled again and from the free-kick Leon Antoine flicked a header goalwards, only for Wray to rise to the challenge and push the ball wide.
The second half started with Harlow again on the offensive but the tempo of the match was to change when Muguo picked up an injury and was replaced by Steve Harrison, who injected more pace and urgency into the midfield.
Harlow still had attacking ambitions and on 54 minutes Wray again had to be at his best to save from Akers.
Rocks gradually began to get a grip on the game and a fine flowing move starting with Peddie ended with Higgins taking one touch on the edge of the box before firing a goalbound shot that Hasell went full stretch to tip over the bar.
A double substitution, with Rocks introducing Kye Ruel and Hakeem Araba for Peddie and the largely ineffective Leroy Huggins, added further to the swing in momentum.
Both were to play increasingly influential roles as Rocks pressed forward. The equalising goal came on 76 minutes when a counter attack initiated by Ben Wood created the chance for Cornhill to get in a snap shot. Hasell got down quickly and parried the ball which rebounded to the edge of the box and Higgins pounced, unleashing a low drive through a melee of players into the corner of the net.
Moments later Rocks came close to a second when Gilbey picked the ball up n the right flank and cut inside, striking a superb shot that dipped beyond Hasell’s outstretched arm but off the crossbar.
Harlow still posed a threat and Wray took two attempts to control a strike from sub Bertie Brayley but largely it was Rocks who carried the goal threat and in the closing stages they came close when a Higgins close range shot was blocked and then a Cornhill header was cleared off the line by Laurie Stewart.
And deep in added time Araba might have won it when Ruel rounded a defender and delivered a low cross to the near post which was met by the big forward but his effort rose up and over the bar.