East Thurrock United 0, AFC Hornchurch 1
A CONTROVERSIAL first half goal decided this hard-fought Ryman Premier derby. The finish from Lewis Smith, who looked the game’s most potent force was the difference between the sides in the end, but his goal was hotly disputed by East Thurrock reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
A bright opening saw the home side create the game’s first couple of chances but scrambled defending saw Urchins clear their lines – with Petrit Elbi then dinking a deflected header just past the upright.
However, Hornchurch were to go even closer on 11 minutes in their first attack of note when Martin Tuohy shot against the post from close range after Lewis Smith had hooked the ball into the box.
And it was the visitors who were to take the lead on 17 minutes when Smith chased down a ball on the left flank. He appeared to bring down defender Ryan Sammons to get to the ball first but the ref waved play on and the striker cut inside to drill the ball past Richard Wray from an acute angle.
At the other end another Elbi header drifted past the post as Rocks trid to bounce back quickly.
Referee Ben Wright annoyed visiting players and fans alike when the marauding Smith against clashed with Sammons and this time the defender clearly appeared to foul the livewire Urchin but to everyone’s astonishment the ref ignored the penalty pleas – perhaps in recognition that he might have erred earlier.
Rickie Hayles, an East Thurrock player up to a couple of weeks ago, reacquainted himself with Kye Ruel with a reckless tackle that earned him a caution. Urchins quickly cleared the subsequent free kick and on the counter attack Tuohy delivered a fine ball into the box that Frankie Curley rose to meet with a glancing header that drifted just wide.
Rocks made a bright start to the second half but were struggling to create clear openings. Far too often they dallied on the edge of the box, trying to thread the perfect ball through the eye of a needle when a more aggressive, direct approach might have paid dividends.
Hornchurch came close to a second when Tuohy chased down a long ball and Wray left his line to deal with it but was beaten for pace by the striker, whose shot towards a deserted goal was cleared at full stretch by Simon Peddie.
On the hour Sam Collins was switched to full back when Tom Stephen was replaced by Greg Cohen, to give Rock more attacking options, and almost immediately he was cautioned for a late foul on Dave Collis.
Rocks made a double substitution soon after, Reiss Gilbey being replaced by his university mate Matt Hall, making his debut after signing from Hastings, and Ruel was replaced by Sam Higgins.
A sarcastic comment from Newby, when a decision went against Rocks, brought the game’s third caution.
The play became scrappy from then on, with Urchins happy to sit and repel Rocks’ efforts, while always posing a threat on the counter attack.
On 90 minutes Hornchurch’s Michael Spencer was cautioned for bringing down Michael Ramkin on the edge of the box but Higgins drilled his free-kick into the wall and the visitors scrambled the ball clear.
It was the last significant act of of match played out in front of 255 watchers, who will have felt the chill of a stiff autumn breeze all the more for the lack of creativity, guile and real quality. Hands were stuck deeply in pockets to keep them warm, rather than clapping the entertainment!