Shaun Gale was ‘massively’ disappointed after a last-gasp goal denied the Hawks a valuable Blue Square South triumph at Thurrock last night.
The West Leigh Park boss looked to have masterminded a narrow victory when Manny Williams leapt off the bench to fire his side ahead on 71 minutes.
But as the play-off chasing Hawks tried to shut up shop, up popped Kenny Clark to snatch a 1-1 draw for Thurrock.
Gale said: ‘It’s gutting to lose out to a late goal because over 90 minutes I thought we did enough to get a scrappy 1-0 win.
‘When you come to places like Thurrock, who are fighting for their lives, you need all 11 players on their mettle and we didn’t have that.
‘Our forwards didn’t come to the party enough and we failed to take our early chances.
‘It is massively disappointing.’
Gale had named an unchanged starting line-up, with Williams reappearing on the bench after recovering from a rib injury.
Thurrock made most of the early running, though, with raids down both flanks.
Matt Bodkin saw a shot bounce harmlessly through to Nathan Ashmore before Jamie Richards’ dangerous cross was snuffed out by a backpedaling Jake Newton.
Sammy Igoe was central to the Hawks’ early threat, whipping in one superb centre before teeing up Mustafa Tiryaki, who sent in an angled drive which was pushed away by Thurrock’s keeper.
On 14 minutes, the Hawks won a free-kick in a good position.
However, Tiryaki’s quickly-taken effort was once again foiled by the keeper.
Four minutes later it took a good save from Ashmore to keep the Hawks on level terms.
Reece Harris’ firmly struck free-kick – which flashed through a crowded goalmouth – was seen late by the keeper.
But Ashmore got down well to block before, seconds later, enjoying a lucky break when he sliced a clearance straight to a Thurrock attacker.
Newton was in the right place at the right time, though, and got back to rescue him.
The best chance of the half fell to Thurrock.
But when Paul Olima headed a free-kick firmly back across goal Danny Hockton failed to make contact.
There was plenty of endeavour but very little craft or creativity on show.
And the first period was punctuated by off-the-ball niggles, which eventually saw the referee have a stern word with Olima and Tiryaki after they squared up.
After the break, Thurrock were on the offensive again.
Richards got into a good position but his shot lacked the power to trouble Ashmore.
Despite the early opening, there was little improvement in the quality.
Excitement was rare, although Bodkin did manage to send a swerving shot narrowly past the near post after a quick break by Thurrock.
On 65 minutes, Hawks boss Gale decided to make a change up front, with Williams replacing the ineffective Tiryaki.
And within six minutes the switch paid dividends.
Igoe put Giuseppe Sole clear down the right and his pace took him to the by-line where he delivered a low cross which was bundled in from close range by Williams.
With six minutes left the visitors sent on Ian Selley in place of striker Sole in a bid to hang on to the three points.
But, a minute from the final whistle and with the Hawks coming under increasing pressure, Clark stabbed home a leveller from point-blank range.
THURROCK: Woolley, Pope, Harris, Olima, Bush, Clark, Bodkin, Cracknell, Hockton, Richards, Mingle. Subs: Lee, Murphy, Knight, Duncan, Carlos.
HAWKS: Ashmore, Newton, McDonald, Igoe, Pearce, Simpemba, Fogden, Hinshelwood, Sole, Tiryaki, Ramsey. Subs: Selley, Scott, Tyrrell, Williams, Howe.
REFEREE: Mr P Forrester