Following the draw against Margate it was a short wait for the next home game as East Thurrock United were due to visit on the Tuesday evening. East Thurrock have had a mixed season with good cup runs but below average performances in the league. As a result they are sitting with Wingate & Finchley, close to the relagtaion zone, but with 4 games in hand over most of those around us. Two of those matches will be against The Blues – this is the first and we will have to travel to their home ground before the end of the season.
It was a fine mild evening that greeted the players as they stepped onto the pitch, East Thurrock in their all red strip and The Blues… well you can work that one out for yourself After a small amount of rain during the previous days and with a generally moist atmosphere, the pitch presented an excellent playing surface conducive to passing play. First to take advantage of that were East Thurrock with a smart through ball from the wing finding Harry Cook, who evaded Weathers’ to drive a low shot beyond Bobby’s gloves and give The Rocks the lead in the 5th minute.
On the 14th minute things got worse. Jordan, only just back from a long term injury, brought down a Rocks player from behind. Inexplicably he then walked over the prone player rather than around him. At the far end of the pitch we heard the player cry out in pain. The refereee was left in no doubt – an immediate straight Red card for an alleged stamp. Why do some players do these things – assuming the referee was correct in his assessment? I’m not a psychologist so I’d be first to admit that I haven’t got a clue. It seems that the natural controlled agression necessary to play competitive sports gets out of hand in a small number of individuals and manifests itself in arguments with referees and random acts of violence towards other players. It’s disappointing for everyone and sadly, you can usually predict who is going to get themselves into this sort of trouble because you witness the symptoms regularly through their careers at a club. Please guys, can we try to keep that aggression under control!
So, down to ten men after only 15 minutes – 75 minutes of purgatory to come. East Thurrock immediately piled on the pressure and within 7 minutes had earned a penalty after Weathers’ brought down Greg Cohen as he ran into the area. We get loads of penalties awarded against us, some of them 50-50 decisions – we have been in receipt of very few ourselves throughout the season It either means that we aren’t getting a run on opposition players in the area or referees don’t want to give us anything… Take your pick So that put the lead up to 2-0 for the visitors. They soon made it 3-0 on the 29th minute when Sam Higgins was able to prod home a close range shot from close to the byeline – beating Bobby at the near post, which he won’t be happy about though he probably didn’t have a clear view because of the number of legs surrounding the ball.
The Blues fans were beginning to worry about another embarrassing result like the ones at Margate and against Wealdstone at home. However, on the pitch the players seemed to find renewed confidence and to start stringing passes together. I guess they realised that it’s better to go down fighting. Weathers’ nearly got one back with a header off a cross from Lewis which just drifted wide. Then, almost on the stroke of half time a Rocks player handled the ball in the area and the referee pointed to the spot! Cue desparate calls for ambulances as a number of home fans collapsed with shock By the time we’d recovered our composure Lairdy was ready to take the penalty and converted it with a low hard driven shot to the keeper’s right. 3-1 and the half came to a close with the deficit slightly reduced.
Fans never know what is said in the dressing room at half time – presumably the East Thurrock manager will have been saying something along the lines keep calm and keep the ball. Goodness knows what David was saying to our guys… In the bar the fans were reasonably upbeat – a goal just before half time can be a game changer even with the shadow of playing another 45 minutes with only 10 men.
When the teams returned to the pitch it was apparent almost immediately that David had really instilled some commitment and confidence into The Blues. Wingate & Finchley surged forwards with every opportunity. Passing – crisp and accurate – provided for brisk play. If the visitors manager had said the standard ‘keep the ball’ message of those who are 2 goals up and with an extra man, he wasted his breath – you have to get the ball first before you can keep it!
Lewis was unlucky to see an excellent strike tipped over the bar on the 66th minute as the home side ran the show from midfield. Fish put the ball in the net on the 70th minute but it was ruled offside – there was some doubt about the accuracy of that decision. Keiron and Lairdy both had headed attempts saved – pawed over by the keeper and cleared off the line. Then finally the pressure told and Leon Smith found the bottom corner from a tight angle in the 78th minute. 3-2 and almost all the play was now by the home side.
And the shocks for the home fans weren’t over yet… As the game crept into injury time Lairdy made one of his Panzer runs through the defence somehow taking the ball with him past challenges and evading a vicious looking two-footed lunge before striking a hard low volley that was blocked by the lunge maker, who was still picking himself up. The bounce of the ball was going to carry it back into Lairdy’s path so without a second thought the defender wrestled it back with his hand – I saw it (through the viewfinder) as did Leon, whose arms went up immediately with a shout of handball! Max Mitchell joined in, also with a clear view of what had happened. The referee agreed and pointed to the spot for the third time in the game and the second time for the home side… Something of a record that – I presume that normal service will be resumed at the next match!
It was Lairdy who calmed himself down before beating Richard Wray for the second time to his right from the spot, showing great character to keep his cool and claim the equaliser for his team in the last minutes of the match. A fantastic comeback by the Blues from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with a man short – it could even have been 4-3 had Fish’s goal been allowed! We had some sympathy for Wray in the visitors goal – he put in some fine saves and certainly ensured that his side got a valuable away point. Lairdy was in receipt of an early bath – courtesy of Bobby Smith rather than a sending off. The ref had left the field by then otherwise they might have got a yellow for excessive celebration
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.