Report courtesy of the Thurrock Enquirer
EAST Thurrock United welcomed back free-scoring winger Kris Newby and defensive acquisition Ricky Hayles for Saturday’s Ryman Premier clash, but the newcomers were largely anonymous in an indifferent Rock performance that saw them well beaten.
Things looked optimistic for the visitors in the opening couple of minutes as they started well, winning a corner that was floated in and Hayles beat defenders to it, angling a header wide of the post.
Cray responded with an attack that saw Rocks keeper Richard Wray get diown to his right to save Jack Clark’s low shot.
And the game impetus was turned fully in Crays’ favour on five minutes when Hayles nicked the ball from Leigh Bremner as he ran across the face of the box only for referee Oleksandr Sailiy to stun the visitors by awarding a penalty, the fourth successive hammer blow to Rocks in recent matches.
Tommy Whitnell slammed home the spot kick for an undeserved lead and from then on Cray were in command.
It would be easy to identify the decision as the game’s decisive moment, but with 85 minutes left there was plenty of time for Rocks to redress the balance. But rarely did they look like doing so with a lack-lustre display from back to front, allied to some impressive interplay from a Cray side clearly high on confidence and benefiting from a unified approach.
In contrast Rocks were disjointed and mismatched in key areas, with Bremner leading his line with an aggressive and enterprising display of attacking play.
The home side ought to have been reduced to ten men when Aaron Day elbowed Reiss Gilbey, but such is Rocks’ run of luck with officials that Mr Sailiy awarded them the free kick, but lectured Gilbey – presumably for putting his head in the wrong place!
Cray rode that bit of luck and took control of the match.
They might have extended the lead when reprieved Day surged forward and struck an angled shot that brought a fine save from Wray, though the ball only fell into the path of of Danny Phillips, whose rasping shot cannoned off the upright.
It wasn’t long before the seciond goal came though. It was created by a surging run from the impressive Sam Long who laid the ball into the pathy of Bremner. He cut inside and his fierce shot thundered off the bar, falling on the edge of the box to Clark who showed great composure to bring it under control, step inside and pick his spot in the back of the net.
Rocks’ best effort in reply was an opportunistic long range lob from Newby that drifted just over the bar.
In the closing stages of the half, Rocks were forced into a change when Greg Cohen was injured and replaced by Rhema Obed but it had little difference on the flow of the game.
The second half saw an improvement in the Rocks’ attitude, and they looked more competitive and Gilbey drilled a shot wide ten minutes after the restart.
Cray were not without chances of their own and after Tom Stephen and Obed got themselves into a back-pedalling mix-up, Bremner nipped in with a long range effort that went over Wray – and fortunately for the keeper, just over his bar.
At the other end Gilbey got on the end of an angled cross from Newby but though he tipped the ball over keeper Andy Walker it drifted past the post. Gilbey returned the favour with a throughball to Newby that allowed him the opportunity to race in on Walker’s goal but he ended up stretching for control and elected for a weak shot that Walker comfortably saved at his near post when a square pass would have been a better option.
Rocks’ other efforts as the clock ticked down offered more to good fortune than skill, with Richmond and then Ruel forcing rebounds that went goalwards but the home side were rarely, really troubled.
It looked as if there would be no more goals until, deep into stoppage time, Bremner sprang the offisde trap and raced through on Wray. The keeper did well but couldn’t stop the player or ball’s forward momentum, but he got back for a second challenge, only to see his outstretched leg send the ball into his own net – though Bremner claimed the goal his afternoon’s enterprise probably deserved.