Sunday, December 10, 2023

Football: Rocks can’t bridge the gap against Dartford

Vanarama National League South

Dartford 2 v 0 East Thurrock United

Report courtesy of Thurrock Independent

A GAME of football is all about taking chances and on Monday Dartford made the most of the few that came their way while shot-shy East Thurrock once more failed to create many and then spurned the gilt-edged one they got.

There was little to separate the two teams throughout and optimists from East Thurrock will seize on positive, including hard-working performances in midfield from the exemplary Freddy Moncur and Alfie Egan.

The main concern is a lack of action in front of goal. In their last 180 minutes East Thurrock have had two efforts on target – one being the winning goal against Slough on Saturday, the other being Sam Higgins’ penalty on Monday that was drilled straight at Dartford keeper Deren Ibrahim.

With just two goals from seven outings now, it’s clear where Rocks’ main fallibility lies and Higgins, who only returned to the starting line-up on Saturday after missing the opening five games as he was getting married, looked a shadow of the player he can be.

Lethargic in terms of impression at the best of times, his underlying ball control, venomous eye for a goal and often understated work-rate have meant he has stayed under the radar, while proving deadly. On Monday he wasn’t just under the radar he was missing in action and Rocks will hope the saying that class is permanent while form is temporary, is true in his case. They aren’t quite a one-man outfit, but without his menace they look set to struggle.

Rocks actually made a bright start and the game’s first effort in anger was an angled shot from Egan that flew high and wide but Dartford settled into their game and began to threaten.

They appeared to have targeted former Dart Danny Harris at right back as a weakness and drilled ball after ball into his sector – but generally he coped and it was ironic that the opening goal had its origins in a move down the visitors’ left side, Giddens keeping them at bay with a fine save at the expense of a corner.

When it came in Rocks failed to deal with the cross and as the ball bobbled in the box Tom Bonner latched onto it and thrashed it home from close range for a 39th minute opener.

Within two minute the energetic Moncur caused problems in the Dartford box and was stopped only by a handball. He picked up the ball for the resultant penalty but captain Higgins exerted seniority and grabbed it from him.

He proved fallible from the spot with several misses last season and his effort this time was poor, drilling it straight at Ibrahim.

To his credit, Higgins turned in his best spell of the game in the 15 minutes after the restart as Rocks sought parity but as he ran out of steam again, so did Rocks.

A double substitution injected some life into them and Ben Marlow came on and almost made an impact with a hooked effort that came back off the upright but otherwise Ibrahim was rarely really troubled and a breakaway after Higgins was caught in possession found the Rocks defence stretched on 73 minutes and Ben Greenhalgh was on hand to score from close range and ensure the home side took all the spoils.


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