Grays Athletic 1 v 4 Heybridge Swifts
Blues succumbed to their second successive heavy home defeat this time against promotion chasing Heybridge Swifts, who cruised to an emphatic win and showed why they have been so successful this season. Well organised and with a game plan carried out to the letter, they did enough to brush aside a Blues side who seemed to have one eye on sunny climes, yes there was a brief moment in the game when Callum Thompson pulled a goal back and you thought they might get something out of the game, but that hope was dispelled when Ade Cole made a hash of his spot kick and from then on the end result was inevitable.
There was little to excite both sets of fans in the opening period, an early Swifts corner proved fruitless. Blues first opening came courtesy of a route one move when Tommy Wade picked up a long ball, playing the ball to Cole who saw his effort blocked. Wade capitalised on a patient and flowing move when he received the ball in the visitors box, but he failed to make make firm contact on the ball allowing Danny Sambridge to save comfortably.
Swifts Joe Gardner caused consternation, when he glanced a header just over after a quick Heybridge break. Gardner was finding space in behind James Folkes and he provided an opportunity for Harrison Chatting saved by Lamar Johnson. At the other end Folkes worked an opening, but fired high and over.
On 32 minutes Swifts edged in front , although the goal was mired in controversy. Winning a corner, the ball was whipped in taking a deflection off Dennis Oli falling to Gardner, Johnson parried his first attempt but Gardner made no mistake from the rebound. However, the goal should not have stood, as the ball was placed a foot outside the D from the initial kick, not picked up by the officials.
The goal failed to rally Blues, they pushed forward, but their build up was slow and ponderous, allowing the well organised Heybridge defence to defend their goal comfortably.
Blues showed more urgency at the start of the second period, good work down the right flank by Ryan Mahal provided an opening for Oli, but he mis-kicked and the chance was lost. The Heybridge defence came under more pressure as Blues searched for an equaliser, but it was Heybridge who were to double their advantage in the 53rd minute. Tambeson Eyong picked up the ball out wide, sending in a cross nodded on by Luke Callender to Juan Luque, he returned the favour sliding the ball to the unmarked Callender who side footed past Johnson.
Despite the goal Blues continued to push forward, Wade thought he had scored, when his header from a Barry Cogan free kick looked bound for the net, but was denied by a fine save from Sambridge. Blues though were rewarded in the 59th minute, when Thompson was on hand to slide home at the far post from a Cogan cross
The goal momentarily lifted Blues and although seeing plenty of the ball their build up lacked pace, with the final ball found wanting. In contrast, the visitors were far more incisive going forward and at times outnumbered Blues in midfield, putting pressure on a beleaguered defence. Johnson had to be alert when he intercepted a dangerous cross from Gardner.
On 79 minutes Blues were thrown a lifeline when Cole, who had weaved his way into the Heybridge box was brought down, although the decision seemed a little harsh. Cole picked himself up and took the kick, but it lacked power and direction, allowing Sambridge to push the ball out to Cole, who saw the keeper save his rebounded effort. Moments later Kieran Bishop had an opportunity, played in by Thompson he failed to hit the target from eight yards.
Swifts showed how it was done, though in the 82nd minute Matt Price was the architect laying the ball wide to Callender, who crossed to the unmarked Gardner, Johnson blocked his effort but Price was on hand to side foot the ball home. Five minutes later and Price was on hand again clipping a Kreshnic Krasnici ball past Johnson to make sure of the points and round off a miserable afternoon for Blues.
It’s now three defeats on the bounce for Blues and a slump in form, with performances that bely the squads undoubted ability. With two difficult games to go, subject to the league decision on the Barking fiasco, they face the possibility of dropping further down the table and a disappointing end to the season.
The result leaves Grays Ath in 15th place on 53 points.
They return to league action on Wednesday away at Romford.
Johnson, Mahal (Gogo-Ibiama 84), Folkes (Halle 90),Finnegan,Bruce, Cogan, Oli (Thompson 56),Cole ,Poole,Bishop, Wade