Great Wakering Rivers 3 v 1 Grays Athletic
IT was a bad day at the office for Blues at Burroughs Park, going down with a whimper to a physical and determined Great Wakering outfit, who capitalised on the few opportunities they created. It could have been a much different story had George Purcell and Joao Carlos not wasted one on one chances failing to beat Rovers keeper Bobby Mason who kept his team in the game early on. Rovers had a clear game plan to pressure and hit long balls behind Blues wingbacks and it worked. Yes they were physical, committing a series of cynical fouls disrupting Blues rhythm targeting Purcell and Carlos in particular, but Blues failed to show the same commitment and fighting spirit throughout the ninety minutes easily knocked off the ball after a promising start.
There was no hint of what was to follow after Blues made a bright start bossing the opening period looking menacing going forward – Purcell and Carlos were working well together feeding off each other. Carlos had a golden opportunity to put Blues in front early on after a clever through ball by Purcell, bearing down on the home goal his finish was weak straight into the arms of Mason. Coming under pressure Rovers were resorting to some questionable challenges in an effort to stem the tide picking up a number of bookings.
Rovers continued to frustrate their visitors and grew into the game – Adalberto Pinto orchestrated proceedings dropping deep to make crucial tackles and set play in motion. Alarm bells rang for Blues with long balls beyond Jack McQueen and Macauley Joynes, catching them in no mans land on a number of occasions with Jake Gordon and Alfie Hinton taking advantage out wide. Rovers came so close to opening the scoring when Gordon whipped in a cross met by Martin Tuohy side footing against the crossbar.
Gordon was looking increasingly menacing finding space out wide, so it was no surprise when he put Rovers in front on 37 minutes, turning Lewis Clark he slotted past Sambridge. Blues produced a quick riposte when Purcell latched on to a Carlos pass turning his marker and firing goal wards but straight at Mason.
Clearly unsettled going a goal behind Blues pushed for an equaliser, but fell further behind when an innocuous cross into the area was misjudged by Sambridge who appeared dazzled by the sun allowing the ball to roll over the line.
Denzil Adebiye replaced an unwell McQueen at half time.
Two goals down Blues set about reducing the deficit pushing Rovers back and could have pulled a goal back almost immediately when Purcell was set free one on one with Mason, but once again the keeper won the duel pushing the ball behind for a corner. Played short to Purcell he saw his low drive drift wide of the upright. Shortly after Ashley Miller appeared to jar his knee and limped painfully out of the game to be replaced by Connor Martin.
Pinned back Rovers defended in numbers putting their bodies on the line to keep their goal intact – crucially they were winning the vital challenges showing real determination and steel – it seemed Pinto was everywhere leading by example in his own unconventional way.
Blues continued to press, but lacked the guile and creativity to engineer a clear opening – balls were loaded into the box without real conviction allowing Mark Gorbell and his co defenders to clear the danger. In contrast when Rovers broke they did it at pace with Gordon again the danger man – after a long period under pressure he ran free testing Sambridge plunging to his left to turn the ball behind.
Normal service was resumed though at the other end – Blues pressing, Rovers remaining defiant through all the pressure and Mason rarely tested .
On 75 minutes Rovers all but wrapped up the points. From a corner the unmarked Jack Stevenson met the kick on the volley lashing an unstoppable shot past a startled Sambridge.
With a mountain to climb Blues laboured in vain to get back into the game and were rewarded in injury time winning a penalty after handling in the box, Carlos converting from the spot.
After a six goal demolition of Romford on Wednesday Blues failed to follow this up – apart from the opening period they looked disjointed lacking the physical presence to combat a determined opponent and forfeiting the opportunity to go top of the league.
Sambridge, McQueen (Adebiyi 45), Joynes, King, Miller ( Martin 52) Clark, Muguo, Dark, Purcell, Callander (Ogunrinde 69), Carlos
Subs not used; Hahn, Pindy