Thursday, September 28, 2023

Football: Rocks win through to beat Merthyr

FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round: Replay

East Thurrock United 3 v 1 Merthyr Town

INJURY-hit East Thurrock shrugged aside the handicap of a dressing room of walking wounded and once more rode their luck in this FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round tie and earned a First Round home tie with National League South Maidenhead United reports The Thurrock Enquirer.

On Saturday Rocks came away from Wales grateful for some Merthyr profligacy in front of goal and the intervention of the woodwork. In Tuesday’s replay, they somehow managed to turn a poor first half performance into a game-changing lead and dug deep in the second stanza to earn a deserved win on the night.

With three players carrying injuries and just three on the bench, Rocks boss John Coventry asked his side for a positive start to Tuesday’s game and briefly he must have been delighted as the home side took the game to their visitors, who arrived just 25 minutes before the scheduled kick-off – causing a 15 minute delay – but once Merthyr settled they began to press themselves.

And their efforts were rewarded when defender Rickie Hayles wanted too much time to clear his lines and he was caught in possession by Kayne McLaggon, who bustled through towards goal and was brought down in the box by Hayles, who was cautioned. Ian Traylor stepped up to convert the 18th minute spot kick.

Within three minutes Rocks were level through a penalty of their own, awarded when Ashley Evans handled Kris Newby’s cross and Sam Higgins, making his first start in ten matches, smashed home the penalty awarded by Ely ref Thomas Hancock.

The equaliser failed to lift Rocks, who had to dig deep as they came under intense pressure, indulging in come comedic defending at times, with goalmouth scrambles, blocked shots and a heroic clearance from Ben Wood adding to the drama.

And it was against the run of play when Rocks took the putting lead, a well-worked move putting the ball at the feet of Tom Wraight who produced the coolest of finishes on the half hour.

Somehow Rocks got the to break with the lead intact. They had lost Lewis Smith to a back spasm midway through the half and the growing injury list saw Wraight unable to continue after the interval but the second half saw a better Rocks, they dug deep and defended well. Goalkeeper Lukas Lidakevicius came to their rescue when Ben Wood deflected a shot goalwards, the keeper leaping to tip the ball over the bar as Rocks fought hard to keep their lead.

And their efforts were rewarded on 74 minutes when a huge punt from Lidakevicius embarrassed central defender Ashley Evans and the ball fell kindly for Higgins who smashed it home – making his season’s tally to 17 goals from just 16 appearances.

That made it game over as the fight drained out of the Martyrs and Rocks rather comfortably saw out time.


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