Sunday, July 21, 2024

Football: Time running out for battling Blues

Ryman Premier

Canvey Island 3 v 1 Grays Athletic

Report by David Seaman

Blues Second Best in Derby

Canvey Island inflicted a damaging defeat on the Blues in this relegation battle and this derby game never reached the heights of previous encounters between these local rivals; with both sides conscious of the implications defeat could bring led to a less than entertaining afternoon for the fans. The only real excitement was limited to a five minute spell in the first half which produced three goals.

A cagey opening saw little goalmouth action with Blues enjoying a good deal of possession; Joao Carlos was seeing a lot of the ball at this stage, clearly a tactic from the Blues management but it was Canvey who created the first opportunity when Sykes showed aggressive intent, driving forward past Ryan Mahal, winning a corner which saw Allen power a header over.

It was Nathan Campbell who had Blues first opportunity capitalising on a weak defensive header but his first time volley sailed over ex Blue Gough’s crossbar. Canvey not to be outdone replied quickly when a long ball dissected the Blues central defenders and only a last ditch tackle by Joe Payne prevented the Gulls from going in front.

Blues were certainly asking all the questions at this stage and winning a number of free kicks mainly at the expense of Carlos who was coming in for some rough treatment. However the deliveries from the resultant kicks were failing to trouble the Canvey rearguard allowing Gough to claim the ball with ease. If Blues were to fashion an opening then the pace of Bishop was probably their best option as he clearly showed he could outrun Sheehan and Allen.

So it was that Bishop was the instigator for Blues opener in the 29th minute. He chased down a long ball and played the ball back to Carlos he sent in a cross to the head of Barney Williams; his cushioned header fell to Campbell who turned and lashed the ball past Gough. The goal was just reward for Blues who had looked the livelier of the two teams.

Blues fans were still celebrating the goal when Canvey summoned a riposte just two minutes later; awarded a free kick wide on Blues right the ball was played deep to the far post where Allen rose unchallenged and met the ball with a powerful header past Amadou Tangara. The goal had a twofold effect; it galvanized Canvey and had the opposite effect on their visitors who suddenly lacked cohesion and energy.

The effect manifested itself when just two minutes later Canvey went in front and it was almost a carbon copy of their first. This time a corner was sent in deep to the far post where it was headed back unchallenged to Sykes who managed to stab the ball past Tangara.

Canvey now had their tails up and began to dominate proceedings in the closing quarter, Sykes in particular was causing problems with his mazy runs and all Blues previous cohesion and shape was lost, errors began to creep into their game and a half that started brightly quickly faded.

Both teams now faced a huge 45 minutes the outcome of which could decide either teams’ fate come the end of the season. For Grays three points was the absolute only target .Blues made a change bringing on Etienne Mukanya Kababola for Ryan Mahal.

From the whistle it was Canvey who showed they were ready for the fight, Agyakwa illustrated their intent racing forward and getting behind Payne, he sent in a tantalising cross to the far post finding the unmarked Sykes who prodded the ball just over.

Blues did have their own opportunity when Jon Ashton glanced a header wide of the upright but it was a rare chance as Canvey began to dominate in midfield mainly down to Blues carelessness when in possession, the ball was being given away cheaply coupled with a drop in work rate allowing their hosts time and space in which to build their attacks.

Lhereaux Menga replaced Matt Baxter who again looked off the pace and the game was then delayed for several minutes due to what looked a nasty injury to Canvey midfielder Blackman. Menga provided an opportunity for Lartey Sarpong who chested the ball down from a Payne cross but he failed to hit the target.

Canvey still looked the more dangerous going forward and it was Gilbey who came close when he ghosted in behind the Blues defence just failing to get a touch to the ball, allowing a relieved Tangara to gather the ball.

Given what was at stake Blues rarely sparked in the second period, Kababola created moments of hope for the Blues travelling fans but there just wasn’t the energy or belief they could conjure up an equaliser and with the game going into injury time Canvey made sure of the points and it was another preventable goal. A throw from Agyakwa found Gilbey who was not picked up by the Blues defence he laid the ball back to Merryfield who crashed the ball into the top corner.

The defeat was symptomatic of Blues season, a goal up and in control of the game they conceded two badly defended goals and then seemed to lose confidence, failed to battle for the ball and made things easy for their opponents.

Blues now find themselves adrift at the bottom and with league leaders and title favourites, Havant & Waterlooville, the visitors at Mill Field next Saturday, it looks increasingly likely relegation is only a matter of time.

Canvey Island: Conor Gough, Gabby Adelowo, Ashley Dumas, Frankie Merrifield, George Allen, Steve Sheehan, Manny Oyeleke (Marlon Agyakwa 24′), Ryan Blackman (Omarr Lawson 69′), George Sykes, Simon Thomas (Jay Curran 90′), Mitchell Gilbey.

Scorers – George Allen (31′), George Sykes (33′), Frankie Merrifield (90′)
Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Ryan Mahal (Etienne Mukanya Kabobola 45′), Joe Payne, Nathan Campbell, Chidi Williams-Agunabor (Harry Watkins 87′), Jon Ashton, Barney Williams, Lartey Sarpong, Matthew Baxter (Lheureux Menga 62′), Kieran Bishop, Joao Carlos.

Scorer – Nathan Campbell (29′)

The result leaves Grays Ath still bottom of the league, nine points from safety and with just seven games to go.

They return to action next Saturday at home against league leaders, Havant and Waterlooville.


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