Stalemate at Rookery Hill as Beavers can't unlock the Rocks
By HRBFC Press Team
Hampton's run extended to five games without victory, as they were held to a goalless draw with East Thurrock.
Chances were at a premium throughout, with neither side finding a way to break the deadlock.
Both sides resorted to efforts from long range or relied on their set-piece threat, but ultimately, neither goalkeeper had a tough save to make.
In a game that neither side could afford to lose the Beavers came out with intent, with Marcel Barrington and Ryan Hill looking threatening on the flanks.
For all their possession, they couldn’t force a clear cut chance, with a Casey Maclaren volley from 20 yards the best chance for the men in red and blue, which was saved easily by Jack Giddens in the hosts’ net.
Set pieces were the order of the day for the Beavers, with East Thurrock gifting them a number of dangerous free kicks, but the delivery was below par on a number of occasions.
On his debut, and leading the line, Ruel Sotiriou impressed in the first half when given the time and space to do so. The Cypriot almost fashioned a chance for himself midway through the half after some nifty footwork to escape two defenders, but was eventually crowded out as he was about to pull the trigger.
The Rocks had the chance of the first stanza on the half hour mark, as Tom Lovelock failed to deal with the hosts’ free kick. Pandemonium ensued, but Luke Ruddick put his body on the line to thwart a Reece Prestedge zinger from 10 yards.
The cavalier approach of East Thurrock meant there was plenty of space for both sides in the middle of the pitch. Rookery Hill stalwart Sam Higgins led the line supported by Danny Harris and Alex Osborn, before the latter was replaced by Sam Ashford with ten minutes left in the half.
The reluctance of the their front three to track back gave the Beavers room to work with, while the Rocks remained a threat on the counter.
Both sides had penalty shouts late in the half, as Ryan Hill was caught later after crossing, while Sam Ashford appealed to the ref after being crowded out by Oli Sprague. Lee Brennan waved away the shouts from both sides as the half ended goalless.
In truth, neither side could feel hard done by with a stalemate at the interval, with the highlight being the balmy temperatures at Rookery Hill. The sun in the sky brought back memories of the early season joy at the Beveree, with the playoffs in reach, and the joy of Eastleigh away, remember that?
The Beaver’s form, as well as the squad has changed since those heady days, and as the second half began, the need for a winner increased.
As Jack Connors replaced Oli Sprague at the break, the Dover loanee’s missile-like throw in became an addition to the Beavers’ arsenal, but as was the case in the first half, no one could capitalise on the chances.
The home crowd were teased by a Sam Ashford volley ten minutes after the break, as the substitute latched on to a Rickie Hayles knockdown, but his effort sailed over the bar.
The half got scrappier as it went on, as the flick-ons and passes went astray from both sides. Higgins had a daisy-cutter collected by Lovelock, while Ryan Hill blazed a shot over at the other end, with his strike only troubling the caravan dweller behind the far goal.
As the shadows on the pitch got longer, Ryan Scott got his head on a corner which he will have felt he should have done better with. The big central defender was left unmarked ten yards out but nodded one wide of the far post.
Another Beavers set piece saw another scramble in the hosts’ area, but as the ball broke loose, nobody could get a meaningful attempt on goal, before Connors went to ground, much to the ire of the home faithful. He was then booked for simulation.
In one last throw of the dice, Gary threw on Chris Dickson for Sotiriou, with the Leyton Orient loanee living off scraps for most of the afternoon, while Zak Joseph replaced Ryan Hill, who left the field after treatment to his left knee with ten minutes to go.
Thoughts went back to the two sides’ clash at the Jezzard’s Beveree earlier in the season, where Rhys Murrell-Williamson popped up with an injury time winner. Would we see another one here at Rookery Hill?
Alas, the answer was no. Try as they might the golden opportunity just wouldn’t arrive, with the Rocks coming closest with a strike from Sam Ashford drifting wide, before Danny Harris flicked a header past Lovelock’s post.
The two sides epitomised their current states, with neither really stamping their authority on the game. With Eastbourne coming to town next weekend, every game is becoming more and more crucial.