Football: Late show by Stokes fires Grays Athletic

Isthmian North

Grays Athletic 3 v 1 Basildon United

Tony Stokes came up with the goods again to inspire Blues to a second win in three days and claim the points against a spirited Basildon United. The Bees caused a stir going in front with just six minutes on the clock, however Blues responded well with an equaliser from Steve King, and a wonder strike from Stokes late in the game was the deciding factor in a match that never hit the heights played out under a blazing sun . Blues could point to some poor refereeing decisions – denied what looked two clear cut penalties in the first half, but then bizarrely awarded what looked a soft penalty in injury time. Blues made changes to the starting eleven – Joao Carlos and Manny Ogunrinde dropping to the bench with Jack McQueen joining them – that was until Nathan Fox picked up an injury in the warm up with McQueen deputising.

Tim Ogunrinde caused a flurry of excitement early on with a low cross pushed out for a throw by keeper Louis Hawes – Mitch Hahn’s trademark long throw was nodded over by Stokes.

Basildon quickly replied winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Thomas Anderson seeing his shot grabbed gratefully by Danny Sambridge – the keeper was quickly in action again making a plunging save to turn an Ernest Okoh effort behind. Okoh looked lively early on testing Macauley Joynes with his pacy runs.

Blues shaky start contributed to the visitors taking the lead when Harry Doyle nodded past Sambridge in the 6th minute, the second time they have conceded early in a game – something which Jim Cooper will no doubt be looking to address.

Settling into the game Blues established a degree of control, although the quality of ball into the front three especially to Callum Taylor lacked precision – Stokes dropped deeper to pick up the ball to try and link the play, Ogunrinde looked lively but was let down by his final ball. Stokes had a great shout when he was brought down , but nothing was given.

Bees were frustrating their hosts, but on 16 minutes Blues drew level from a corner, when Steve King powered a header unchallenged into the top corner. Hahn came so close to increasing the lead when his pile driver free kick rattled the woodwork with Hawes beaten.

The heat was clearly affecting both teams causing the pace to drop – Blues though enjoyed the lions share of possession without creating a clear opening – Basildon were relying on quick breaks – Okoh caused a stir when he picked up the ball after Connor Martin failed to control it, racing goal wards he was denied again by Sambridge with his legs.

Blues continued to press, Taylor looked to have his ankles tapped in the box, but again the referee turned down Blues vociferous appeals. Bees were putting up stubborn resistance . In a quick counterattack Ayomikun Odokuyu turned King sending in a low cross which only needed a touch, but failed to find an opponent.

HT 1-1

Stokes had a golden opportunity to put Blues in front just after the break when great work from Joynes and Ogunrinde saw the usually deadly finisher put the ball over from four yards.

A nondescript twenty minute period was brightened by Ogunrinde – springing on to a pass he sent in an angled volley beating Hawes, but not the inside of the far post – the ball rebounding and scrambled to safety. The heat now seemed to sap the energy of the Bees allowing Blues to control the midfield pushing them back, but a goal opportunity failed to present itself despite the pressure.

Cooper decided to make changes bringing on Carlos and Manny Ogunrinde at the expense of Taylor and Tim Ogunrinde – the move added spark – Carlos looked lively and Ogunrinde once again won a number of free kicks, but again Blues failed to create an opening from them

Basildon although coming under pressure threatened once again on the break, through Okoh teasing Joynes and flashing a dangerous ball across the Blues six yard box, but again no one was on hand to take advantage. A Bees free kick on the edge of the box lacked power, hit straight at Sambridge who gathered with ease.

Increasingly it looked like the game was heading for a stalemate but Stokes had other ideas – in the 85th minute the ball was cleared away – there seemed little danger, but picking up the ball outside the box he made space and rifled a fierce drive into the bottom corner to put Blues in front.

Bees looked deflated and deep into injury time Blues made sure of the points when Ogunrinde was brought down in the box, the referee pointing to the spot – although it looked a soft penalty at the time, but having been denied twice in the first period justice was done. Stokes stepped up and dispatched the spot kick.

Although not at their fluent best Blues still did enough to justify the win despite the changes, showing a pleasing strength in depth in the squad.

Sambridge,McQueen, Joynes, Miller, King, Martin ( Bartley 70), Ogunrinde T (Carlos 62), Hahn, Dark, Stokes, Taylor (Ogunrinde M 62)

Subs not used:Doyle, Hession Harris

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