East Thurrock 1 v 0 Lewes
EAST Thurrock rose from Rock bottom of the Ryman Premier with this deserved win against the high-flying Rooks on Tuesday evening.
The game was decided by a last minute penalty from Rocks’ Kris Newby, calmly converted after Sam Collins was brought down in the box, but few could argue that the home side didn’t deserve the points and, had they taken their chances, the game could have been won well before the late drama.
After Saturday’s humiliating 5-2 defeat at Bury, where Rocks were a defensive shambles, manager John Coventry reshuffled his backline and made four changes to the starting line-up.
The move paid off with a much improved defensive show and a first clean sheet in eight matches – only their fourth of the season.
Neither side looked settled in the opening stages and it wasn’t until the tenth minute that a half chance was created, the visitors’ Paul Booth shooting wide.
Rocks responded with Sam Higgins fizzing a ball across the face of goal with no one on hand to get the vital touch.
Soon after, as Rocks began to exert consistent pressure, Kye Ruel, Higgins and Reiss Gilbey all had turns at trying to scramble the ball home in a goalmouth melee, but Rooks eventually cleared their lines and quickly counter-attacked with Albert Jarrett firing a low cross into the box, with again no striker able to get a decisive impact.
On 24 minutes a shot from Higgins, who was linking well with new strike partner David Knight, was deflected just wide and, when the corner came back in, his glancing header was cleared at the far post.
Lewes were not without chances and an angled ball from Jarrett caused confusion in the home defence, who were delighted to see it drift wide of the post.
The best chance of the first half came on 35 minutes when Collins picked out Higgins with a fine cross but the striker’s header drifted high and wide when he should have done better.
An anxious moment followed for Rocks when keeper Richard Wray committed himself to getting a ball bouncing into his box, but it held up and in the end he was lucky not to concede a penalty as most observers thought he had injudiciously flattened Alex Stauronou, but ref Chris Phillips waved away the visitors’ appeals. Wray said afterwards that he had touched the ball first, but it was certainly a nervy moment for Rocks watchers!
The home side were quickly on the offensive at the start of the second half and it looked likely they would open their account when Collins went on a mazy run but, having done all the hard work and left three defenders in his wake, he forced his shot wide of the post.
There was drama at the other end soon after when Wray left his box to clear a ball wide on his right but he scuffed his clearance from near the touchline and it was smashed back goalwards by Stauronou and looked to be on its way in until the keeper’s sprint and desperate dive pulled the ball back from the brink.
Michael Malcolm then carved open the Rocks defence with a pacey run just before the hour mark but he couldn’t get his shot on target.
Rocks began to push the visitors back and a succession of half chances came and went. Shots from Knight and Collins were blocked by desperate defenders and the home side had two good shouts for a penalty for handball, the second moments after a rasping drive from Newby had bounced off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.
It looked as if the home side would be denied until the last minute when Collins went down under pressure in the box and the assistant linesman gave the penalty decision. It wasn’t an opinion shared by angry Lewes boss Steve King but it would have been hard to deny it wasn’t deserved on the balance of play. Newby didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth and coolly slammed home his eighth goal of the season.
Rocks survived a few minutes of desperate Lewes pressure in added time to take all the points – a reward they deserved for their resilience in the wake of recent disappointments and for their superb team effort on the night.