Kingstonian 3, East Thurrock United 0
AFTER two impressive performances, East Thurrock hit the wall against table toppers Kingstonian on Saturday and succumbed to a defeat that reflected the difference on the day between the two sides, though Rocks did have a decent share of the games chances.
The hosts started brightly and the visitors found themselves on the back foot thorough the opening stages and were a shade unlucky to survive an early penalty appeal when Matt Pattison went down in the box under a clumsy tackle from Tom Stephen.
The early Kingstonian pressure continued and captain Sam Page, who was imperious at the back, showed he was willing to help his forwards with a tenth minute shot that went over the bar.
A brief Rocks rally saw Mitchell Gilbey unpick an opportunity around a crowded box but he hesitated with good options available and in the end the chance fizzled out with a tame shot from David Bryant.
East Thurrock were struggling to keep up with the pace and aggression of their hosts and a succession of individual fouls culminated with a caution for Nathan Korenteng, though he could be judged unlucky and was penalised for what had gone before rather than his own indiscretion. Ref Matt Foley soon levelled the caution count up when Matt Drage flattened Luke Wanadio – a strong “welcome back” message for a player who once wore the Cherry red hoops.
The opening goal was to arrive on 19 minutes when Kingstonian earned a free kick several yards out of the box and a training ground routine was executed to perfection with Ryan Moss picked out after breaking from the defensive wall and he slotted a well-placed, angled shot past Darren Behcet.
Kingstonian were on a roll at that point and hit the back of the net again a few minutes later, though Marcus Moody’s effort after Dee Okojje had hit the bar was ruled out by the assistant. It looked a suspect decision but proved to be in keeping with officiating throughout the match, with players and supporters perplexed by a succession of contentious decisions.
After a half hour of virtual domination by Kingstonian, which included Rocks’ central midfielder Ross Parmenter limping out of the action to be replaced by youngster Connor Witherspoon, the visitors rallied for the last 15 of the first half and were unlucky when Craig Hughes’ header was cleared off the line and then Ryan Sammons’s shot bounced just wide of an upright.
Rocks came out stronger in the second half and for a while gave their hosts a game. Sammons saw a thunderous drive blocked and Bryant had several strikes at goal.
Centreback Steve Sheehan was also close to a goal with a close range volley that rose over the bar but another contentious free kick and caution against former Wanadio typified the way things were running against the visitors and the gap between the sides was stretched on 74 minutes with a goal scrambled home by Moss, who got his foot to the ball in a crowded goalmouth scramble with players spread all over the floor and he bundled the ball in from close range.
A third followed just a few minutes later as Andre Rocks battled on and had a couple of half chances, the best being a Bryant shot that was comfortably saved by Rob Tolfrey and the points were wrapped up in spectacular fashion by sub Andrew McCollin whose first touch was to juggle the ball and the second to volley it past Behcet for a memorable goal.
A fourth was nearly added in the closing stages as Moss’s lob past Behcet rolled wide of the goal and McCollin’s desperately lunge could only catch the outside of the post.
At the end of the day it was Rocks’ early indecision when they might have got a foothold in the game that cost them most dearly and the strength of the home side in the tackle gave Ks the edge. The ultimate difference was to prove to be the ability to finish – over the whole game Rocks probably had as many opportunities as their hosts but Tolfrey was hardly worked all afternoon.
With new arrival Leon McKenzie set to pep up Rocks’ attack, boss John Coventry will hope his side can pose more of a threat up top, while the energy and bite in the tackle of Lea Dawson, who is set to debut next Saturday against Grays, will give them a more competitive energy in midfield.
Coventry has constantly said through pre-season and the first week of the campaign that his new look side is a work in progress so this defeat will not be treated as a disaster, just another step in the rebuilding process.