Grays Athletic 2 v 1 Waltham Abbey
Courtesy of www.graysathletic.co.uk
THE Academy in Loughton played host to Jody Brown’s first game in charge of a Blues side today and with 23 players to look at, and 3 more missing for various reasons, this was a game that was never going to be about the result or the overall performance.
Waltham Abbey also brought a large squad and both managers were able to get the most out of the game as Blues were able to field a different side in each half and the visitors opted for rolling substitutions. In hindsight, given the surprising sweltering conditions, it turned out to be the best possible arrangement for the players who, to a man, worked very hard in the heat.
Blues coach David Raven revealed after the match that the squad drank over 300 litres of water since the start of the warm-up.
For the first half Blues lined up in a 4-1-2-3 formation and the players selected were:
In the heat and on the firm pitch neither side was able to settle into an early rhythm though the home side did concede possession cheaply and too often as they came to terms with an unfamiliar formation and settled in the new faces.
Abbey were able to force a number of corners, getting free headers on the first couple but once the Blues defence had shaken the cobwebs clear any potential danger was comfortably dealt with. The opening goal came after 12 minutes. A lofted free kick was not dealt with well by the defence and Leroy Griffiths pounced to poke the ball home from around 8 yards.
Both sides were happy to play the game in first gear but when the energy levels were high enough there was a spark and we were treated to some good passing football as Jody Brown’s possession-based philosophy looked to have found some converts. Abbey themselves showed the occasional spark but the final ball was lacking a little quality. The half ended with Blues a goal to the good.
For the second half, the formation was adjusted to 4-2-1-3 with the following players selected:
Blues started the half a little more on the front foot, getting forward well and carrying more of an attacking threat. While they looked good getting up the pitch, it was more ragged when possession was lost and Leader and Mbamarah were the busiest players on the pitch.
16 minutes into the half Abbey scored a deserved equaliser after Blues’ Darko lost the ball in the right wing position and a quick switched pass by Abbey caught the defence flat-footed and from an awkward angle the striker drove the ball into the far corner.
The goal didn’t do much to raise the intensity of the game; instead, it was an injury to trialist Junior Lawrence that led to the introduction of Kwesi Marfo in an attacking role while Chris Bryant dropped into midfield and Blues switched into a higher gear.
Arron Wickham scored the decisive goal after 82 minutes. Siva and Little worked a short corner to Wickham on the right-hand corner of the box. His scuffed shot had enough to carry the ball across the keeper and in off the far post.
A winning start to life under new manager Jody Brown but this match was very much a warmed-up warm-up match prior to a testing visit to Chelmsford City on Monday which is where the hard work really begins as we prepare for the new league season which is just a few weeks away.