FA Trophy 1st Round
Cray Wanderers 2 v 2 Grays Athletic
Blues came so close to progressing into the next round but must do it all again at Parkside.
For the second time in four days Blues failed to protect a two goal lead conceding another injury time goal, the last 30 mins of the game they tried to protect their lead and retain possession to frustrate a determined Cray Wanderers who forced them into some desperate defending .The equaliser almost mirrored Haringey’s late score on Wednesday but this time it was the inexperience of 16 year old substitute Kai Brown who instead of running the ball to the corner flag to play out the final seconds elected to try a shot at goal that was easily saved by Blue, he played the ball forward from which the Wands scored.It was harsh on Brown, a more experienced player would have played for time.The youngster was inconsolable at the final whistle ,let’s hope this has not damaged his confidence.For an hour Blues looked good value for their two goal lead but an injury to Kieran Bishop blunted Blues firepower and led to them dropping too deep and allowing Cray to dominate possession.
The opening ten minutes saw the Wands playing with a confidence born out of their bright start to the season having lost only one game in the league. They moved the ball across and round the back of Blues midfield who were giving their hosts far too much time and space . Carpenter fashioned the first opportunity after a patient build up he found himself unmarked on the edge of the Blues box and fired jut wide of the upright.
Blues slowly stirred from their slumber in the shape of Stan Muguo , barrelling into the box he spurned the opportunity to shoot electing to pass and the chance was lost. Joao Carlos was the architect of Blues next opportunity ,picking the ball up just inside the Cray half he embarked on one of his trademark runs delivering a searching cross which just eluded the head of the waiting Jamie Slabber.
At the other end Carpenter again did well to create space for himself and rifled in a low drive which Johnson was equal to. The Blues keeper then set up the opening goal of the afternoon on 17 minutes. A clever kick deep into the visitors half saw Bishop force Osibodu into a mistake driving into the box the Blues striker made no mistake slotting a low drive past Blue.Slabber came close minutes after just failing to connect with a Sam Cross corner and the ball slid wide of the upright.
Play was by now ebbing and flowing at either end ,Cray caused some anxious moments when Henry tried an audacious lob volley just missing the upright and then Power wasted a gilt edged chance heading wide of a gaping goal.Blues quickly replied when Bishop not for the first time used his pace to win a fifty-fifty ball laying it into the path of Barry Cogan who went for subtlety over power floating the ball just over.
Blues went into the break good value for their goal advantage , they maintained their shape and frustrated their hosts at every opportunity and created chances where Bishop and Slabber again worked well together pressurising the hosts back line.
The restart saw a change in personnel for the hosts, Mundele made way for Lawrence who was to feature significantly throughout the half . Blues found themselves under early pressure ,both Carlos and James Folkes who saw plenty of the ball going forward in the first period were denied the same freedom as they found themselves pushed back by the Wands who went in search of a goal to bring themselves back into the game.
Blues were defending a number of corners and free kicks in the opening minutes ,Power reacted well again from another corner and should have done better sending a header over, ex Blue Jay Leader thought he had scored only to see his header hacked off the line. Despite coming under more pressure Blues still had the luxury of using Bishop as an outlet provided the quality of ball forward allowed him to cause damage with his pace.That pace was to create panic at the back when Bishop chased the ball deep into Cray territory, Blue rushed from his area to try to clear the danger but could only play the ball back to Carlos.With the keeper stranded out of his goal Carlos sent a superb low cross to the far post where Slabber using all his guile sent a side foot volley into the net via the post to make it 2-0 after 53 minutes.
Blues now with the two goal advantage must have thought they had the game won but Cray had other ideas,slowly but surely they pushed Blues back and using both flanks sent in a series of searching crosses testing their visitors back line.
Bishop who had been a real handful appeared to suffer an injury and was replaced on 61 minutes by Tim Monsheju , the loss of the striker and his blistering pace blunted Blues ability to counterattack and allowed Leader more time to carry the ball forward which he did to great effect resulting in Blues dropping deeper and deeper.
Cray were gifted a way back into the game in the 66th minute when Richard Halle clattered into Lawrence inside the area ,Power converted the kick .The goal clearly lifted the Wands who continued to dominate possession in contrast to Blues whose play became increasingly ragged, the midfield was pushed deeper isolating Slabber and Monsheju. Blues were not helping their cause with the quality of ball played out from the back, in desperation the ball was hacked aimlessly forward making it easy for Cray to build further attacks. Osideibu troubled Johnson with a header and then Freiter nodded the ball across the box fortunately for Blues it eluded Wands forwards.
Blues were riding their luck as wave after wave of Cray attacks ensued but their goal remained intact. Another ex Blue Barney Williams created panic when he embarked on a dazzling run sidestepping a number of half hearted challenges and slipped the ball to Carpenter who fired over. That looked like it for the Wands ,Blues went up the other end and won a corner relieving the pressure . Cray were not to be outdone though and more drama was to follow.
Deep into injury time Blues managed to feed the ball to sub Brown wide on the right, the youngster rather than run the ball to the corner flag elected to try an effort on goal. Blue easily collected the ball and started another attack, the eventually found Lightfoot who crossed to Lawrence who brought the ball down and slid past the advancing Johnson.
There was just enough time for the restart before the referee blew his whistle consigning Blues to yet another last minute draw in game with half hour to go they looked to be home and dry .
Blues will now have another opportunity to advance into the next round in the replay at Parkside this Wednesday ko 7.45