Bostik Div North
Grays Ath 0 v 1 Heybridge Swifts
By The Mariner
A RYAN Mahal own goal was all that separated Grays and Heybridge in this less than inspiring Essex derby, goal chances were few and far between on an afternoon that promised much but failed to deliver.
There was nothing to excite either set of supporters apart from the controversial dismissal of Blues Adalberto Pinto on the stroke of half time – his cause was not helped by the histrionics of Ode Martin-Sorondo who spent much of the game dropping to the ground at the slightest touch and the intervention of Swifts players surrounding the official and demanding a red card. Keepers Lloyd Anderson and Chris Haigh were rarely troubled over the 90 minutes such was the paucity of shots on target and goal mouth action.
Frequent stoppages punctuated the opening period, the only action of note came when Haigh flapped at a Blues corner, at the other end Harrison Chatting tried his luck from distance, but his radar was off target firing high and wide, Martin- Sorondo created an opening with a testing through ball that just evaded Matt Price. For Blues a Mitchell Hahn free kick looked destined for the back of the net until it was deflected behind.
On 26 minutes Heybridge went in front with a goal that typified the afternoon, a Pinto underhit pass left Michael Toner exposed, seizing on the error Swifts played the ball into the danger area where Mahal in attempting to clear pushed the ball past the advancing Anderson.
Blues came so close to reducing the arrears when Joao Carlos on his 350th appearance set out on a typical run that took him into the opposition box – unleashing a venomous drive that cannoned off the post and away to safety . Swifts quickly replied when Anderson was forced into an unorthodox save to deny the visitors a second.
That was it as far as goal opportunities or excitement was concerned as the half became littered with niggly fouls, stoppages for injuries, which disrupted the flow of the game.
Just before half time came the Pinto red card – going into a robust but appeared fair challenge with Martin – Sorondo, who dropped to the floor writhing in agony, the official waved play on and then bizarrely stopped the play to allow the Physio to tend to the Swifts man, after being surrounded by players he consulted with his assistant and branded a red card. The decision incensed Blues and led to an unsightly few minutes thankfully brought to a halt by the half time whistle.
Blues made a change at half time bringing on Kieran Bishop for Aron Gordon adding pace to the front line, despite the one man deficit Blues came out strongly forcing a corner which Haigh failed to deal with effectively, Tommy Wade came close nodding over from a Stan Muguo cross.
It appeared Heybridge were happy to hold on to what they had and contain Blues, playing possession football to stretch their hosts, Chatting and Price used their pace to good effect, in midfield they disrupted the flow of Blues game and once again their Physio was kept busy treating numerous injuries.
Chances were at a premium, the game bogged down in midfield became a war of attrition, petty fouls blighting momentum – Heybridge were just doing enough to keep their noses in front. Blues reshuffled the pack, Mahal made way for Barry Cogan, Geofrey Okonkwo replacing Charlie Allen, Muguo moved into midfield but the change seemed to unbalance Blues allowing Heybridge to capitalise on their one man advantage.
A late Blues flurry saw Hahn blast over – Bishop did well to wriggle free getting in a shot which beat Haigh but not the upright- that was to be Blues last chance leaving Heybridge to run down the clock and claim victory and leap frog Blues in the table.
The game failed to live up to the hype, certainly the dismissal of Pinto (not for the first time this season) had a marked influence on the outcome, Blues with a full compliment may well have got something from the game but in the end it was not to be. Not taking anything away from Heybridge they look a good side its just a pity they resorted to some questionable tactics.
Anderson, Mahal (Cogan 67), Toner, Finneran, Muguo, Allen(Okonkwo 74), Hahn, Pinto, Gordon(Bishop 45), Wade, Carlos,