East Thurrock United 0 v 1 Kingstonian
IT always felt like a big ask, especially on such a strength sapping pitch, for The Rocks to play a hard 90 minutes on Saturday and then turn up to put in another performance on Tuesday night.
And so it was as East Thurrock lost out to the single goal against Kingstonian.
It was no disgrace as the South London side are also chasing promotion.
Although the Rocks lost out on three points, they are still in the play off places.
Rocks were lack-lustre in the opening stages and frequently gave away possession with a succession of misplaced passes that broke up promising moves. There was little fluency about their play and an increasing sense of frustration was exemplified by a rash tackle from midfielder Nicky Symons in the 12th minute that brought a yellow card from ref Simon Finnigan, who then showed a degree of leniency as the midfielder lunged into several more challenges that on another day might have proved costly.
Yet gradually East Thurrock began to impose themselves on the game and their growing superiority saw top scorer Sam Higgins fire an angled rising drive above the crossbar on 15 minutes and then a goalbound scrambled effort was hooked away from danger by defender Aaron Goode.
Keeper and Kingstonian captain Rob Tolfrey then showed his worth with a full length diving save to push away Lewis Smith’s shot that was heading inside the post. The period of Rocks pressure was sustained and Higgins momentarily had Ks holding their breath when Tolfrey charged out of his goal to make a block and the ball ricocheted to the striker whose first time goalwards lob hung in the air before dropping just wide of the upright.
The visitors were on the backfoot for the remainder of the half but defended valiantly, though they were almost undone eight minutes before the break when good work by Tom Stephen released David Bryant and his cutback fell into the path of Higgins, who chose to drill the ball with his right foot rather than chance his left which would have given him a better angle and the ball whizzed wide of the target.
There was still time before the break for Kingstonian to remind Rocks of the threat they offered, with Alex Addai striking a rising drive over the bar, then getting another effort on target but David Hughes made a comfortable save.
Rocks made a change at the break, with Symons making way for Ross Parmenter as Rocks sought to ensure they played out the game with 11 men but the second half was to see a much more even balance of play, with Kingstonian certainly having the better of the early play and it was only a remarkable goalline intervention that saw Stephen deny Elvis Hammond a goal. Addai then whistled a fierce low ball across the face of goal, though no-one came close to getting a vital touch.
As they had in the first half, Rocks gradually built up a head of steam and began to peg their visitors back for lengthy spells and finally carved out the chance of the game, working the ball to the feet of Connor Witherspoon just a couple of yards from the goalline. With everything at his mercy the young midfielder sought to be precise and in taking his time with a shot he gave the opportunity for Tolfrey to stretch and mak a save that ought to have been beyond him.
Having ridden their luck, Kingstonian went back on the offensive and after Hughes had flapped at a cross, Rocks were grateful to defender Paul Goodacre for getting the ball over his own bar and to safety.
But the writing was on the wall and a quick counter attack on 75 minutes saw Jesse Darko scribe his name as a matchwinner, prodding the ball home after Rocks were caught napping.
The closing stages saw plenty of Rocks pressure, without them ever carving another clear cut opportunity. They might have had a penalty when Higgins appeared to be flattened just inside the box but Mr Finnigan waved away their claims.