Grays Ath 1 v 1 Leiston
BLUES and Leiston shared the points after this close fought contest at Mill Field on Saturday writes the Mariner.
Leiston still looking to claim a play off place provided a stern test for Mark Bentley’s young charges and for 89 minutes they looked like registering a third consecutive win until Leistone snatched a late equaliser.
Bentley made four changes from Wednesdays line up Morrison-Derbyshire in for the injured Jay Leader,Bentley Davidson and Marfo completing the changes.Joao Carlosplayed as an emergency left back for Jey Siva who was also injured.Blues were boosted by the return of fans favourite Glen Little after his brief sojourn at Welling and he looked after the side from the bench.
Form the kick off both sides took time to adapt to the conditions with a swirling wind and firm playing surface making control difficult ,playing with the wind at their back Grays created the first opening of the game when Marfo playing wide right delivered a teasing cross that was headed clear that dropped to GB Dumaka who’s lob dropped was just over ,Aaron Best was unlucky when his speculative shot clipped the bar and sailed over.
The Blues were working hard to pressurise the visitors forcing errors form one such error Dumaka had his goal bound effort well saved by Danny Gay ,Davidson’s effort was deflected for a corner,James Stevens floated a deep corner which was volleyed home by Dumaka at the far post to put the Blues one up on 12 minutes.
The visitors were finding it difficult to make any forward progress resorting to aimless balls into the Grays area,Manny Parry and Morrison-Derbyshire looked in control backed up by Connor Gough who was commanding in the air.Carlos playing in an unfamiliar role was more than holding his own and combined well with Davidson.
Blues were forcing a number of corners without an end result,Kenny Beaney did well when he turned and saw his effort fly just over,the lively Marfo then cut in but his effort was well saved by Gay.
At the other end Brothers header from a corner was gathered well by Gough,from another Leiston corner Gough punched away under pressure .Mayhew broke away only to see his shot saved by Gough.
A good opening half from Grays and had they been more clinical in front of goal they probably could have increased their advantage.
Leiston now had the wind in their favour and they immediately pushed the home side back it was imperative Blues maintained their shape to try and frustrate the visitors as they had done agains Met Police.The visitors were continuing to probe for an opening and when Carlos mistimed a tackle Winter taking advantage got an effort on goal that resulted in a corner which was eventually cleared.
Blues were conceding a worrying number of free kicks in dangerous areas as they conceded possession too many times they were working hard to win the ball only to give it away carelessly inviting more pressure.The visitors were putting in some testing crosses which were dealt with with some difficulty by the Grays defenders . Gough did well saving with his legs as Mayhew closed in on goal,in a rare Grays foray Best cut in from the right and unleashed a fierce dive which fizzed just wide of the goal,
The game was now becoming a war of attrition in midfield with both sides struuggling to master the conditions as the encounter became increasingly scrappy ,Jordan Wilson was introduced to the fray to replace Marfo who faded following a bright first period.Blues were awarded a rare corner on 70 minutes but Stevens kick failed to beat the first defender allowing Leiston to break quickly,Brothers capitalised with a shot on target which Gough did well to gather.Bentley who had been patrolling the midfield made way for Nathan Ferguson to freshen things up
Carlos was coming under increasing pressure conceding a free kick in a dangerous area the resultant kick was too deep and sailed harmlessly behind.Davidson who had worked hard in his first full game gave way to Joel Nouble to add some height to the attack.Blues then had a lucky escape on 85 minutes when a corner caused chaos at the back eventually the ball was scrambled away .Ferguson fired in a shot which Gay could only push away to Stevens who fired high and over.
Blues fans were looking anxiously at their watches as the game moved into the final minute Leiston launched another attack down Grays left flank, Carlos who had done so well as an emergency full back made a rash challenge near the touch line giving the visitors a free kick.
Broadley took the kick his flighted effort caught on the swirling wind sailed over everyone including Gough and nestled in the back of the net to bring the scores level.With four minutes of injury time remaining Blues pushed forward but were unable to prise an opening as proceedings were brought to an end with honours even.
A draw was probably a fair reflection of the game with Blues in the ascendency in the first period with the wind advantage,Leiston using it to their favour in the second.It was another workmanlike performance from the young Blues against a team who be there or there abouts come the sharp end of the season.
The scene is now set for Wednesday’s League Cup Semi Final against local rivals Billericay both sides have hit a rich vein of form so an exiting match is in prospect a repeat of the earlier home league victory will hopefully see Grays through to their second Cup Final in the last three years.