Grays Athletic 1 v 1 Dereham Town
LEAGUE leading goalscorer Joao Carlos rescued a point for injury hit Blues in a competitive encounter against Dereham Town. The Magpies were leading with just three minutes remaining when Carlos slammed the ball past Elliot Pride much to the delight of the home fans. It was a bitter sweet point gained after gifting the visitors two goals – a recurring theme this season . Blues though with a new defensive set up put up a much more cohesive display than of late producing a strong finish to grab a point but they still lack their early season sparkle.
Jim Cooper was forced into number of changes to his starting eleven, shorn of the services of defenders Ashley Miller, Jack McQueen and Connor Martin resorting to a back four with Lewes Clark moving to right back and Stan Muguo in central defence.
A quiet opening period provided little in the way of goal mouth incident, played out in midfield neither side were able to gain the ascendency – both keepers mere spectators
The Magpies had a clear plan to target Blues right flank where the lively Toby Hilliard was keeping Clark occupied . The stalemate was broken in the 20th minute when the ball was given away needlessly on half way – seizing the chance Dereham piled forward a fierce shot was blocked by Danny Sambridge, the rebound fell to Hilliard firing decisively past the prone keeper.
Blues immediately hit back when George Purcell capitalised on some careless defending with a low drive which Elliot Pride just managed to turn behind for a corner. Pride had earlier looked vulnerable under pressure with some unorthodox saves, but his goal remained intact.
On 33 minutes after coming close on a number of occasions Blues drew level with a classic Purcell strike – picking the ball up he drifted across the edge of the visitors area before drilling a rasping drive past Pride.
Carlos came close to putting Blues in front shortly after when he improvised a bicycle kick from a Mitch Hahn throw, the ball drifted agonisingly wide with Pride an anxious onlooker. He was in action again when Macauley Joynes set him free forcing Pride to block his effort.
The visitors had their moments at the other end and only a superb diving save from Sambridge denied Hilliard his and the Magpies a second goal.
A rapid start to the second period by Blues produced an early chance – Purcell released Carlos, driving to the bye line his cross shot just evaded the run of Manny Ogunrinde. Not to be out done Magpies created their own almost identical opening, breaking quickly a ball across Blues area presented an opening for Rhys Logan, but he wasted the chance firing wildly high and wide.
Blues momentum was killed as the half progressed allowing the visitors to enjoy a period of possession. but without creating a goal scoring opportunity. With half hour remaining the game was now finely balanced . These were nervous moments for both sets of supporters – chances came and went at either end. Sambridge denied Hilliard again when the Dereham man was left free in the box .
Increasingly Luke Callander was showing why he is such a handful for defenders – winning his battles with the Dereham defenders – bringing others into the game, his work becoming more and more influential.
Chances were created and scorned, but then on 71 minutes Blues contrived to present Dereham with an equaliser. There seemed little danger when a ball was played into the box, but a comedy of errors ensued – Steve King in attempting to clear the ball produced an air shot, there were still sufficient Blues defenders round the ball to clear the danger, but weak ineffective challenges allowed Rhys Logan the easiest of chances burying the ball past Sambridge.
The goal at last instilled a sense of urgency in Blues play and they took the game to the visitors. A Callander free kick brought an acrobatic save from Pride – King nodded wide and then came the most bizarre and puzzling decision by referee Mr Gelov. The ball bounced around outside the Dereham area where Hilliard inexplicably caught the ball right in front of the official – a free kick was awarded but Hilliard who had already received a yellow wasn’t given his marching orders for deliberate hand ball.
With three minutes remaining It seemed that refereeing howler would consign Blues to a second consecutive league reverse, but Carlos had other ideas – finding space inside the area he smashed an unstoppable angled drive past the startled Pride to ensure Blues a share of the points.
Sambridge, Clark (Adebiyi 66), Joynes, King, Muguo, Ogunrinde (Kayembe K. 75), Hahn, Dark, Carlos, Callander, Purcell.
Subs Not Used:Pearce, , Kayembe W. Pindy