Ryman Div One North
Thurrock 0 v 1 Norwich United
Report by Scott Lanza
After two good recent wins against promotion candidates, it was a very lacklustre Thurrock side that took to Ship Lane on Saturday, putting in a performance that wasn’t up to their usual standards and Norwich United, who defended in numbers, came away with all the points after Adam Hipperson scored the only goal of the game in the 32nd minute.
Fleet tested Andrew Wilton as early as the second minute when a corner from David Cowley ricocheted off a number of Norwich and Fleet players requiring the Norwich keeper to claim the ball amidst a bundle of player, inches from his goal line. He was rarely tested for the rest of the afternoon.
While Fleet’s passing wasn’t clinking into gear their opponents were looking to move the ball quickly from defence to their forwards via the long ball with Nathan Stewart, over on the right wing, being the person they directed most of their passes to. Remi Sutton allowed the Norwich player little room to manoeuvre and was able to halt any of Stewart’s attacking charges. A nice Norwich move involving Adam Hipperson, Tim Henery and Jamie Speller was ended when Sutton charged the ball away for a corner. Henery tried his luck moments later with a shot just inside the box that George Winn blocked. Bobby Mason hadn’t been unduly tested as the game reached the quarter hour stage but the Fleet’s passing game had deserted them and so they didn’t really look threatening either. There was almost an opportunity gifted to the Fleet when a long ball over the top was badly sliced by Wilton, who had charged out of his area to remove the danger, put his own goal under pressure in the process; before racing back to clear up the mess he had started. Norwich were presented with a golden opportunity of their own when a Richard Halle header back to Mason needed the Fleet keeper to race off his line and lay claim to the ball due to the attentions of the on-rushing Christy Finch.
It took Fleet until the 25th minute before they crafted themselves a good opportunity. Joe Christou picked up a loose ball in the midfield area, sped past his marker and sent over a teasing ball that was poked narrowly wide by Charlie Stimson. George Winn had started the move by winning a tackle and then moving the ball out of the Fleet half. Both Fleet players found themselves on the receiving end of full-bloodied tackles with first Stimson being up-ended by Speller and then George Winn being crashed onto the ground by Hipperson. That challenge resulted in Hipperson receiving a yellow card; while Winn was able to play on for a few minutes more before being replaced by James Goode.
Fleet were simply not having a good day at the office and that was made even worse in 32nd minute when Norwich took the lead. Fleet’s defence had stood firm up until then, but a long ball over the top went behind the Fleet backline, allowing Finch to race onto the through ball and smash it past Mason to give the hosts something to think about.
Wilton did have a bit of work to do before the half was out; a Cowley cross needed to be pushed away by the Norwich keeper and Perry Dunn headed the rebound that Wilton again was able to save. However the half came to a close and the Fleet had not shown any fluidity and the passing often going awry, meaning that the Fleet had not really mustered any real goal scoring opportunities for themselves.
Thurrock did at least show some fire in the opening stages of the half as Winn worked his way into the box before being crowded out. Cowley then went on a run that opened up the Norwich defence; playing in Winn it looked like Fleet had found their attacking prowess and although Winn’s resulting shot was blocked it had been a good opening five minutes of the second half.
It was to be unfortunately a little whimper as the Fleet did not ignite after this early little spark and Wilton and his defence were not majorly threatened for the rest of the game. Mason himself was not really tested either. A Nathan Stewart free kick landed behind, Halle ended a Norwich attack with a block, a tackle and then a clearance; while a dangerous cross from Hipperson into the six yard box was also dealt with by the Fleet defence.
Mark Stimson reshuffled his pack and replaced Ronnie Winn with Jack Barham. The former Tilbury player was making his home debut in Fleet colours and he had an early chance, getting a header on target, after a lovely Cowley delivery which forced Wilton to dive to high to tip away.. Christou then split the Norwich defence with a run and then passing to Barham on the right channel. The pass Barham sent over to Stimson looked promising as he was in a good position but Sam Watts got to the ball first and cleared the Norwich lines.
Mason produced the best save of the day in the 71st minute when Finch let fly from just outside the Fleet box which the Fleet keeper superbly tipped over the bar. The resulting corner saw Mason claim under pressure from Hipperson.
As the game entered its closing stages Norwich defended in numbers but Fleet still had not put their authority down and they continued to be static up front. Stimson was able to charge past a number of Norwich players, working his way into the box, but he had no support and was soon swamped by opposition players and the ball cleared. Wilton had to make one final save in the 83rd minute when a Simpson shot took a deflection and the Norwich custodian had to dive low to his right to cut out. The two corners Fleet won right at the end of the game came to nothing and it was Norwich who had the final say when a Hipperson shot in injury time sailed over the bar.
Fleet travel to relegation-battlers Soham Town Rangers on Saturday. With the season coming to a finale Fleet need to keep on task as the performance and result on Saturday unpicked some of the good work they had put in to win back-to-back games against fellow play-off rivals Bowers & Pitsea and Brightlingsea Regent.
Thurrock: Bobby Mason, Ronnie Winn (Jack Barham 64′), Remi Sutton, Richard Halle (Capt), George Winn (James Goode 28′), Perry Dunn, Jordan Clark, Glenn Poole (Mark Onyemah 70′), Charlie Stimson, David Cowley.
Norwich United: Andrew Wilton, Steve Shipley (Capt), Matthew Brown, Cassimiro Datocampol (Ben Jones 70′), Shaun Wones, Sam Watts, Nathan Stewart (Dawid Radomski 67), Jamie Speller, Adam Hipperson, Tim Henery (Liam Jackson 76′), Christy Finch.