By the Thurrock Enquirer
A THOROUGHLY entertaining match ended all square but in controversy as Rocks’ tiggerish midfielder and man-of-the-match Reiss Gilbey was sent off after being adjudged to have brought down last man Alex Dyer, with Richard Jolly stepping up to convert the late, game tying penalty.
Dyer made a greet impact from the bench, dragging his side level after Rocks had taken a 3-1 lead, looking to have the points in the bag.
East Thurrock made a bright start, forcing an early corner but Wealdstone mounted the first serious threat with Kurtney Brooks bursting through to net but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Another chance came when a ball flashed into the box fell into the path of Peter Dean but he dallied and Ryan Sammons nipped in to make a timely tackle. On the counter Rocks broke through Kye Ruel, who was brought down by Alan Massey, who was booked.
The opening goal came on 19 minutes when Gilbey held the ball up on the edge of the box and slid a ball wide to Neil Richmond, whose low angled shot went across John North just inside the post.
A brave block from Tom Stephen denied the ever dangerous Jolly as Stones tried to pick up the pace, but Rocks threatened again on the counter, a flowing move ending with a shot from Greg Cohen that went high and wide.
Rocks fans were on the edge of their seats when keeper Richard Wray left his box to chase down a ball and then went wide and beat a man on the way to clearing the danger with a big boot he perhaps ought to have employed earlier.
As East Thurrock began to settle into a formation that included two debutants in former Arsenal midfielder Rhema Obed and Jake Cass, a nine pass move then put Gilbey in for a close range header that lifted just over the bar.
Cass’s enthusiasm then saw him booked for an ill-timed challenge and from the resultant free kick centre-back Sean Crower header with a powerful diving header.
An incisive move just before the break carved open the Wealdstone defence and Stephen’s fine cross opened the door for Richmond who did everything right except for his final touch, which saw him prod the ball wide of the post.
Alex Dyer and Wes Parker were introduced for Wealdstone at half time and after five minutes Dyer had a great chance to equalise but fired wide of the post from close range.
However, four minutes later Stones were on level terms when Dyer’s cross caused confusion in the home defence and as they scrambled to clear the predatory Jolly forced it home from close range.
Rocks responded well, with Gilbey springing the backline only to be pushed in the back as he was about to pull the trigger. The ball bobbled wide as the youngster tried to stay on his feet when he might have been better rewarded falling over as referee Elliott Kaye ignored claims for the rather obvious penalty.
At the other end Brooks through he had put the visitors ahead with a close range effort that was somehow kept from going over the line by a miraculous intervention from Sammons, who was rewarded for his efforts as Rocks counter-attacked down the left. Gilbey dummied as the ball came in diagonally and that allowed Ruel the opportunity to slam the ball home for a 65th minute goal.
And things got even better for Rocks on 73 minutes when ball over the top saw Richmond burst free and he showed great composure to carry the ball, draw keeper Anderson and slide it home.
With ten minutes to go Stones put themselves back into the game when Dyer slammed home a thunderous shot from 22 yards that gave Wray no chance as it curled into the top corner.
And the visitors were level five minutes from time when Dyer was tripped by Gilbey, a contentious enough decision in its own right but compounded when Mr Kaye gave a penalty, with Rocks claiming the incident was outside the box and Gilbey getting dismissed as ‘last man’. Jolly is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and slammed home the spot kick.
The irony of being honest and getting the thin end of the wedge may not have been lost on young Gilbey as he trekked disconsolately to the dressing room. Mr Kye clearly felt he had no alternative and he had the courage of his convictions and made a decision, but with hindsight and discussions with others, he may regret his leniency when Gilbey was denied at the other end. However, he’s a young ref and did well overall, certainly keeping up with play and helping keep it flowing – which added to the entertainment – whenever he could.
The penalty looked as if it would be the end of the drama but an excellent run by Rocks’ sub Kayan Kalipha ended in a fine near post cross that Anderson scrambled away from the feet of another sub, Bradley Warner.
Four added minutes ticked away with Stones looking the more threatening but in the end Mr Kaye called time and to a memorable match played out at times in driving rain and then bright sunshine. The ebb and flow of the match mirrored the weather for what was a most entertaining afternoon – though one ground hopper left describing it as a ‘load of rubbish’. One wonders just why he bothers to leave his Norwich home if this wasn’t good enough for him!