Spence Thunderbolt Ends a Yellow and Green Era
Kingstonian’s final away game of the season, and Thurrock’s last-ever home fixture, was overshadowed by a couple of minutes right at the end of the game which included a 21-man brawl and two red cards, one to K’s sub Connor Hunte for a punch.
We were already a man light. Manolis Gogonas kicked out at a Thurrock player off the ball midway through the first half, and stained a solitary blotch on what had hitherto been an outstanding season for the versatile player.
Until then we had looked marginally the more threatening of the sides, without truly testing Ben McNamara in the home goal. But soon after the red card, Lewwis Spence’s shot from range had too much power on it for Rob Tolfrey, who possibly saw it late because of the mass of bodies in front of him.
An offside flag denied our hosts a second before the break; after it, Kingstonian were the team who looked like they were playing with an extra man, impressively retaining possession and using the consistently dangerous Muhammadu Faal as an outlet to carry the ball forward.
Sub Freddy Yao called McNamara into action for the first time shortly after the resumption, and Michael West fired narrowly over the crossbar from outside the box.
Thurrock defended their 18-yard area well and on the one occasion Faal got in behind wide on the left, McNamara was there to thwart the lanky winger.
Thurrock should have killed the game off late on when two of their players bore down on Tolfrey, but an unnecessary forward pass and bad positioning meant the offside flag was raised again, putting a halt to the home supporters’ colourful celebrations.
The final couple of minutes they witnessed their team play at Ship Lane must be up with their most eventful ever.
K’s had a corner, and one last throw of the dice. Tolfrey ventured forwards. But it was a poor delivery and the defender at the near post cleared, creating a breakaway opportunity with an open goal to aim for.
Connor Hunte tried to cynically bring down Michael Pindy, and though he didn’t get a clean connection, it was enough to end the attack as a K’s tackle followed. The referee whistled for a free-kick for the intended foul, at which point Hunte thwacked the ball into the main stand.
Before the referee could intervene, Pindy wrestled Hunte to the ground and they started fighting before everyone else got involved.
Chaos ensued. Hunte was hurried away from the scene by players on both sides; others continued to rage. It was unseemly, but after a couple of minutes of tetchiness it looked like the referee had managed to bring everyone under control.
But as he prepared to dish out cards, presumably red ones to Hunte and Pindy, the Kingstonian sub ran from behind a group and punched an opposition player to the ground, before running away as green-and-yellow shirts descended on him once more. The referee immediately brandished the red card to Hunte, and a while later to Pindy, too.
The final whistle blew on Thurrock’s time at Ship Lane and the home supporters gave those players still on the pitch a guard of honour off it. The misdemeanours minutes earlier had already been forgotten, and K’s role in a little part of non-league history had been guaranteed.
Match report by Rupert Cane.