Saturday, September 30, 2023

Grays win still sees play-offs in their sights

Grays Athletic 1 – 0 Waltham Abbey

Grays Athletic could not turn possession into goals after dominating the game for long periods.

Abbey attacked from the start when Tyler Campbell found himself clear to shoot wide before Athletic had a chance to settle on the ball, a wake up call that Grays immediately took notice of and returned the attack when Si Thomas ran clear but the bounce of the pitch deceived him as he put it wide. The early exchanges continued as both teams crafted an end to end first half. Manny Osei’s pace and Campbell’s guile caused the Blues defence a challenge as they tried to wend their way through and Brad Thomas and Eljay Worrell had to be on their game to cope. Steve Demetriou and John Docker started to control the midfield as Grays pushed forward with Danny Bunce and Worrell joining in the overlap. Si Thomas and Alex Osborn could not find a way past Harry Ricketts as he saved shots from both. Docker ran through the Abbotts defence with a clever run but put his shot wide as Athletic stayed on top for long periods with Docker instrumental to the pressure. The away side looked to find a way past using the long pass and a perfect ball from Matt Bedford found Campbell clear, his cross found Lou Bristow at the far post to see his diving header to go over the bar. Grays continued on top but the bounce of the pitch was proving the decider as Thomas, Osborn, Docker, Demetriou and a seemingly quiet Tom Harvey all spurned chances to put the home side in front during the half as the Blues went in at the break on level terms.

Grays came out for the second half to continue where they left off as they went looking to take the game to the Abbotts. The away defence held solid as Docker and Demetriou played some delicate one touch football trying to find a way through but Osborn and Thomas could not put the ball on target as the Abbey back four held their shape. On the hour Grays brought on Fontaine, for an ineffective Pennant, and this brought Tom Harvey more into the game. His pairing with Docker looked assured as the home side went looking for the goals to win the game, with the wide play of Fontaine and Demetriou testing the defence. A clever run by Fontaine saw him beat his defender and put the ball across the goal wide of the far post. Ryan Maxwell and Campbell were working hard trying to get the Abbey side back in the game but the head of Duran Reynolds kept the ball away from the Blues goal. The pressure applied by the Blues eventually told as they forced a corner with twenty minutes to go. Docker crossed the ball for it to drop to Thomas whose shot was saved by the legs of Ricketts and the ball came out to Osborn who calmly put the ball in the back of the net off the far post to give the home side the lead their play deserved. Abbey knew they had to up the pace to try and get back into the game and started to push the Blues on the break. From a corner an accurate cross looked to find the head of sub Gavin Cookman but a solid punch clear by Steve Northwood took away the danger. Campbell was finding some space as he ran at the Blues defence and passed to Andre Modeste and his hard hit shot rattled the crossbar to give the home side a scare. Grays moved forward looking to increase the lead as the whole team were playing on top of their game but still the bounce of the pitch deceived Osborn and Thomas. A Reynolds free-kick was the closest Grays got to scoring as the referee ended the game with the home side on top. A decent all-round performance gave Athletic the three points and should give them the momentum to have a good run in to the end of the season.

Grays Athletic :- Steve Northwood, Eljay Worrell, Brad Thomas, Duran Reynolds, Danny Bunce, Steven Demetriou, Tom Harvey, Dean Pennant (Jason Fontaine 60), John Docker, Si Thomas, Alex Osborn


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