Rocks recover to share points at the Park

Lewis Smith is congratulated by teammates after his equalising goal.

Chippenham Town 2, East Thurrock United 2
THE well-worn football cliché ‘game of two halves’ was never better illustrated than at Hardenhuish Park on Saturday where East Thurrock maintained their unbeaten start to the Vanarama National league South season, but only after two extremely contrasting 45 minutes.
In the first half the visitors, who had performed with passion, verve and commitment five days earlier to record an outstanding win against Braintree, showed non of those qualities as they struggled to come to terms with Chippenham’s sloping pitch and long, wiry grass.
But you couldn’t blame the stadium for the disparity between the sides in the opening stanza, that was simply down to a lack of application by East Thurrock who allowed their hosts to seize the initiative and – in truth – Chippenham perhaps could have been out of sight by the break.
They were not though, and a short, sharp lecture from Rocks boss John Coventry who was barely in the dressing room for a few minutes and was quickly followed back onto the pitch by his players for the restart, saw a completely different attitude on the resumption and within nine minutes they were back on level terms thanks to two fine goals from Lewis Smith.
The second half ebbed and flowed and either side might have won it, and it was Smith who came closest to a decider but his late, close range strike was tipped onto a post and safety by Bluebirds keeper Jared Thompson.
The game had started with Rocks in tentative mode, stepping back and allowing their hosts to claim a foothold in the game which they nearly exploited with shots from Mike Jones and Will Richards but they failed to hit the target.
However, just nine minutes had passed when Chippenham got the opener, Jake Andrews holding off two defenders before playing a superbly-weighted pass to Dave Pratt who curled his shot around Lucas Lidakevicius.
The goalkeeper, heavily bandaged to protect the wound his sustained on Tuesday against Braintree, was helpless then, but he did well soon after to keep out an effort from Andrews and then from James Guthrie.
Rocks showed little at the other end, Smith cutting inside and forcing a first save from Thompson on 19 minutes and then Femi Akinwande got a shot on target that was again dealt with by the keeper.
In the main it was Bluebirds who carried a threat and after spurning several half chances their second goal came seven minutes before the break when Andy Sandell’s right wing cross was headed home by Richards.
Rocks got to the break without conceded another and after Coventry’s intervention the recovery was quickly on. Just a minute of the second half had passed when Smith got on the end of a couple of neat passes and drove into the danger area before curling a low shot past Thompson.
And eight minutes later he forced his way into the box and drilled a low shot past Thompson at his near post to restore parity.
The tempo of the game had increased significantly and there were chances at both ends in the ensuing 35 minutes, most notably Smith’s shot that was saved by the keeper. Chippenham had a couple of claims for penalties waved away as they made a late, frantic push to take all the points but in the end the draw was probably a fair result, though Rocks will know they got out of jail and on another day their first half lethargy might have cost them a lot more.