Grays Ath 3 v 1 Tilbury
Blues completed a league double over their old rivals Tilbury writes The Mariner
GRAYS Athletic registered their third successive victory over their old foe Tilbury in a game played out under difficult conditions. A strong wind blowing down the park made it tricky for both sets of players who nevertheless provided their fans with plenty of excitement throughout the ninety minutes. Blues claimed the victory because they coped better with the blustery wind especially in the second half , but Tilbury to their credit created some worrying moments for the home faithful. A combination of sharp finishing, dogged defending and some first class saves from Lamar Johnson saw Blues secure the three points which lifts them away from the relegation zone.
Jamie Slabber returned to the starting eleven, Suley Zuhdu replaced the suspended Stan Mugou following his red card at Ware last week. Blues kicked off with wind at their back and it took time for them to adapt ,initially they tended to overhit their passes allowing the Dockers to easily clear any danger.
It was Slabber who had the first opportunity of the half , neat interplay between Joao Carlos and Barry Cogan saw the latter thread the ball through to the Grays striker, advancing into the area he struck the ball but lacked the accuracy to beat Bogarde who blocked with his feet. Tilbury quickly replied , ex Blue Emile Aiken found space out wide powered forward and sent in a low cross forcing Johnson into a smart save. Vyse was next to threaten when he was given too much room and drove into the box flashing a low drive across Johnson and just wide of the far post.
Despite having the advantage of the strong wind Blues failed to pin the Dockers back allowing them time to clear the ball away from danger. The early signs were not good when they appeared to fall back into old habits letting the work rate drop and failing to press the ball.In contrast Tilbury looked sharper and more hungry for the ball at this stage and were rewarded for their bright start when they opened the scoring in the 13th minute. Using the flanks well the ball fell to the unmarked Melaugh who made no mistake from twenty yards drilling the ball into the bottom corner past Johnson’s’ despairing dive.
The goal at last roused Blues from their slumbers and adapting to the conditions started to employ their passing game.Kieran Bishop was the recipient of a fine pass into the visitors box, cutting across goal he shaped to shoot but was denied by a brilliant tackle from Salami.At the other end Aiken created a shooting opportunity, despite being closely marked he turned quickly moved the ball forward a few yards but Johnson saved his effort comfortably.
Sam Cross was next to try his luck for Blues when he picked up the ball from Richard Halle and tried a pot shot from 30 yards that whistled past the upright.
A frantic closing ten minutes illustrated the fine margins that can change the course of a game.A fleet footed Tilbury attack resulted in a corner,the kick held up in the strong wind deceiving the usually competent Johnson who flapped at the ball,it was half cleared to Vyse who sent in a header that looked destined for the net only to be cleared off the line.From the clearance Blues claimed their own corner only partially cleared, the ball finding Adeyinka Cole who shimmied past one defender and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. So in matter of minutes Blues could have seen themselves two down instead they managed to claw themselves back into the game.
Now playing with the wind at their backs Tilbury would have been looking to pin Blues back to search for an early goal. Blues had other ideas when just as they did on Wednesday evening against Bowers they made an early breakthrough scoring inside the first three minutes.Bishop as ever chased and harried the opposition into an error presenting himself with an opportunity which he readily accepted ,outpacing Salami and cutting inside he made no mistake drilling a low shot past the diving Bogarde.
After the goal Tilbury could so easily have equalised from a corner but thanks to a great save from Johnson, touching a powerful header on to the bar and rebounding to safety Blues maintained their advantage and went on to register a third goal.
Playing into the wind suited Blues style of play forcing them to play the ball to feet,Bishop was using his pace to advantage causing the Dockers back line some concerning moments, his persistence led to another corner in the 56th minute. Dockers failed to clear the ball cleanly and it fell to the lurking Zuhdu who sent in a low drive which was blocked only to rebound to the rejuvenated Ryan Mahal who made no mistake firing the ball home.
The goal came as a real boost for Blues, reward for a positive opening to the half but even with the two goal cushion they still had to work hard to combat the strong wind against them and a spirited Tilbury who despite the setback continued to threaten. Blues were once again indebted to Johnson to deny the visitors.Aiken was next to be frustrated when Johnson at full stretch pushed away his effort, Vyse picked up the loose ball and should have scored but Johnson forced him to rush his shot which hit the side netting.
Blues quickly replied in the shape of the impressive James Folkes who rampaged forward and sent in a wicked cross which just evaded the onrushing Zuhdu.
Tilbury continued to push forward but were coming up against a resilient Blues defence who held firm with some crucial blocks frustrating the visitors.Slabber was replaced by Tim Monsheju who was instrumental in Blues best move of the game ,driving forward he exchanged passes with Folkes and sent in a tantalising cross which once again eluded Zuhdu who had stolen in at the far post.
The visitors probed for an opening and thought they had given themselves a lifeline when they had the ball in the net only to be ruled out for offside.In the dying minutes Kyungu had the visitors last opportunity cutting through on goal he rushed his shot seeing the ball fly high and wide.Minutes later came the final whistle and a third straight victory for Blues built on another hard working and gritty performance .
Another home game beckons this Wednesday when high flying Haringey Borough visit Parkside who will present a stern task for a rejuvenated Blues side .