Vanarama National League South
Chelmsford City 1 v 1 East Thurrock United
By Scott Lanza
EAST Thurrock have made a useful start to life in the National League South but went into this game against a Chelmsford City side that had won five games on the bounce.The Clarets, who currently sit in the play off positions, were probably the favourites going into this game, almost took the lead inside 6 minutes when Billy Bricknell nudged the ball past Lukas Lidakevicius but it ended behind the goal. Bricknell actually scored after 10 minutes with a header but the goal was disallowed as he was offside.
The Rocks were certainly under the cosh for the first twenty minutes as their high-flying hosts tore into them. A dipping volley from Luke Daley needed to be tipped away by Lidakevicius and the resulting corner also required the Rocks custodian to show some safe hands as Shamir Mullings’s well placed header needed to be dealt with. The Rocks defence were busy but Ben Wood and Joseph Ellul battled hard to stem the flow.
After being under intense pressure it was very much against the run of play when East Thurrock took the lead after 23 minutes. It was a goal that was practically offered to the Rocks on a plate as Chris Bush tried to pass back to his keeper but in the process made a complete hash of it. Reece Harris intercepted the ball, steamed into the box, sailed past Ross Fitzsimons and rolled the ball into the empty net. The goal sparked the Rocks into life and Fitzsimons, who had been a mere spectator until the calamitous goal, suddenly found himself having to cut out a Harry Honesty foray into the box as well as handling a few crosses.
The hosts almost equalised themselves from a mistake on the half hour mark when a long ball over the top saw Wood head the ball past Lidakevicius and luckily for him it ended up missing the target. However the Clarets were now upping their game and they finished the half on top. Mullings was denied by a brave challenge by Ellul and Bricknell had a blistering shot tipped over the bar by Lidakevicius. Just when it looked like the Rocks were going to go in with a 1-0 half-time lead, Chelmsford City then got back on level terms. A long throw into the box was headed away but Bagasan Graham reacted quickly and directed a cross towards the far post which Mullings headed back across the goalmouth. The ball bobbled around the box before Anthony Church smashed the ball through a ruck of players to level the game. There was barely time for East Thurrock to kick-off before the referee brought the first half to a halt.
John Coventry made a double substitution at half-time as he brought on Teddy Nesbit and James Walker to replace Michael Freiter and Harry Honesty and East Thurrock almost re-took the lead inside the opening minute of the second period when Kane Ferdinand headed a corner wide.
The Clarets soon got back into their rhythm and Bricknell went agonisingly close with an effort that hit the side netting. The hosts soon started peppering the East Thurrock goal with crosses and through-balls but Lidakevicius is a commanding keeper who was able to deal with everything coming his way. The Rocks were fortunate that Chelmsford’s claims that a Bricknell shot had been deflected for a corner via use of the hand was dismissed by the Referee. He was well placed and in my view made the right decision but nevertheless the home fans roared for a penalty.
East Thurrock were then gifted their second goal of the evening when Chris Bush’s attempt to clear the ball resulted in him being robbed by Harris. Fitzsimons was able to save Harris’s shot but was powerless to prevent Joe Gardner’s header regaining the lead for the visitors on 57 minutes. Bush had made an error whilst under no pressure at all and he certainly was made to pay for it.
Shaun Jeffers was brought on by the Clarets and his first bit of action saw him connect with a header which Ferdinand initially blocked before thumping the ball up field. Ellul, the Rocks captain, marshalled his troops as East Thurrock dug in. Anything that the hosts sent into the penalty area was dealt with by the Rocks defence and when Jeffers saw his goalbound header expertly tipped away by Lidakevicius it looked like East Thurrock had done enough to capture the points. They had been able to take the sting out of their hosts and had capitalised on two Chelmsford errors to twice give themselves the lead.
However Jeffers was able to find an equaliser deep into stoppage time when he launched a header that rocketed past the East Thurrock keeper, sending the home fans into raptures. It was cruel on East Thurrock who may well have settled for a point against their highly-placed Essex rivals at the start of play – but they came within seconds of nicking all three until Jeffers’s last ditch intervention salvaged a point for the hosts.
Ross Fitzsimons, Ashley Miller (Phillip Walsh), Daniel Blanchett(Shaun Jeffers), Josh Rees (Frank Merrifield), Chris Bush, Mark Haines, Luke Daley, Anthony Church, Shamir Mullings, Billy Bricknell, Bagasan Graham
Scorers – Anthony Church (44), Shaun Jeffers (90+4)
East Thurrock United
Lukas Lidakevicius, Ryan Sammons, Michael Clark, Ben Wood, Joseph Ellul, Kane Ferdinand, Reece Harris, Michael Freiter (Ted Nesbitt), Harry Honesty (James Walker), Joe Gardiner, Tom Wraight
Scorers – Reece Harris (27), Joe Gardner (57)