Bostik Div North
Canvey Island 2 v 0 Grays Athletic
WHO can solve the enigma that is Grays Athletic at present, answers on a postcard! After a sparkling display on Wednesday evening when they came so close to upsetting the odds against high flying Aveley, they followed it up on Saturday against Canvey with a dismal performance that lacked cohesion and passion, playing like a collection of individuals who had met just before kick off. Canvey were by no means at their best – they didn’t have to be because Blues first half performance allowed them the freedom of the park presenting them with two simple goals. A marginal improvement in the second only papered over the cracks. Blues who a few weeks ago were pushing for a play off are now in free fall to mid table mediocrity at best – and yet its the same personnel. Just one win in six since the start of the year tells its own story.
It was evident from the outset this game was never going to be a classic – due to a strong wind blowing down the park and a firm surface making control difficult. Playing with the wind advantage Blues failed to allow for the conditions, tending to overhit their passes whereas their hosts kept the ball low allowing them to build meaningfully.
The opening quarter proved to be a scrappy affair with little to excite the fans – Michael Toner and Joao Carlos had shooting opportunities , one blocked and one sailing over.
All was quiet until the 21st minute when an ugly tackle by Zak Henry resulted in a fracas involving a number of players, it looked to be a red card offence, but luckily for Henry only produced a yellow – shortly after Henry was substituted in favour of Mitch Hahn to save him from further punishment.
Very gradually the Gulls assumed control and could have gone in front when Adam Vyse was released clear of the Blues back line, Clarke Bogard made a decisive stop to keep the scores level. It was to prove a temporary reprieve when in the 31st minute Marlon Agyakwa wriggled past Toner, rode a couple of weak challenges and fired past Bogard from an acute angle.
Blues were now coming under increasing pressure – they were not helping their cause by continuously giving the ball away and failing to compete in the middle of the park. Canvey continued to ask all the questions and just before the break increased their advantage. The goal came about due to a comedy of errors and misunderstanding between Blues defenders resulting in a corner. Josh Hutchinson’s kick should have been cleared, but lack of communication at the back saw the ball go straight in, Bogard making no effort to make a clean catch.
Almost immediately Blues had the opportunity to reduce the arrears, when Bishop found himself one on one with Harry Palmer but shot straight at the keeper who made the block, the miss typified Blues shambolic first forty five minutes.
After the break Blues looked more together and engineered the first shooting opportunity when Bishop forced Palmer into a smart save. The Gulls replied in the shape of Martin Tuohy who broke free and blasted over.
Playing into the wind the ball was holding up for Blues allowing them to put together some cohesive passages of play – another free kick forced Palmer to punch clear under pressure – Adalberto Pinto picked up the loose ball, side stepped a challenge and fired wide of the upright.
Canvey were experiencing the same problems playing with the wind overhitting their passes, but they still enjoyed the lions share of possession – Hutchinson tried his luck with a rasping drive well held by Bogard. At the other end Palmer made a fingertip save from a Tommy Wade bullet header . These were rare moments of excitement in a half that became bogged down in midfield and became increasingly scrappy – Canvey happy to protect their lead and Blues trying to find their rhythm to get back into the game.
The last quarter saw Blues enjoy more possession, Aron Gordon was Blues main outlet keeping Sam Collins busy forcing him on to the back foot – sub Ade Cole unleashed a piledriver from twenty five yards which fizzed just wide. Blues late pressure though was too little too late allowing the Gulls to ride out the closing minutes to collect what for them was a relatively comfortable win and three points.
Bogard, Okonkwo, Finneran , Toner (Thompson 54), Muguo, Gordon, Pinto, Henry (Hahn 24), Bishop (Cole 61), Carlos, Wade.
Subs not used;Cogan, Mahal