Grays Athletic 2 v 2 Cheshunt
TWO is certainly not the magic number as far as Blues fans are concerned clearly illustrated in a match that saw two penalties ,a two goal lead surrendered, and two points dropped. If that was not bad enough keeper Lamar Johnson self destructed and was shown a red card, with no sub keeper on the bench Ryan Mahal was forced to don the keepers jersey.
Going into the break with a two goal advantage courtesy of Ade Cole is not always a guarantee of victory given Blues recent performances, and so it proved to be. Even before the penalty and red card incident they stepped off the gas, conceded territory allowing Cheshunt who looked a well beaten team in the first half to gain a foothold in the game and go on to claim a share of the points.The inability to protect a lead is turning into a real conundrum for manager Jamie Stuart which will have to be solved if his team wants to climb the table and push for the play offs.
The opening period was a less than entertaining spectacle frequently punctuated by the whistle of the officious referee Mr Barnett who failed to let the game flow and insisted on lecturing players of both sides for the slightest misdemeanour. It fell to veteran Cheshunt striker Hallet to carved out the first opportunity after two minutes spinning on the edge of the area and firing just wide of the upright.
Blues first chance fell to Tim Monsheju starting in the absence of the injured Kieran Bishop,good work between Cole and Joao Carlos created an opening for the striker to drill an effort just past the post.
Cole playing with energy, vision and confidence foraged into the visitors half allowing Blues to establish territorial advantage but crucially Blues failed to trouble keeper Joseph at this stage, the visitors looked to counterattack forcing Blues defenders to be ever vigilant to thwart the danger.
Patience was a virtue which rewarded Blues who got their noses in front in the 28th minute.Ironically given Blues previous intricate build ups the goal was simplicity itself. Johnson launched the ball forward to Carlos who with sublime control chested the ball into the path of the onrushing Cole, keeper Joseph slipped allowing Cole to reach the ball first and slam it into the roof of the net.
There minutes later Blues doubled their advantage, following a corner the ball was cleared out to Cole who reacted quickly and hit a crisp drive cannoning off a Cheshunt head and into the net.
Blues now had a comfortable two goal cushion and should have increased their advantage, they didn’t, allowing Cheshunt to push forward. In the 38th minute Osei drove into the box and was felled by a rash challenge from Jack Fowler a clear penalty. All was not lost though when not for the first time this season Johnson came to Blues rescue saving the spot kick.
There was just time for Monsheju to try his luck drawing a fine save from Joseph bringing to an end a workmanlike if not spectacular half from Blues. The big question as the players left the field was could they protect the lead and go on to claim three points.
Cheshunt made their way onto the pitch five minutes early ,clearly rebuked for their insipid first half performance. From the whistle they certainly looked sharper not allowing Blues the luxury of time on the ball consequently enjoying more possession and territory, but it was still Blues who created the opening chances.Monsheju was first to try his luck forcing a smart save from Joseph. Carlos then embarked on a driving run at the heart of the opposition rearguard evading a number of challenges and firing wide .
Cheshunt weathered the early storm and forced their way back into the contest helped in part by Blues recent habit of dropping deeper coupled with a drop in work rate. Alarm bells began ring as Cheshunt sensed a way back into the game. Blues play became increasingly ragged , they resorted to play aimless balls forward allowing the visitors to build further attacks. Hallet was looking increasingly dangerous and with his wide men sending in some dangerous crosses Blues goal came under increasing pressure.
The 59th minute saw the incident that changed the course of the game. Cheshunt created a gilt edge opportunity for Roberts threading the ball through the heart of the Blues back line. Johnson rushed from his line and crashed into the striker ,Mr Barnett immediately pointed to the spot and initially appeared to show Johnson a yellow card.Following the booking a melee involving a number of players ensued and after order was restored Johnson was shown a red card. With no sub keeper on the bench Mahal went between the sticks and his first action was to pick the ball from the net following the spot kick from Hallet.
The visitors buoyed by the goal and the extra man upped the tempo,it was important then that Blues retained their shape, stuck to they’re passing game and protect Mahal and frustrate the opposition.Stuart replaced Cogan to bolster the protection of Blues slender advantage but to no avail.Bruno saw an effort cleared off the line as the visitors pressed for an equaliser.Another header flashed wide of the goal but crucially Mahal was not being tested with shots at goal.
With just minutes remaining sub Callum Ibe had an opportunity to increase Blues advantage after breaking clear but his shot was saved by Joseph. It was to be a costly miss ,in the 88th minute Hallet ensured a share of the points when he was left unmarked in the box and nodded past Mahal.Only a smart save from a header from Mahal denied the visitors all three points in the very last seconds
The only consolation one could draw from another disappointing afternoon was the continuation of Blues current unbeaten run in the league .
Next up sees an Essex Senior cup tie away at Stansted on Tuesday evening .
Johnson, Mahal, Cross, Cogan (Stuart 65),Fowler (Folkes 45) Halle ,Muguo,Cole,Slabber, Monsheju(Ibe 79), Carlos