Woking 3, East Thurrock United 0
SATURDAY’S Vanarama National South scoreline certainly flattered the victorious hosts, who revived their title challenge with three points, while Rocks slipped back into the relegation zone.
Over 90 minutes the visitors probably had more clear-cut chances than their hosts, but the difference in quality up front proved vital with East Thurrock unable to add a cutting edge to some creative play, while Woking’s finishing proved decisive.
After Tuesday’s enthralling Essex Senior Cup win against Billericay, Rocks might have been expected to be on a high and well up for this challenge, but they were surprisingly lethargic in the opening half hour, creating little and conceding what proved to be two decisive goals.
Greg Luer and Bradley Hudson-Odoi proved a regular threat to the Rocks defence, who found themselves on the back foot as the ball regularly came back on them as possession was frittered away by some poor passing.
Visiting keeper Jack Giddens marked his selection as the division’s player of the month for January with a reflex save to tip Dave Tarpey’s shot over the bar, but there was little he could do when the same player broke through on 19 minutes when Tarpey’s angled shot took a slight deflection before finding the bottom corner.
Rocks were showing little as an attacking force, through Sam Higgins did make a couple of attempts that were comfortably dealt with and it was no surprise when Woking added to their lead in the 35th minute when Hudson-Odoi broke down the down the left flank, crossed to Tarpey, who the teed it up Luer to dink it past Giddens.
At that point, Rocks finally started to spark and they began to press with serious intent.
They had a decent shout for a penalty waved away when Sam Ashford appeared to have his legs taken from under him in the box and then, in the last minute of the half, Ashford was denied by a diving stop from Craig Ross.
The second half was very different from the first, with Rocks enjoying far more possession and creating several opportunities to get back into the game.
The first came in the opening minute of the half when a Higgins cross was picked up by Ashford who in turn teed up Danny Harris about two yards out. It seemed inevitable he would score but the lack of confidence and sharpness in front of goal proved decisive as he hesitated and the moment was lost.
More Rocks’ pressure followed but the clinical finish was missing as several half chances were spurned.
A glorious opening came around the hour mark when the ball was played into Ben Marlow and a goal seemed certain but Ian Gayle managed to intervene, sliding in to get a toe to the ball and Ross gathered gratefully.
Showing a level of effort that was missing in the first half and was the ultimate cause of their downfall, Rocks kept going and threatened again when Alex Osborn executed a sharp turn and his shot was deflected for a corner, from which Ryan Scott headed over.
It wasn’t to be their day and there was a small measure of injustice to be added to their disappointment in the closing moments of added time when the visiting defence was caught napping from a free-kick which was quickly delivered by Armani Little and Jake Hyde was completely unmarked as he headed home.