Leiston 5 v 4 East Thurrock United
AT first glance the scoreline suggests this Ryman Premier clash might have been an exciting, end to end affair. In truth it was far from that, but it was still an extraordinary afternoon at Victory Road.
The scene was set as early as the fourth minute when hesitation by the East Thurrock as they struggled to deal with a set piece allowed Patrick Brothers the time and space to backheel the ball home.
It was a goal that owed as much to Rocks’ inability as Leiston’s attacking skills and it was a pattern to be repeated throughout the half as the visitors proved incapable of dealing decisively with deliveries into the box and complacent when challenging for the second ball and it took just another four minutes for Leon Ottley-Gooch to crash home a second goal following another penalty area scramble.
To their credit Rocks bounced back with a goal on ten minutes from Sam Collins, who cut into the box and clipped a looping shot over Dan Heath in the home goal.
Rocks always looked a decent side going forward, with David Bryant having an outstanding game leading the line and he was to provide a great equaliser on 26 minutes when he picked the ball up in a wide position, left a defender in his wake and fired home a well-placed cross shot that again left Heath stranded.
At that point it looked odds on that Rocks, who had marginally more of the possession, would go on and dominate but their fallibility from set pieces undid them again just three minutes later when Leiston captain David Head capitalised as East Thurrock failed to clear a corner and once again the net rippled at the end of a fierce close range strike.
And on 35 minutes Rocks were undone for a fourth time when Gareth Heath capitalised on more shoddy set piece defending to fire past Elliot Justham, who was looking decidedly uneasy behind a back four who had excelled themselves in a goalless draw at Lowestoft just a week before – such is the unfathomable nature of football!
To their credit, Rocks came back well and the goal of the game was an exquisite move with Bryant again cutting the defence apart from a wide position and delivering a perfect ball that Collins calmly slotted home from close range.
Seven goals in 39 minutes was a feast for the 189 spectators to enjoy, though the quality of football across the park wasn’t great and even with so many goals the match seemed bizarrely subdued.
The second half started in similar fashion but things were evened up for a second time on 57 minutes when Collins completed his hat-trick with a drive from the edge that took a couple of small deflections as it whizzed past keeper Heath, who will have felt he could have done better but it was symptomatic of the match. Don’t take anything away from Collins though, he was bundle of energy throughout.
His triple strike appeared to have given Rocks the impetus but once more the lack of decisive defending undid them again as, from another set piece, Emmanuel Osei snatched what proved to be the winner from yet another goalmouth scramble after Elliot had spilled the ball.
East Thurrock spent most of the rest of the match on the attack but for the last 30 minutes they couldn’t find the comeback goal they sought, even when referee Anthony Da Costa – albeit at the behest of his assistant – gave them a ludicrous free kick in the box for a hacked, sliced clearance that Heath gathered and was adjudged to have received a backpass.
Sam Higgins, who was largely anonymous throughout, smashed his strike at goal into the wall, which should have been several yards further back as Mr Da Costa paced out ten short steps rather than putting the wall back on the line as the free kick was placed between the penalty spot and the six yard box. It appears referee training these days doesn’t include basic mathematics!
Rocks hot-shot Higgins, clearly struggling to find his form and fitness after a lengthy injury absence, later slammed another free kick from the edge of the box into another rock solid wall and though the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, as the clock ticked down they couldn’t find the game’s tenth goal and the points stayed in Suffolk.