East Thurrock United 4, Metropolitan Police
A SAM Higgins hat trick saw East Thurrock move one step closer to safety and with four games in hand a tilt at the play offs is unlikely but not out of the question.
East Thurrock made a bright start and pegged Police back through the opening minutes, taking the lead after seven when top scorer Sam Higgins stooped to cleverly head the ball over keeper Jamie Butler from Reiss Gilby’s cross into the box.
The goal appeared to take the early tempo out of the match and it became rather lethargic, with the next real chance not coming until the 24th minute when Met’s Jay Lovett volleyed high across the face of the goal when well place, but they drew level a minute later when they won a free-kick on the edge of the box and Ty Smith smashed the ball home.
Rocks were looking strangely out of sorts and the defence when missing three minutes later when the ball broke in the box and with no-one in a home shirt attacking the ball, Lovett was given time and space to prod the ball past keeper Richard Wray.
The first sign of energy in Rocks’ performance came from Kye Ruel who made a storming run from box to box but eventually was crowded out as he reached the danger area.
Met Police were quickly back on the attack and a swinging free-kick from Smith evaded everyone, with Wray going full stretch to tip the ball past his far post.
Rocks came close to an equaliser moments before the break but Elliott Taylor scrambled Higgins’ effort of the line.
The second half started scrappily but Rocks began to put more pressure on their visitors and were rewarded on 56 minutes when Ruel was brought down in the box. The penalty was delayed for more than a minute as players scuffled on the edge of the box but after ref Andy Mawby had sorted it all out, Higgins and unruffled Higgins smashed home the spot kick with conviction.
Police responded well and from a hectic goalmouth scramble Wray was forced to made an instinctive, reactive save to keep the scores level.
The home side restored their lead on 68 minutes from the most unlikely of combinations, Simon Peddie shooting after a corner and his blocked shot being rammed into the roof of the net by fellow centre back Marc Gorbell.
East Thurrock had a great chance to extend the lead soon after when Sam Collins did well to break down a Police attack and stormed forward. With Greg Cohen storming past on one side and Higgins the other, he chose Higgins but the pass was a little behind the striker who was then crowded out as he sought to get in a hat-trick shot.
At the other end Smith thumped another fierce drive just past an upright and the a speedy Rocks break saw Ruel free but his attempted chip over Butler was weak and the keeper saved comfortably.
Rocks put the game to bed on 90 minutes when Higgins did complete his hat-trick, racing through from a palpably offside position and then getting a stroke of luck as his shot bobbled over Butler. Police manager Jim Cooper was incensed, as were several of his players, and the boss got his marching orders from Mr Mawby for his comments.
There was time for Police to mount one last attack and Wray produced a fantastic close range save from sub Eddie Smith. From the resultant corner Duran Reynolds, back on the ground where he played for Grays last year, headed over.