FA Trophy 1st Round
Grays Ath 1 v 1 Wingate and Finchley
By Scott Lanza
THE FA Trophy will always be a competition close to the hearts of Grays’ supporters as they won the trophy two years running in the last decade with current manager Jamie Stuart having been a player during that successful period. With league form having produced only one win and a draw in the last five engagements meant that the team could take their attention off the ensuing relegation dog fight they find themselves embroiled in and concentrate on a potential FA Trophy run. However barely two minutes were on the clock and they were riding their luck already as an in swinging Wingate & Finchley corner was met by Reece Beckles-Richards whose knock on clipped the right upright. It was an early scare and the Grays defence took heed and kept the lively Wingate forward under close surveillance from then on.
Grays soon settled and played some quite lovely passing football, sweeping the ball quickly along the floor as they tried to look for openings and whilst they may be struggling for league form at the moment it is to their credit that they are trying to play football the correct way. However whilst the approach play was nice to watch it wasn’t until the 15th minute that the Blues mustered a chance, which came via a free-kick which Etienne Mukanya Kabobolo smashed extremely wide of the target.
Grays though have steadied their defence and Jordan Aghatise and Nathan Campbell snuffed out Beckles-Richards on 18 minutes and his strike partner, Billy Healey, also not having much luck finding a way through the Blues defence. It meant that the opening 20 minutes saw neither goalkeeper really called upon to do anything more than mop up any cross balls that came into the penalty area. That all changed in the 24th minute when it appeared that the Blues defence temporarily switched off – perhaps in the hope that they had caught Wingate & Finchley offside. However the Assistant Referee’s flag stayed down, meaning that the cross that sailed in from the left found Steve Wales unmarked and he duly volleyed the ball past Amadou Tangara into the top left hand corner.
It didn’t take Grays long to get back on equal terms as on 32 minutes it was Wingate’s turn to stop and wait for an offside flag, which also didn’t arrive. It meant that the ball that was knocked in from midfield found Kabobolo in aches of space on the right touchline and he sent over a peach of a cross which David Fallah slotted home from close range.
The rest of the half saw both defences standing firm and while Grays tried to play their way in their opponents elected to send long balls over the top and as the Blues defence dealt with these meant that they had effectively cut the supply lines to Healey and Beckles-Richards who were continually frustrated as they were unable to create anything for the remainder of the half.
Grays had strong appeals for a penalty turned down in the opening minute of the second half after Lheureux Menga appeared to have been hauled down by Sean Cronin but Mr Marshall waved the claims away. Grays can feel hard done by here as it looked a stonewall penalty from where I was sitting and later in the half it looked like Claidiu Vilcu had managed to cut out a Grays cross with use of his hand which was again dismissed by the referee.
Fellah was a constant threat to the Wingate & Finchley defence but his best chance came in the 51st minute when he cut loose from his marker and went on a darting run that took him past several players, rifling off a shot that Cronin deflected away for a corner. Wingate & Finchley then had a spell were the Grays goal was under threat, albeit from crosses which Tangara dealt with plus two shots from Tanasheh Abrahams and Luke Ifil which were drilled straight at him and therefore did not need acrobatics or heroics to remove the danger.
Kwanene Osei came off the subs bench in 61st minute and immediately got himself involved as he put in a challenge on Cronin to win the ball and then fired off a powerful shot that Shane Gore had to cut out. Vilcu and Sellers both took it in turns to halt forays into the box from Menga while Fallah’s last action of the game, before being substituted, was to fire off a shot that was blocked by Sellers. It was a good spell from the hosts and at that point it looked like if anyone was going to score it was going to be Grays and a Harry Watkins drive from outside the box in the 72nd minute only narrowly missed the left hand post.
Tangara was however kept busy in the final fifteen minutes having to parry a Beckles-Richard shot from close range and then dived low to his right to thwart Luke Ifil who had unleashed a ferocious shot from fully 30 yards out with ten minutes remaining.
It looked like neither side really wanted a replay as the game entered its closing stages as both teams upped the tempo looking to win the tie at the first attempt. Rob Laney had the best Wingate & Finchley chance when he latched onto a cross in the six yard box that was blocked on the goal line while in the final minute Richard Pacquette saw his shot parried by Gore but the rebound was fired over the crossbar by Alexander Cunningham.
The referee then brought a close to the game and so the two teams will have to go again on Tuesday.
Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Arron Wickham, Jamie Mascoll, Harry Watkins, Jordan Aghatise, Nathan Campbell, Etienne Mukanya Kabobolo (Richard Pacquette 50), Adeyinka Cole, Lheureux Menga, Luke Hornsley (Kwabena Osei 61), David Fallah (Alexander Cunningham 71)