Harrow Borough 2 v 5 East Thurrock United
EAST Thurrock maintained their challenge for the Ryman Premier title with what ultimately proved to be an emphatic win at Earlsmead on Tuesday, but the night wasn’t without its traumatic moments for the Rocks.
They made a great start and for much of the opening exchanges had Harrow on the rack, stretching them on either flank and threatening a goal at any minute. They came close with a strike from Sam Higgins who was played in by James Walker on seven minutes but his angled shot cannoned off the bar.
Harrow briefly posed a threat when Lewis Driver found the defence opening up before him but he shot straight at Lukas Lidakevicius on 11 minutes and rued his missed opportunity further two minutes later when a simple ball over the top at the other end set Higgins free. With the home side appealing for an offside flag that was never going to come Brenden Hazlett raced off his line and blocked Higgins’ first attempt but he gathered the rebound and stroked the ball past the prostrate keeper.
It looked like the prelude to a Rocks landslide, so much were they in control of the game but inexplicably they took their foot off the gas and Harrow crept back into the game, and had actually spurned a couple of chances before David Taylor’s fierce 31st minute snapshot from a central position took a deflection that saw it spin up and over Lidakevicius and down and over the line off the underside of the crossbar.
If home fans were delighted at the equaliser they were ecstatic two minutes later when Driver skipped in from the left flank, shrugged off a challenge and rifled the ball inside the near post of Lidakevicius.
They might even have been celebrating more goals had Harrow retained a bit more composure and the teams went into the break with Rocks looking rattled and Harrow in confident mood.
The ten minute break worked some sort of oracle for the visitors though, and even though Harrow began the second half with possession, Rocks quickly won it and another ball down the middle was chased down by Higgins who had too much power in his stride for the defenders and too much guile and accuracy with his shot past Hazlett.
And, having restored parity with a minute of the restart Rocks were ahead again two minutes later when Joe Ellul showed composure in a mid penalty area scramble and picked his spot to slide the ball past Hazlett again. Remarkably, he became the 19th individual Rocks player to score this season.
One of those who had already got 13 to his credit, Tom Wraight, notched his 14th in the 76th minute when he came in off the right flank and placed his effort cleverly past Hazlett to put Rocks firmly in the driving seat.
To their credit Harrow kept going and Marc Charles-Smith went close with a header but the last definitive moment of the game was to come four minutes from time when Higgins burst through again, this time from the left side, and he again showed composure to draw Hazlett and slot the ball past him for his 23rd league goal of the season and 30th in all competitions.
Like the Curate’s egg Rocks were good, if not excellent, in many parts of Tuesday’s encounter but manager John Coventry won’t be happy that their defensive shell cracked twice and the team’s momentum was scrambled at times. However, he will be delighted with a win on a night when five of the top six won – and the only one that lost, Leiston, did so to fourth-placed Bognor, allowing Tonbridge to climb back into a fiercely contested play-off zone where Rocks remain second, level on points with Dulwich but now with just three goals difference between them.
Perhaps more importantly as Rocks’ first ambition will be to secure a play-off space, they are eight points clear of Tonbridge, albeit they have played a couple of games more.