Witham Town 1 v 4 Grays Ath
THIS fixture saw two teams in a rich vein of form go head to head in what promised to be close encounter, in the end Blues ran out worthy winners converting their chances with clinical efficiency. Witham huffed and puffed but could not breakdown a resolute Blues who have now gone ten league games with only the disappointing reversal at Canvey blotting their record. Building a two goal lead in the first half they battled for every ball in the second as Witham tried to get back into the game but thanks to a Jamie Slabber strike four minutes into the half they never looked like surrendering the lead.The win puts them within striking distance of the play offs as we head into the Xmas period.
Joe Bruce returning to the club started at the back in place of the suspended Richard Halle in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven following the midweek win at Dereham.
Witham made a blistering start to the forcing a corner in the opening minute which led to panic in the Blues area but the ball was eventually scrambled clear.Blues had no answer to a series of swift sorties by Witham such was the pace of their pass and move tactics,Gyamfi ,Pedulu and ex Blue Correy Davidson formed a lethal trio picking up the ball and driving at was becoming a ragged Blues rearguard.Davidson had a golden opportunity to put Witham in front when he latched on to a ball into the six yard box but inexplicably failed to hit the target.
Having weathered the early storm and with their goal intact Blues began to find their rhythm. They had the ball in the net when Jamie Slabber forced keeper Mason into an error blocking his attempted clearance the ball appeared to cross the line but the officials thought otherwise.The incident clearly unsettled the home central defensive pairing of Akins and Corlett who looked vulnerable under pressure ,a weakness exploited by Slabber and Kieran Bishop who worked well in tandem to create openings.
Witham their attacking spark dampened, only threatened rarely but did cause a moment of panic when Jack Fowler misjudged a high ball allowing the speedy Pedulu a run on goal but Lamar Johnson came to Blues rescue saving well.It was Blues though who controlled proceedings forcing a number of corners and free kicks as pressure grew on the home goal. In the 36th minute the pressure finally told, Blues winning a penalty when a shot struck the arm of a Witham defender.Bishop made amends for his miss in midweek at Dereham sending Mason the wrong way and giving Blues a deserved lead.
Clearly rattled Witham resorted to some dubious challenges in an effort to disrupt Blues rhythm but in the 43rd they found themselves two down. A Barry Cogan corner was headed out to Ade Cole who drove the ball through ruck of players where Ryan Mahal flicked it up and over Mason to give Blues a comfortable and well deserved two goal cushion.
Blues made the perfect start to the second period scoring a vital third goal on 49 minutes.The move was started by Kai Brown on half way moving forward he found Ade Cole out wide. Evading a challenge he played a one two with Bishop who had made an intelligent run to the six yard box ,Cole receiving the ball played a low cross into the path of Slabber who swept the ball home.
It was just the start Blues wanted giving them a comfortable lead and dealt a blow to the hosts hopes of getting themselves back into the game.Blues clearly eased off the pace buoyed by their three goal lead allowing Witham to enjoy more possession but they failed to trouble a resolute Blues back line well marshalled by Bruce. A series of free kicks and corners were dealt with comfortably and with the midfield working tirelessly , Bishop and Slabber continuing to unsettle a brittle home defence Blues looked the more likely to grab another goal and so it proved to be.
In the 69th Blues notched a fourth. A throw down the left flank was picked up by the ever willing Bishop, evading a challenge he raced to the bye line cutting back he saw his shot blocked looping into the air to find Cole at the far post who rolled it to the six yard box where Slabber somehow failed to make contact, a goalmouth scramble ensued with the ball eventually falling to Bishop, he made no mistake slamming the ball home to record his second of the afternoon and his tenth league goal of the season .
The goal finally put the game beyond the reach of Witham who resorted to a series of physical challenges largely unpunished by the officials , but Blues kept their composure refusing to be intimidated and defended resolutely to keep their opponents at bay. The 78th minute saw Witham register a consolation goal via the penalty spot.A cross into the box was headed clear when the referee blew and pointed to the spot,mystery surrounded the goal ,none of the Witham players appealed as there appeared to be no infringement committed .Davidson converted the kick and Johnson received a yellow card for kicking the ball away.
A fractious final ten minutes ensued, Blues played down the final clock frustrating their opponents further resulting in a red card for Akins after an off the ball incident.
The final whistle brought to an end another efficient and workmanlike Blues performance with the result never in doubt once they got their noses in front.
The win rounded off a great week coming after an impressive win at Dereham, it’s now one defeat in ten league outings for a resurgent Blues who now sit just five points off the play off positions, the only negative was an injury to Stan Muguo although it appeared he was substituted as a precaution. Next Saturday sees strugglers Norwich United visit Parkside , the sides have already met Blues winning 4-3 in the FA Trophy , as long as they guard against complacency then Blues have a great opportunity to extend their run of wins.
Blues entertain Dagenham & Redbridge in the Essex Senior Cup on Wednesday , the Daggers are looking to field a strong side for this game and should prove a fascinating game .
Johnson, Mahal, Cross, Bruce, Fowler, Muguo (Poole 61), Cogan, Cole, Bishop, Slabber (Monsheju 68) Brown (Carlos 72)