Soham Town Rangers 0 v 0 Grays Athletic
It’s a cliche often used in football that, had this been a boxing match the referee would have stopped the fight. It certainly applied to Blues afternoon in the fens where they laid siege to the home goal for much of this encounter. Soham kept their goal intact with some desperate defending, clearing off the line on a number of occasions with keeper Josh Pope making a series of point blank saves. The first half in particular was one way traffic, but Blues momentum was often disrupted by their opponents agricultural approach, so much so that Physio Peter Josling was kept busier than Lamar Johnson! Ade Cole came in for some harsh treatment and finished the game with a bloody and gashed ankle. Mention must also be made of the poor display by the officials, who frustrated players and fans of both sides with some baffling decisions . Manager Jamie Stuart was incensed by the lack of protection afforded to his charges and protested so vehemently that he was sent from the touchline.
It was clear from the outset, that any hope of Blues employing their passing game was out of the question on a playing surface that would not have looked out of place in a public park.
Blues were fast and committed out of the blocks, the opening minutes saw good work out wide by James Folkes present an opportunity for Kieran Bishop, who drew the first of many saves from Pope.
Playing with the wind behind them, Blues controlled proceedings.Stan Muguo was prominent in the early stages, winning a number of 50/50 challenges and pushing Blues forward. A succession of corners were won by Blues constant pressure. Richard Hall , restored to the side, came close to opening the scoring when he planted a firm unchallenged header against the bar and over from a Cole corner. Another sortie saw Cole test Pope.
Cole and Joao Carlos were victims of a number of crude tackles at this stage, which failed to bring a card. Soham defenders were working overtime to stem the constant Blues pressure, Halle went close again from another corner – Pope saving well. Bishop was denied again by the busy keeper .
Soham offered very little going forward, Johnson was a virtual spectator, but the rare occasion the hosts managed to spring forward, the Blues back line dealt efficiently with the threat, with Michael Finneran again looking assured at the heart of the defence.
The corner and free kick tally in Blues favour continued to mount, as did the pressure. Shots were blocked, hacked off the line or saved by Pope and still Blues failed to make a breakthrough. One raid illustrated the poor standard of officiating, when a Soham defender rose highest in the box unchallenged and nodded the ball behind for a clear corner, players retreated for the expected kick but linesman and referee signalled a goal kick, much to the disbelief and then laughter of players and fans alike!!
Blues last opportunity of the half fell to Halle, who saw his effort saved by Pope.
On the resumption Soham at last showed something going forward and exerted some early pressure, Johnson was called into action commanding his box taking a deep cross to clear the danger. It wasn’t long though before normal service was resumed,when Blues forced a corner, from which Halle saw his header hacked off the line and Bishop pouncing on the rebound seeing his shot blocked on the line.
Soham continued with their spoiling tactics, once again disrupting Blues rhythm, free kick followed free kick, shots continued to rain in, but Joe Carden caused a stir with a quick break, bringing a smart save from Johnson. Soham forced a rare corner, which Johnson claimed comfortably.
James Folkes was next to join the assault on the home goal when he was given the freedom of the left flank weaving his way into the box but his effort lacked venom allowing Pope to make an easy save. At the other end a cross to the far post was cleared out to Carden, who turned quickly forcing Johnson into a smart save.
Still all the action continued around the home goal, sub Glen Poole swung over a corner, which somehow squeezed along the line where Finneran lurking at the far post touched over. There then followed an unsavoury melee, where a home defender appeared to stamp on a Blues player, the end result once again bafflingly, resulted in no booking for the initial stamp, much to the anger of Stuart. Shortly after, another poor challenge went unpunished, further exasperating the Blues manager, who protested once too often and was dismissed from the bench.
Blues refused to be intimidated and continued to search for a breakthrough, a great run and cross from Tommy Wade saw the ball half cleared to Poole, who blasted over. Moments later, a Bishop break saw the Blues leading scorer send a screamer past the far post . With just minutes remaining Blues launched one final assault, when Finneran played a ball to the far post, where Wade drilled a shot deflected for yet another corner.
The final whistle brought to an end a frustrating 90 minutes for Blues, who had been the better side throughout, looking a more incisive outfit. On another day they could have run out comfortable winners, but their cause was not helped by a weak official, who offered them little protection throughout the game.
Bury Town are the visitors to Parkside next Saturday in another mid table clash .
Johnson, Mahal, Folkes,Finneran, Muguo, Halle ,Oli (Poole71),Cole, Bishop, Carlos, Wade,
Subs not used, Adebiye, Bruce, Cogan, Simmonds