THERE may have been a few hangovers at East Thurrock after winning the league on Saturday but it was Grays Athletic that had the headache as the Rocks thumped four past them in the first half to secure a win in their last home game in the Ryman Division One North.
The spirit in the camp couldn’t have been higher at the Rocks and they looked so much faster, fitter and were first to the ball. The confidence of winning the league must have made them feel ten feet tall and so it was no surprise when they went 2-0 up very early on.
From the whistle the Rocks stamped their authority and moved forward with purpose as Max Cornhill was felled in the area for a penalty to be awarded inside the first minute. Sam Higgins stepped up to hit the ball wide of Steve Northwood to give the home side the lead. The shell shocked Blues never recovered as East Thurrock controlled the half and they found it difficult to stop the forward momentum of the home side. Cornhill found himself clear but pulled the ball wide of the post.
A corner from Riess Gilbey found Kye Ruel wide on the left a floated cross was headed into the net by Araba only to be ruled off-side. Cornhill headed wide after some clever passing between Stan Muguo and Gilbey. Grays were looking ragged but a long ball upfield put Jared Small through but Rich Wray in the ETU goal pulled of a great stop with his legs. East Thurrock were enjoying the space being accorded to them and it was only going to be a matter of time before the Rocks added to the score.
A mistake by Dan Smith allowed Araba to run past to give the ball to Higgins, a classy chip and turn saw the ball settle into the back of the net to make it 2 – 0 in the 17th minute. The Blues were giving the ball away to easily as the half wore on, and when a ball through to Alex Osborn, when clear, saw the ball go wide of the post with Wray beaten summed up how the day was going.
Another defensive mistake on the half hour mark saw Araba hustle his way through to put the ball wide of Northwood to make it 3 – 0. Worst was to come when another attack found Ruel clear on the left his cross was met by the diminutive Gilbey to head in goal number four to compound the Blues misery. With minutes to go Grays came alive when Junior Baker hit a long range shot just over the bar and Osborn’s shot was tipped wide by Wray.
Grays management subbed the ineffective Steve Demetriou with Joe McEvoy during the break to give some bite to the midfield and this seemed to settle the Blues as they came out looking to try to salvage something from the game. Some early attacks from Grays saw Osborn hit the ball over, Danny Bunce test Wray with a hard shot and McEvoy hit a solid shot for Wray to hold well.
The second half settled into a midfield stalemate as the Rocks took their foot off the gas but they still played some good one touch football as the away side still looked slightly disjointed. Gilbey kept up his pace and his cross found Higgins clear but his shot went over the bar to give the Blues a scare. Araba used his strength to wend his way through the away defence but could not control the ball for Bunce to thankfully clear the danger.
A long clearance came to Brad Thomas in front of the Rocks goal but his scuffed shot went harmlessly wide. East Thurrock were enjoying their possession as they pulled the ball wide to stretch the Blues defence but as the half wore on it seemed as if they were content just hold onto the ball and frustrate the Blues attempts to get onto the score sheet.
A double substitution saw Danny Hearty and John Docker come on for Small and Eljay Worrell but with the game drifting away it made no difference and the Rocks were content to run time down to the final whistle and enjoy their success. A round of applause from all of the 450 plus crowd resounded after the final whistle as the Rocks were presented with their spoils as league champions.