With an undistinguished game drifting towards the goalless outcome that most spectators would have felt it deserved, Sutton substitute Kyle Vassell managed to force a header over the line from a free kick and clinched U’s fourth Blue Square Bet South win in a row, the first time this season they have achieved such a sequence in the league. It was also a crushing blow to Thurrock’s hopes of climbing away from the foot of the table, but had they taken two of the only three clear chances that preceded Vassell’s goal then U’s might have paid the penalty for a performance some way below the level they have set this season, but, by no means for the first time this season, they deserve credit for persistence and the goal was a reward for trying to win the game, scored by an attacking substitute from a free kick won by Craig Braham-Barrett, pushed up to play as a left winger in the last fifteen minutes.
Much of what had gone before takes little time to describe as U’s struggled to get in to their stride against a hard-workingThurrockside who as atGander Green Lanein January looked better than a bottom of the table side and deserved better reward. It might have been different had U’s taken the one big chance that they created in the first half, which came after ten minutes as Leroy Griffiths raced free down the left as Thurrock looked for an offside flag, cut in to the penalty area but then, with Harry Beautyman screaming for the ball to be played back to him, blazed a shot with his weaker right foot that swerved away from the far post. Simon Downer headed too high from a corner soon afterwards, but after that there was no more real goalmouth action until early in the second half, when Thurrock had the first of their big chances. Kyle Asante broke down the right and crossed low for Sam Cutler, who had only Kevin Scriven to beat but completely miscued his shot, which rolled in to the keeper’s hands.
U’s soon made changes, Anwar Uddin again suffering a tight hamstring, and Tony Taggart and Kyle Vassell briefly instilled more energy in to U’s performance, Taggart twice getting in on the right and firing in crosses which had to be cleared. It was Thurrock who had the best chance, though, when Asanti was put through and chipped weakly wide as Scriven came out. Paul Telfer’s introduction enabled Braham-Barrett to move further forward, having already threatened on the overlap twice, and with seven minutes left he was brought down on the left edge of the penalty area by Luke I’Anson. It was desperately close to being a penalty, but, unable to be certain, referee Steve Daly was probably correct to award the free kick and book I’Anson, but it didn’t matter as Beautyman’s free kick found Vassell at the far post, and his header found its way over the line before being hacked clear, not the tidiest of goals but enough to win a similarly untidy game, their first win in four visits to the Ship Lane ground.
Thurrock: D Hughes, P Terry, N Ashton(sub J Davis 83), R Gillman, L I’Anson, S Thurgood, D Knight, S Cutler, K Asante, B Hunt(sub L Boylan H-T), A Deen. Sub n/u W Goodhind, B Bowditch, J White. Booked: Cutler (35-foul), Knight(51-foul), I’Anson(82-foul).
Let’s be honest about it, the game at Thurrock was a turgid game, and I felt sorry for the supporters that had travelled and sorry for myself having to watch it. We seemed to lack energy and there wasn’t anything really positive about us, but I suppose the one positive is that we do keep going, and with one bit of quality from Harry and Kyle getting on the end of it at the far post got us a win, but that’s football. We haven’t played well today, and Thurrock can count themselves as unlucky at least not to have got a draw, but if you look at the number of saves the goalkeepers have had to make you have to say it was a horrible game of football.
We said when Thurrock played us at Sutton in January that from number one to number eleven they’ve got good players with good reputations in the game, and I don’t think any of us can quite understand whey they are where they are. Stuart Thurgood, for example, who I thought was brilliant today, was one of the best players around in the non-league game. But I’m not too worried what they were about today, I’m more worried about what we were like, and I thought we looked a tired team today and I’m not really sure why. Nevertheless that’s four wins in a row, five if you count the Surrey Senior, and at this stage of the season I don’t really care how they come.
I spent most of the time after the first half hour wondering how we were going to inject some urgency in to the game. We made the changes quite early, we tried to get Tony Taggart in to the game, we’ve gone to 4-3-3 after half an hour, but nothing seemed to give us the spark. We pushed Craig Braham-Barrett further forward and that obviously helped because he won the free kick, which from our position we thought was a penalty although I gather from those closer that it probably wasn’t, that we scored from.
Without getting too anxious about it we were struggling for numbers today. Craig Dundas wasn’t going to play – he hasn’t trained this week, but said he could do a job for me today, and Kyle has had a sickness bug for the last couple of days, and with Craig Watkins, Stefan Payne and Sam Page not fit today, we’re putting results together without having the strongest squad to pick from, so credit to the players for that.
Anwar Uddin’s got a tight hamstring again, and to be honest you’re not going to see the best of him until he’s done a full pre-season, and Simon took a stud in to his ankle quite nastily, so we’ll have to see how they go, but everyone else seems to have come through today. Anthony Riviere was, for him, off the pace today but to be honest I could have taken any one of them off. Alan and I will have a chat on Sunday about the team for the game against Havant on Tuesday, but I don’t think we’ve got anyone we can bring back at the moment so it will be a question of picking a side that hopefully can get us a result