Canvey Island got their 2019/20 BetVictor Isthmian League North season off to a winning start, beating Romford 2-1 away from home.
The Gulls were dominant throughout but trailed at the break, scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to earn the three points.
Manager Mark Bentley gave competitive debuts to five of his starting XI; Lamar Johnson, Sammy Knott, Michael Finneran, Tobi Joseph and George Purcell.
Ryan Melaugh and Samrai Gebrai missed out through injury, while Dan Humphreys was sidelined due to suspension.
The Boro side included one-former Gulls in the shape of experienced forward Jay Nash.
The first time either goalkeeper was tested was in the eighth minute when an accurate long ball forwards from Lamar Johnson found George Purcell in an attacking position on the left. Purcell made his way into the area and cut outside a defender before seeing his powerful left-footed shot beaten away above his head for a corner by Romford keeper Harry Aldridge.
Two minutes later a delightful flick from Purcell found Kane Gilbert on the right wing, who in turn delivered an equally impressive cross to the back post. Josh Hutchinson slid in but was unable to send the ball goalwards with only the keeper to beat.
Romford took the lead in the 11th minute when Giovanni Palmer took on Ade Osifuwa in a foot race down the left wing. Palmer managed to get a low cross into the box which Alex Stephenson slid in to block, but in a moment of panic proceeded to pass the ball straight to Jimmy Cox. The striker couldn’t believe his luck and slotted his shot just inside the post, beating Lamar Johnson diving low to his left.
The Gulls came close to equalising on 26 minutes when Kane Gilbert played a clever corner to the edge of the area where George Purcell was lurking. The forward pulled the trigger first time with a shot that went across goal and a yard wide of the bottom corner with the keeper rooted to the spot.
They came even closer soon afterwards when Tobi Joseph got his head to another Kane Gilbert corner, this time swung into the near post. The ball landed at the feet of Michael Finneran on the edge of the six-yard box, but the central defender scooped his first-time effort up and made gave Harry Aldridge a chance to make a save at a good height which he duly did.
The best chance they had in the first half however came on 37 minutes when the Romford keeper came for a long ball into the box but failed to make a clean contact. Tobi Joseph’s initial shot was blocked, with a last-ditch tackle from a defender preventing Alex Stephenson’s follow up at an unguarded goal from going in.
George Purcell hit the target with a free kick a minute before the break, but having gotten the ball around the wall from 20 yards, his shot was parried out by the right hand of Harry Aldridge.
Trailing at the break, Canvey continued to dominate possession at the start of the second half and create pressure on the Romford goal.
On 52 minutes Kane Gilbert found Tobi Joseph at the front post with the latest in a long string of corners, but this time the forward headed over the bar after stretching back slightly to make contact.
George Purcell found the target once again on 61 minutes when he connected with James White’s cross from the left with a diving header, although the ball was straight at the keeper who saved comfortably.
He finally got his goal to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining when Canvey were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box following a foul on Tobi Joseph. Purcell stepped up and hit a powerful shot which clipped Dilan Thandi on the end of the Romford wall and beat the keeper.
Romford had a chance to restore their lead almost immediately when a raking ball forwards from deep on the right by Maliki Toussaint found the run of substitute strike Jaydon Charles inside the box. However, he blasted his shot from
The Gulls took the lead on 76 minutes with a move which was started when Tobi Joseph was tackled on the edge of the box. The ball was heading towards the halfway line but was spotted by Michael Finneran who raced forward to beat two Romford players to it.
After winning possession Finneran held off the attention of Jaydon Charles with his shoulder before passing to Kane Gilbert in space on the right. The winger played an excellent low cross into the area and put it on a plate for George Purcell to steer his second goal in six minutes.
Canvey had several chances to seal the points in the final ten minutes.
Josh Hutchinson skipped past Joshua Samuels down the left on 82 minutes, driving shot across goal which Harry Aldridge did well to keep out with his left foot. Play was recycled back into the box and allowed George Purcell to shoot from the right, but his shot was brilliant turned onto the crossbar by the Romford keeper.
Purcell had another chance two minutes later when he received possession inside the box and showed good composure to take it round the keeper. It seemed as though the hattrick was inevitable, but a superb piece of goal line defending by Malaki Toussaint kept the shot out.
Romford nearly snatched a dramatic equaliser in 93rd minute when the Gulls were down to ten following an injury to Jose Figura. Billy Stewart sent over a good cross from the left which Jay Nash met with a diving header, but thankfully Lamar Johnson was able to drop down low to his left and make a vital save.
LISTEN: Mark Bentley Post-Match Interview with Simon Pitts