Metropolitan Police 1, East Thurrock United 2
EAST Thurrock were far from at their best but in difficult conditions showed the battling qualities required to taking the club to the brink of its best ever league performance.
At the start of what has proved to be a memorable season, boss John Coventry set his sights on overhauling the 59 Ryman Premier points reached by his predecessor, Lee Patterson.
This win puts him on that total and a win at Kingstonian on Saturday will also propel the Rocks to a creditable tenth place.
Facing a strong wind and into the teeth of persistent drizzle, East Thurrock made a great start in the second minute when Ryan Sammons released a defence-splitting ball into the path of Kye Ruel, who showed great composure to round keeper Jamie Butler and slide a shot into the back of the net from an acute angle.
The goal was as illuminating as the full rainbow that arced Imber Court, showing just how good Rocks can be when at their best. However, it was a bit of flattery as the Met began to push them back and their play became disjointed. Credit the home side’s hard work – and the difficult conditions – but there was little flow to the match and it was no real surprise when Police drew level midway through the half.
Rocks failed to clear their lines under pressure and a header from Spencer Harrison merely put the ball back into the mixer and Stafforde Palmer found space in a crowded box to smash the ball past Jame Riley.
Chances were few and far between after that as both sides struggled to find rhythm. The game was fractured and disjointed, but there was no doubting the amount of effort both sides were putting in – you couldn’t fault the commitment.
The second half brought much of the same and both sides had similar chances with free kicks on the edge of the box, with both sides claiming a penalty for the foul. Rocks’ effort, a low drive from Sam Higgins, who had a frustrating night, came to nothing – but the difference was that Rocks broke quickly after Police squandered theirs too and young full back Tom Stephen did immensely well to get to the ball close to the by-line. He squared and Butler parried the ball under pressure, only to see Sam Collins pounce and smash the ball into the roof of the net.
The pace of the game livened up after that and it became an enjoyable, enthralling contest with Met desperate for an equaliser and Rocks defending as if their lives depended on it – always with the threat of a speedy counter.
In the end there were no more goals and Rocks held out in a modicum of comfort – had they done that more often in games they have dominated this season, they might have been aiming for an even higher target than tenth!