IT IS a frequently used cliché in football, but if ever there was a “hard earned win” this was it, as a well drilled Witham Town worked their socks off all afternoon to frustrate Rocks, only to see all their hard work undone by a penalty in added time reports East Thurrock United.
The three points meant that Rocks continued their impressive recent run, which has seen them undefeated in seven league games. A run which has produced seventeen points and lifted Marc Harrison’s boys to the cusp of the Isthmian North play-off places.
The game started at a lively pace, with Rocks showing some impressive passing build up play. However, the visitors were defending well in the final third, and when Rocks did manage a sight of goal, they found visiting keeper Rhys Madden in impressive, if somewhat unorthodox form.
Midway through the opening half, a burst down the right by Ryan Boswell put Brian Moses in, only for Madden to hack the big man’s shot off the line defender style, at the foot of the upright.
Livewire wide man Roman Michael-Percil got through and put in a great ball across the six yard box, with no one able to get a crucial final touch. Then, a couple of minutes before the interval, Sam Carter hit a powerful left foot drive which was brilliantly turned round by a diving Madden.
Influential midfielder Harry Hope had clearly been struggling, and had to be replaced at half time by Jordan Peart.
Right at the start of the second half Rocks were again denied as the keeper saved a dipping Harry Critchley free kick with his feet.
Rocks kept plugging away, and Witham were defending in numbers. It was becoming a little frantic as the half wore on, and the visitors were reduced to ten men, when with fifteen minutes remaining Gaz Dauti picked up a straight red after a reckless two footed tackle.
Rocks replaced midfielder Oli Spooner with another pacy forward in Amaree Robinson-Jones, and Rocks continued to test what was becoming an overworked Witham defence.
With six minutes left on the clock, Ben Steward, who had opened his goalscoring account with a double last week, fired in a screaming left foot volley which beat Madden all ends up only to crash down off the underside of the crossbar.
Then, in added time, just when it looked like the visitors were going to be rewarded for their efforts with a point, Amaree jinked into the box and was bundled over. The referee pointed to the spot, and to his credit Michael-Precil was the calmest person in the ground as he crashed the penalty past Madden.
Even then, there was one last chance for the visitors to draw level as the Rocks were caught out down the right, and keeper Montel Joseph, who had enjoyed a pretty restful afternoon, had to go full stretch to preserve what was his third clean sheet in the last four games.