Bostik Div North
Grays Ath 2 v 2 Basildon United
THE only winner on a rainy and windswept afternoon at Parkside was the weather – the strong wind and driving rain made for a difficult afternoon for both teams who were playing the conditions as much as each other. The result ended winless runs for both clubs as they go into the hectic Xmas and New Year fixtures.
An understrength Blues will be the more aggrieved with the manner of the result with both Bees goals mired in controversy, but on the balance of play a draw was probably a fair result, the football was not pretty but it certainly enlivened both sets of supporters and proved entertaining in terms of excitement.
Blues without Kieran Bishop, Adalberto Pinto , Charlie Allen and Adeyinka Cole were dealt a further blow inside the first ten minutes when Dennis Oli suffered a heavy fall and was unable to continue. Callum Thompson replaced the striker allowing makeshift left back Joao Carlos to move to his more familiar role.
Prior to the Oli injury Hahn tested Bees keeper Emmanuel Olajide who gathered his well struck shot at the second attempt. With the wind behind them the visitors enjoyed plenty of possession, pushing Blues back in their own half. The conditions affected both teams – the ball either running on with the wind or failing to reach its intended target against the wind.
Blues thought they had lost Ryan Mahal when he went down under a heavy challenge shortly after Carlos went down, fortunately both recovered albeit gingerly throughout the game.
Blues worked hard to keep the scores level under heavy pressure – hitting on the break when the opportunity arose but found it increasingly difficult – Aron Gordon did manage to wriggle free out wide and cut the ball back but failed to find a Blue shirt. Bees buzzed around the Blues goal keeping Clarke Bogard busy – he did well to keep out a Ryan Reed drive plunging to his right to turn the ball behind – he followed that up keeping out a Luke Stanley effort at the second attempt.
The visitors still continued to press, establishing a measure of control in midfield – at this stage they looked sharper and hungrier than Blues who strangely lacked the spark that had brought them a run of wins just weeks earlier though they managed to keep the game scoreless hoping to take advantage of the wind in the second half.
With just three minutes to go before the break Bees made the breakthrough in controversial circumstances – a wind assisted free kick deceived Bogard, the ball dropped under the bar where Stanley was on hand to nod the ball forward, it was hacked clear, neither official signalled the ball had crossed the line Bees players surrounded the referee who after a lengthy delay decided the ball had indeed crossed the line and after consulting his assistant awarded the goal. Immediately Blues had the opportunity to draw level but Carlos sent his free kick wide of the upright.
Basildon made the better start to the second period due to Blues failure to push up and condense the play – the visitors again looked sharper and more hungry for the ball assailing the home goal too easily for comfort.
In an effort to inject more pace Blues replaced the tiring Cogan with Jack Curtis making a rare appearance – the move seemed to work although the youngster tended to overelaborate at times. Blues belatedly stirred and at last showed the energy and movement lacking in recent weeks, gradually increasingly the pressure on the visitors goal. Olajide was now the busier keeper saving well from a Carlos free kick. The pressure resulted in a number of corners from which Tommy Wade came close with a spectacular overhead kick.
Blues must have thought it was not to be their day when Olajide made a terrific save – Hahn then struck the post . It was Ryan Mahal who was the architect of Blues equaliser in the 63rd minute , racing forward he sent in a dangerous cross which panicked the visitors back line resulting in Reed turning the ball past Olajide.
The goal seemed to galvanise Blues who played with verve and freedom leaving Bees chasing shadows – Hahn not for the first time tested Olajidi, Curtis was set up after an intricate build up he wasted the chance blasting wildly over. The miss was to prove costly when a Bees breakaway led to them retaking the lead in the 81st minute again in controversial circumstances. A low cross was played in it struck Stan Muguo’s foot bouncing up on to his hand, by no way a deliberate hand ball but Mr Dyson thought otherwise allowing Callum Taylor to beat Bogard from the spot.
The goal was a blow but did not deter Blues who went in search of an equaliser – they were rewarded just four minutes later when Aron Gordon picked up the ball inside the area and fired a low shot past Olajidi’s despairing dive.
The goal set up a frantic closing few minutes, Bees came close when they could so easily have snatched a late winner but failed to hit the target – at the other end Blues won a corner which failed to produce a winner leaving the scores level at the final whistle.
Blues were never at their best and would probably have settled with the draw given the absence of key players, however the point keeps them within touching distance of the leading pack and sets things up nicely for the Boxing Day clash with their landlords.