Monday, May 20, 2024

Football: Grays spoil the party for champions elect

Ryman Premier

Grays Ath 1 v 1 Wealdstone

Report courtesy of www.pitchero.com/graysathletic

LEAGUE leaders Wealdstone held a lively Grays side to a draw in an exciting game at Mill Field this afternoon in front of nearly 500 spectators.

The match kicked off at 3.07pm after a minute’s silence to remember and pay tribute to the 96 supporters that went a football match at Hillsborough in 1989, and never came home. Blues Leroy Griffiths wearing number nine and ‘Stones Elliot Godfrey wearing number stood together on the halfway line as both teams, match and club officials and supporters observed an immaculate one minutes silence.

Blues coach David Raven, an Everton supporter from Liverpool was visibly moved as he stood in the dugout and he revealed he had personally asked Leroy Griffiths and Elliot Godfrey to stand together just before the players left the tunnel before the game. “I lost friends at Hillsborough and I wrote in today’s programme that I hoped the match and support would do the 96 proud and we got that. It was an emotional minute before what turned out to be a very good game and the supporters for both sides were brilliant.”

Wealdstone needed a win to secure the league title and promotion to the conference but they came up against a resilient and lively Blues side who delivered one of their best performances of the season in front of the best Mill Field attendance of the season so far.

Both sides were full of attacking intent from the start. Full backs were getting forward and the game seemed to settle straight into an end-to-end battle of wits and creativity. The visitors maybe had the more refined edge in attack but it was the hosts that asked the questions early on with North making a good double save to deny Benjamin then Griffiths.

At the other end Kamurasi had to react well to save from defender Sean Cronin whose downward header bounced high off the hard pitch with the Grays ‘keeper just palming it over the bar.

Blues had clearly done their homework, stifling the ‘Stones midfield and stopping the ball getting to the wide men and it was the home side that looked the more likely to threaten their opponents goal. Wealdstone are not top of the league for nothing and they always looked dangerous on the break but with their attacking players constantly changing position a lot of forward play broke down too easily.

The high tempo kept the excellent crowd entertained. Blues’ Yala made a great last ditch tackle to deny Penny then ‘Stones’ Parker blocked a Nouble effort. Both sides wasted good opportunities when McGleish and Mtyanda fired over the bar when it seemed easier to hit the target.

HT 0-0

The second half started where the first half left off. Wealdstone forced an early corner which was cleared but the ball fell to the retreating Cronin who tried one first-time from all of 40 yards but the ball went narrowly wide of the post.

That early scare galvanised the home side who started to impose some control on the game. Wealdstone looked to have shuffled into a 4-1-2-3 shape as they went for the win. The excellent Tom Pett switched sides constantly but with Blues controlling the middle and ‘Stones commendable tactic of not playing long it meant the front three were mostly out of the game.

Jordan Wilson hit the post then saw a goalbound shot saved well by North. Carlos burst through then shot straight at the keeper. Benjamin had a shot saved then when he looked to get on the end of a long Kamurasi clearance appeared to be pulled down by the last defender.

The visiting fans, who had been superbly vocal throughout, were subdued as they sensed the inevitable and Blues deservedly took the lead on 72 minutes when Wilson slotted past North and was quickly buried under a pile of Blue shirts.

‘Stones vastly experienced Glen Little, who had been sent on just before the goal, then took his side by the scruff of the neck and stamped some authority on the game. The visitors looked a different side, especially after Blues Aaron Wickham was replaced by Alex Cruickshank who struggled to make the same impact on the midfield.

McGleish and Pett both had shots palmed over the bar by Kamurasi then Carlos missed an opportunity to finish the game off when he blaze over the bar when clean through. Griffiths was replaced by Small as Blues shuffled the pack. Small went wide on the right with Nouble replacing Griffiths up front. Ironically, it was a mistake from Small that led to the equaliser just 2 minutes before full-time. A poor ball forward was cleared upfield and Little’s mis-cue deflected the ball into the path of Wright who played the ball square into the box and Scott McGleish smashed it home from around 12 yards and the visiting supporters almost blew the lid off the roof in obvious delight and a little relief.

The equaliser took the edge off the game and where both sides had looked to win the game both sides now wanted to avoid defeat and the game closed right up. After five minutes stoppage time the referee brought the game to a close.

A great result for the Blues but a disappointing one for Wealdstone who will be playing Conference football next season and we wish them the best of luck. The visiting support was excellent and the home support superb as ever. The game today was played in an excellent spirit. Honours even and a good afternoon for football.

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