Concord Rangers 1, East Thurrock United 0
HOLDERS East Thurrock bowed out of the Essex Senior Cup in their first tie this season, but will look back on a disappointing night with regret for a number of reasons.
First and foremost was the serious injury sustained by midfielder Ben Marlow who suffered a broken eye socket and fractured cheekbone after being elbowed in the face.
Secondly they will rue a series of missed opportunities as they more than matched their neighbours, who play one level above them in the non-league pyramid, but came up against a keeper in fine form.
And thirdly they will look back on the abysmal performance of referee Karl Sear with a sense of injustice. Not only did he miss a cast iron first half penalty for the Rocks, but the failed to see the offence when Marlow was flattened – and his lack of control throughout the night generally conspired against East Thurrock through the more cynical attitude of Rangers.
The winning goal came close to the end of the match which seemed set to be going straight to penalties and was a real kick in the pants for a Rocks side who pleased manager John Coventry with their attitude and fight – but he recognised that it’s putting the ball in the net that really matters.
“On the balance of play and chances, we should have won the game,” said Coventry.“But if you don’t take your chances, you don’t win games of football.
“We were terrible for the goal we conceded and it was avoidable.
“I counted seven chances that we created. When you face a team in a higher league, you don’t expect to go to their home and create that much. We needed to take one of those chances and we didn’t.”
Rocks made a bright start to the third round tie at the Aspect Arena and went close after eight minutes when only Archie McFadden’s goal-line clearance denied Frankie Merrifield who had clipped the ball past onrushing keeper Chris Haigh.
The hosts had a great chance to take the lead themselves soon after when Ryan Scott attempted to dribble out of defence and was robbed by James Blanchfield but keeper Jack Giddens came to his rescue.
Rocks looked nailed on to get a penalty on the half hour mark when Haigh felled Merrifield from behind but inexplicably Mr Sear waved away their claims, one of a number of poor decisions by an official who seemed reluctant to make any decisions – something that frustrated both sides at times.
Rocks had most of the attacking play in the second half but were denied several times by Haigh’s abilities as he saved from Mitch Gilbey and Jason Ring among others and the killer blow came eight minutes from time when Decarrey Sheriff was set free and he produced the one clinical finish of the night.
By then the Rocks had lost Marlow to an awful challenge and he could now miss the rest of the season.
“Losing and not scoring does not bother me anywhere near as much as Ben’s injury,” said Coventry.
“Ben was good on the night and he is great for us. He’s got that energy in the middle of the park and I feel for the boy because it’s quite a nasty one.”