Bedford Town 1, East Thurrock United 2
YET another impressive second half cup display from East Thurrock was overshadowed by a controversial end to Tuesday's FA Trophy replay which saw ref Marc Wilson under siege in his dressing room from irate home assistant manager Nicky Platnauer.
Mr Wilson had awarded the visitors a penalty and sent off a player from both sides but he really blotted his copybook as far as the home fans were concerned when he denied Eagles what looked a certain penalty deep in stoppage time.
Jermain Ivy was sent off in the melee of protest that followed after he manhandled the referee who retreated from the pitch at the final whistle under a barrage of abuse from the home fans and the anger of Platnauer ringing in his ears, a protest that continued all the way to his dressing room.
Eagles will certainly feel cheated but they ought to have put the match beyond their visitors in the first half, when the Rocks again failed to find rhythm and form in the opening 45 minutes and Bedford dominated possession in dangerous areas.
Having said that, the first real chance of the match, which didn’t come until 15 minutes in, fell to Rocks’ Sam Higgins when he worked his own opening and cut inside, firing a shot across the face of goal but wide of the far post.
At the other end a fine shot from Gareth Price caused an anxious moment but it was deflected to safety. Soon after Rocks keeper Richard wary pulled off a full stretch save as Rocks became increasingly under pressure.
So it was no real surprise when Eagles’ ace marksman Drew Roberts opened the scoring on 37 minutes, working himself space after the backline had been carved open and he drilled low shot that Wray half parried but the power carried it into the net.
Rocks held on to half time when once more manager John Coventry appeared to work the oracle as they came out a much improved side, with neat interplay and passing pushing Bedford onto the backfoot.
It took them just eight minutes to get back on level terms when a fine passage of play ended with Gavin Hoyte upending Kris newby in the box as he was about to shoot.
It was a genuine challenge for the ball rather than an attempt to foul but as Newby had the opportunity to strike at goal, Mr Wilson decided a red card was required and sent off the eagles skipper. Newby added salt into the wound by drilling home the penalty.
Rocks’ Sam Higgins then picked up a booking for a clumsy foul on the halfway line and Ryan Sammons hacked a ball off the line as Bedford pressed again but the second goal for the visitors came on 63 minutes when more good play picked out Sam Collins and, like Roberts in the first half his drive at goal had enough power to get past a half stop from keeper Ian Brown.
Roberts gave notice that Bedford weren’t going to go quietly with a forceful run that saw his shot go just wide of the post but Rocks then hit a purple patch and were a shade unlucky not to increase their lead, first when Newby smashed a shot against the upright and then Collins stretched to push the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
Mr Wilson was to play a significant role again when Higgins charged down a clearance from Brown, who had left his box. It seemed legitimate effort and the assistant referee, no more than ten yards away, saw no offence but the ref, from 30 yards distant and through a melee of players decided Higgins had used his hands and issued a second caution. .
With the sides at ten apiece Rocks found themselves under more pressure but held on, if at times a little desperately in defence. Newby earned his fifth yellow card of the season – and a one match ban – for kicking the ball away to waste time, but there was still enough on the clock for Bedford to mount one last rally and it appeared Sammons had made an illegal challenge in a crowded box but Bedford’s zealous appeals were waved away, leading to scenes of disorder and anger, the game’s third red card and in the end a final whistle that saw Rocks grateful that a piece of luck had gone their way at last after a series of decisions that had gone against them in earlier matches.