Negative Ions fails to bring positive benefits
A quiet 1-1 draw in punishing heat, little more atmosphere than a pre-season friendly, a gentle introduction to the new Ryman Premier campaign...
Nope, scrap that. This was as entertaining and furious an encounter as we will witness all year. Three red cards, four disallowed goals (three of them denying Ks) and a referee in Graeme Ions who reduced even the usually circumspect among the Ks support to blind rage.
The key moment came at the end with the score at 1-1 when Wade Small had come on upfront, was put clean through, and managed to touch the ball past the on-rushing Thurrock keeper into the net, just as the keeper clattered into the Ks striker on the edge of the box.
As we celebrated the ball sailing in for a late winner, the referee inexplicably awarded a free-kick outside the box and sent off the goalkeeper, even though playing just one second of advantage would have meant a goal. Cue chaos and protest.
And even then Ks could have got a winner, another Small strike disallowed at the death after yet another dubious offside decision.
1-1 it finished then. But the game should be remembered for more than refereeing controversy because it featured a wonderful goal from Dean Lodge on the half-hour.
A beautiful dummy from Lodge let the ball run to Sam Clayton, whose first-time touch back to him set the winger through on goal. He cut inside the full-back and curled the ball against bar and post and, eventually, somewhere over the line.
A one-goal advantage at half-time was a frustration, given Andre McCollin's failure to convert two one-on-ones. The afternoon would get worse for the striker. First, his scoring header was disallowed, for reasons unclear, just after the break and then, once East Thurrock had equalised with a scrappy shot in the 60th minute, McCollin was sent off.
Why? Enter East Thurrock's No 4, Steve Sheehan, a comedy villain of a centre-back, Essex Ryman Destroyer personified. Sheehan seemed intent on fouling Dean Lodge out of the game and 10 minutes from time he dropped to the ground, claiming McCollin had in some way fouled or felled him. McCollin was duly red-carded but, much to the delight of the Ks fans to whom Sheehan had blown a kiss at half-time, the Thurrock man received a second yellow himself.
In truth, the refereeing madness aside, East Thurrock did enough to gain a point and, while they compete aggressively like all teams east of the Olympic Stadium, they also passed the ball better for long periods.
Ks' five-man midfield is finding its way, Karl Murray and others will have much better days on the ball while Matt Pattison was often a frustrated presence on the right wing. And there's always Lodge. He's going to be a lot of fun this season, if referees have the bottle to protect him from the cloggers and the Sheehans of this league.