Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Football: The “Grays Escape” is still on!

Ryman Premier

Harrow Borough 1 v 3 Grays Athletic

Report by Scott Lanza

Back to back wins offer Grays relegation life-line.

Grays Athletic are determined not to give up their Ryman Premier status without a fight and having beaten big-spending Billericay Town last weekend, followed that up with a deserved victory at Harrow Borough on Saturday.

The Blues made a perfect start and right from the opening whistle went on the attack with Matthew Baxter speeding past his marker before centring to Kieran Bishop whose shot was deflected away by Shaun Preddie. It was an early taster of things to come because Grays then took the lead in their next attack. Kieran Bishop used all of his speed and guile to hold off a defender before laying it off to Kwabena Osei who was waiting on the right flank. Osei in turn sped past Lewis Ochoa before finding Baxter inside the Boro penalty area and the Blues midfielder was able to stroke the ball past Luke Williams to give Grays the lead. There were only five minutes on the clock and Bishop almost doubled the lead two minutes later when he capitalised on some slack marking to deliver a shot that Williams had to get down low to tip away.

It had been a fantastic opening quarter of hour from Grays who despite being in a relegation battle do play some nice passing football whereas Boro were electing to play the long ball and with little end result. However the hosts did seem to go down rather easily. Francis Babalola won a free kick after he went down from a light challenge from Joe Payne. Andy Lomas’ free kick was easily knocked away but it gave Grays some warning as to the tactic Harrow Borough were employing. Unfortunately for Grays they then had a penalty awarded against them when Chidi Williams-Agunabar’s challenge on Marc Charles-Smith resulted in the Boro captain crashing to the floor. It looked like Williams-Agunabar had won the ball first but the referee thought otherwise and awarded a penalty. Kurtis Cumberbatch then rubbed salt in the wounds by despatching the penalty and all of a sudden Harrow Borough were back in the contest. Charles-Smith had a shot knocked away for a corner by Jonathan Ashton and Michael Bryan was able to deliver a dangerous cross from the right that needed Williams-Agunabor to cut out and clear.

Grays however ended the half back in control as Williams and Carlos both had shots blocked while a pass through the middle almost set Bishop free, Williams raced off his line to claim the ball. Baxter, who had buzzed around the midfield area and who was playing some nice balls to the Grays frontline, was then heavily tackled by Charles-Smith, which earned him a yellow card.

Harrow Borough dispensed with the long ball in the second half and tried to hold it up more before laying it off. Charles-Smith and Sahr Kabba both managed to work their way into the Grays box but Ryan Mahal and Nathan Campbell both halted their runs and the Blues defence harried and harassed the Boro forwards meaning that Tangara wasn’t tested.

Grays’ most potent attacking threat is Bishop and in the 62nd minute he was able to use his pace to leave the Boro defence in his tracks and charge towards the goal. After controlling the ball he then slotted the ball past Williams.

The Blues seem to enjoy making life difficult for themselves though and at times are their own worst enemies. Tangara put himself under pressure when his sliced clearance from a back pass just about cleared the Grays box and it was soon worked back into the danger zone by Steve Brown, finding Lewis Driver and then passed on to Kabba. Tangara however made amends for his earlier mistake by bravely collecting the ball off the Boro striker’s feet. Then a pass back from Williams-Agunabor put his own defence under pressure and Tangara again had to get his hands dirty to clear up the self-inflicted mess.

The Blues however made sure they were not going to leave Earlsmead without the full quota of points on offer by scoring a third in the 70th minute. Campbell delivered a scintillating through ball that cleared the Boro defence and set Bishop free. The Blues forward notched his brace by blasting the ball past Williams that sent the management, players and supporters into wild celebrations. It was certainly a great way of taking the pressure off themselves and apart from a Cumberbatch freekick, which Tangara did well to save, the remaining twenty minutes saw Grays hold on to claim another welcome three points.

The great escape is still very much on and Grays Athletic will be hoping that this current winning streak continues when they entertain Metropolitan Police next Saturday.

Harrow Borough: Luke Williams, Lewis Ochoa, Andy Lomas, Shaun Preddie, Steve Brown, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Michael Bryan, George Nicholas (Lewis Driver 63′), Marc Charles-Smith (Capt), Sabr Kabba, Francis Babalola (Harry Newman 63′).

Scorer – Kurtis Cumberbatch (21′)

Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Ryan Mahal, Joe Payne, Nathan Campbell (Capt), Jonathan Ashton, Chidi Williams-Agunabor, Barney Williams (Harry Watkins 82′, Kwabena Osei, Matthew Baxter (Lartey Sarpong 68′), Kieran Bishop (Etienne Mukanda Kabobola 86′), Joao Carlos.

Scorers – Matthew Baxter (5′), Kieran Bishop (62′, 70′)


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