Hampton & Richmond Borough’s five year sojourn in the Conference South finally came to an end on a muddy Thurrock pitch on Saturday, after goals from Jeffreys and Moone had given them a satisfying but ultimately meaningless victory over the Fleet as other results saw the Beavers relegated, writes Rob Overfield.
In truth, the poor start to the season put the team in this position, and despite a mountain of hard work, the mountain to survive turned out to be just a step higher and beyond them. Charlie Moone had passed a pre-game fitness test and took the number 11 shirt, Joe Turner moving to the number 7, meaning Josh Huggins had to settle for a place on the bench.
In the early minutes of the first half, the Beavers had much of the play and were clearly in no mood to go down quietly. Darren Powell had the first chance to break the deadlock, but his header drifted well over from a corner forced by Joe Turner. Half way through the half, Paul Terry was dispossessed by Nathan Collier in midfield but Collier couldn’t make it count as his shot from 15 yards flew over the bar. The Beavers were still just about controlling the game, Charlie Moone almost setting up Simmonds on 33 minutes, the cross just being too far in front of the midfielder for him to connect with. With just 5 minutes to go until the break, Thurrock almost took the lead as they squandered a chance on the break with Billy Jeffreys clearing the ball after a scramble in the area, almost immediately the Beavers missed a chance of their own as Moone found himself in space from Tarpey’s cross, his shot was easily saved by Hughes.
As it turned out, that missed chance wasn’t vital as Jeffreys opened the scoring. James Simmonds’ run and shot forced a fingertip save from Hughes; the resulting near post corner was met perfectly on the run by Jeffreys, the header was perfectly placed to beat keeper and goal-line defenders. The Beavers only managed to get to half time with a clean sheet thanks to captain Lewis Ferrell, whose defiant attitude saw him get back to clear off the goal line with Ross beaten by Boylen’s shot as the clock ran down. HT Thurrock 0 HRBFC 1.
Half time scores from West Leigh Park and York Road gave the Beavers supporters some hope and that hope was reinforced by a great finish from Charlie Moone in the opening minutes after the restart. Moone picked up the ball in space, and from the right hand angle of the box, he placed an unstoppable shot into the opposite corner of the net and a 2-0 lead. Thurrock now stepped up a gear and had the Beavers on the back foot for long periods. Boylen’s attempt was pushed wide by Craig Ross, and Neil Jenkins threw his body into blocking a goalbound shot on the hour. As word spread round the ground that Maidenhead were being held by Eastleigh and that Staines were also drawing, the Beavers tried to extend the lead. Collier’s shot from an angle hit the post and went wide, then Simmonds also hit the frame of the goal with a stinging shot, the rebound bounced to Tarpey, but his header was straight at Hughes, when it seemed he would register his 25th goal of the season.
At this point, goals could have been vital for the Beavers; with 3 minutes to go, Charlie Moone had an attempt pushed wide. In stoppage time James Simmonds could easily have made it 3 to the Beavers but his shot was blocked on the line, with the red and blue shirts almost queuing up to latch onto the rebound, the Thurrock defence managed to clear the danger. As the referee’s whistle went, everyone’s attention went to the other games. Almost immediately, it was confirmed that both Maidenhead and Havant had scored stoppage time winners and in doing so, confirmed the 21st place would belong to the Beavers.
Praise must be given to the massed ranks of supporters that followed the team to Thurrock, despite a last minute hitch. There appeared to be close to an equal number to their Thurrock counterparts and they were clearly out sung by the Beveree faithful, who have made the club proud week-on-week. The players and management are grateful for the unstinting support given to the team in difficult times, and will no doubt express those thanks at the Presentation Evening on May 5th.
So, back to the Ryman League, from whence we came 5 years ago, and its a different league to the one we left, but hopefully the club can be there or thereabouts come this time in 2013.
Thurrock FC 0
Hampton & RB 2
HRBFC: Ross, Ferrell, Jenkins, Jeffreys, Powell, Turner(Johnson 60), Collier(Huggins 78), Andrews, Tarpey, Simmonds, Moone. Subs not used: Bennett, James, Hickey.