FA 3rd Round Qualifying Round
North Greenford United 0 v 3 East Thurrock Utd
EAST Thurrock United’s stuttering start to the season has been notable for the absence of striker Sam Higgins through injury – but he is now getting back towards full fitness and on his first start of the season he proved the difference between these two sides in Middlesex on Tuesday evening reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
On Saturday, when the teams met in the first of two entertaining games in the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round Higgins (pictured) came off the bench to seal a remarkable comeback from a 3-0 deficit with Rocks’ third goal.
In Tuesday’s replay he broke the deadlock with an opportunistic strike on the stroke of half time and wrapped up victory with an accomplished finish in the second half.
In between midfielder Reiss Gilbey got Rocks’ second goal on a night when the one league step difference between the two sides was much clearer than Saturday.
Not that Evo-Stick Southern League Division One Central North Greenford were disgraced – indeed they played full part in another very competitive match, at least in the first half. But the Ryman Premier side always looked the likelier to score and seize the initiative.
The first few minutes of the first half were somewhat tepid after the excitement of Saturday.
Sam Collins came close to chasing down a long ball forward and Greenford’s highly impressive left back Sean Roberts crashed a shot wide of the upright but chances were few and far between.
Not even a lengthy spell while Rocks were down to ten men as Gilbey received treatment for a knee injury brought much concern for the visitors, who survived quite a bit of pressure and were forced into some scrambled defending, but keeper Richard Wray was never really tested.
The deadlock should have been broken on 32 minutes when a superb shimmy by Kye Ruel took him free of both central defenders and he raced through from the halfway line with only keeper Baboucar Gary Jallow to beat but though he guided his shot past the onrushing stopper it crashed against the upright and bounced away to safety.
The first goal did come moments before the break though, when neat Rocks passing created a shooting chance for Higgins, who showed his quality by guiding the ball home with a first time strike from just inside the box.
It was a blow that North Greenford were never really to recover from.
Behind for the first time in the tie, they came out gamely in the second half and briefly threatened, with Ricky Pither forcing a genuine save from Wray, but ten minutes into the half Tom Stephen delivered a fine low cross that drew Jallow off his line and wormed past several defenders before Gilbey chased it down and delivered a fierce, well-placed angled drive into the back of the net.
If that didn’t quite break the hearts and gallant resistance of North Greenford, the game’s third goal on 68 minutes did and it came from that man Higgins, who once again showed his excellent tight control to work an opening, burst through it and then picked his measured spot past Jallow.
It was game over from then on, with Rocks fans planning their trip to Eastbourne in the next round and there was even an almost comedic and appropriate English Riviera touch in the closing moments when Rocks’ assistant manager Jay Devereaux, forced to don his boots again because of an injury crisis in the visitors’ camp, came on for a brief cameo as Rocks closed out the final moments.