Scintillating Hampton Put Five Past The Rocks
The in-form Beavers, who jumped up to third in the table after snatching a late win away at Weston-Super-Mare, took on a recently galvanised East Thurrock - whose run of four losses in a row ended with two back-to-back 3-0 wins.
East Thurrock made one change from their win at Welling, with Lukas Lidakevicuis coming in for Wright, presumably injured, given his absence from the bench.
Hampton, now facing the task of replacing the departing Nathan Collier, made one change - with Michael Kamara in to replace the versatile Collier, who made 82 appearances for The Beavers.
New signing Elliott Charles began the day named amongst the substitutes, whilst Enock Soganile took Dylan Randall's place on the bench. Sam Howes made his 50th appearance for Hampton, in this time keeping 10 clean sheets in the league.
It looked as if the Beavers might have their work cut out today, as The Rocks boasted the second best away form in the National League South, as well as the joint-top scorer in the league, Sam Higgins, in their ranks.
Hampton started the game on the front foot, as an energetic McAuley burst into the East Thurrock box and forced Lidakevicius into a good early save, turning behind for a corner.
The resulting corner caused trouble for the East Thurrock defence, with the ball falling to Charlie Wassmer, who pulled it out of the air brilliantly, and rifled it home on the half-volley in just the 3rd minute.
East Thurrock tried their best to find their way back into the game, with Higgins, looking most dangerous, fizzing a low cross across box and asking questions of the Beavers back four.
Hampton weren’t to be deterred though, and in the 12th minute should have doubled their lead. A brilliant counter attack between Kiernan, Casey and Kretzschmar ended with Kretzschmar finding McAuley free 8 yards from goal. The move deserved to be turned home, but the onrushing McAuley wasn’t able to compose himself, and sent it over the bar.
It was a big scare for the visitors, who almost found themselves two down. Pushing on to equalise, they won a corner, taken by Agyemang. It was a great in-swinging delivery which needed to be punched clear by Howes.
Next, a pot shot from Ryan Sammons was turned over the bar by Howes. The resulting corner was claimed brilliantly by our No.1, and Hampton were able to see out a sustained period of pressure from the visitors.
On 18 minutes, a brilliant cross from Taurean Roberts found Coombes in acres of space - but his header was slightly mistimed, and he glanced it just past the post.
In the 30th minute, however, Coombes perseverance paid off - when a long ball evaded the East Thurrock back line, he found himself with a great goalscoring opportunity. Letting the ball drop, Coombes was completely in control, taking a great touch goalwards before firing home. In the celebration, East Thurrock’s Reece Harris found himself booked for dissent - perhaps a sign of the frustrations yet to come from the visitors.
It looked like Coombes was just getting started though, and his second goal was the perfect blend of work-rate and skill. Latching onto a long ball, Coombes pressured centre-back Burns, who lost possession to the Hampton No.9 40-or-so-yards from goal. Coombes took a deft touch towards goal, before eventually rounding Lidakevicius to slot it home cooly in the 42nd minute.
Hampton looked to be heading into half-time three goals to the good, but it seemed Brendan Kiernan had other ideas.
Picked out by Jolley on the break, Kiernan picked up the ball on the left of the pitch, and ran at Ekpetita, beating him all ends up. With a blend of dazzling stepovers and feints, Kiernan eventually sent the ball into the bottom right corner - way out of reach of Lidakevicius.
With four goals in the first half, Hampton & Richmond really were in dreamland - so far it had been a really incredible performance from a team at the top of their game. “This might be the best Hampton team I’ve seen,” said one awestruck fan.
The second half begun in much the same spirit as the first, with Hampton looking to add more to their tally. On an incisive break, Coombes played the ball through to Kiernan, who almost forced his way through one-on-one. After pressure from the covering defenders however, Kiernan was unable to stay on his feet - but the referee wasn’t interested in appeals for a free kick, which may have seen a red card for the defender.
The second half then became a much more even affair, with The Rocks growing into the game and forging themselves real chances. East Thurrock dangerman Higgins looked to be the one who would reduce the deficit, letting a long ball drop over his shoulder and catching it on the half volley 20 yards from goal - but the effort bounced harmlessly wide of Howes right-hand post.
Eventually though, there was a breakthrough; Tom Richardson latched onto a clever flick-on from Higgins, composed himself, and powered it past Howes from the edge of the box, pulling one back for the visitors. A great finish which Howes had no real chance of stopping.
It looked as if it would be the springboard for East Thurrock, if not for a comeback, then to at least come away with their heads held high.
However, The Rocks captain Sam Higgins ended up seeing red in the 80th minute - picking up a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in anger, to combine with his earlier yellow for... yes, dissent.
This woke the Beavers up, and, in the 83rd minute, Coombes sent a brilliant searching ball over the back of the East Thurrock defence, looking to pick out Brendan Kiernan.
To everyone in the ground it looked as if Lidakevicius would be first to get to the ball - but instead, he missed it completely - leaving Kiernan to compose himself and simply walk the ball into the net for the Beavers fifth and final goal.
This rounded off a wonderful day for Hampton & Richmond, and the resounding victory made it an incredible eighth league win in a row. More significantly, this result took the Beavers joint-top of the National League South, a truly incredible turnaround from Dowse, his team, and everyone connected to the club.
Man of the Match
It feels like we’ve been saying this a lot recently, but once again there were several contenders for MOTM, in what was a vintage team performance. Honourable mention goes to Brendan Kiernan and Charlie Wassmer, who both had a massive impact on the result. Kiernan, with two goals and an assist, looks to be back to his best, and will prove a valuable asset moving forward.
Today though, it goes to on-loan Sutton United Striker Adam Coombes. Coombes caused problems from the first whistle with intelligent running and neat hold-up play that helped set the Beavers up for a plethora of chances.
His two fantastic goals and one assist represented what a lethal performance it was from Adam - but this all comes back to what was a truly fantastic team performance from Hampton, as the run now continues to 15 unbeaten and 8 wins in the National League South.
1. Samuel Howes
2. Michael Kamara
3. Joshua Casey
4. Jack Cook
5. Charlie Wassmer
6. Shaun McAuley (off 64’)
7. Brendan Kiernan
8. Christian Jolley
9. Adam Coombes
10. Max Kretzschmar
11. Taurean Roberts
12. Harrison Crawford
13. Luke Sheldrick
14. Leon Solomon (on 64’)
15. Elliot Charles
16. Enock Soganile
East Thurrock Squad
1. Lukas Lidakevicius
2. Ryan Sammons
3. Ben Sampayo
4. James White
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Lee Burns
7. Tom Richardson
8. Max Cornhill
9. Sam Higgins (c)
10. Montel Agyemang
11. Reece Harris
12. Simon Peddle
14. George Allen
15. Harry Honesty
16. Calvin Epiteta
17. Lewis Smith
HRBFC: Jolley ‘70, Wassmer 71’
East Thurrock: Harris ‘30, Higgins ‘41 & ‘80
East Thurrock: Higgins ‘80
Coombes ‘30, ‘42.
Kiernan ‘45+1, ‘84