Football: Grays Ath grab first home win of the season

THERE is plenty of optimism behind the scenes at Grays Athletic as the club is about to come under fan-based ownership, are in talks with a local school about creating a sporting hub and a site has been located.The club find themselves in a paradox however because for all the off-pitch optimism the fact remains that the Blues currently find themselves in the relegation zone.While some of the Blues faithful are demanding that their team play football, manager Jamie Stuart’s main agenda for the time being is to keep raking up the points to get them out relegation danger. On that front he did exceptionally well on Wednesday evening because his Grays side came through their encounter with Harlow Town by stifling their opponents and then making excellent use of the few chances they were able to create.Some of the Blues fans wanted entertainment but sometimes in football the result is much more important. Amazingly the win was only their second of the season and they played together as a unit to achieve it.The Blues opened their account in the 4th minute when Etienne Mukanya-Kabobolo somehow managed to hustle his way into the box, rode two challenges, but then appeared to lose his footing before steadying himself and finishing the move by poking the ball past Ed Thompson.The Hawks have made a decent start to life in the Premier Division but found their hosts in determined mood with their defence standing up and fighting for every ball.The Grays backline frustrated Harlow at every turn and put bodies behind the ball every time their Essex rivals came within their penalty area. Alex Read, normally a dangerous forward, found himself kept under lock and key by Jamie Mascoll and Jamie Stuart and he was only able to attempt one long range effort after 26 minutes that sailed harmlessly away from goal. The only other Harlow attempt of note came midway through the half when Craig Pope sent over a decent cross from the right flank which was headed tamely wide by Leon Antoine.Grays then doubled their lead in the 29th minute when a long ball over the top allowed Lheureux Menga to storm into the Hawks box, lifting the ball over Thompson to give Grays a two-goal cushion. At that point Grays had only created two goal scoring opportunities and they took both of them in their stride.Harlow were able to craft a decent chance in the 35th minute when Read found time and space to turn and fire off a shot that fly past the post. It showed their hosts that they were still a threat up top and they pulled one back in the 40th minute when Ibrahima Sanko got on the end of a delivery from Mario Nato and headed past Thomas. A Layne Eadie free kick was headed away by the Grays defence who then kept up their tight marking of the Harlow frontline to make sure they went in at the break with their lead still intact.The second half continued in the same vein as the Grays defence shut down any attacking play that Harlow attempted and the opening ten minutes of the half saw little in goal mouth action apart from a speculative effort from Read that flashed across the Grays goalmouth. A Noto freekick sailed over the crossbar and a Sanko header was itself headed well away from danger by Jordan Aghatise. However Harlow also found themselves getting knocked out of their rhythm by the nit-picking display from Mr Anastasiou who started blowing his whistle at every single infringement. This was a constant annoyance for both sets of fans but it caused more of a disturbance to Harlow as it unsettled their play a lot more.Grays had not carved out too much attacking play themselves until the 62nd minute when Adeyinka Cole moved out of the midfield area and played the ball out to his left, where Kabobolo was waiting. He took a touch, then played it back into the middle to Harry Watkins, who on looking up, saw that Thompson was off his line and then lobbed him with a beauty of a shot from 25 yards out. Yet again the Blues took their opportunity when it came and even though the Harlow keeper had hardly been overworked he nonetheless had to pick the ball out of the net three times.Stanley Mugou attempted a fast run that got him into shooting range but found Aghatise blocking his path and when the same Grays player was unable to halt Fabian Simms darting into the penalty area damage wasn’t inflicted as Simms badly scuffed his shot and the chance went begging. Grays were now putting men behind the ball and if a Harlow player was able to make his way past one Blues defender then he soon found himself challenged by another Grays player.As the game came into the final stages the Blues started to wind down the clock by keeping it tight at the back, knocking balls into the corner to hold up play and, much to the annoyance of the Harlow away support, took their time retrieving balls and taking throw-ins.In the end the game won’t be remembered as a classic but a win is a win and whilst they still remain in the relegation zone, they have nonetheless added some points on the board that keep them within touching distance of the teams perched just above them. The siege mentality that Grays demonstrated this evening is exactly what they need if they want to move away from the drop zone into more steadier mid-table waters.Grays Athletic: Callum Thomas, Kwabena Osei, Jamie Mascoll, Jamie Stuart, Jordan Aghastise, Nathan Campbell, Harry Watkins (Arron Wickham 82), Adeyinka Cole, Lheureux Menga (Joel Appiah-Kubi 90), Luke Hornsey, Etienne Mukanya Kabobolo (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 82)Scorers Etienne Mukanya Kabobolo (4′), Lheureux Menga (29′), Harry Watkins (62′)Harlow Town: Ed Thompson, Craig Pope, Layne Eadie, Alain Moses(Joe Benjamin 60), Ibrahima Sonko, Fabion Simms, Jared Small (Kieran Bishop 46), Stanley Muguo, Alex Read, Leon Antoine (Lewis Perkins 86), Mario NotoScorer – Ibrahima Sonko (40′)

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