EAST Thurrock United manager John Coventry believes Saturday’s 4-0 win at Bishop’s Stortford has assured his side of their National League South status.

Rocks were rampant against Stortford, and the win now lifts them 20 points clear of the drop zone with just nine matches remaining.

A Ben Marlow brace, plus efforts from Tom Wraight and a first for the club from Femi Akinwande keeps Rocks 11th in the division.

And Coventry is targeting three more wins as Rocks bid to secure a top half finish.

“I am convinced we will stay up now,” he said. “Mathematically we are not there but I don’t think the bottom three will get to 45 points.

“We can now play without that pressure and see where it takes us.

“We have home games against Oxford and Chelmsford coming up in the next week and there is plenty to look forward to.

“We can look back with pride with what we have achieved,” he added.

“We have nine games left. Five at home and four away. The away games are quite difficult as the teams all have something to play for.

“But if we could get three wins from the last nine games that would be tremendous.

“I was really pleased on Saturday. We had a poor result the week before (6-1 defeat at Ebbsfleet United) and a lot of people were disappointed.

“Bishop’s Stortford are struggling down the bottom but all the more reason for it to be a tough game.

“But we played the game and we were very good.

“On the Thursday night after Ebbsfleet we worked continuously on defensive shape and we didn’t go away from that. It has paid off and it is the most solid we have looked for a long time.

“It could have been eight. Ben Marlow was excellent and all-in-all it was really pleasing.”

The match also saw the much anticipated return of fans’ favourite Ryan Sammons, who has been out since the end of November with a broken collarbone.

Sammons played 60 minutes on his return and Coventry said it was an unexpected boost to have him back in the side.

“We got Ryan Sammons back on the pitch and we have missed his consistency,” he said. “He has played almost 400 games for this club and he is an important part of this team.

“I took him off after an hour as it was his first game back and we didn’t want to overdo it.”

It was two former Stortford players that helped put them to the sword on Saturday, with Marlow and Akinwande on target.

Marlow scored the first after six minutes, volleying into the roof of the net from eight yards out.

But Bishop’s Stortford nearly hit back immediately, with only a superb last ditch tackle from Marvin Ekpiteta denying the hosts.

Coventry’s side extended their advantage midway through the first half. Marlow caused problems for his former club’s defence once again, and Wraight was there to tap home the rebound from six yards after Marlow had struck the crossbar.

On 34 minutes, it was 3-0 as the Stortford defence struggled to clear their lines and Marlow punished them from 25 yards.

Akinwande made it four just before the hour mark to wrap up the points.

The attacker, who recently joined on loan from Colchester United, latched on to a centre from Wraight and found the back of the net.