East Thurrock United 2, Hendon 0
EAST Thurrock were far more convincing winners than the scoreline suggests, dominating the game from start to finish and it was only the heroics of keeper Berkley Laurencin that kept the scoreline to respectable proportions reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
Rocks made a bright start but with their first sortie into their hosts’ penalty area in the third minute a ball driven across the box was flicked goalwards by Hendon’s Greg Ngoyi and Richard Wray was forced to pull off a fine reflex save at his near post. It was to prove to be Hendon’s only chance of note.
East Thurrock, featuring returning striking hero Hakeem Araba up front, began to settle and Kye Ruel shot from outside the box, Laurencin getting down to save comfortably, Sam Higgins drilled a shot across the face of goal and centreback Steve Sheehan showed his shooting prowess with a thumping effort from around 30 yards that Laurencin tipped over.
The keeper also reacted quickly, at point blank, to block a close range strike from Araba on 19 minutes.
The pressure was sustained and the home defence finally cracked in the 31st minute when Ryan Sammons’ well-flighted ball into the box was met by a diving Araba who steered it past Laurencian.
Despite the goal the keeper was proving to be Hendon’s most valuable asset and he saved his side again with a stunning one-handed save to keep out Higgins’ piledriver on 38 minutes and two minutes later another instinctive block denied Ruel.
The half ended with a move started and almost finished by Araba, who couldn’t quite get a killer touch to a ball into the box but he was clearly relishing his return to Rookery Hill after being released by Bromley.
Hendon made a double change at half time, Elliott Charles and Howard Hall joining the fray but it seemed as if the storyline would continue in the same vein, Laurencin producing another stop, this time to deny Higgins’ close range header just four minutes after the restart.
The pressure continued as Araba bundled his way through the box and prodded a shot against the crossbar. Gilbey, who was immense at the heart of Rocks’ midfield, drilled the follow-up goalwards but Laurencin saved again. Just before the hour Higgins flicked a header wide of the post.
Higgins, Rocks’ top scorer for the past two seasons, had failed to hit the net so far this campaign but his drought ended on 66 minutes when he latched onto a long ball from Simon Peddie and though Laurencian saved his first effort he followed up to stroke the rebound into the net.
The only downside for East Thurrock was a booking for Newby for a fine block tackle, just about the only blot on the copybook of ref Alan Dale who had a fine match and managed to calm things down well when a heated exchange blew up between a pack of players – the only time in the match that it threatened to get fractious. The cause was more Hendon’s frustration with the way the game was going rather than any malice and while it is true they were not fluent at any point, the visitors were also kept in check throughout by East Thurrock’s terrific workrate, exemplified by Gilbey’s energy and the considered passing and movement of Ross Parmenter.
That all round hard work and team unity from Rocks meant Hendon weren’t really in contention and posed little threat, with their best effort of the half being a late shot by Dean Cracknell that drifted wide.
In the end the tempo of the match ebbed away as Rocks saw the game out in the comfort zone to clinch a first Ryman Premier win of the season.