Leatherhead 2, East Thurrock United 1
ROCKS remain in the Ryman Premier drop zone after Tuesday’s disappointing defeat against the division’s bottom club.
Previously without a win in the league, Leatherhead nevertheless looked confident in the opening stages and with East Thurrock contributing to their own downfall with a string of unforced errors it was no surprise when Greg Andrews shot the Tanners ahead after just eight minutes as the Rocks' backline was carved open and he produced an accomplished finish, curling the ball around keeper Richard Wray from the edge of the box.
Worse was to follow for the Rocks on 15 minutes when, from a similar position, Andrews added a second – though this time his strike benefited from a deflection that looped it up and over the keeper.
Rocks might have got a goal back when a well-worked move set up Sam Collins but from an acute angle at close range he was denied by a sharp save from Chico Ramos. Another half chance saw the ball flash across the face of Leatherhead's goal with no-one able to get a positive touch.
There was a comedic end to the first half when two Leatherhead strikers burst through from positions at least five yards offside. To everyone’s astonishment, not least Gary Drewett and Andrews, they were allowed to play on. Perhaps the shock contributed to their inability to walk the ball past Wray unopposed – though frowns on Rocks’ beleaguered faces grew even deeper when ref Kyle Kirkbridge awarded a corner, even though Wray was nowhere near the ball as it hit the side-netting.
The officials’ blushes were spared as the corner came to nothing and the half time whistle went.
The second half saw Rocks improve markedly and they laid virtually siege to the home goal. However, other than a close range shot from Reiss Gilbey straight at the keeper, Ramos was rarely troubled as the visitors kept knocking at the door, but lacked the guile to prise open the handle.
Eventually sub Sam Higgins did get a goal back with a flicked header and, with 17 minutes left, there was a possibility of a comeback.
However, the cutting edge remained absent and though play was rarely in their own half other than through a booted clearance from the under-pressure home defence, East Thurrock were unable to get the equaliser which - quite frankly - they didn’t deserve and at the final whistle the Tanners were able to celebrate a first victory.
Both sides are in FA Cup action this weekend and both will need to improve if they are to progress. High-flying Billericay are a huge proposition for Leatherhead to tackle at New Lodge, while East Thurrock have home advantage against North Greenford United from the Southern league Division One Central.
The visitors from Middlesex are bottom of their league but if they were watching on Tuesday they will know that if Rocks don’t improve they will have a great chance of springing an upset.