East Thurrock United FC
Ground Number: 290
Saturday 24th August 2013
East Thurrock United 3-0 Grays Athletic
Between the last game and this, I should have been going to Mickleover Sports v Sutton Coldfield Town, but my mate pulled out the day before as he had some unexpected bills come in. And I wasn't going to pay to go all that way on my own. I would have gone to see Epsom and Ewell play at Chipstead on Wednesday had I known, instead I spent Wednesday and the next few days setting up my new PC which had proved to be a right pain in the backside, and reminded me why I switched to Mac from Windows 4 years ago. But I had laid out too much to reverse the decision, and I could get a good price for my Macbook Pro, more than I paid for it 14 months ago if I was lucky. For once I would be visiting a ground that I had not even been to for photos, in fact, this was a big factor in influencing my decision. I also a couple of bits of casual work that I could do on the way, quick 5 minute jobs that I could use to offset the cost of fuel for today's trip. In normal circumstances, I would be heading to Oxford v Wycombe in the M40 derby, but the combination of having been there loads, the Priory pub closing down, high ticket prices and last weeks kamikaze team selection left me looking for alternatives.
I left home about 11.30 and had 2 quick jobs in Chesham and Hatfield that would net me £14 towards my fuel costs. When I got to the second, it was absolutely hammering it down and I didn't want a repeat of last season where I twice drove to games to see they had been called off. So it being just before 1PM I went into ASDA and got some chicken and grapes for my lunch and checked Twitter and the Isthmian League website so as I could arrange an alternative if needed. There was only good news that 'the pitch was still playable' so off I went, getting to the ground at 2.15. I had a quick look around and got some pictures of the outside of the ground, but the rain was still torrential so I didn't want to hang around too long. I paid to get in and then got a programme, a decent effort with plenty to read and at only £1.50, one of the cheapest at this level. Ironically last time I saw Grays was on one of those aforementioned bad weather days. It was back in March and we had lots of sleet. Initially, Bury Town said their game would be on, and so I headed over there only to find it had been called off. I had made backup plans though and although I had wasted fuel by doing unneeded miles that day, at least I did see a game. It was at Soham Town Rangers and was one of the very few games on that day. The visitors were favourites to win again today, having won 4 out of 4 so far this term. East Thurrock meanwhile, who I'd never seen play before had had an inconsistent start to the season, being in mid-table. They had has a boost during the week when they signed former Grays favourite Stuart Thurgood, who played for them when they were in the Conference. As it turned out, he would play a big part in the afternoon's proceedings.
It was still hammering it down and would continue to do so for the rest of the afternoon. So I was glad to get a spot undercover and was also glad that the pitch held up really well for the whole game. The rainy conditions made things difficult though and the first 44 minutes were unremarkable, though both keepers made a good save each, that was it for serious chances. But then on the stroke of half time, that man Thurgood hit a free-kick from 30 yards out. It didn't look like it was a shot, but it evaded Grays keeper George Kamarusi and made him look a bit silly. That said he made plenty of good saves throughout the afternoon. The half time scoreline was harsh on Grays, who if anything, were slightly the better side. However, the second half was a different story. The home side came out a lot more confidently. Thurgood especially was looking assured and dictating play. On 65 minutes, East Thurrock doubled their lead with the best goal of the afternoon, David Bryant scoring with a lovely curling shot. While all this was happening, I was keeping tabs on Wycombe's progress at Oxford. Despite having a man sent off we were leading 2-1 against the league leaders, and that would remain the case until I left the ground. Back to Essex and Grays were labouring. Their keeper made several good saves, but in injury time, East Thurrock got the goal their domination merited. Kamarusi made another great save, but Bryant grabbed his second on the rebound.
It hadn't been the greatest of games, but had been a decent local derby. I left with Wycombe winning 2-1, but as I when the classified football results came through it transpired that Oxford had got a 97th-minute equaliser, not the only bit of help they had had from referee Andy D'Urso, judging by reports on our message board. We always seem to get a raw deal when he is in the middle. It was a fairly decent if rainy drive home, but as I got off the M25 at Amersham, it stopped thankfully. I got home at 6.30. I have a days rest from football tomorrow before it recommences on Monday with a double at Mossley and Hyde.
ROOKERY HILL is a pleasant non-league ground in nice surroundings. It reminds me a bit of Pickering Town in the NCEL in the style of stands that it has, which are pleasing on the eye and from where the view is good. As you go in the turnstile to your right is a seated stand holding around 200. Opposite, there is a similar one, albeit at one end of the pitch, holding 150. This is where most of the Grays singers spent the afternoon. There are also 2 mini terraces, holding around 200 between them under cover, but the rest is open standing, not great on a day like this. I think they are building an extension or a new stand to go with the one on the far side, as there is some metal framework in place, but nothing else yet.
The clubhouse has Sky and a pretty standard selection of drinks, whilst the tea bar was your typical non-league one, though I didn't try anything from it. I think they sold old programmes in there as well - you could actually queue and sit inside, maybe they do merchandise in there also as I didn't see any other shop. I enjoyed my day out there. The ground looked a bit out of the way, and I didn't see any nearby pubs or takeaways, though I only came off the dual carriageway and straight into the ground within a few hundred yards.