Written by: Chris Brenta
Last night brought game three of the Isthmian Premier Division, and after missing out on all three points on Saturday, the Robins visited another stadium that has proven notoriously difficult for them over recent years.
The fog was starting to settle, and the full moon shone down on Rookery Hill as Carshalton Athletic and East Thurrock United took to the field, both teams eager to come away with the three points but for differing reasons. The Robins, who have started the season well, wanting to maintain their unbeaten run, and the Rocks desperate to grab their first win in a season that so far has seen them only score once.
Carshalton had to rejig the pack slightly with Bennett and Sogbanmu out injured, Fisher unavailable, and Tommy Bradford serving his one match suspension following his sending off in the FA Cup last week. This saw manager Peter Adeniyi change the system to five at the back, with Read playing in-between Proctor and Dudley. A return to the side for Haxhiu and Samuels and a new look front two of Koroma and Clunis, who were both in good form going into this one.
Both teams had good opportunities in the opening 15 minutes of the game, with Samuels and Koroma both testing Jahata in goal and Olukogo firing over for the Rocks, but the majority of the game was being battled out in the middle of the park with neither side able to take control. This changed on the 21-minute mark when a great through ball from Kershaney Samuels found Nyren Clunis, who outpaced the defender and found himself with only the keeper to beat. Olukogo made a great save to deny Clunis’ first attempt but he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, and slotted the ball home to give the Robins the lead.
Less than one minute later, Carshalton had the chance to make it two. The ball was adjudged to come off an East Thurrock hand, and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped captain Paris Hamilton Downes, who is usually so reliable from the spot, but his effort sailed over the crossbar and the score remained 1-0. The Rocks had a couple of good chances to equalise, but neither Jon Nzengo or Kenny Aileru were able to make their opportunities count.
With five minutes left in the half, Proctor played what looked like a pretty standard back pass to Ohman but the ball was short, which resulted in Patrick colliding with the oncoming Nzegno, leaving him sprawled out on the ground. Luckily, he returned to his feet, albeit slowly, and managed to play on.
The second half was much the same as the first, lots of battling in the middle of the park and both teams with good openings to score. Cheadle saw his long-range effort whizz past the post, and Clunis saw a couple of attempts blocked by defenders. Both Cue and Peart should have done better with a good cross that neither could head on target.
In the 66th minute, Carshalton’s in form man Omar Koroma made it 2-0 with his third goal in three league games. The cross from Clunis to the back post made it easy for Omar to head over the line and give the Robins a more comfortable lead. This was Omar’s last contribution, as in the 71st minute, the travelling fans got to see the return of Harry Ottoway to the team. Having not made an appearance this season due to injury, it was great to see him get 20 minutes on the park.
With 14 to go, the Rocks got themselves a lifeline; Kenny Aileru took a freekick from the left of the Carshalton box and did incredibly well to get it over Ohman and dip in at the back post, bringing the score to 2-1 with everything to play for. After the Robins saw a 2-0 lead thrown away on Saturday, there was understandably some nerves amongst the travelling fans.
East Thurrock had a chance to level it up, a great cross found Olukoga unmarked in front of goal, but he couldn’t get enough power onto his header to trouble Ohman. The Rocks continued to press, but the Robins held stern and despite the four minutes of injury time, the game finished 2-1 and the Robins have their first win on the road that saw them move to 5th in the table.
Head Coach Keith Boanas said after the game "It was important to get a response from us all as a group after the disappointment of what felt like a loss on Saturday. The fact that it was a midweek away fixture at a difficult place to go made it even more satisfying to get the win. With the chances we created, we perhaps should have won more comfortably but the way we held on after their goal gave them incentive was the most pleasing factor. The Gaffer told them how proud he was of their effort. Obviously there was a change of personnel but the squad strength came into play and those that came in rightly showed they are ready and able."