Bostik Div North
Felixstowe and Walton United 1 cv 2 Grays Athletic
A HIGH tempo first half followed by a gritty and determined second saw Blues record their second win of the season over Felixstowe & Walton. Joao Carlos got Blues off to a perfect start scoring inside the first two minutes, Kieran Bishop doubling Blues advantage after twenty three minutes. Felixstowe found it difficult to cope with the pace of Blues front runners and but for some last ditch defending the scoreline could have seen Blues further ahead by half time.
Spectators had barely settled in their seats when Blues opened the scoring, there seemed little danger when a speculative ball deep into the Felixstowe half led to a breakdown in communications in the hosts back line, the ball ran loose and Carlos seizing the opportunity raced into the box and drilled the ball past Jack Spurling to give Blues the perfect start in the second minute.
The goal clearly unsettled the hosts allowing Blues to confidently take the game to Felixstowe. Carlos, Bishop, and Aron Gordon used their blistering pace to unsettle a panicked home defence ably supported by the physical presence of Tommy Wade who linked the play adding brawn to the Blues strike force. The lively Gordon created an opening, skipping forward past his marker cutting inside and firing just over, Mitchel Hahn then tested Spurling from distance forcing the keeper into a smart save.
In a rare Felixstowe raid they won a free kick swung into the Blues box, Clarke Bogard failed to hold the ball presenting Rhys Henry with a golden opportunity, but he spurned the chance snatching at the ball and failing to hit the target. The hosts approach work looked attractive but broke down in the final third rarely causing Blues problems.
Blues rapier counterattacks continued to cause havoc, so it was no surprise when they went further ahead in the 23rd minute. Gordon once again used his pace to get behind his marker sending in a cross which was only half cleared, Bishop lurking inside the box capitalised slamming the ball past Spurling for his second goal in as many games.
Shell shocked Felixstowe committed another defensive error allowing Gordon to cut the ball back to Hahn , taking aim he unleashed a crisp drive from the edge of the box whistling just over. Blues with a combative central midfield held sway, Felixstowe probed without success except for one moment when a free kick was met by the head of Jack Ainsley, it looked bound for the back of the net but a Blues boot stretched out to clear the danger.
After a lacklustre first half Felixstowe were showing more spark, inside the first minute a ball to the far post just eluded Ainsley but just a minute later Blues lead was reduced. From a corner Mike Powell was allowed a free header and he made no mistake from three yards.
Blues countered quickly when Wade created space letting fly, Spurling came to his sides rescue with a plunging save.
The hosts continued to push forward putting pressure on the Blues defence well marshalled by Stanley Muguo playing in an unfamiliar role at the back, Blues line held firm unlike in previous weeks when after conceding a goal their shape and composure deserted them. Michael Finneran impressed winning a number of vital headers .
With much at stake the game became increasingly frenetic with frequent stoppages disrupting the flow of play not helped by some questionable decisions by the match officials.
Weathering the storm Blues came back into the game, Hahn came close when his free kick curled agonisingly wide of the upright with Spurling beaten. From a corner Michael Toner nodded just wide. Charlie Allen replaced Wade who had worked tirelessly up front, he quickly showed his experience shielding the ball well and playing some astute passes to keep Blues ticking over. He released Bishop with an inch perfect pass the striker would have been disappointed when one on one with the advancing Spurling he failed to hit the target.
At the other end the ever reliable Ryan Mahal broke up a dangerous Felixstowe raid with a last ditch tackle to clear the danger, Blues goal then had a lucky escape moments later when a free kick saw Joe Francis nod wide when well placed.
In the closing minutes Blues were denied a third goal when Bishop prodded the ball past Spurling ,the ball was clearly a foot over the line when it was hacked away but with neither the referee nor his assistant up with play to give a decision the game continued. Felixstowe launched a final effort in search of an equaliser but Blues held firm to claim the points.
With just one defeat in the last eight in the league Blues are at last showing the consistency required to sustain a challenge for promotion, this game was always going to be a difficult test but they passed with flying colours showing resilience and enterprise building confidence that can be taken into future games .
Bogard, Mahal, Muguo, Finneran ,Toner, Hahn, Pinto, Gordon (Okonkwo 90), Carlos, Bishop, Wade (Allen 12)
Subs not used:
Anderson, Cogan, Cole,