Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Football: Second half disaster for Grays Athletic

FA Trophy Preliminary Round

Grays Athletic 2 v 4 Sevenoaks Town

By David Seaman

THE Blues have a proud record in the FA Trophy but an abject second half capitulation saw them crash out in the preliminary round to Sevenoaks Town after leading 2-0 at half time. Two stunning strikes from the in form Joao Carlos was not enough to ensure victory, Sevenoaks were gifted all four goals in the second period with defending that would have embarrassed a schoolboy team. Blues played like a collection of individuals lacking the commitment and drive and game management, unlike their opponents who came out in the second with real purpose. The warning signs were there though in the first period when Oaks were able to turn the Blues back line with ease creating openings.

Sevenoaks made a positive start moving the ball with real purpose but it was Blues who made the early breakthrough in the 6th minute when Carlos saw his stunning free kick flash past Ben Bridle-Card into the top corner . Carlos was quickly in action again when Callum Thompson played the ball into his path unleashing a venomous drive just over. Michael Finneran came close with a header that dropped under the bar and was cleared.

Blues pressure told in the 15th minute when Barry Cogan found Carlos in space taking a touch he lashed the ball past Bridle-Card , another quality strike. The visitors immediately had a chance to reduce the arrears when Frankie Sawyer fired over from the edge of the box.

Two goals down Sevenoaks belatedly stirred and only a last ditch tackle by Thompson prevented William Johnson-Cole reducing the arrears. Mitchel Hahn replied at the other end with an effort that whistled just over.

The visitors continued to look menacing on the break turning a square Blues back line with alarming regularity and winning a succession of corners. Bridle-Card was allowed too much space out wide and produced a searching low cross that just evaded Kenny Pogue.

The long throws of Hahn aided by a strong wind caused the Oaks back line problems and nearly led to a third goal when Dennis Oli saw his effort hit the upright and scrambled clear.

Shortly before the break Sevenoaks should have reduced the arrears. Lloyd Anderson came off his line to gather a ball into the box but failed to gather cleanly the ball fell invitingly to Johnson-Cardle who missed a golden opportunity with an unguarded goal putting the ball wide.

HT 2-0

Carlos came close to his hat trick inside the first minute of the half when a thunderous drive fizzed over the crossbar unfortunately that was as good as it was going to get for Blues in the half failing to trouble Bridle-Card from that moment on, unlike their opponents who roused themselves and set about reducing the arrears.

A slick passage of play saw Oaks cut through Blues midfield presenting an opportunity for the lively Osman Proni who just failed to hit the target, the visitors pushed forward using the wind advantage putting Blues under pressure which eventually told in the 55th minute.A series of feeble challenges allowed Frankie Sawyer to blast the ball past the exposed Anderson.

The goal had a stupefying effect on Blues who lost their shape and cohesion allowing Sevenoaks to pile on the pressure, apart from a Carlos effort that flew wide it was the visitors who dominated possession and territory, Blues play became increasingly disjointed passes went astray tackles were missed leaving them hanging on to protect their lead.

The pressure on the Blues goal finally told in the 72nd minute with a goal that came from a Blues corner. The ball was cleared out to Barry Cogan who failed to control the ball cleanly allowing Oaks to break, a series of poor challenges saw the ball fed to an unmarked Alec Fiddes who had a simple task to beat Anderson. Two minutes later and Oaks went in front with another goal poorly defended. Michael Toner misdirected a pass leaving Frankie Sawyer in space to beat the unfortunate Anderson who not for the first time was left cruelly exposed.

Blues heads dropped their play becoming increasingly ragged and it was no surprise when Sevenoaks put the final nail in Blues coffin in the 90th minute when Frankie Sawyer scored a fourth and completed his hat trick to complete Blues miserable afternoon and an ignominious defeat.

The defeat and the manner of it was symptomatic of Blues season so far where they have built up leads and then due to poor game management have failed to defend their lead. With just the Essex Senior Cup remaining to compete in Blues must now concentrate on their league campaign and push for the playoffs, only if they can resolve their tactical problems.

Anderson, Okonkwo, Finneran, Toner, Thompson, Muguo, Oli (Mignot 82), Cogan (Curtis75), Barnwell (Gordon 59),Hahn, Carlos.

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