Football: Last minute agony for Grays Athletic

Isthmian North

Canvey Island 2 v 1 Grays Athletic

A 92nd minute goal decided this closely fought local derby writes The Mariner

CANVEY are making a habit of coming from behind to win matches this season when they recovered from a Joao Carlos goal to go on and claim the points courtesy of a Toby Joseph late header. The game itself was a tight affair between two evenly matched teams who cancelled each other out, but in the end the Gulls emerged victorious when a draw looked the likely outcome.

The opening twenty minutes was a cagey affair neither side able to gain the upper hand, although Canvey’s Josh Hutchinson was exploiting space out wide getting beyond the Blues back line producing a number of testing crosses which failed to produce an end result. Danny Sambridge was the first keeper called into action when he comfortably collected a deep free kick into the box.

Manny Ogunrinde caused consternation for the home fans when his driven cross was collected at the second attempt by ex Blue Lamar Johnson. The Blues youngster was coming in for some rough treatment from Gulls Alex Stephenson on a number of occasions, which went unpunished by the officials much to Manager Jim Cooper’s frustration.

It was clear as the half progressed the game was becoming a war of attrition – Canvey playing a more direct style in comparison to Blues passing game not helped by a difficult playing surface. Neither side were able to create a clear opening in front of goal – that was until Blues gave the ball away carelessly on half way, George Purcell pounced on the loose ball – driving forward he unleashed a fierce effort that looked bound for the back of the net but Sambridge came to the rescue with a brilliant one handed save. He was in action shortly after when Joseph burst clear, but with the help of Jack McQueen the threat was snuffed out.

With the clock ticking down to half time Blues won a corner on the right – the ball was played short to Ogunrinde, his cross was played out finding Nathan Fox on the edge of the box who rushed his shot the ball flying high and wide.

HT 0-0

Tony Stokes provided Blues first opportunity of the second period when he closed down Michael Finneran – dispossessing the defender on the edge of the box Stokes pounced and sent an effort inches wide of the far post with Johnson beaten.

Early pressure at this stage from Blues produced a corner cleared out by the hosts – the ball was played up to the unmarked George Purcell, racing forward he pulled the trigger, but the aim was wayward sailing harmlessly wide of the Blues goal.

Increasingly Blues pacemen were enjoying success unsettling the home defenders, but the game was still finely balanced with flowing end to end action – it was increasingly a case of who would blink first to make the vital breakthrough and in the 68th minute Blues finally broke the deadlock.

Stokes was the architect of Blues opening goal, with a deft flick on to Carlos, powering into the box he toe poked the ball past Johnson. Shortly after Stokes came close to increasing Blues advantage when he forced Johnson into a diving save turning the ball behind for a corner.

The goal set up a hectic final twenty minutes, Canvey stung at going a goal behind sprung into action pressing for the equaliser, but Blues remained disciplined and dogged – the rearguard standing firm marshalled by Steve King. Increasingly the pressure built and in the 77th minute Canvey were on level terms, Sub Jason Hallet, who has made a habit of scoring against Grays was the recipient of a deflected effort, the ball fell kindly to him turning quickly he slotted past Sambridge. It was Sambridge shortly after who prevented a certain second Canvey goal with a brilliant instinctive stop late in the game.

Blues raids were now becoming more spasmodic, sub Mitch Hahn forced a corner causing panic in the hosts area, the ball eventually scrambled away .

With the game moving into injury time it looked like the spoils would be shared, but a Canvey corner was to decide the outcome -the ball was slung over where it found the head of the unmarked Joseph just three yards out, who made no mistake to steal the points much to the delight of the home fans and anguish of Blues fans.

Sambridge, Fox, Joynes, King, McQueen, Miller, Muguo, Dark, Carlos ( Taylor 88),Ogunrinde (Hahn 88), Stokes

subs not used: Bartley Hession – Harris

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