East Thurrock United 2, Canvey Island 1
EAST Thurrock were deserving winners of Monday’s derby, avenging a defeat at Park Lane earlier in the season, but they had to sweat right to the end after failing to convert a number of second half chances – largely thanks to the excellence of Canvey keeper James Russell reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
Canvey weren’t without their own chances either and Rocks were indebted to a couple of fine stops from their keeper Richard Wray.
Ref Neil West took stick from the visiting fans who felt he missed three penalty shouts – and then compounded the Gulls’ sense of grievance by awarding Rocks a spot kick.
It was an entertaining match throughout, with players making the best of a difficult, slippy pitch. Canvey made a decent start and had the first serious strike at goal after five minutes, Kevin Dobinson’s free kick being pushed round the post byWray but Rocks began to create pressure of their own and fine work by the industrious Petrit Elbi, returning to the starting line-up, set up top scorer Sam Higgings but his close range snapshot was just wide of the upright.
Danny Spendlove was at the centre of the Gulls’ first penalty appeal, but his theatrical dive would have been more at home on an ice rink, his triple salko before hitting the deck putting any thoughts of awarding a kick out of ref West’s mind.
Rocks responded with a spell of pressure that saw Elbi and Higgins both have shots at goal, with Elbi also appealing in vain for a penalty after believing his shot had been deflected by a Canvey hand.
Gulls might have taken the lead just before the half hour when Leon Gordon broke through but Wray pulled off a fine double save to keep out both his strikes. Gordon then took a tumble on the edge of the box, prompting more penalty claims and Canvey’s sense of frustration increased when Wray pulled off a fine save at full stretch to tip Jay Curran’s powerful header just over the bar.
Rocks were having more of the chances through, in a game that ebbed and flowed from end to end, with Higgins driving the ball across the face of goal twice from differing sides and then Russell did well to save from Greg Cohen, another returnee to the Rocks starting line-up as boss John Coventry ‘freshened’ up his side.
Ben Wood then saw a shot drift away from the target and, after Canvey had their third big penalty shout of the half waved away, former Canvey player Cohen teased the visiting defence with a fine run, but failed in the end to put the ball in the danger area.
It looked as if the half would end in stalemate but two late blows swung the game in Rocks’ favour.
The first came on 44 minutes when Kris Newby burst into the box and his former Rocks team-mate Steve Sheehan challenged with an outstretched leg and Newby tumbled, with Mr West close by and certain of his decision as he pointed to the spot – despite the derision of the Canvey fans.
Newby picked himself up and, ignoring the delaying and diversionary tactics of Russell, smashed home the penalty.
Things got even better for Rocks in added time when they won a corner which Cohen delivered perfectly to the near post and Higgins rose to flick a header past Russell for his 14th goal of the season.
Rocks made the brighter start to the second half as Gulls, with Alex Rhodes replacing Gordon at the break, struggled to come to terms with the first half finale. The lead might have been stretched as Rocks pushed forward with some threat, Elbi and Cohen having half chances.
However, Canvey began to settle and pushed Rocks back. One goalmouth scramble saw the ball hacked off the line. Curran latched onto a half clearance to go close and then Bradley Woods-Garness hit the bar with a brave header.
Canvey got their reward with a goal on the hour, Alex Rhodes striking a free-kick goalwards that took a deflection off Rocks’ Reiss Gilbey and Wray slipped as he struggled to change direction.
Ironically the goal appeared to lift Rocks, rather than Canvey and they upped their tempo with Higgins forcing a save from Russell and then Collins firing wide.
With 14 minutes to go Russell pulled off a remarkable close range save from Higgins and then another Higgins strike drifted wide of the target.
Russell then kept out two strikes from Newby and twice foiled close range efforts from sub Kye Ruel, on for Elbi for the last seven minutes, but there could almost have been a reward for Canvey in the second of four added minutes when John Easterford headed across the face of goal from close range and any sort of touch from anyone would surely have put the ball over the line but it escaped everybody and drifted an inch past the far post.
An equaliser would perhaps have been an travesty for Rocks, who deserved their fourth successive win, though Canvey retained a sense of injustice over their penalty claims.
However, as Rocks lost at Park Lane to a hotly disputed Rob King penalty, the footballing Gods might well have ‘balanced the books’.