EAST Thurrock will count themselves unlucky with this defeat at home to title-hopefuls Lowestoft after a niggly encounter which saw both sides reduced to 10 men before half-time.

Rocks looked set to gain a crucial advantage in an even encounter when Michael Frew was shown a straight red card for a shin-high lunge on home left-back Tom Stephen in the 28th minute.

Frew had looked the one player likely to get on the score-sheet to that point, stabbing an early effort at keeper Elliot Justham and then forcing him into fine smothering stop in a one-on-one.

But the hosts' man advantage only lasted five minutes as winger Kris Newby hit out at burly Lowestoft striker Jack Defty in an off-the-ball incident on the goal-line, and was shown a straight red himself for the exchange.

The ref also awarded a penalty which Dale Cockrill stroked confidently home to put his side in front.

Apart from a slice wide by Kurt Smith and curler over by Kye Ruel, that was it for the goal-mouth action in a poor quality first half played on a difficult surface.

Rocks were the better side after the restart and almost drew level immediately when the visitors failed to deal with Ryan Sammons' low centre and Sam Collins forced Andrew Plummer into a scrambling push around the post.

Collins was profligate again on 64 minutes when he raced clean through on goal following Hakeem Araba's hook forward, but the ball became caught up in his feet and the danger was gone.

The impressive Scott Mitchell tested Justham with a rising drive in a rare Lowestoft foray into the home penalty box, and then play switched to the other end where Blake Saver did well to hack Collins' trickling shot off the line.

Rocks continued press their visitors back and Ben Wood - recalled into the heart of the home defence after Spencer Harrison injured his groin to add his name to their unenviable growing injury-list - had a towering header, headed off the line.

But then they were caught with a sucker punch as Mitchell slid in a low cross from which Jack Defty out-muscled Simon Peddie at the near post before bundling the ball home to make it 0-2.

Rocks hit the bar in bizarre circumstances four minutes from time when Sammons' long kick forward bounced over keeper Plummer and against the woodwork.

And that was as close as they went late on against a Lowestoft side who will count themselves lucky to have escaped with all three points to move into fourth place in the Ryman Premier table and onto the coattails of the sides above them.

East Thurrock (4-4-2): Justham; Stephen, Wood, Peddie, Sammons; Ruel (Mason 88), Parmenter (Burgess 81), Collins, Newby; Smith (Lawson 46), Araba.

Echo MOM: Sam Collins (East Thurrock).