Two opportunist goals and one set up from East Thurrock’s Vinny John were enough to sink Waltham Forest in this always entertaining match. The Rocks set their stall out early by pushing towards the half way line and fouling any home player that got past them.
Forest gave a home debut to Hasan Kardal and brought Ian Barnes back into the defence with Tom McGowan going to Barnes’ left.
Much of the opening period saw the ball in the air for a lot of the time: this suited East Thurrock as they were always a physical presence over the smaller Forest attack.
When the game began to settle, it was the Stags who were having the better of the exchanges with Clarke and Kardal up front being ably assisted by the home midfield. Forest began to break through the Rocks’ defence but did not get many clear chances on goal.
Ten minutes into the game after a lovely flowing move on the Stags’ right wing, Clarke had the ball in the back of the net. Celebrations were, however, cut short by an inexplicable off side decision.
Forest took control of the midfield with Nabil and walker having particularly good games.
The Stags went ahead on twenty minutes when Tom McGowan received a ball from Tickner out of defence. He went from halfway line to deep into Rocks’ territory before they knew what was happening. Equally, the defence was nowhere to be seen when Dewayne Clarke popped up to meet the cross and stab the ball home from close range.
The lead lasted only eight minutes before John found himself free on the left to send a 30 yard lob over home ‘keeper Gavin King.
Forest regained the lead on 35 minutes when an awful back pass from Holding, about 40 yards out from goal, allowed debutant Hasan Kardal to outpace his pursuers, draw out ‘keeper Glen Knight and coolly slot home.
Kardal again was influential in what could have been the killer goal when he was first on the scene to collect the ‘keeper’s blocked save from Clarke’s shot. Kardal fed the ball to Walker then quickly moved allowing Walker the chance to curl the ball into the net. Unhappily the ball just skimmed the top of the bar.
The second half was a game of a different complexion: the Rocks seemed to have more determination and more belief. Some of this belief was channelled into fouling the home forwards to break up every attack. The referee awarded free kicks but never realised that this was a tactic to break up the flow of the home attack. Not one of the visitors was penalised with a caution for persistent infringement of the laws. On one occasion, Kardal was through on goal and was hacked down from behind, foul awarded but no caution.
With the next attack, the Rocks were all at sea but were let off when Dean Chandler blocked Marvin Walkers shot on the line. They turned defence into attack and exposed the home defence down its left flank. The attack ended with a corner to the Rocks which was stabbed home from close range at King’s left post.
Thurrock sowed up the victory on 72 minutes when Gary Dixon scored from close range. For the second time at home, the Stags surrendered all the points when they really should have had at least 4 out of the six.
There are a few sides like East Thurrock about, not unskilful but solid and very physical, the kind of side that often gains promotion out of this level of football.