Hendon 1 v 1 East Thurrock Utd
ROCKS left Ryman Premier table-toppers Hendon with a hard-earned share of the spoils – and a tinge of disappointment that they didn’t take all the points reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
With striker Neil Richmond another key player to be sidelined by injury East Thurrock went with newcomer Petrit Elbi in the lone forward role and he worked his socks off all night to spearhead a thoroughly creditable team performance.
Rocks were particularly strong in the first half, harrying and chasing the home side at every opportunity and pushing them backwards with incisive play, with the best moves being a combination of quick movement and short passes – though when they went long Kye Ruel and Kris Newby proved adept at chasing and threatening the home defenders.
The tactics clearly rattled Hendon, who were lucky that neither Stanley Muguo or Newby connected better with shots when well placed.
The visitors were clearly in the ascendancy and got the lead their enterprise deserved on 33 minutes when Ruel ran with the ball from his own half. Play seemed almost in slow motion as he glided past several challenges, seeming to have overrun the ball several times but he weaved his way through and dinked a lovely chip past keeper Berkley Laurencin.
The lead ought to have been extended just before the break when Ruel slipped a defence-splitting pass to Elbi who dinked forward and took too long to pick his spot, allowing Laurencin to race of his line and make a timely dive for the ball. Rocks were still ruing the missed chance when Hendon broke quickly and a cross was met with a superb overhead kick by Carl McCluskey, who was unlucky to see the ball fly past the post.
It was a timely reminder to Rocks that though they were the dominant side, they couldn’t take anything for granted and so it proved in the opening minutes of the second half.
For a side so buoyant, they came out strangely sluggish and were caught napping when a needlessly conceded free-kick was played into the box and prodded over his own keeper by Ben Wood’s outstretched leg and sub Greg Ngoyi, on for the injured Isiah Rankin, gleefully headed into an empty net from close range.
The goal sparked a change in the momentum of the game and Rocks found themselves increasingly on the defensive and they were lucky when Ryan Sammons was outpaced on Hendon’s left flank and Ngoyi raced through to flash a shot goalwards that came back off the underside of the bar and bounced out to safety.
Further Hendon pressure saw visiting keeper Richard Wray at full stretch to save another strike from Ngoyi, who was clearly relishing his night’s work.
Having weathered the early second half storm Rocks battled their way back into the game and after good work by Ruel, Elbi flashed a shot just wide.
Chances were then at a premium as both defences dug deep and the exertions of the early play wore down both sides. With the tempo going out of the game it was something of an anti-climax in the closing stages, but nevertheless Rocks will be glad of the point – and buoyed by the confidence that they had the capabilities to run the leaders so close.