Grays Athletic 2 v 0 Hullbridge Sports
By The Mariner
JUST like buses you wait a while and then two come along at the same time, that applied to Blues today with two wins and two clean sheets in two weeks after a barren spell of late. Goals from Joao Carlos and George Purcell were enough to spoil ex Blues assistant manager Darren Mannings first league match against the team he supported over the years. The result was never in doubt apart from the opening minutes such was Blues control over the ninety minutes and but for a couple of stunning saves by Lewis Green and some near misses the scoreline would have been more generous to Blues.
Sports made the brighter start passing the ball with confidence, but without the progression required to trouble their hosts back line and after a languid opening Blues took control of proceedings.
Purcell looked lively occupying Mike Agboola exploiting the Sports defenders lack of pace – he should have done better when a latching on to a loose ball, a heavy touch made Green the favourite in the race to the ball. As the game progressed Blues passing and movement was reminiscent of their early season play and left the visitors chasing shadows at times.
On 15 minutes Blues exertions were rewarded when a diagonal ball from Jack McQueen picked out Macauley Joynes, he fed Mitch Hahn who chose to scorn a scoring opportunity feeding Carlos drilling his shot into the bottom corner.
A goal in front and in command Blues were playing with freedom Ryan Sammons providing first time crosses – Nathan Fox was a hive of industry supporting his midfield partners Lewis Dark and Hahn gaining the upper hand in crucial areas. Purcell thought he had doubled Blues lead when he cut inside Agboola, unleashing a thunderbolt bringing a stunning save from Green touching the ball over.
It was a measure of Sports spirit that they stuck to their tasks restricting Blues to the one goal, but going forward they looked toothless ensuring a quiet afternoon for Blues rearguard, save for a Matt Rose effort missing the target.
Just before the break another Sammons pinpoint cross found the head of Carlos – his downward effort comfortably gathered by Green.
After a rare Mathew Rose effort Blues started the second half as they finished the first and could have gone further in front when Purcell raced to the byeline squaring to Hahn whose first time strike was blocked – Ryan Sammons then had a 35 yard pile driver brilliantly turned behind by Green.
With so much control Blues eased off the pace allowing Sports more of the ball, but even so they created little in front of goal. Manning threw on three subs to inject a change of tempo and although ex Blue Dan Gilchrist tested Danny Sambridge his effort was tame allowing the keeper to save comfortably. Luke Hornsley then tried his luck but his aim was wayward sailing harmlessly over.
Normal service was resumed as Blues pressed for a second to make the game safe, they came close on a number of occasions. A bustling run from the energetic Fox set up a chance for Hahn, but he fluffed his lines sliding the ball wide of the upright with the goal at his mercy.
It seemed one goal would be the only reward for Blues domination, but in the 82nd minute they doubled their lead when they won a free kick just outside the box. Purcell who had scored a screamer against Romford earlier in the season from a similar distance stepped up and smashed another unstoppable drive into the bottom corner past Green.
Sports in a last ditch effort to salvage a goal saw Jamie Salmon fire a volley wide after good work by Callum Fitzer, but that was it, allowing Blues to run down the clock and record a second consecutive win.
Sambridge, Sammons, Joynes, McQueen, King, Clark, Fox, Hahn, Dark, Purcell (Adebiyi 90), Carlos ( Ogunrinde 79)
Subs not used: Pearce, Clarke, Kayembe