Lewes 2 v 2 East Thurrock United
Report courtesy of the Thurrock Enquirer
BEFORE this Ryman Premier League game Rocks would have probably accepted a point against play-off chasing Lewes but in the end left the Dripping Pan feeling slightly disappointed about a missed opportunity to take all three.
Certainly, at half time, it looked likely that the visitors would be victorious as they had dominated the opening 45 minutes from start to finish and might well have had more than a two goal lead.
However, a remarkable transformation began with Lewes’s comeback opener three minutes after the resumption and for the next half hour the Rooks had the Rocks on the rack and they looked the side set to claim victory.
Thanks to a post and some resilient defending the visitors held on and actually came back strongly the game’s closing moments and might themselves have snatched a winner.
East Thurrock gave a debut to new signing John Easterford at centre half as manager John Coventry reshuffled his pack following the disappointing Boxing Day defeat against Carshalton and his side took the match to their hosts from the off.
They were in control with some neat passing and forceful play that stretched the Rooks on both flanks, the pressure eventually resulting in a tenth minute goal from Bryant who was on hand to sidefoot the ball home from close range after a flowing piece of possession ended with an angled cross from Ryan Sammons that left centre-back Ben Austin floundering with an attempted clearance that distracted keeper Denzel Gerrar and Bryant crept in amid the confusion.
Rocks continued to dominate and might well have stretched their lead on 18 minutes when Bryant showed great skill to twist and turn and work an opportunity from the left-hand side of the box. He went for a difficult curling shot from a narrow angle that missed both woodwork and the onrushing Sammons by only inches, but he really would have been better squaring to Bourne who was screaming for the ball unmarked and with the goal at his mercy.
Nevertheless Rocks continued to press and were rewarded on 23 minutes when Stuart Thurgood delivered a perfect cross to the far post and Easterford rose to head home from close range for a debut goal.
Further sustained pressure saw Rocks control the rest of the half but they were unable to engineer a further goal and on the resumption the flow of the game changed as Lewes came out fired up.
It took them just three minutes to get a goal back when Charlie Penny’s pace took him clear and he cut in from the right to drill a low shot that keeper David Hughes got a hand to but he was unable to keep it out. Hughes was in goal because regular starter
Sam Mott was ill and the youngsters showed his class with a fine save to tip Andy Pearson’s thunderbolt strike over the bar. It was an alert and exceptional piece of play from the stopper, it’s a shame the same couldn’t be said of his defence as it went awol from the ensuing corner and an unmarked Jack Dixon stooped to head the ball low into the net for the equaliser.
At that point it seemed momentum was with Lewes who continually forced Rocks into rearguard action, with Penny’s pace a real problem down the right flank.
It looked odds on Lewes would go ahead when Joel Ledgister worked himself some space and fired goalwards only for the ball to come back off the inside of the post into the grateful arms of Hughes.
That was another turning point in the match and Rocks gradually crept back into it. They had the ball in the Lewes net twice but were denied by an offside flag and the referee’s call that Lea Dawson had unfairly challenged Gerrar before Bryant prodded the ball home.
And from the ensuing free-kick Gerrar scuffed his clearance straight to Bryant who raced through on goal only to fluff the opportunity by clipping the ball straight that the keeper, again with a colleague – this time substitute Leon McKenzie – screaming for the pass with an open goal in front of him.
Further late Rocks pressure then saw Gerrar pull off the save of the match with an instinctive close range reflex stop to deny Dawson’s close range header from a Tom Stephen corner.
Right at the death Nathan Crabb might have won it for Rooks but he shot across the face of goal when well-placed but the draw was probably what both sides deserved from a thoroughly entertaining game that kept the crowd of 651 engaged right to the final whistle.