Grays Athletic 1 v 2 Romford
By David Seaman
THE BLUES have only themselves to blame for this defeat conceding two poorly defended goals and then failing to convert a number of chances in a frantic second half which they totally dominated. Once again inconsistency has raised its ugly head. After a fine win at Potters Bar, they failed to build on it, only sparking into life once they found themselves two goals behind at the start of the second half. It’s been said many times this season if you don’t take your chances when on top then you will invariably get punished and that’s exactly what happened today. Boro, in contrast, didn’t have to work for their two goals and defended as if their lives depended on it in the second half to come away with the three points.
Blues made one change from Saturday – Jamie Slabber returning up front with Richard Halle dropping to the bench.
The opening ten minutes gave no clue as to what was to follow as Blues laid siege to the visitor’s goal. Jack Fowler saw a header cleared off the line for a corner. Another corner created a chance for Joe Bruce and then a Joao Carlos cross saw Jamie Slabber nod just wide. Boro must have feared the worst coming under constant pressure with their goal leading a charmed life and only some desperate defending kept their goal intact.
After ten minutes the Blues’ storm abated and Romford breathed more easily. Full back Ayodegi Olukcogi was allowed to run fifty yards unchallenged to the edge of the Blues box laying the ball to Jonathan Nzengo who brought a save from Joe Simmonds. Olukcogi embarked on another unchallenged run this time electing to test Simmonds who had to backpedal – relieved to see the ball drop onto the roof of the net.
Alarmingly after the frantic opening, Blues visibly dropped the tempo. Consequently Boro enjoyed more of the ball and shocked home fans when they capitalised on Blues’ slack defending to edge in front in the 21st minute. Blues’ midfield and back line parted like the Red Sea with the ball falling to ex-Blue Jay Knight who drilled the ball past Simmonds.
The goal stunned Blues. They searched for an equaliser, but their build up still lacked urgency. Kieran Bishop and Jamie Slabber found themselves isolated at times as the midfield failed to push up and support. Bishop created his own opportunity when he chased down a long ball weaved into the box and unleashed a powerful shot which was turned over by Stephen Reynolds. James Folkes sent in a cross that just eluded Slabber.
A disappointing half closed with Blues having flattered to deceive – caused in part by once again a failure to deliver the ball into the box when the opportunity presented itself and the quality of the final ball.
After a tepid first half showing, Blues would have been looking for an early breakthrough to get back into game but Romford had other ideas. Harry Daly chased a speculative ball down Blues’ left flank. There appeared to be no danger, and despite the close attention of Bruce and Folkes he played the ball into the box, a clever step over by Chris Taylor saw the ball fall to Knight who was allowed to turn and beat Simmonds at the near post.
The goal brought an immediate response from Jamie Stuart who substituted Ryan Mahal for Halle, pushing Folkes into midfield adopting a 3-5-2 formation. The change and going two down had an instant effect . Blues at last stirred from their slumber, upped the tempo and searched for a way back into the match.
Pressure built and in the 51st minute a flowing move involving Folkes and Bishop saw the striker drive forward to the byeline and cut the ball back to Glenn Poole who finished with aplomb – side-footing past Reynolds.
Kai Brown replaced the ineffectual Ade Cole on 53 minutes to add some impetus to the midfield .
With their tails up, Blues surged forward in wave after wave of attacks. Romford dropped deeper but their spirit and shape remained undimmed. A succession of corners and free kicks rained in. Slabber touched a Poole corner agonisingly wide of the upright. Reynolds then made a wonderful save, pawing away a Halle header. Carlos then worked the ball to Folkes who prodded the ball forward – just eluding Slabber.
Although under pressure, Romford still looked menacing when they managed to break out and Knight missed the opportunity of putting the game beyond Blues’ reach when he was left clear but Simmonds came to the rescue with a vital block.
It was a temporary respite for Romford’s beleaguered defenders. Blues continued to press, but were not helping themselves by the final ball, failing to deliver or shoot when the opportunity presented itself. When they did get the ball in the box, resolute Boro defending denied them. Slabber had an effort deflected for a corner and the pressure continued to build – but lacked a cutting edge.
Slabber departed, to be replaced by Bradley Sach in a last effort to salvage something from the match but it looked to be one of those games where try as they might, the ball would just not fall kindly for them. In the dying minutes Bishop had a golden opportunity, one on one with Reynolds, he elected to touch the ball past the keeper when rounding him would have been the better option. The keeper blocked his effort and Blues’ last chance was lost.
The only plus for Blues in a disappointing afternoon was that other results went in their favour and they still remain in tenth place – just off the play offs – but it was another performance where the opposition took their chances when presented to them. It must also be said in mitigation that Blues have played four games in ten days whereas today was Romford’s first in eight.
Next up is an away trip to Heybridge Swifts on Saturday who will provide stiff opposition, but a measure of Blues’ inconsistency this season means they are just as likely to come away with a victory.