East Thurrock United v Aldershot Town – Match Preview – Saturday 16 December 2017
Aldershot Town take a break from National League action this weekend, as they travel to Corringham in Essex to take on East Thurrock United in the First Round of the FA Trophy for the second successive season.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Shots manager Gary Waddock will again be without injured striker Scott Rendell, whilst Matt McClure is doubtful after pulling a calf muscle in the warm-up prior to the Halifax game. Jake Cole may return to the playing squad after illness kept him out last weekend. Nick Arnold remains side-lined and is expected to be out until at least March 2018.
Opposition – East Thurrock United
Nickname: The Rocks
Ground: Rookery Hill, Corringham
Manager: John Coventry
2016-17: 13th (National League North)
Current Position: 10th
East Thurrock United were formed in 1969 and spent their early years in the Southern Essex Combination, London Spartan League and the Essex Senior League, before winning promotion to the Isthmian League in 1992. The Rocks’ second stint in the Premier Division started in 2011, after winning Division One North in the previous campaign, and that’s where they remained for five seasons. The 2015-16 campaign saw them finish 3rd in the table, just four points behind champions Hampton & Richmond Borough, before beating Tonbridge Angels 2-0 in the Play-Off semi-final, and then defeating Dulwich Hamlet 3-1 in the Final. The latter game saw a club record attendance of 1661 at their Rookery Hill home.
The Rocks finished a creditable thirteenth in their first season at National League South level.
A popular character on the South East Non-League scene, John Coventry is widely regarded as an astute coach with a good eye for a young player. Coventry is a former sports teacher who previously coached the District youth side. A striker in his time, John continued playing into his fifties, and still turns out in charity and vets’ games from time to time. He celebrated his 500th match in charge of The Rocks in November 2016 and won the National League South Manager of the Month award in September 2017.
The Rocks started the current season in fine form, remaining unbeaten across their opening ten league matches, with six wins and four draws. A run of eight matches without a win then followed, although they have found a little bit of form of late, winning three matches in a row before last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing against Hampton & Richmond Borough.
Defender Marvin Ekipeta (formerly with Oxford City, Chelmsford City and Concord Rangers) has made the most appearances for The Rocks to date this season. Club Captain Sam Higgins tops the goal charts, with twelve from nineteen starts so far. A prolific goal scorer who twice won the Ryman League’s ‘Golden Boot’, he has previously played for Chelmsford City and Bromley but has always viewed East Thurrock as his spiritual football home and has enjoyed his goalscoring successes there. However, Higgins was sent-off last weekend and will miss the game against The Shots.
The Rocks met Aldershot Town at the same stage of the FA Trophy last season. Bernard Mensah scored Town’s goal in the 1-1 draw at Rookery Hill, before Coventry’s men emerged from a thrilling replay at The EBB Stadium with a 4-3 victory, after extra time. Prior to last season, the only previous meetings between these two teams took place in Aldershot Town’s debut season, with the Shots winning both of the Ryman League Third Division fixtures. In just the eleventh game of their rookie campaign, Dave Osgood’s goal gave the visitors a 1-0 win at Rookery Hill on 3 October 1992, whilst a Mark Butler strike ensured a win by the same score in the reverse fixture on 19 December of the same year.
Saturday’s referee is Sam Purkiss, who has refereed eight matches so far this season, showing 21 yellow cards and four red cards to date. He previously refereed Aldershot Town in the 2-1 home win over AFC Fylde, in which he sent off Many Oyeleke and the visitors’ Jack Muldoon.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and a special guest will be covering the game on Saturday, bringing live commentary via the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2:50pm. You can also contact Rob throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Get in touch by tweeting @RobShot66 or posting in the Aldershot Town Fans Facebook Group.