East Thurrock United 1, Wingate & Finchley 2
THERE was comedy and controversy in equal measure at Rookery Hill with a comic goal, astonishing misses and fury over what proved to be the winning goal reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
The opening goal came in the fourth minute out of nothing and left Rocks keeper Jamie Riley red-faced. The ball was played back to him by Matt Hall and he attempted to control it but it bobbled over his foot and rolled embarrassingly into the net.
Wingate might have added a second by more conventional means on 15 minutes but Ola Williams screwed a close range shot wide of the upright.
Just before that Sam Higgins had drilled a free-kick through the Wingate wall but a deflection made it a comfortable save for Bobby Smith. Rock’s next chance didn’t come until the 25th minute when Reiss Gilbey headed wide.
At the other end David Laird lashed a drive wide of the post.
A slip by young fullback Tom Stephen, voted Rocks’ player of the season before the game, allowed a speedy Wingate counter-attack that ended with Laird settling himself for a well-struck shot that brought a fine save from Riley.
Wingate’s Jon Docker was cautioned for a foul on Matt Hall and from the ensuing free-kick Gilby curled his strike just wide.
Wingate got a second goal in controversial circumstances on 37 minutes when an attempted clearance rebounded off a Wingate player into the path of Leon Smith, who looked several yards offside but a flag wasn’t forthcoming and he slotted the ball past Riley.
Rocks might have got a goal back within five minutes when Higgins was through on Smith but the keeper stood up well and blocked the striker’s low drive.
And they should have scored moments before half time when everyone stopped assuming an infringement in the Wingate box. No whistle came and the ball fell invitingly for Spencer Harrison from close range but he completely missed the ball with the goal at his mercy.
There was a similar close shave for Wingate nine minutes into the second
Half when Gilbey rose to meet Kye Ruel’s cross but, almost from under the crossbar, his angled header drifted wide.
Two minutes later Rocks got a penalty when Stephen was clipped in the box and Higgins rammed home the spot-kick.
Wingate’s Laird was lucky to stay on the pitch after stamping on the leg of Gilbey but ref Paul Kelly, with a clear view, deemed the offence only worthy of a yellow card.
And there was more controversy when Smith pulled off a fine save to keep out Hall’s fierce strike. Gilbey followed up and squared the ball for Ryel to tap home but the same assistant who had allowed Wingate’s goal earlier, this time raised his flag.
And there was an astonishing miss on the 71st minute when a blistering run from Ruel saw the ball roll into the patch of Ryan Sammons but from less than a yard out he scooped the ball over the bar of an empty net.
Smith kept his side ahead with a fine one-handed save to parry away Ruel’s looping, deflected shot with ten minutes to go and in the closing moments Hall fired wide when well-placed.
There was to be one last chance for Rocks, who had dominated the second half but Ruel’s chip over Smith landed inches over the bar.