Heybridge Swifts 1 v 2 Grays Athletic
Blues frustrate Heybridge writes The Mariner
Swifts will probably be happy they won’t be meeting Grays again until January after Blues followed up last weeks FA Cup win with a performance full of steel and character, executing manager Jim Cooper’s game plan almost to perfection to claim the three points. Mitch Hahn came up with another contender for goal of the season with a tremendous 35 yard strike to put Blues in front just before the break – Joao Carlos adding Blues second soon after the restart. A solid performance from keeper Danny Sambridge – resolute defending when needed, protected by a resilient and creative midfield and a pacy strike force all combined to produce the perfect away performance. Swifts will point to their territorial hegemony, but games are won on chances converted into goals which Blues did with clinical efficiency. These are early days but Blues are beginning to gel and looking a competent and competitive outfit.
A roller coaster opening 15 minutes saw chances for both teams, Swifts edging the corner count early on, Blues first opportunity fell to Steve King when he nodded wide from a Joynes cross following a short corner. Sambridge was the first keeper called into action early on to deny an Elliot Ronto effort at the expense of a corner.
Swifts were making the running, but came up against an organised Blues rearguard and Sambridge in inspired form making another difficult save from a dipping shot from Harrison Chatting. Long balls in behind the Blues back line created openings, but failed to breach the Blues dam. Chatting had another opportunity, set free with only Sambridge to beat, Blues keeper winning the duel with a point blank save .
Early pressure weathered Blues countered well – Hahn showed his armoury of passes, prompting and probing, aided and abetted by Lewis Dark quietly going about his business . Carlos engineered an opening for Tony Stokes, with a deft touch just eluding Blues leading marksman. Stokes returned the favour setting up Carlos who rifled a shot whistling over.
Jack Adlington – Pile should have broken the deadlock when he was left unmarked at the far post, putting his header the wrong side of the upright. It proved a costly miss when in the 43rd minute a long punt forward from Sambridge was nodded clear by Toby Corlett – Hahn pounced on the loose ball 35 yards from goal shifted it onto his right foot and converted flawlessly unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner past the outstretched arms of Luca Collins.
Last week the thought in fans minds at half time would have been the next goal being crucial to the outcome of the game – Blues then struck that important goal. Four minutes into the half they did the same, when great interplay between Stokes and Carlos set up the Portuguese ace touching the ball past the advancing Collins. Swifts looked unsettled by the early strike and could have gone further behind when Ogunrinde was set free with only Collins to beat, but the keeper did well to deny him with his body. Hahn was foiled by the woodwork when his free kick beat Collins rebounding to safety.
Frustrated by their failure to break down Blues resistance Swifts resorted to some questionable challenges in an effort to wrestle the initiative. Blues held firm sticking to their game plan, squeezing the play forcing their hosts to play across the park . Sensing time was moving on Swifts increased the tempo finding a degree of success down Blues right flank . On 62 minutes they finally made a breakthrough, Carlos gave the ball away carelessly inside Blues half, played wide a low cross into the box saw the unmarked Chatting improvise a clever flick past Sambridge.
In the past that goal would see Blues surrender the lead, but this is a more resilient team – they hung on when things got tricky determined to protect their slender advantage. Responding well under pressure they still looked dangerous on the counter – Stokes came into his own with clever link up play. Ogunrinde forced Collins into a diving save, the ball falling invitingly to Hahn who saw his deflected shot strike the woodwork again.
Swifts made a final push to get on level terms, crucially winning the second ball. Cooper, sensing this strengthened the midfield bringing on Stan Muguo at the expense of Carlos in an effort to blunt Swifts control – Nathan Fox replaced King, the substitutions adding to Blues resolve determined to retain their advantage.
Swifts frustration mounted – Blues defiance remained strong, holding on deep into injury time to register a hard working and well deserved win.
Sambridge, McQueen, Joynes, Miller, Bartley, King (Fox 83), Ogunrinde M, ( Ogunrinde T 82) Hahn, Dark, Carlos (Muguo 72), Stokes
Subs not used: Aebiye, Hession – Harris
Sat 31, Aug 2019