Football: The Grays escape is on!

Ryman Premier

Hendon 0 v 4 Grays Ath

Report by Scott Lanza

GRAYS Athletic stretched their winning run to three games after a scintillating display at Silver Jubilee Park that showed clear evidence that Jamie Stuart’s team are starting to gel and play together as a unit. The defence stood firm throughout, the midfield battled hard and passed the ball nicely to their forwards, who in turn had a field day in NW9.

It took the Blues only 3 minutes to open the scoring. After having to defend from the opening whistle, the Blues suddenly played the ball out of defence and it made its way to Kieran Bishop. He held the ball up before cutting it back for Lheureaux Menga who unleashed a fierce shot that sailed over Darren Bechet and crashed into the top left hand corner.

Kezie Ibe almost equalised for Hendon a minute later when a ball from the right came into his possession. He steadied himself before launching a shot towards the right corner which Amadou Tangara tipped away. The Blues keeper was called upon soon after, using his body to block out an Andre Da Costa effort. Da Costa also came close with a free kick. Tangara showed safe hands throughout the half but was mostly confined to cutting out crosses and dealing with corners. And whilst Ize and Da Costa had shown some dangerous intentions they were soon kept under close guard by Nathan Campbell and Jordan Aghatise.

Grays doubled their lead in the 12th minute and once again Bishop was involved. He charged into a forward position and held up the ball before laying it off to Harry Watkins. The cross Watkins sent over was sublime, drifting beyond the grasp of Behcet and being met by Joao Carlos, who made it a perfect return in a Blues shirt, as he rifled the ball into the empty net. Bishop then almost added a third, but the ball didn’t sit nicely for him meaning he wasn’t able to get too much purchase on his shot and Behcet was able to knock it away for a corner. Grays even had a strong claim for a penalty when Menga appeared to be hauled down by Bradley Hewitt but Mr Templey waved play on.

Mr Templey almost offered Hendon a lifeline in the 30th minute when Da Costa took a tumble by the on the left hand side of the box and the referee awarded a penalty without hesitation. It was a very soft penalty to say the least; but there was at least some justice as Tangara dived to his left to stop Casey MacLaren’s well struck penalty. Tangara was simply not going to be beaten and MacLaren also directed a well-placed header towards the Grays goal that Tangara tipped over the crossbar. Ibe was able to put one past Tangara with a header in the 39th minute but his celebrations were curtailed when he saw that the assistant referee had ruled it out for offside.

Bishop had looked very dangerous in the first period and it didn’t take too long for him to find the Hendon net in the second half. This time Menga was the provider, knocking the ball into the path of Bishop who stroked the ball into the net, putting Grays three goals up and with only a minute of the half played. It took the Greens until the 53rd minute before they could muster a shot on goal. However Da Costa’s free kick ended up landing near the Hendon supporters in the terracing behind the goal.

Menga and Bishop meanwhile where being constantly fed balls from Wilson, Watkins and Sarpong, with Aaron Wickham also getting involved in the Grays attacks. It was Wickham that played the ball out of defence, laying it off to Carlos, whose cross to the far post was almost turned into his own net by Hewett. The Hendon fans breathed a sigh of relief as his clearance just went high enough to clear the crossbar. There was still a corner to defend though and Menga’s powerful header produced an excellent save from Behcet.

The Blues looked like they were going to score every time they went forward and they duly added a fourth in the 62nd minute. Carlos shimmied his way past two Hendon players and then centred across the box where Bishop was waiting, slotting the ball home from close range.

Hendon were unable to mount any serious attempts after the fourth goal was scored. Grays simply weren’t going to allow them to. Tangara was used mostly to handle crosses; his defence of Wickham, Mahal, Campbell and Aghatise, plus Forbes who put in a solid display after he replaced Mahal, were challenging for every ball and even Menga tried his hand at defending when he tracked back and disarmed Ibe in his own penalty box. Even a double substitution for Hendon came to no avail. Reis Stanislaus and Leon Smith both linked well and were lively. But they never had a sniff as the Blues defence closed tight and deservedly ended the night with their second clean sheet in a row.

Grays remain in the relegation zone but they are playing with confidence at the moment. There is a belief around the players and supporters that the corner has been well and truly turned. They may face a difficult trip to promotion-chasing Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday – but at the same time will be travelling down to Hampshire on the back of three very good wins.

Hendon: Darren Behcet, Jamie Smith, Aaron Tumwa, Bradley Hewitt (Keagan Cole 62) , Arthur Lee, Quba Gordon, Sam Murphy, Casey MacLaren (Reis Stanislaus 61), Kezie Ibe, Jerome Federico, Andre Da Costa (Leon Smith 72)

Grays Athletic: Aaron Tangara, Aaron Wickham, Ryan Mahal (Terell Forbes 71) , Nathan Campbell, Jordan Aghatise, Luke Wilson, Harry Watkins, Kwabena Osei (Lartey Sarpong 46), Lheureux Menga, Kieran Bishop (Luke Hornsley 67), Joao Carlos

Scorers – Lheureux Menga (3′), Joao Carlos (12′), Kieran Bishop (49′, 62′)

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