GRAYS Athletic’s hopes of lifting the Robert Dyas League Cup were dashed on Wednesday evening, but Mark Bentley’s side played a full part in a cracking final.
The Blues made a great start to the final on Whyteleafe’s artificial pitch in front of a crowd of 379 and they pushed Hendon onto the back foot through the opening stages, creating a number of half chances but they were unable to capitalise.
Hendon began to get back into the match and felt they had claims for a penalty when Kezie Ibe tumbled in the box but their appeals were waved away.
Grays keeper Lamar Johnson then did well to push Kevin Maclaren’s goalbound shot away and soon after Andre Da Costa shot straight at the Blues’ keeper.
Grays bounced back and had their own appeals for a penalty waved away and then Ben McNamara pulled off a save to keep them at bay during a succession of corners.
However, when the deadline was broken in the 36th minute when Da Costa got in a shot that Johnson ought to have covered but he fumbled it over the line.
Four minutes later Hendon added a second when Aaron Morgan showed great presence of mind to cut the ball back after rounding Johnson and Ibe fired home.
Resilient Grays responded well and Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson gave them a lifeline with a goal three minutes before the break.
Grays picked up after the break in the same manner they had in the first half and a good build up and strike from the dangerous Fortnam-Tomlinson was just wide of McNamara’s right hand post.
Soon after Dumebi Dumaka flashed a shot just wide.
Hendon weathered the storm and grabbed a third goal on 73 minutes when Da Costa
curled a fine shot in from the edge of the box.
Grays were far from done though and Joao Carlos came close to pulling a goal back but his chipped shot was just over the bar.
McNamara was the busier of the two keepers and pulled off a couple more good saves to keep Grays at bay until he was beaten in added time when Sean Cronin headed home but there wasn’t enough time for an equaliser and moments later the green ribbons were being attached to the trophy at the end of an enthralling and entertaining match.
The sides will meet again at Mill Field on Saturday in a Ryman Premier clash that will have massive impliactions’ for both side’s promotion hopes.