EAST Thurrock United manager John Coventry had warned nothing should be taken for granted as his side chase the four points they require for the Ryman One North title and he was proved right – though he was no doubt relieved that his side came back from a two goal deficit to grab one of them.
It was a closely contested, fractious match with football of high quality in patches and scrappy play at other times reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
There was a quiet opening, with East Thurrock generally in the ascendency but the first real chance didn’t come until the 13th minute when Kye Ruel controlled the ball well and smashed a half volley was that arrowing inside the near post until Andy Hall made a fine diving save.
Referee Gary Everts annoyed East Thurrock by waving away several claims for fouls as attacks were broken down and that disquiet turned out outright anger when he gave a ‘soft’ free kick to Brentwood on a rare attack in the 19th minute and that became incandescence when the ball was delivered into the box and
Darren Blewitt was unchallenged as he volleyed the ball home from close range, though perhaps the home side should have blamed their concentration level and lack of marking rather than the ref’s deficiency for the actual goal.
The game became something of a midfield battle, with tackles flying in and tensions rising, not helped by Mr Everts’ sometimes baffling decisions but equally by the friction between both sides.
Chances were at a premium, though a good one fell Max Cornhill’s way just before half time but the midfield dynamo, standing in as captain in the absence of suspended Ben Wood, headed Kye Ruel cross over the bar.
As the sides left the field at half time several players became involved in an unruly brawl that appeared to carry on down the tunnel.
The second half started with Brentwood making the first attacking parry but the reply thrust came from East Thurrock, with Hakeem Araba heading over when perhaps he ought to have done better.
It was a miss Rocks were to rue when Brentwood broke down the left wing in the 55th minute when Leon Fisher eluded his challenger and drilled in a low cross that brought a clinical close range finish from Sos Yao.
A great block from Ryan Sammons denied Brentwood a third soon after as Yao thundered in a powerful shot. It clearly lifted the home side’s spirits as they immediately attacked down the right and Kris Newby laid in a low cross that Araba smashed in from close range.
Before the restart Rocks introduced striker Sam Higgins for Ruel and he was involved within minutes, thumping in a shot that Hall was grateful to gather.
Rocks’ less than favourable impression of Mr Everts gathered depth when the referee waved away appeals for a penalty after Martyn Stokes appeared to palm the ball across his body in the box.
The ref, who ran the game with a smile on his face throughout and was clearly enjoying the engagement, also seemed to be determined not to issue a yellow card and quite how Fisher escaped a caution for a scything tackle on Sammons was beyond most people in the ground.
However, Rocks responded to a series of persistent fouls in the best possible way by exerting sustained pressure that led to a 72nd minute corner, swung in by Joe Keith and Araba rose to head home.
Higgins was clearly eager to get on the score-line after a lengthy absence through injury and fired in another shot that Hall saved, though action quickly switched to the other end where a slack back-header by Simon Peddie almost let in Fisher but Richard Wray raced off his line to dive on the ball at his feet.
The first booking finally arrived with ten minutes to go when Danny Dafter was penalised for his first foul of the afternoon, a slightly late challenge on Stanley Muguo but it was hardly the afternoon’s worst offence from a player well liked at East Thurrock where he spent a couple of seasons.
Rocks made a couple of late substitutions, Neil Richmond for Araba and Mike Ramkin for Reiss Gilbey but there was to be no sting in the tail and the hard-fought match ended all square.