Football: Grays Ath continue their build-up

Grays Ath v Bognor

Bishop and Slabber Strikes Seal Win

By GAFC News

Blues continued their build up to the new season with another comfortable win at Waltham Forest writes The Mariner

Blues followed their win at Hulbridge Sports on Tuesday evening with another accomplished performance registering another three goals courtesy of a brace from Jamie Slabber in his first game back in a Blues shirt and last year’s top scorer Kieran Bishop opening his season’s account.

Once again Jamie Stuart fielded a mix of first team and youth players with Nicky Eyre making his return between the sticks and Jon Ashton skippering the team in his first game back since his loan spell.Barry Cogan – so influential against Hullbridge – was rested along with Sam Cross.

The game was played out in conditions more akin to January with torrential rain falling, fortunately the 3G surface was unaffected by the downpour. Blues were quickly into their stride playing an expansive game with Kiernan Hughes-Mason and Joao Carlos seeing plenty of the ball out on the flanks. Bishop looked menacing ably supported by Joel Nouble who is slowly regaining the form he displayed in his first season with the club.

The opening period saw Blues encamped in the Waltham Forest half as they probed for an opening. Carlos came close with a rasping drive shaving the angle of bar and upright following some intricate interplay between Ade Cole and Hughes-Mason.
As play progressed it was quite evident that the hard work in preseason training was reaping rewards as Blues looked a yard quicker than their opponents quickly winning the ball back when possession was lost.

The back four looked rarely troubled allowing the impressive James Folkes to push forward down the right flank,Perry Dunn looked comfortable on the ball and young Callum Thompson did not look out of place at left back in the absence of Cross, and of course Ashton was his usual calm and assured self.The midfield with Carlos and Hughes-Mason out wide and Cole and Jack Fowler inside them worked hard creating the openings for the front two.Eyre was rarely troubled but when asked his handling was assured coupled with sound distribution an attribute that was lacking from last seasons custodian.

Bishop certainly had the measure of the hosts defenders with his electric pace, he had two opportunities to open the scoring before he finally registered the first goal in the 26th minute with a powerful shot sliding under the keepers body .Hughes -Mason flashed a drive wide of the post and Fowler came close denied by the keeper and it was only some desperate defending prevented Blues from adding to their tally in a hard working first period.

Blues rang the changes at half time with Slabber , youth players Denzil Adebiyi,Kai Brown replacing Carlos, Folkes and Nouble.The changes had little impact on the passage of play Blues continuing to dominate for long periods.Slabber looked hungry for the ball and you could see the beginnings of an understanding between him and Bishop which augurs well for the future.Hughes -Mason now operating down the left flank was the provider for Blues second goal on 59 minutes floating a delightful cross onto the head of Slabber glancing the ball up and over the keeper.

With a comfortable two goal cushion further changes were made,Stuart,Brian Kassanda, Ronnie O’Donnell and Jordan Stansbury replacing Bishop,Cole,Thompson and Eyre.I t was good to see the youngsters given an opportunity the experience will stand them in good steed and they look to have a bright future ahead of them.

Hughes-Mason was again the provider for Blues third on 67 minutes which was almost a carbon copy of the second, the ball floated on to the head of Slabber who steered it into the top corner,Hughes-Mason came close to a fourth chipping the keeper who did well to turn the ball over at full stretch.

Blues continued looking for a fourth but it was the hosts who scored a consolation goal in the 90th minute following a typically robust challenge from Stuart.The resultant free kick was floated into the top corner past Stansbury’s despairing dive.

So, two comfortable wins in a week, but just as important another 90 minutes under the belt for a squad who certainly at this stage look to have more quality and competitiveness on show than last season.No doubt there will be more hard work to come on the training ground as the management team continue the build up to the season ahead.

Tuesday evening 25th July sees the Blues travel to Tilbury for the annual Stan Veness Trophy which this season takes on added significance with proceeds from the game donated to the family of former Dockers player Kevin Malthouse who so tragically lost his life.

The encounter will provide Blues with a much sterner test of their capabilities and should provide an insight into the progress made so far in the pre-season programme.

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