East Thurrock United 2 v 2 Met Police
WHILE the outcome may not have been unexpected given the respective Ryman Premier league positions and East Thurrock’s propensity to draw matches this season, this was desperately disappointing result for the home side who went into the match on the back of three wins and on the balance of play will have felt they should have taken all three points.
As it was, two calamitous defensive moments cost them dearly and undid lots of other promising work.
With the return of Dave Collis to Billericay, Rocks boss John Coventry was forced into two other changes because of the suspension of Ryan Sammons and top scorer Sam Higgins was unable to make the team because of illness.
Talismanic club captain Reiss Gilbey returned to the heart of midfield for a penultimate performance before leaving for the Middle East, while Kye Ruel dropped in at right back and L’hereux Menga got to pit his strength against the well-organised Police backline.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly because of the changes and an 11 day break because of postponements, Rocks took time to settle, while the visitors were on a high from their weekend win at Canvey Island.
However, by the 1th minute it was Rocks who began to exert authority and Menga forced a decent save from Jamie Butler, who did well to hang onto a well-struck shot with David Bryant lurking in wait for an spill. James Lawson then surged through the Police defence only to blaze over the the goal in his sights.
Traffic was largely one way and it wasn’t until the 27th minute that Police mounted a serious threat, Rocks keeper Elliot Justham getting down well to save John Dollery’s low shot.
On the half hour it looked as if Bryant had broken the deadlock when he nipped between defenders and Butler but his chip over the keeper drifted agonisingly wide. A well delivered free-kick from Gilbey was then met by Steve Sheehan, who was only denied a goal in the return fixture to the one in which he broke his leg in October by an instinctive save from Butler.
It looked as if it wasn’t going to be Rocks’ half when Gilbey then powered through only to shoot over but the breakthrough came two minutes before the break when Bryant finished a run down the right flank by cutting in and drilling the ball on the ground past Butler for an exemplary finish.
That wasn’t the end of the half’s action though, Police responded well and Dollery thumped a fierce shot against the foot of the post.
That was a warning to Rocks but they clearly didn’t heed it. They got to the turnaround in front, but just minutes into the second half some shocking defending and indecision in their own box allowed the ball to break for Steven
Noakes to slot into an almost unguarded net.
The second half lacked the pace of the first and the sides largely cancelled each other out with lots of midfield huff and puff, but few clear cut chances.
Coventry reshuffled his side midway through the half, pushing Ruel forwards at the expense of Menga and Ben Wood dropped into the back four.
The change worked and gave Rocks fresh impetus that culminated in an 81st minute goal. A well worked move earned a corner and when Tom Stephens’ cross fell into the box Lawson eluded defenders to prod it home.
It was a goal that should have sealed the game but East Thurrock are notoriously bad at shutting up shop and with the visitors pushing men forward, the closing minutes were a case of cops and rockers.
Police might have scored with just a couple of minutes to go when dreadful defending opened the door for Noakes but he drove his shot against the post.
However, there was still time for an equaliser as the game drifted into added time and the initial blame was with Ruel, who tried to dribble his way out of defence and lost the ball. His defenders were caught flat-footed as former Rock and much travelled striker David Knight showed his nose for an opportune goal by sliding the ball home against a desperately disappointed home side.