East Thurrock 0 Lowestoft Town 2
Lowestoft stay focused in tough and testing conditions, to overcome second half pressure and register an impressive 2-0 away win.
East Thurrock: Justham, Sammons, Stephen, Peddle, Wood, Collins, Newby, Parmenter (Burgess 80 mins), Araba, Smith (Lawson 46 mins), Ruel (Mason 77 mins). Subs; Burgess, Mason, Pooley, Obaze, Lawson.
Lowestoft Town: Plummer, Saker, Williams, Gaughran, Cockrill, Henderson (Smith 73 mins), Mitchell, Okay, Francis (Cunningham 89 mins), Frew, Defty. Subs; Cunningham, Newson, Fisk, Smith, Dawkin.
Lowestoft built on last week's win over Wealdstone, by taking three points away to East Thurrock in a 2-0 win. Playing on a very tricky pitch that looked freshly ploughed (like Hornchurch last season) and with both teams down to ten men, Lowestoft kept their focus and withstood second half pressure to dig out a great win against a side who don't lose many games at home.
Going into the game Lowestoft had a few selection headaches of the right kind, with loan players in contention and players returning from injury. However, after Saturdays great showing it was no surprise to see an unchanged starting line-up.
The match kicked off on a pitch that wasn't going to be conducive to a passing game on the deck.
It was therefore no surprise that the first half was pretty ugly for the opening period and even with Okay vocally revving the team up, neither side could settle into any sort of a rhythm.
The first chance of the game was a half chance for Lowestoft, with a great flick by Defty in the centre to release Frew but the East Thurrock defender got in just before Frew could take advantage.
East Thurrock had a tall and solid looking number 9 (Araba) up front but Gaughran was dealing with him well, defending strongly and also encouraging his team vocally in his role of captain for the day.
With the pitch being in such a cut up condition both sides were looking for the ball over top but neither defence was yielding as of yet.
Lowestoft did come close to breaching the Thurrock defence though, with Mitchell bending a ball in from the right channel and into the path of Frew but the keeper Justham got down well to block and see the chance cleared.
It was shaping up as a game that could easily lead to frustration but Lowestoft were not panicking and were looking focused.
Unfortunately that focus was lost for a brief moment by Frew, going for a ball in the air and after not winning the aerial battle he lunged into a tackle and was immediately given his marching orders by the referee Nick Cooper. The decision could be argued as being slightly harsh but lunging in on a pitch in those conditions, you are always taking a risk.
Moments later ten men Lowestoft thought they had taken the lead, with Francis spinning on the ball in the box to slam the ball high and into the net, only for the goal and the supporters joy to be short livid, as the offside flag waved in the breeze.
The referee was starting to get sucked into giving a few fouls, which didn't really warrant free kicks. However, moments later his decision was a simple one, with a Lowestoft free kick sent into the box and Defty being clearly punched in the face by the number 7 (Newby) who was sent off, leaving Defty sporting a bloody lip. A little bit of confusion followed with a few players and supporters not even registering the fact that it was also a penalty but once minds had refocused, up stepped Lowestoft's penalty supremo Cockrill, to dispatch the ball past Justham and to send Lowestoft 1-0 up (36 mins).
The goal had lifted Lowestoft who were now knocking the ball around on the deck and on a surface which was cutting up badly.
They were also looking solid at the back, with the partnership of Williams and Gaughran growing all the time, with both players marshalling the defence well.
As half time approached Thurrock created their first opening of the game but with Smith whipping the ball dangerously across the box there was no Thurrock player there to meet it, as Lowestoft reached the break in front.
The second half started with East Thurrock making a change, as Lawson replaced Smith.
There had obviously been some stern words in the East Thurrock dressing room at half time, with them pressing hard right from the restart.
Lowestoft were being forced back but were also guilty of sitting a bit deep, as Thurrock started to make chances. Collins was the player on the end of the chances, working space for a shot but seeing it just bend away from goal and then after being found on the edge of the box, Lowestoft keeper Plummer had to scramble across goal to turn the effort behind. Thurrock were full of intent and Lowestoft hadn't settled.
It was turning into a 'dig in deep' game for Lowestoft who were certainly looking second best this half and also playing into a wind.
Mitchell was playing a slightly higher position now in midfield, trying to push Lowestoft forward but East Thurrock were keeping their foot on the gas.
Collins was involved again with a ball over the top setting him on his way but Williams showed great strength to tussle with him and with Plummer advancing, Lowestoft snuffled the chance out.
Lowestoft just couldn't get out of their half for any length of time and with Gaughran harshly booked for a 50/50 tackle and Lowestoft nearly sending an own goal into the net from the resulting free kick, the team really had to roll their sleeves up.
Lowestoft's first sight on goal fell to Gaughran after a lovely nod down by Defty but his shot was grappled out of the air by keeper Justham.
East Thurrock immediately went up the other end and with a weak header back by Cockrill putting Plummer in trouble, East Thurrock very nearly levelled things.
The returning Lee Smith replaced Henderson, as Lowestoft looked towards some fresh legs on a telling pitch. However, Thurrock were the side who looked like levelling the game, with Saker slicing the ball and very nearly scoring a spectacular own goal and then from a corner the number 5 (Wood) sent a header in on goal but just as it looked like it was going in, Cockrill headed it off the line.
Lowestoft were defending staunchly but on occasions also hanging on, so it was a welcome relief when they doubled their lead. Mitchell got in round the back and squared for Defty to side foot home, to cap a good football move and to send Lowestoft 2-0 up (77 mins). The goal was needed by Lowestoft and even though Thurrock kept trying and made a couple of changes, it appeared that Lowestoft had taken some of the sting out of the East Thurrock tail with the goal.
A change towards the end with Cunningham replacing Francis and Lowestoft holding firm, was enough to see Lowestoft get to the final whistle and secure a very hard fought 2-0 win.
Lowestoft had to endure a lengthy spell of pressure during the second half but rolled their sleeves up and not only got another good three points but also another clean sheet.
Standout performances today came from Defty, who's hold up play was yet again impressive and Okay who looked solid in the midfield, while Mitchell endured one of his lesser influential games.
When thinking of a Man of the Match though, focus shifts to a Lowestoft defence who even though they were under pressure, they secured a second consecutive clean sheet. The partnership of Williams and Gaughran looks stronger with each game and even though Williams did well today, Gaughran was my Man of the Match. His awareness, positioning and vocal support and organisation from the back was excellent.
This was another good three points and serves as the perfect tonic going into the busy festive period.
Next match is against promotion rivals Margate at the Crown Meadow on Saturday.