Bostik Div North
Barking 2 v 1 Grays Athletic
Mayesbrook Park is not a happy hunting ground recently for Blues and so it proved again when they succumbed to their second consecutive defeat to a spirited Barking who made the most of the few chances that came their way and then defended like their lives depended on it to protect their lead. Blues could point to the loss of midfielders Charlie Allen and Ade Cole both succumbing to injury, but even after their departure they enjoyed sufficient possession and pressure to have won the game comfortably – that they didn’t was down to a combination of poor delivery from the numerous corners and free kicks won, and lack of a clinical approach in front of goal. Blues performance was similar to earlier in the season when they dominated games but failed to convert opportunities. It’s also concerning that they have failed to keep a clean sheet in the league since the win at Brentwood back in September, however, despite the defeat Blues still sit just below the play off places as they go into the Xmas and New Year period.
The result could have been so different had Kieran Bishop converted a chance inside the first five minutes when he broke clear with only Tim Brown to beat, but the keeper made a great block. The first of many corners saw Stan Muguo hook over and at the other end Jack Edwards tested Lloyd Anderson from distance.
It was in these early stages that Allen pulled up with what looked like a hamstring tweak – he appeared to have run it off but seemed tentative, failing to put his usual stamp on proceedings, weakening Blues control in midfield.
Blues enjoyed plenty of possession at this stage, but they had to guard against their hosts rapid breaks – the warning signs were there though – when Barking got behind Blues back line on a couple of occasions and only wayward finishing kept the scores level. By now Barking looked the hungrier team – Blues in contrast looks lethargic – the midfield disjointed, which led to Barking breaking the deadlock. A misunderstanding on half way saw Barking seize the initiative, the ball was fed wide eventually finding Darelle Russell, who danced past a static defence to plant the ball firmly past Anderson in the 22nd minute.
Shortly after the goal Blues were dealt a further blow when Ade Cole suffered what at first looked a nasty injury following a heavy tackle, which could have been avoided had the referee picked up a Barking handball moments earlier – Aron Gordon replaced the stricken Cole.
Blues rallied forcing a number of corners, only one of which proved fruitful when Tommy Wade thought he had equalised only to see Brown make a brilliant save from the strikers close range shot. Barking had the last opportunity testing Anderson from a free kick as the half came a close.
Blues reshuffled the pack after the break, Allen was replaced by Geofrey Okonkwo slotting into the back four allowing Muguo to push into midfield. The change seemed to work, Blues looked more urgent and aggressive, an early frantic goalmouth scramble could have resulted in a goal, Brown gratefully holding on to the ball.
Pressure was now building on the home goal – Joao Carlos was thwarted by Brown – Michael Toner nodded wide from a corner. Blues were winning a succession of free kicks and corners but the delivery lacked precision allowing Barking to scramble the ball away.
It was one way traffic as Blues laid siege to the home goal, without creating clear cut openings, Barking were working hard to stem the tide just happy to hack the ball away to keep their goal intact, rarely venturing into the Blues half.
As so often happens when a team is on top they get hit with a sucker punch and Blue suffered that fate in the 65th minute. The lack of accuracy in Blues dead ball delivery was to cost them when another corner was overhit. The ball was picked up by left back Jordan Peat who raced forward at pace reminiscent of Usain Bolt – with Blues pushed forward he took the ball to the byeline sending in a low cross where it was met by the onrushing Ola Ogunwamide who easily beat Anderson.
The goal left Blues with a mountain to climb but they stuck to their task – good work by Gordon set up Carlos with a golden opportunity, but Blues leading marksman fluffed his lines blazing the ball over from close range. The pressure on the home goal finally told in the 73rd minute – for once a cross into the box found the head of Bishop, who made contact with the faintest of touches glancing the ball past Brown.
Blues went for broke in the final few minutes when Ryan Mahal was replaced by Dennis Oli allowing them to revert to a back three – corners and free kicks continued to rain in but failed to create an opening and so it was left to Barking who had the final chance of the game when a rare break saw them fire over.
Anderson, Mahal (Oli 77), Finneran, Muguo, Toner, Allen (Okonkwo 45), Cole (Gordon 31) Hahn, Carlos, Bishop, Wade.
Subs not used:Thompson, Cogan
The result leaves Grays Ath in sixth place, four points off the play off berths.
They return to league action on Saturday at home against Basildon United.
Full report to follow.