Rocks enjoy the bare minimum from low key derby succes
EAST Thurrock delivered the minimum expectation of them in Monday’s Ryman Premier clash with stricken neighbours Grays,
taking the points in some comfort and walking away with no cautions or injuries as they go into the final four matches of the season still with outside hopes of nicking the title and, more realistically, securing a home draw in the play-offs.
In many ways Grays supporters could draw huge comfort from the fact that their club were not embarrassed in this derby clash and that one or two of their makeshift squad emerged with credit. Quite what they made of their allegedly disinterested owner Andy Swallow directing team affairs from the touchline where manager Mark Bentley cut a disenfranchised figure is a matter of conjecture.
Swallow, who wasn’t named as part of the official Grays management team in the dugout, appeared and took the leading role on the bench of a club he is supposed to be walking away from, which must have confused the Grays faithful who turned up in some numbers for a match in which their side were outplayed from the off.
Perhaps the only surprise, other than Swallow’s prominent presence, was that it took East Thurrock 15 minutes to open the scoring. Sam Higgins and Tom Wraight had both spurned gilt-edged chances to net before a ball was delivered into the box and Higgins flicked his header past Lamar Johnson.
Eight minutes later Higgins turned provider at the end of a quick counter that started with the ball in the hands of keeper Lukas Lidakevicius, whipping in a powerful cross into the path of Wraight, whose close header was too strong for Johnson to keep out.
Two minutes after that the contest, if indeed it ever was one given the makeshift nature of Grays’ side, was over when Higgins smashed the ball home following a scramble in the box.
The second half was a non-event, with East Thurrock content to knock the ball around and take what came if happened, but they never forced the play.
Grays tried hard to keep in touching distance and among a number of young players who gave their all, Jermaine Osei was outstanding. Jake Hutchings also tried his hardest and produced a shot that whizzed past the post and certainly troubled Lidakevicius, while Osei came closest to a Grays consolation with another effort.
At the other end Higgins was range-finding as he sought to complete his hat-trick, firing either side of the woodwork before crashing a shot against the crossbar as the clock ticked down.
There was still time for one last mini drama, with Grays keeper Johnson sent off for a late, thigh-high challenge on Kye Ruel after the Rocks player had chased down a through ball. The resultant free kick, which was the last action of the match, saw Higgins’ fierce low drive scrambled off the line and then ref Jack Packman called time on what will be remembered as a very strange, and rather lack-lustre affair.