Hawks’ boss Steve King brought in four new players in advance of the visit to Essex, with three of them named in the starting line-up. Yannis Ambroisine and Nathaniel Oseni formed part of a new look back four, while the experienced Nat Pinney started up front. Gold Omotayo had to be content with a place on the bench. The Hawks were forced into a further change to the published team sheet, as on loan QPR youngster Caden Genovesi was replaced at left back by Tom Cadman.
The hosts began brightly but it was the visitors who struck first in the 9th minute, when Pinney was put through on goal by a great cross field ball from Sam Chaney. Although the ex-Eastbourne Borough man’s shot was partly saved by Lucas Lidakevicius, the ball bobbled in. The Hawks then went close to extending their lead as Ky Marsh-Brown twice broke free on the left, setting up Pinney who fired narrowly over and then side-footed his second chance wide of the post.
Both teams looked vulnerable at the back and The Rocks had already missed a great chance themselves before they equalised just before the 20-minute mark. Striker Sam Higgins converted from close range after the Hawks had been opened up down the right.
East Thurrock then controlled the rest of the half. They were denied by some assured goalkeeping by Seny Dieng, although even he couldn’t prevent the Rocks taking the lead two minutes before the break from an unlikely source. Marauding right back Ryan Sammons scored his first ever league goal with a fierce cross shot that Dieng managed to get a right hand to, before the ball went in off the far post.
The game then turned further in the hosts favour as Hawks debutant Nathaniel Oseni was sent off. Oseni had already been booked in the 35th minute for a heavy challenge when he was shown a second yellow ten minutes later by referee David Spain for wrestling an opponent to the ground near the half way line. Although the first yellow was a bit unlucky as it was his first foul, there could be no complaints about the second, which seemed ill-advised with both Osemi and his opponent already on the floor and George Essuman covering. Fintan Walsh replaced the unlucky Nassim L’Ghoul for the second half.
10-man Hawks struggled to get any decent possession after the re-start and Sammons repeated his goal scoring feat by firing his side further in front in the 55th minute with a shot that was deflected past the unlucky Dieng on his near post.
The introduction of Gold Omotayo to partner Pinney up front with 25 minutes to go gave the Hawks more of a threat going forward, without every really testing Lidakevicius. East Thurrock still looked dangerous and Tom Richardson added a further goal in the 74th minute from close range after the Hawks had once more been opened up down the right.
Omotayo was putting himself about. With just under ten minutes left, he chased a long ball to win possession deep in the opposition half, before being brought down right on edge of the box after he had skipped round Sammons on the by-line. The big striker, signed this week from Swiss football, then converted Chaney’s whipped in free-kick with a near post header.
Despite the scoreline, the Hawks can take some consolation from this performance – as demoralising as it was to play half the game with 10 men. Yannis Ambroisine and George Essuman looked strong together at the back, David Ijaha once more put in a real shift in midfield, Ky Marsh-Brown linked up well with Nathan Pinney in the first 20 minutes and Sam Chaney provided some real quality with both assists. Gold Omotayo also caused problems for the East Thurrock defence as he grew in confidence. The Hawks, however, were left still looking for their first league win, in advance of the Boxing Day derby meeting with Eastbourne Borough.
Hawks man of the match: Seny Dieng
Hawks: Dieng, Oseni, Cadman, Ijaha (c), Ambroisine, Essuman, L’Ghoul (Walsh 46), Cain (Mensah 73), Pinney, Chaney, Marsh-Brown (Omotayo 64)
Subs not used: Rodrigues, Sanusi
Goals: Pinney 9′, Omotayo 83′
Yellow cards: Oseni 35′
Red cards: Oseni 45′
Rocks: Lidakevicius, Sammons, Clark, Allen (Peddie 51), M Expetita, Burns, Harris, Cornhill (C Expetita 74), Higgins (Honesty 85), Richardson, Agyemang
Subs not used: Sampayo, Smith
Goals: Higgins 19′, Sammons 43′, 55′, Richardson 73′
Yellow cards: Sammons 44′, Clark 58′