East Thurrock United 2 v 0 Kingstonian
LIKE the prodigal son, Sam Higgins returned for his third career spell at East Thurrock and marked his comeback with a trademark goal reports The Thurrock Enquirer.
However, to lay all the credit for this Ryman Premier formbook upsetting win at the door of Higgins, who opted to leave Skrill Conference neighbours Concord to help out his former club in their hour of need, would be an injustice to the other members of John Coventry’s hard-working squad.
Rocks’ last league win was in late November and, having gleaned just three points from 11 league matches since then they have slipped into the relegation zone.
However, in recent matches as Coventry has reshaped his squad, they have looked an improving side and on Tuesday evening all the components came together.
It was a match that fluctuated dramatically over 90 minutes with Rocks making a blistering opening and pegging their high-flying visitors back right from the start.
Higgins almost announced his return with a goal after three minutes but he was denied by the woodwork. It took just another ten minutes for him to make his mark though, thumping home a free kick with such venom that Kingstonian keeper Rob Tolfrey didn’t even move as the ball flashed through his legs.
The impetus gradually ebbed more in favour of the visitors after that, though Rocks always looked a threat on the counter attack.
At the break it remained anyone’s game, but Kingstonian came out fired up on the resumption and began to push their hosts backwards, winning a succession of free kicks and peppering the home defence with a series of high balls into the box.
East Thurrock proved equal to the task and put up a staunch rearguard action – and always looked threatening on the breakaway.
However, the second goal, when it came, owed nothing to the Rocks’ attacking prowess, but was entirely due to an enormous blunder by Tolfrey who anticipated a slow back-pass from defender Matt Drage six minutes into the half and was looking downfield where he was planning to kick it when the ball took a slight bobble and rolled under his foot into the net.
It was a gift goal for the home side but one they made the most of by rolling up their sleeves and defending the onslaught that followed from Kingstonian as if their very lives depended on it.
The free kick tally rapidly mounted as Rocks found themselves under a high ball siege but to a man they rose to the challenge and kept real chances to a premium. And when they finally did falter, young goalkeeper David Hughes popped up with several fine saves, including one memorable double stop that maintained the two goal advantage.
Not that Rocks were entirely without chances themselves. Mitchell Pinnock, Lewis Smith and Higgins all had good opportunities, with Pinnock only denied by a fine, face-saving stop from Tolfrey.
As the clocked ticked through an added five minutes Rocks held firm and in the end were deserved winners.
It was a result that previous performances had hinted at and Coventry will be hoping his side, bolstered by the firepower of local hero Higgins can now mount a run and drag themselves away from the relegation zone.