Grays Ath 2 v 3 Sittingbourne
BLUES fielded what looked potentially their strongest eleven in the first period with new signing Glenn Wilson starting in the back four and they produced a fluent display of passing football scoring a well constructed opener and then conceding a sloppy goal to undo all the good work.The second period is best forgotten seeing manager Jamie Stuart a second half substitute given his marching orders for raising his hand against an opponent .
Blues made a bright start with Ade Cole firing just over following some clever interplay, moments later he threaded the ball through to Kieron Bishop who failed to hit the target blasting over.A corner saw the ball fall to another new signing Suley Zuhdu but he saw his effort blocked.
Sittingbourne were finding it difficult to get out of their half such was Blues dominance as they continued to probe for an opener,Barry Cogan again was the fulcrum driving his men forward ,James Folkes was making some powerful runs forward and Kieron Hughes-Mason looked lively with some darting runs. Wilson was denied a debut goal when he was ruled offside
Zuhdu succumbed to an injury and was replaced by Furo Gogo-Ibiami,shortly after Blues went in front in the 25th minute.Cogan played a sweet cross field pass to Hughes -Mason who swung in a cross to the far post where Bishop bundled the ball home.
With the goal advantage it looked only a matter of time before Blues would increase their advantage,Charley Aldis was a virtual spectator although he had to be alert when a rare strike from the visitors whistled over.
Seemingly in total control Blues contrived to present Sittingbourne with an equaliser, there appeared to be no danger as the ball was played out from Aldis a mix up between Cogan and Perry Dunne who elected to play a short ball was dispossessed allowing the visitors striker a simple tap in.
Hughes-Mason so nearly put Blues in front after good work by Cole but his lob was well saved.
So a dominant half the only criticism would be Blues tended to overplay the ball in and around the visitors box.
After the break Blues made a number of changes,Aldis made way for trialist Brenton Mohammed in goal,Ryan Mahal for Wilson,Ronnie O’Donnell for Sam Cross and Jack Fowler for Dunne.
The changes had an unsettling effect leading to some scrappy play with misplaced passes disrupting their rhythm allowing the visitors to gain a foothold as the half progressed, but not before Cogan was denied from a free kick the keeper doing well to turn the ball behind, from the corner Mahal hooked the ball just wide.
Siitingbourne were now showing aggressive intent winning the decisive battles in midfield ,Blues lost their shape and momentum resorting to the long ball and bypassing midfield.There followed an unsightly melee involving a number of players but thanks to some sensible refereeing the situation was brought under control with no cards produced.
With Bishop making way for Denzil Adebiye Blues attacking options were blunted at the same time the visitors were looking the more likely to get their noses in front which they did in the 66th minute again it was down to sloppy defending .Blues defenders were slow to react a weak challenge saw the ball squirm across the six yard area finding an unmarked forward who prodded the ball past the exposed Mohammed.
Carlos came close for Blues with a header saved by the keeper and then came the dismissal of Stuart who petulantly struck out following a challenge giving the official no option but to brandish a red card.
80 minutes brought another goal for the visitors and this time it was a well taken goal,a deep cross into the box saw the visitors striker rise highest and power the ball into the net.
Blues produced a quick riposte two minutes later when Hughes -Mason raced clear and slotted past the keeper to make it 2-3,and in the dying minutes Cole was denied following a short corner.
The defeat concludes Blues preseason with manager Stuart giving his squad ample game time to challenge for a first team place. The changes in the second period certainly disrupted Blues rhythm in stark contrast to the first where they looked a well oiled unit.
The youth team players have proved that they can compete at this level which bodes well for the future.Overall the squad looks to have the right balance with a blend of youth and experience with Barry Cogan and latest signing Glenn Wilson bringing football league experience which will be invaluable.
The real test starts next week when the league season starts in earnest,Blues will be hoping for a repeat of their encounter last month when they came away with a 2-0 victory.