Football: Goal-shy Blues pay the price at Leylands Park

Ryman Premier

Burgess Hill Town 2 v 1 Grays Ath

Report by Scott Lanza

WEDNESDAY nights performance against Needham Market was uplifting; despite the result it showed character, fight and at times well drilled attacking football. But none of that attacking fervour and spirit that had been deployed against their play-off chasing opponents on Wednesday evening turned up in Sussex on Saturday.

The Blues hadn’t mustered much upfront but took the lead in the 14th minute when Kieran Bishop charged onto a through ball and lifted it over Hillians keeper Josh James. After scoring against the run of play the Blues almost created another chance moments later when a ball over the top gave Lheureux Menga something to chase; he wasn’t able to get full purchase of it though, so the ball slipped away from him into the hands of James. It showed the damage the Blues can inflict if they unleash their forwards, but sadly the Grays front men had only scraps to feast on as the game went on.

Up until the Blues opened the scoring it had been Burgess Hill, starting the day occupying the final relegation berth, who had been the most busy upfront. In the opening five minutes Tyrell Richardson-Brown narrowly missed twice and Tyrell Forbes was involved in early action as he had to head away a free kick. He also had to end the run of former Leyton Orient team mate Dean Cox; ending his early foray into the box with a solid challenge. It looked like Burgess Hill were on their way to scoring an early goal when in the 10th minute Tyrell Richardson-Brown sauntered through the Blues defence; however Jordan Aghatise got hold of the situation and dispossessed the Hillians forward and banged the ball clear.

Hillians then had their best chance of the game when Cox rushed onto a knock on and hit a low drive but Amadou Tangara was equal to it and pulled off an equally impressive save. He was beaten in the 20th minute though when Grays failed to clear their lines, allowing Lee Harding to pounce on a loose ball and slam it into the net for the equaliser.

An Adeyinka Cole free-kick in the 26th minute offered Grays another scoring opportunity as it beat the keeper and wasn’t too far wide. Burgess Hill then went close with a free kick of their own a minute later; taken by Cox, it curled over the wall but landed in the side netting. Grays had to dig deep for the rest of the half as Tangara had to deal with crosses and a Jonah Ayunga strike that he needed to tip away. Ayunga was also able to round Tangara at one point but Aghatise cleared the danger. The Blues backline had certainly put in a shift as the half came to an end but they actually ended it with an attacking move. Ryan Mahal, a new signing and making his Blues debut was able to play the ball out of defence and laid it off to Harry Watkins, who knocked it on to David Fallah. The Blues forward darted after the ball but couldn’t get it under his possession and it ended up running away from him and cleared.

The Blues were under the cosh right from the start of the second half; within seconds of the re-start a Jack Brivio cross needed to be claimed by Tangara. It was to be a very barren half in terms of attacking play from the Blues, who did nonetheless win a corner in the 50th minute. Watkins was again involved getting into a good position near the box and attempting a shot that was knocked away by the Burgess Hill defence. The corner came to nothing as James was able to claim the ball under no pressure.

The Hillians were soon back in control. A Richardson-Brown header to Ayunga almost paid dividends for Burgess Hill as the ball was knocked on to Brivio who blasted wide . A deep cross from Harding also hurtled its way into the Grays box, was met by Richardson-Brown, but he placed his header way over the crossbar. Cox again stepped up sending over a free kick that produced an Ayunga header that Tangara got a hand to. At this point the only attack Grays mustered was from a free kick that Watkins blasted wide. The free kick had come about after the Blues had teased the ball out of defence, as Mascoll found Cole, who released Bishop, who was then brought down. Bishop’s speed wasn’t utilised enough but the Burgess Hill defence were aware of the danger the Blues striker posed. He was kept under close watch but was also kept quiet due to having little supply.

On the hour the Hillians had another attack that started with Cox knocking the ball to the left flack, where Harding was on hand to drive it on before laying it back to Cox who fired wide. It was starting to look only a matter of time before the Hillians re-took the lead and it finally came in the 63rd minute. A ball was played out of the middle to the right wing where Cox received the ball and sent over a pinpoint cross that substitute Dan Thompson headed past Tangara. Five minutes later Tangara pulled off a fantastic reflex save to deny Cox’s turn and volley.

A Menga attempt at setting up Nathan Campbell looked promising for a moment before the ball was cleared and Cheik Toure had to head away a Bishop cross. The Blues simply did not put James’s goal under too much pressure. It meant Jamie Stuart introduced all three substitutes to try and get some momentum going. However the supply to the forwards remained scrappy. Luke Hornsley tried to get into the Burgess Hill defence after being introduced in the 73rd minute but wasn’t able to create anything in the way of a clear cut opportunity. In the 86th minute he was nicely laid off by Bishop but was swamped out. James did have to claim an Aaron Wickham cross before the game ended in the Grays box, as Cox unloaded one last time but had his effort blocked by Tangara.

It was a very flat performance from the Blues who had taken the lead with a nice attacking move. It failed to uplift them though and they didn’t create too much of note after that. The Blues are now on a five game losing run but will be looking to finally break that on Wednesday evening when they entertain Kingstonian.

Burgess Hill Town: Josh James, Michael Aziaya, Toby Pointing, Dan Pearse (Capt), Cheik Toure, James Richmond, Dean Cox, Jack Brivio (Okwute Izuchuckwu 66), Jonah Ayunga (Dan Thompson 60), Lee Harding, Tyrell Richardson-Brown

Scorers – Lee Harding (20′), Dan Thompson (63′)

Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Ryan Mahal, Jamie Mascoll, Nathan Campbell (Capt), Jordan Aghatise, Terrell Forbes, Harry Watkins (Alexander Cunningham 60), Adeyinka Cole, Lheureux Menga (Luke Hornsley 73), Kieran Bishop, David Fallah (Aaron Wickham 76)

Scorer – Kieran Bishop (14′)

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