East Thurrock United 3 v 0 Cray Wanderers
EAST Thurrock could have won this Ryman Premier clash by the proverbial country mile but profligacy in front of goal and the excellence of Cray keeper Andy Walker kept the score-line at a respectable level.
Cray, who had endured a difficult week with a number of players leaving the club, nevertheless made a bright start and fired two early shots, both high and wide, at debutant Sam Mott’s goal.
Rocks eventually settled and Kye Ruel, on his return to the East Thurrock fold showed the visiting defence a clean pair of heels in the eighth minute and squared for Leon McKenzie who turned on the ball and smashed it past Andy Walker for the opener.
David Bryant ought to have had a second for the home side soon after when he sprang the back line but Walker raced off his line and produced a decent save.
Cray responded with a Jordan Clarke header at the far post that lifted over the bar but the home side were soon back on the attack and Walker again thwarted Bryant, this time at his near post after the striker had jinked his way through the defence.
McKenzie and Ruel were unsettling the Cray defence and Ruel should have scored after being set free but fluffed the chance, then Bryant was denied only by a last ditch tackle from James Fray. East Thurrock pressure continued and they had the ball in the net just after the half hour but the effort was ruled out by ref Graeme Ions, then Walker did well to save from McKenzie, with Tom Stephen heading wide in the aftermath.
Cray were being run ragged and their frustration resulted in Gary Cook being cautioned for a late tackle on Stuart Thurgood. Ruel then found himself in the book after taking a throw in given in his favour by the assistant, but the ref believed it should have been a Cray throw. The flurry of yellows followed with one for Fray for a lunge on Stephen and Thurgood for a clattering challenge on Alex Stavrinog. David Bryant also found his name recorded by Mr Ions who was seeking to exert his authority on the game, though five bookings in about seven minutes seemed a little extreme.
Amid those incident Rocks had several more strikes at goal, the most notable being an effort from McKenzie that brought another good save from Walker.
The second half started as the first had ended, with East Thurrock pressing Cray back and Bryant should have done better with an angled chance that he put high over the bar.
The pressure was almost constant and Walker pulled off a superb flying save to push Lea Dawson’s header against the upright but he was helpless on the hour when more fine interplay opened up the visiting defence and Bryant skipped through to round the keeper and slide the ball home.
After that the upbeat tempo went out of the game.
Half chances came and went at both ends but there was little to enthuse over until Rocks stretched the margin of victory in the last minute when the ball took a deflection off Mr Ions and sub Grant Eagle ran through to round Walker and score his first goal for the Rocks.
The margin of victory certainly didn’t underestimate the dominance of Rocks, for who their third debutant Simon Glover was an oustanding contributor, but did reflect the battling qualities of Cray who have been beaten by heavier margins in recent matches.
However, no-one couldn’t argue that Rocks didn’t fully deserve the three points and as manager John Coventry continues to reshape and rebuild his squad this will have been an encouraging afternoon.