Thurrock 1 Kingstonian 0
Bostik League Premier
Report by Dom Baker
The penultimate game of the season saw the Fleet host a professional game for the very last time. This emotional occasion saw Kingstonian arrive at Ship Lane for the 45th fixture of this Bostik Premier League season. Before kick off the visitors sat in 18th but unbeaten in the last 5 games, while Thurrock occupied 15th, just 1 point ahead. The Fleet’s successful season meant that there was little pressure on this game, they were mathematically safe, but everyone involved with the club wanted a win today.
Tommy South led the two teams out accompanied by a rabble of excited mascots, which was met with a warm applause.
It was an attacking team put out by Mark Stimson with Joel Nouble and Ellis Brown out wide supporting Ronnie Winn and Charlie Stimson. Thurrock looked to attack at every opportunity taking advantage of the space left in behind the Kingstonian defence.
On the 11th minute mark it almost paid dividends. Lewwis Spence picked up a loose ball on the half-way line and looked up to find four yellow shirts running into space. His looped ball found Ellis Brown who took it down well but couldn’t evade a last-ditch tackle from defender Sean Francis.
It was a truly exciting atmosphere at Ship Lane, chanting fans and players really going for it which had the fans on the edge of their seats.
On the 19th minute Kingstonian were reduced to ten men as Manolis Gogonas received his marching orders. An off-the-ball altercation with Charlie Stimson was deemed a straight red offence that was met by little appeal.
Moments later Thurrock created another great chance. Once again it was Ellis Brown who sprung the offside trap and latched onto a looped ball over the Kingstonain back-four. Brown struck a left-footed volley, forcing a top save from opposition captain Rob Tolfrey.
It wasn’t long before Thurrock took advantage of the extra man. Once again Lewwis Spence picked up a loose ball in the centre of the pitch. This time he took a touch out of his feet and unleashed a strike into the very top corner. The team, including keeper Ben McNamara came together to celebrate in the centre circle before the captain pointed to the seat of Tommy South. A beautiful moment and a deserved lead.
There was a confidence in everything Thurrock were doing. The Fleet weren’t just keeping the ball but were moving forward constantly, orchestrated by the goalscorer.
Kingstonian reacted by making an early change on the 39th minute as Daniel Ajakaiye made way for Freddy Yao.
Before that substitute could even get settled, Thurrock were attacking again. This time Ellis Brown found some space on the left flank, unleashing another half volley that beat the keeper but also the post.
The Kingstonain change had certainly improved the side after the red card. They started coming into the game just before half-time with a period of possession and set pieces. Toby Ajala collected the ball 30-yards from goal following a cleared corner and struck one with his left foot that skewed over.
Thurrock got in-behind immediately after with Ronnie Winn on the left-hand side, his centred ball was cleared, taken from the toe of Joel Nouble. The resulting corner saw Winn float the ball onto Stimson on the penalty spot. The striker rose the highest but couldn’t keep the ball down.
Thurrock made their first change at the break as Reece Morgan replaced James Goode.
Minutes into the second half Kingstonian tested McNamara for the first time. Substitute Freddy Yao collected the ball from deep and unleashed a great strike to the keeper’s right. McNamara got down quickly and Dexter Peter cleared the rebound.
Kingstonian came forward once again just moments later. Striker Faal drove at the heart of the Thurrock defence, rode a challenge from Spence before forcing McNamara into another smart save, this time to his left.
Thurrock’s second change came on the hour mark as Michael Pindy entered the game, replacing Ellis Brown.
The initial excitement of the first half turned to nervousness in the second. The next goal was so important and whilst Kingstonian were committing more men forward, the Fleet were dangerous on the break.
Jordan Clark snapped into a tackle winning the ball on the half way line, he teed up Nouble who found Ronnie Winn’s run on the break. Winn drove into the box and found Stimson one-on-one with the keeper. His strike was stopped superbly by keeper Tolfrey who kept his side in the game. A lightning quick counter attack from the Fleet.
Thurrock’s third and final change saw Timothy Ogunrinde replace Joel Nouble with 10 minutes left to play.
The Fleet could have doubled their lead on the 84th as Jordan Clark found Pindy’s run on the right flank. The winger drove at the by-line and centred for Stimson who just couldn’t quite connect from close-range however.
The game’s last attack saw Pindy bypass two opposition defenders before squaring the ball to Ogunrinde who slotted into an empty net. Celebrations were cut short however, as the linesman’s flag denied a two-goal cushion.
Kingstonian had one last chance from a corner deep in stoppage time. The keeper came up and into the box but the delivery wasn’t good enough, from the counter attack Pindy drove forward towards an open goal. Connor Hunte took him down viciously and smashed the ball out of play. The resulting free kick was taken and the referee’s whistle indicated a win for Thurrock at their last game at Ship Lane in which the Fleet had been exciting in the first and resilient in the second.
Thurrock: Ben McNamara, Ellis Brown (Michael Pindy 61), Remi Sutton, George Winn, Dexter Peter, James Goode (Reece Morgan 45), Jordan Clark, Lewwis Spence, Charlie Stimson, Ronnie Winn, Joel Nouble (Timothy Ogunrinde 81).
Scorer – Lewwis Spence (25’)