Thursday, April 18, 2024

Football: Grays upset league leaders with stunning victory

Ryman Premier

Bognor Regis 1 v 2 Grays Athletic

Report by David Seaman

Can they do it,can Blues really engineer the “The Great Escape”, well if they can produce more displays like today then the answer is yes; this was a performance based on hard work ,a game plan adhered to ,total commitment to the cause and steely resolve.
Bognor and their fans must have thought this game was a banker three points but Blues had other ideas,at the final whistle their players and fans looked shellshocked after Lheureux Menga’s dramatic late late winner,in contrast Blues players and travelling fans were ecstatic and celebrated long after the final whistle.

Jamie Stuart named new signings Jon Ashton and Matt Baxter in the starting eleven and both played a part in what was to become an exciting afternoon.
As expected Bognor started on the front foot and took the game to their visitors forcing a corner as early as the 3rd minute, two minutes later following another corner Ell Abd rose highest and powered a header goal wards which was hacked away by Joe Payne.

Yet despite the early surge it was Blues who went in front in the 7th minute; neat build up play between Harry Watkins and Lartey Sarpong saw the latter get the better of his fullback near the byeline he did well to slide the ball into Kieron Bishop who turned quickly and slotted the ball past Lincoln in the home goal.
Blues were content to let Bognor build from the back allowing them time on the ball in their own half and then denying them space as they moved forward forcing them to play across the park and not through midfield with Blues looking to use the pace of Bishop on the counterattack
Bishop nearly doubled his and Blues tally when he charged down an attempted clearance by Lincoln with the ball dropping just wide of the upright.

The impressive Baxter was a hive of industry in Blues midfield and he was ably backed up by Sarpon, and Kwabene Osei who wnt about his work quietly and effectively. Blues back line marshalled by Ashton dealt comfortably with a number of corners from their hosts and behind them Amadou Tangara continued to look safe between the sticks.
Bognor though did come close to leveling the scores when Davies sent in a powerful low cross which just eluded the onrushing Adebayo with Blues defenders powerless to intervene.

There then followed a long delay for treatment to Tangara after he sustained what appeared to be at first glance a serious injury in bizarre circumstances when taking a goal kick but to the relief of fans and management he was able to continue albeit initially with some discomfort.
The home side continued to put pressure on the Blues goal winning a succession of corners without threatening the goal. Blues counter attacking tactic however nearly produced a second goal when Tangara’s’ long clearance deceived El Abd allowing Bishop to try a speculative volley which sailed just over. The Blues marksman was denied again after good work by Baxter saw him advance on goal but the ball caught under his foot and was cleared to safety.
Bognor came close at the other end, Field latched on to a Crane nod forward but prodded the ball wide. Blues replied when Joao Carlos tested Lincoln with a drive which the keeper did well to collect.

Blues management would have warned their players to expect early pressure after the break and they were proved right when Bognor forced a corner inside the first three minutes but as in the first period the Blues defence was equal to it with the ball being cleared comfortably.
After the initial impetus it was Blues who began to see far more of the ball looking sharper than their opponents. Carlos created a chance for Baxter but he saw his first time effort blocked. Another quick break saw the same pair combine with Baxter sending in a fierce drive that whistled past the upright.
Bognor produced a quick riposte when Adabayo tested Tangara from distance only to see the Blues stopper claim the ball at the second attempt. Sarpong then nearly opened his Blues account when he fired into the side netting.

Manager Stuart could be heard calling his players to maintain their shape and they did just that repelling a succession of corners from the home side and significantly they were cutting out unforced errors which contributed to their goal remaining intact. To a man they worked tirelessly to stifle their opponents forcing them wide and away from goal.

Payne and Carlos were combining well down the left, it was Carlos who was the provider when after good work he played the ball back to the advancing Osei but he blasted over from 25 yards.

The home side upped the tempo and Charman came close seeing his goal bound header cleared off the line and then Ashton deflected a fierce drive from Muitt. With corners and crosses raining in Tangara needed to be alert and he dealt with them well claiming the ball and taking pressure off his central defenders.

A Bognor long throw created an opening for Crane who cleverly hooked the ball goal wards but it dropped just over. Blues were still giving as good as they got and looked dangerous on the break. The tiring Harry Watkins was replaced on the hour mark by debutant Barney Williams and he was to prove influential in the Blues winner.
Bishop who had produced another hardworking display was replaced by Menga in the 78th minute to add fresh impetus up front and he immediately made an impact with his physical presence and held up the ball well.

As the clock ticked down Bognor continued to search for a way back into the game and they were rewarded in the 85th minute. A corner was swung in from the right and although Tangara managed to get a fist to the ball it lacked power and fell invitingly to Muitt who played the ball back to Fraser unmarked three yards out who nodded the ball home.

The goal set up a pulsating climax full of incident, firstly El Abd came so close to putting Bognor in front only to see his goal bound header cleared off the line and then Whyte saw red after another robust challenge. It was then the scene was set for Menga to become the hero of the hour.

With the game going into injury time Blues had one last throw of the dice. Ryan Mahal picked up the ball inside the Bognor half and drove forward laying the ball to Sarpong in space out wide, his first cross was blocked only to see him pick up the ball but again his cross was blocked, El Abd picked up the loose ball but Williams managed to get a toe to the ball finding Sarpong and this time he delivered the perfect cross to Menga who stole in front of defender Field and powered a header past Lincoln.

The celebrations that followed the goal were incredible with players and fans hugging each other and was a just reward for a superb performance by the team and a result that could not be construed as a fluke, it was built on a shrewd game plan carried out to the letter.

The fixtures coming up in the next few weeks could be pivotal in deciding Blues fate with three out of four against sides in and around them but if the team can produce performances like today anything is possible starting with Hendon at home this Saturday.

Bognor Regis Town: Dan Lincoln, Calvin Davies (Harvey Whyte 51), James Crane, Doug Tuck (Gary Charman 69), Sami El-Abd, Chad Field, James Fraser, Dan Beck (Ollie Pearce 59), Elijah Adebayo, Jimmy Muitt, Alex Parsons
Scorer – James Fraser (85′)

Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Ryan Mahal, Joe Payne, Lartey Sarpong, Nathan Campbell, Jon Ashton, Harry Watkins (Barney Williams 60), Kwabena Osei, Matthew Baxter, Kieran Bishop (Lheureux Menga 78), Joao Carlos
Scorers – Kieran Bishop (7′), Lheureux Menga (90′)


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