EAST Thurrock are through to the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history after a battling display at Priory Lane.
Rocks made a bright start and much of the early play was in and around the Eastbourne box, but they were unable to create any clear cut chances reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
The first strike on goal came in the eighth minute but Greg Cohen’s strike was well over the bar.
Eastbourne’s first real threat came from a long throw which was flicked on to Ben Watson who perhaps should have done better with a header that Richard Wray saved comfortably.
A swift 18th minute break by Eastbourne carved open the East Thurrock defence and only a well timed challenge from Ben Wood denied Watson a strike at goal.
From a well placed free kick moments later Gary Elphick got in an effort at the far post that was well kept out by keeper Richard Wray.
Borough were turning the screw but East Thurrock showed their ability on the counter when Sam Higgins broke and got in a shot that was blocked.
Rocks were lucky to escape when Watson unleashed a shot that Wood appeared to charge down with his hands and then Carl Rook headed against the upright as Eastbourne piled on the pressure.
Rocks rode the storm and began to come back into the game, which lost some of its tempo, and went into the break on level terms.
There were anxious moments in the East Thurrock box in the opening moments of the second half when the ball flew about before Wray grateful gathered to smother the danger.
Rocks broke and won a corner that was quickly cleared and Eastbourne were only denied the opening goal by two tremendous saves from Wray who saved from Rook and Watson in the space of five seconds – and 20 seconds later the ball was down the other end where Kris Newby dragged a close range effort wide of goal.
The deadlock on 58 minutes when Tom Stephen crossed to the near post and Higgins nipped in with a close range header to beat Rikki Banks at the near post.
Borough had claims for a penalty waved away when Watson burst through and Wood just nicked the ball away from him before the player tumbled.
At the other end Banks made a couple of decent saves to deny Rocks and then Higgins spurned a good chance to extend the lead, screwing his shot across the face of goal after springing the home defence.
And on 70 minutes Banks had to go full stretch to keep out Ruel’s close range effort – with Newby flashing a drive past the upright moments later.
Eastborune made a double substitution in a bid to bring fresh impetus to their efforts, with Ross Treleaven and Gary Charman coming on.
However, the immediate incident was a penalty to Rocks, awarded when Darren Baker brought down Ruel as he was about to shoot. Newby smashed home the spot-kick.
Rocks could well have well have had another penalty when Ruel was pulled back but ref Paul Harris again ignored the shouts for a spot-kick. Perhaps Ruel’s honest attempts to stay on his feet weighed against him and there might still have been a positive outcome for Rocks but Newby blazed wide.
With Rocks pegging Eastbourne back, Higgins then fired across the face of goal.
But a tense finale was set up when Eastbourne delivered a deep ball into the far post on 81 minutes and Elphick headed in from an acute angle.
Eastbourne did their best to breach the visitors’ backline but a battling performance all round held them at bay and at the final whistle around 100 travelling fans saluted their heroes
After the game Rocks boss, John Coventry said: “Obviously they were a good side and at times we came under pressure and we had to ride our luck at times but teams that do ride their luck at one end have to take advantage at the other and we did.
“I am very proud of the performance of my team today and I think the way the home fan applauded u at the end a well as our own superb supporters, eflected the fact that we were worthy winners.”