Grays Ath 4 v 1 Witham Town
BLUES put on a scintillating display of attacking football, especially in the first half when a five minute goal burst put the game beyond Witham Town. Kieran Bishop and Tommy Wade helped themselves to a brace apiece, and but for a series of fine saves by the visitors’ custodian Bobby Mason, the margin of victory could have been greater. Wade has endeared himself to Blues’ fans with his wholehearted displays and has now scored three goals in just two appearances since signing from Hertford. Bishop ended his goal drought, scoring for the first time since the middle of January. Aside from the win, Jamie Stuart would have been heartened by the display of new signing Michael Finneran, who made an impressive debut. Lamar Johnson looked back to his best returning between the sticks, but it would be unfair to pick out individuals on a day when every Blues player gave a five star performance.
A quiet opening gave no hint of what was to follow, other than an effort from Witham’s Chinedu Osadebe, who fired over in the first minute. Gradually though, Blues began to gain the ascendancy. Wade was proving to be a robust handful and brought the first of a series of saves from Mason when the keeper clawed away a goal bound header, the ball falling to Bishop, who saw his shot hacked off the line.
Blues were showing real slickness in possession. James Folkes was enjoying himself down the left flank with some swashbuckling forays and was unlucky when a shot -cum-cross shaved the angle of bar and post. Great work between Dennis Oli and Joao Carlos provided another opportunity for Bishop, but Mason denied the striker, saving well. A corner saw Mason make a half-save and Wade nod wide. Next, a Finneran ball to the edge of the box saw Folkes volley just wide. Carlos provided another opportunity with a cross which Wade chested down to his strike partner Bishop, but his half-hit effort was saved.
With Witham offering very little going forward, Blues needed to capitalise on their superiority and in the 34th minute they did just that. Patient build up led to Oli feeding Wade. Still with a lot to do the burly striker chested the ball down, rounded his marker and cleverly slotted the ball past Mason. Three minutes later and Wade added a second. Blues – showing neat interplay – provided an opening, finding Wade who made no mistake nodding past Mason.
The two-goal cushion allowed Blues to play with freedom and express themselves, playing some really entertaining football. Ade Cole and Stan Muguo patrolled the midfield prompting and pushing Blues forward, and in the 39th minute came the third goal. Folkes once again was the architect, with another great run and cross finding Wade who played in Bishop. Although the ball did not fall kindly, he provided a moment of brilliance with a bicycle kick and hammered the ball home to arguably put the game beyond the visitors.
Belatedly, Witham stirred in the shape of ex-Blue Correy Davidson, who used his electric pace to get behind the Blues’ back line and fire a shot which Johnson turned behind. It was a rare chance for the visitors who had no answer to Blues’ all-action play. Oli had the last chance of an entertaining half, when he was played in and with only Mason to beat, the keeper did well to deny the Blues’ legend his first goal on his return to the club.
Blues may have expected Witham to come out all guns blazing on the resumption, but it was Blues who nearly added a fourth when another scintillating passage of play provided an opening for Carlos, whose powerful effort was palmed away at full length by Mason.
The visitors – to their credit – showed more going forward in an effort to salvage something from the game. Elliot Ronto tried his luck from long range, testing Johnson who was equal to his effort.
Blues were forced into a change when midfield enforcer Muguo departed through injury sustained in the first half, to be replaced by Barry Cogan, but it didn’t upset Blues rhythm, with Cole becoming more and more influential showing all his trickery and vision. Last week’s hero Ryan Mahal was also enjoying himself, bludgeoning forward at every opportunity.
Wade was denied what would have been a deserved hat-trick when a route one move – a long punt from Johnson – saw the hitman volley what looked a certain goal, only for Mason to perform acrobatically and turn the ball over. Wade came close again, nodding a Cole cross just wide.
The visitors nearly opened their account when Aidara Moulaye found space and broke clear, forcing Johnson into a full length save to palm the ball behind. Enjoying more of the play, Witham failed to cause any problems for Blues’ back line, with Joe Bruce and Finneran looking increasingly comfortable – Finneran particularly looking calm and assured.
Blues – three goals to the good – were understandably not forcing the pace, but still looked dangerous every time they went forward and in the 80th minute they added a fourth. Carlos picked the ball up deep in his own half and embarked on a trade mark run. Evading a number of challenges, he unleashed a fierce drive that Mason could only push out where it dropped invitingly to Bishop who finished with aplomb, volleying home his second of the afternoon.
Witham had the final say of an entertaining afternoon when first Lewis Payne nodded wide from a rare corner, and in the 90th minute sub Shamido Pedulu squeezed a shot past Johnson to register a consolation goal.
The goal was the only blot on a Blues’ performance, which showcased their undoubted ability and skill. So many times this season they have failed to capitalise and score when on top, but today was a different matter – scoring with four quality strikes to match their superiority.
Next up is a visit to Soham Town Rangers. Boosted by this win and performance, Blues will be looking to come away with three points.
Johnson, Mahal, Folkes (Adebiyi 81), Finneran, Bruce, Muguo (Cogan 51), Oli (Poole 62), Cole,Bishop,Carlos, Wade
Subs not used