Football: Rocks held by hungry Hungerford

FA Trophy 1st Round

Hungerford Town 1 v 1 East Thurrock United

WITH an FA Cup first round tie against Football League opposition a week away East Thurrock might have been excused for a below par performance in the FA Trophy on Saturday – and when Southern Premier Hungerford opened the scoring in the second minute it seemed the writing could be on the wall.

However, Rocks responded superbly and drew level within 11 minutes and went on to dominate much of the game. It wouldn’t be fair to say Hungerford were overwhelmed, indeed it took two fine saves from Rocks’ David Hughes to keep the scores level, but Rocks left Bulpit Lane feeling they had missed an opportunity and facing a replay on Tuesday they didn’t want.

The opening goal came early as Rocks were settling into Hungerford’s, angled sloping pitch. They failed to deal with a throw in properly but the danger looked over when Paul Goodacre seemed set to clear but he slipped and an attempted backpass fell into the path of Charles Mpi and he picked his spot to place the ball past Hughes.

The goal sparked East Thurrock into life and David Bryant saw a shot blocked and in the next attack Simon Peddie appeared to be felled in the box but ref John Farries waved away claims for a penalty.

Bryant then worked another opportunity but fired straight at home keeper Paul Strudley.

An equaliser looked likely and finally came in the 13th minute when Reece Harris battled his way through to a challenge with Strudley and the ball broke free as the two collided. Harris hit the deck but reacted quickly, scrambled to his feet and forced the ball home.

Rocks’ dominance ebbed away a little after the goal and the balance of play was more even and, in the closing stages of the first half Hungerford came close to a goal when Ian Herring lashed a shot goalwards and was only denied by a flying, one-handed save from Hughes.

The second half saw Rocks kicking up the slope with a strong wind at their backs and though they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession they failed to create much for the first half hour of the half and Hungerford always looked threatening on the counter attack, culminating in another fine effort on goal, this time a low strike from James Rusby that brought an excellent stop from Hughes.

The last 15 minutes saw Rocks end the game strongly and they came close to a winner several times. Sub Ryan Sammons flashed an angled shot across the face of goal, Lewis Smith hit a drive against the foot of the post and a great move involving Tom Stephen and another sub Joe Paxman ened with Smith striking the ball straight at the keeper.

At the other end Lee Smith volleyed just wide but in added time it seemed Rocks could win it when Smith beat several players before getting the opportunity to strike at goal, only to be denied by a fingertip save from Strudley.

It was the last action of an entertaining match and the sides will have it all to do again on Tuesday.

Report courtesy of the Thurrock Enquirer.

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