Ilford 0 v 2 Grays
AFTER the free scoring antics of mid week Grays Athletic knew that the awkward surface at Ilford would not allow ball to feet football, and so it proved.
Ilford moved forward from the whistle and Grays were lucky not to concede a first minute penalty when Thomas looked to have accidently handled the ball with Nathan Gordon through, the ball came out to Skoniezki to hit it over. Grays settled and moved forward when a Steven Demetriou corner was headed back to Demetriou to find Rob Budd on top form and hold his shot. Rich Oxby picked up a loose ball and hit it for Jared Small to head it into the path of Alex Osborn. His off balance shot was held by the Foxes keeper. Ilford’s tactics of hit it long and high caused problems in the Grays defence and the pace of Junior Appiah and Jerome Paul meant they had to be on their guard. A free kick by the home side was mis-judged by Duran Reynolds to let Paul through and only a smart save by Steve Northwood kept the score sheet clean. Osborn was looking to add to his goal tally and, but for the heroics of Budd, should have put The blues ahead mid way through the half. Brad Thomas put the ball through but Osborn’s shot was held by Budd, a clever run by Jason Fontaine found space but Budd tipped it over. Eljay Worrell hit a smart shot through a packed defence to see the ball come back off the crossbar. A long clearance Rich Simpson found Gordon but an error by Dan Smith allowed him space to shoot for Northwood to save well. The ball came back in for Del Hawtin to attack but he was adjudged to have fouled Thomas as he put the ball in the net. A midfield tustle ensued for the remainder of the half and the Foxes defence closed down any attack put forward by the Blues.
Grays came out for the second looking to pressure the Foxes and a free kick by Demetriou found Reynolds who put a long ball through to Osborn, he controlled the ball and slid it past Budd to give the Blues an early lead. Ilford attacked immediately and pressure from Hawtin and Gordon was cleared by Junior Baker to ease the pace. Ilford pushed forward and the long throw tactics almost got Ilford back in the game when Gordon ran clear and another fine save from Northwood kept the Blues ahead. The Grays players were finding it hard to control the ball on the dusty pitch and their performance dropped, allowing the home team to dictate the pace and a clever move from Paul found Gordon with space on the right to chip into the middle. Adam Bolle was unlucky to see his header drift over the bar. A clearance from Thomas went wide to Fontaine who went past two defenders to put the ball to Osborn, a pass across the box came to Worrell to side foot the ball into the net to double Grays lead against the run of play. Ilford’s long ball and long throw tactics almost caught out the Blues as Ajibola found space and Northwood had to pull off another good save. The Grays midfield started to get on top but the Ilford defence were quick to close down, Small pulled the ball back to Oxby but his long shot went just wide of the post. Small, Fontaine and Demetriou were replaced by Danny Hearty, Calvin Poku and Joe McEvoy as Grays pushed to add to their total. Hearty almost forced his way through on the right but Simpson and Ajibola closed him down. Poku tried to use his pace and strength to find a way through but his touch let him down as he tried to release Osborn and Oxby. One last attack by the Blues saw the ball go harmlessly wide with Osborn chasing the ball. The goal kick was the last action of the game as Grays Athletic took the spoils in a dour, lack-lustre performance. Two games to go for this season sees Grays sat in 7th place and the door almost closed on their ambitions for this year.
Grays Athletic :- Steve Northwood, Junior Baker, Duran Reynolds, Brad Thomas, Dan Smith, Richie Oxby, Steven Demetriou (Joe McEvoy 83), Eljay Worrell, Jason Fontaine (Danny Hearty 83), Alex Osborn, Jared Small (Calvin Poku 80)