East Thurrock preview

Wingate and Finchley play host to East Thurrock United on Saturday as the North London side look to extend their unbeaten run to five games. The Blues 1-1 draw at home to rivals Hendon on Bank Holiday Monday compounded a run of three draws and a win in their last four fixtures, a stark contrast to a bleak period at the beginning of March. A run of poor results in the opening weeks of the month saw Keith Rowlands side slip down the Ryman Premier League table, but an upturn in form has seen them claw their way back up. Losses against high-fliers Tonbridge Angels and Dulwich Hamlet were quickly forgotten about with a 1-1 draw at Leatherhead and a 1-0 victory against Brentwood Town. And this was followed up by a goalless draw away at Lewes before Dave Diedhous equaliser cancelled out Billy Healeys first minute opener against Hendon on Monday. This purple patch has meant that Wingate have poked their head back into the top half of the table by virtue of their superior goal difference. The Blues currently occupy 10th spot, level on points but with a game in hand on 11th placed Grays Athletic. And as if being above them wasnt enough, this week Rowland managed to get another one over on the Essex outfit by signing their 20 year old former Hearts and Torquay centre back Jake Hutchings. Wingates opponents East Thurrock United, however, have found points somewhat easier to come by this season. Manager John Coventry has guided his team to the playoff places of the Ryman Premier Division and the single loss in their last 10 league matches at the hands of Leatherhead was one of just seven this season. These results, thanks in no small part to league top scorer Sam Higgins 33 goals, mean the Rocks currently sit in second place, four points behind leaders Hampton and Richmond Borough while boasting a goal difference of +47, the best in the division. Higgins has found the net in more than half of East Thurrocks 42 league matches and scored at least twice in one game on twelve seperate occasions this season. However it was Tom Wraight who emerged as the Rocks only scorer when the two sides drew 1-1 earlier in the season. That result supports the claim that Wingate and Finchley are arguably the most difficult side East Thurrock will have to face before the end of the season, with their remaining fixtures made up of ties against Harrow, Lewes and VCD Athletic - teams sitting in 19th, 23rd and 24th place respectively. But Coventry is taking nothing for granted, snapping up League One Southends U-21 winger Brandon Scott, a player recently linked with Championship sides Ipswich and Preston North End - on loan until the end of the season. Sixth-placed Kingstonians three games in hand on the Rocks currently means that they could mathematically drop out of the playoff places, although a win at the Harry Abrahams Stadium will guarantee them their spot in the competition. But, with 8 points between the home side and ninth-placed Billericay Town, East Thurrock will be met with an in-form Wingate and Finchley team looking to cement their own top-half finish. Preview by Khalid Karimullah

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