Sunday, December 10, 2023

Football: Rocks just a game aways from play-offs

Ryman Premier

East Thurrock 2 v 0 Harrow Borough

EAST Thurrock could, and probably should, have won this Ryman Premier clash by the proverbial country mile, but their performance and indeed the whole reason for the best season in the club’s history was encapsulated in the last 20 seconds of the match when the determination not to concede overshadowed everything else reports The Thurrock Enquirer.

With 90 minutes gone and the game won, Rocks fullback Tom Stephen raced fully 40 yards to make a clearance deep in his own box. Nothing special you might think but the young man, who has played in 47 of Rocks’ 50 games this season not only played last Saturday but warmed up for this encounter by completing the London Marathon in a remarkable three hours 51 minutes as a tribute to his grandmother.

His clearance went for a corner and when Harrow slung in a ‘Hail Mary’ cross keeper Elliot Justham pushed the ball onto the bar and in the scramble that followed three Rocks players threw their bodies in the path of fierce strikes at goal. The ball was beaten away time after time before ref Jonathan Pickford blew for time to spark a low key celebration.

Low key because Rocks know their job is still not yet done. With a massively superior goal difference to Met Police and four more points than Canvey Island, East Thurrock require one win from their remaining games at home to relegation-threatened Hastings on Thursday or at newly crowned champions Whitehawk on Saturday.

A positive result in either of those games cannot be taken for granted given the high stakes, but who would bet against one more successful gambit from the side that have crept under the radar with 11 wins and four draws in a stunning unbeaten run through March and April?

Tuesday’s game was a bit of a strange affair, decided by two goals which both came three minutes into either half.
The first came when Ryan Sammons delivered a fine free kick to the near post and Sam Higgins stooped to head his 20th goal of a campaign truncated by injury and the second three minutes into the second when he showed great bravery to head in at the far post from Sammy Collins’ excellent cross.

Aside from the late scramble in their own box, there was just one moment of real anxiety for Rocks. That came just before the half time break when Charles Ofusu-Hene burst through the backline to get on the end of a long ball and he looked odds on to score but Justham made himself huge and parried away the Harrow man’s close range shot.

Aside from that, virtually all the goalmouth action was in and around the visitors’ box with a catalogue of missed opportunities for Rocks to chalk up a massive victory.

Soon after his first goal Higgins ought to have created another for several teammates but as they waited for a pass to tap into a gaping net the striker showed the selfishness of the predator and tried to cap a great run by forcing the ball past Dave Gregory, only to be foiled by the keeper.

Other half chances came and went in a one-sided first half and the Rocks onslaught didn’t stop in the second.

After Higgins had completed his brace he turned provider with an exquisite defence-splitting pass for David Bryant who was denied by Gregory’s brave save, though the on-rushing Kye Ruel should have buried the rebound instead of lashing it over the bar.

Higgins then showed rare profligacy by blazing an angled shot high and wide after a fine pass from Collins but in the end the wasted chances didn’t matter and if the defining memory of this game will be the last seconds defensive commitment rather than the attacking dominance, that is no insult to the team spirit that has served the Rookery Hill side so well this season.


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