Bostik Aveley 1 v 1 Grays Athletic
AVELEY rode their luck and grabbed a late goal that left honours even in Saturday’s Boxing Day Bostik North derby between landlords and tenants Grays Athletic at Parkside, where it was Grays who will certainly feel they let two points slip away.
They dominated much of the first half, and parts of the second but only had a cracking early Richard Halle strike to show for their efforts and in the end Alex Stephenson’s 89th-minute goal denied them victory in a game played out in front of a holiday crowd of 327.
Grays made the brighter start of the two sides and Aveley, who had midfielder Amir Berkane making his debut, found themselves very much on the back foot.
They survived early pressure which saw a shot from Grays’ Joao Carlos deflected wide and Alex Teniola had to show his defensive skills to clear another goalbound effort away.
The breakthrough wasn’t long in coming though, and after Teniola was cautioned for a foul on Ade Cole, Halle stepped up to strike the free kick into the top corner for a seventh-minute lead.
Aveley showed little as an attacking force in a match that saw lots of interventions from a picky referee that rarely allowed the game to flow freely but they did have a half chance on 20 minutes when Myles Keizer-Burrows launched a long-throw into the box and veteran Danny Dafter was barely an inch away from getting something on it.
There was a worry for Aveley when keeper Rhys Madden went down injured but after treatment, he was able to play on, though he would have been helpless to do anything just after the half-hour when Grays Kieran Bishop set up Jamie Slabber but he fired over the bar from ten yards out.
Three minutes later Grays had another great chance when Cole broke and set up a perfect cross for Bishop to get on the end of but the normally deadly marksman just couldn’t get the touch he needed to score.
It was virtual one-way traffic as the first half clock ticked down and Keizer-Burrows did well to block a Carlos effort from the edge of the area and then in added time, Carlos was set clear but he spurned a seemingly easy opportunity to send his side into the interval with a two goal lead.
Aveley was much better after the resumption and as a statement of intent Robbie Rees drifted a cross onto the top of the net, while Teniola saw a shot blocked by Joe Bruce.
Grays still offered plenty of threat though and Halle got a second crack at a free kick on the edge of the box, but this time he fired over, and his frustration was compounded soon after when he was booked for a foul on Teniola.
Aveley had Madden to thank for keeping them in the game just after the hour when he produced a brilliant double save, first to deny Bishop, then Cole.
As if inspired by this Millers went on the attack and Connor Witherspoon and Stephenson both had chances to stab the ball home before it was cleared off the line in a Grays goalmouth scramble.
Madden was back in the thick of things to deny Halle his second with a decent save to keep out a header.
With the clock ticking down to the close and Aveley not really mounted a sustained threat Carlos had the chance to make things safe for the tenants with a shooting opportunity but his effort drifted wide.
It was a miss Grays were to rue as in the 89th minute a corner caused problems in the Grays defence and Stephenson took the opportunity to scramble the ball home.
There was even a chance in added time for Aveley to conjure up what would have been an undeserved winner but no-one was able to get a vital touch to George Doyle’s dangerous ball into the box and soon after the final whistle sounded.