Bostik Division North
Grays Athletic 1 v 1 Canvey Island
CANVEY keeper Harry Palmer produced a MOM performance to frustrate Grays in Saturday’s Bostik North clash.
There was to be no repeat of the nine-goal thriller fought out between these two sides at Parkside last season, but it was nevertheless an entertaining local derby, with plenty of good football for both sets of supporters to enjoy. Canvey custodian Harry Palmer kept the visitors in the game – particularly in the first half – with a series of important saves and if Blues had been a shade more clinical, the scoreline could have seen them register their second win of the season.
Manager Jamie Stuart made only one change to the starting line up with newly signed ex-Tilbury keeper Clarke Bogard replacing the unavailable Lloyd Anderson.
Blues were fast and committed out of the block enjoying the lions’ share of the early exchanges. Ade Cole tested Palmer with a free kick – the keeper claiming comfortably. Blues had an early shout for a penalty when Geofrey Okonkwo appeared to be bundled to the ground following a corner, but Mr Cruise (not Tom) was not interested.
The visitors’ back line was unsettled by the pace of Blues’ flank men with Aron Gordon and Usman Adeniji prominent in the early stages. The rangy Shomari Barnwell proved an ideal target man with some deft touches and provided Blues’ first real opportunity when he held the ball up. feeding Gordon, who channelled a perfectly-weighted pass to Stan Muguo who unleashed a drive, testing Palmer.
Blues confidently took the game to Canvey enjoying plenty of possession. Mitchel Hahn was making a telling contribution with a series of astute passes, switching the focus of play at every opportunity. It was Gordon who provided Cole with an opening when a delicate lob saw the diminutive midfielder beaten to the ball by the alert Palmer.
The visitors rarely troubled the Blues’ goal, but could have stolen the lead when a corner to the far post found Marlon Agyakwa, who should have done better, firing into the side netting. Mitchel Gilbey then caused a stir when he tried his luck from distance, but his effort sailed over.
Barnwell came close to opening Blues’ account when he scampered past the Canvey back line and fired a low shot, which Palmer did well to beat away. Gordon had a similar opportunity but was once again denied by a Palmer block, the ball falling to Usman Adeniji who pounced on the rebound, but his strike was blocked again by Palmer.
Blues created a number of other opportunities which were spurned, leaving the feeling that these lost chances could cost them dear, but in the 36th minute they managed to break the deadlock.
Mitchel Hahn funnelled a ball into Barnwell who did well to hold the ball up, laying the ball back to Hahn who finished outstandingly, crashing the ball into the top corner from 25 yards past the watching Palmer.
The goal was no more than Blues deserved, having bossed proceedings playing with energy and vision. Perry Dunn came close when his header drifted wide. At the other end it was Gilbey who had a half-chance, but he saw Clarke Bogard save comfortably.
Not surprisingly, the visitors looked a more determined outfit after the restart, pushing Blues back and denying them the space they had enjoyed in the first period. Their endeavours reaped a reward in the 52nd minute when Blues’ sloppy defending resulted in a corner. From the kick, Frankie Merryfield rose unchallenged to power a header past Bogard. The goal clearly lifted the Gulls and for a time they enjoyed a good deal of possession, but without testing Bogard.
Blues thought they had doubled their lead when Gordon touched the ball home, but unfortunately, he had strayed into an offside position. Jose Figura then wasted an opportunity for the visitors when he found himself in a good position, but he snatched at his shot and screwed the ball wide of the upright. Shortly afterwards, Jordan Cox set up Agyakwa whose shot on the turn was blocked.
Having weathered the Canvey pressure Blues began to see more of the ball. An Adeyinka Cole shot was deflected and then Geofrey Okonkwo headed into Palmer’s hands. The ever-willing Barnwell produced a telling run, outstripping his marker sending in a low drive that drifted agonisingly wide of the far post. Barnwell was denied minutes later after being fed by Hahn, but once again Palmer made a smart stop. Barnwell figured again when he played the ball to Adeniji, his shot lacked accuracy but almost fell to Cole whose outstretched toe just failed to make contact – another opportunity lost.
Canvey defender Alex Stephenson suffered what looked a nasty shoulder injury. Figura had to withdraw through injury and having used their three substitutes Canvey were left down to ten men for the closing minutes. The visitors still probed and Gilbey had an opportunity, but his effort steered wide of the post, a brilliant last-minute tackle from Ryan Mahal denied George Sykes as he closed in on goal.
In the closing minutes, Blues thought they had secured the three points when Muguo did well to win the ball, quickly squeezing the ball to Barnwell who struck the ball first time only to see it shave the upright and out of play. Sub Joao Carlos had the final opening of the afternoon
striking the ball from 25 yards straight at Palmer.
Four points from two games is an encouraging start to the season for Blues. It could so easily have been two wins in two but for the Canvey keeper and some spurned chances, but the early signs bode well.