Erratic refereeing and typical local derby passion were the hallmarks of this Ryman Premier League derby at The Rec on Easter Monday.
Despite not getting revenge for last month’s defeat at Ship Lane, Blues boss Mark Stimson knows that he is only a game away from an unbeaten home record which bodes well for the future of his young squad.
The derby clash was an occasionally bad-tempered affair which produced a relatively tame first half as both ‘Stimmo’ and Colin McBride’s men battles to dominate the midfield under clear blue skies.
Both teams enjoyed limited forays, with Leroy Griffiths and Freddy Eastwood the main performers for Blues while the Ship Lane visitors relied upon the skills of the inventive Simon Martin, Terry Bowes and Cliff Akurang.
There were some half chances in the first, but some dubious refereeing decisions frustrated fans and players alike, especially as the man in black looked to be too lenient given the nature of some challenges.
With no score at half time both teams came back with even more fire in the bellies. Eventually a call against Cliff Akurang saw Grays awarded a penalty, which 19-year-old Eastwood converted to the disappointment and anger of visiting fans. Thurrock supporters believed the penalty decision was harsh – particularly as several other minor infringements in the penalty area were ignored by the ref.
Both sides complained bitterly about several of the decisions made by referee I. Crouch.
In the end it was Thurrock’s ever probing and inventive Martin who equalised, which was probably a fair reflection of the game itself. Martin’s goal came when Bowes had his five yard shot blocked by Grays’ lightening fast keeper Mel Capleton, but when the rebound sprung to Martin, the lively attacker poked it home.
The last ten minutes of the game were the most entertaining, if only for the fact that usually deadly strikers from both sides missed chances.
Thurrock’s Martin Lawrence missed what looked to be a sitter in the closing seconds and the usually deadly Tresor Kandol fluffed one from close range. Blues had their chances too, Wes Daly - who had had a great game despite a battle with the tough Thurrock defence – should have given Grays the decider. But with less than five minutes on the clock he scuffed the ball from just six yard out.
Report by Frazer Clark
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report