Grays Athletic 2 v 3 Heybridge Swifts
Kicking off the New Year both sides were making to look a great start after an inconsistent end to 2019. Grays started the better side in the opening few minutes dominating the ball and looking the more dangerous. In one instance Swifts’ goalkeeper Luca Collins was fortunate to see the ball drift just wide of the post from a Steve King header, with Manny Ogunrinde inches from tapping in at the far post. On the five-minute mark however, Heybridge kicked into gear. They had various chances to take the lead with last-ditch defending from both Steve King and Lewis Clark to thank for the game remaining scoreless. The first clear cut chance did arise however, when Grays needlessly gave the ball away in their own half, and the ball was played to Swifts captain Jey Silva on the left wing, he put in a great cross into the path of an on-rushing attacker, who blasted the ball over from close range under little pressure.
As the half looked to be petering out, another half-chance came its way to Heybridge. However instead of going into the Grays net, it was blocked once again by Clark, which led to a swift counterattack on 30 minutes, and Manny Ogunrinde played in by a deft Tony Stokes flick finding himself through on goal through the very centre of the Heybridge defence. With only the keeper to beat he smoothly put the ball in the bottom left corner, with the goalkeeper and both central defenders bearing down on him. Grays’s delight was short-lived, however, as Heybridge responded with a goal of their own two minutes later. The ball was worked again to the left-hand side, which was prominent in the first half, and Evans Kouassi found himself one-on-one with a Ryan Sammons. With some slick dribbling he created an inch of space and fired into the bottom right hand corner, giving Danny Sambridge very little chance. On 40 minutes Heybridge took the lead. The ball found its way down the right flank this time, and the ball was played into striker Alex Teniola. Instead of turning and shooting on goal, he slid a delightful ball through to the cutting Odei Martin-Sorondo, who side-footed the ball into the bottom left corner, from the right-hand side of the box.
Heybridge were not finished there. After Grays’s Steve King headed just over from a brilliant cross from Ryan Sammons, where the Heybridge defence were temporarily napping, they found themselves in another goal-scoring situation. After some exceptional counter-attacking football the ball was again on the left-hand side of the area, in a mirroring situation to Heybridge’s first goal. This time it was Harrison Chatting who created an inch of space, with the keeper unable to keep it out, as it bundled into the left-hand side of the goal on the stroke of half time
If the first half was an exciting affair, then the second was the complete opposite. The first 10 minutes of the half were spent with a tense demeanour. Both sides seemed unwilling to take any risks – Heybridge not willing to lose their lead and Blues not willing for it to become 1-4. After a dull 15 minutes, a lull in the Grays defence allowed the ball to be worked from a throw-in on the right, to the top left of the box and an unmarked Silva, who brought out a great stop from Sambridge, diving low to his left to keep it from entering the bottom corner.
There were very few chances coming by the way of Grays, and instead of pushing forward, their passes continued to go askew, and it seemed as though they were playing with a lack of confidence. The half chances that did arise were wasted and there seemed a lack of cutting edge in their finishing. One opportunity came to Ogunrinde in the centre of the box after some lacklustre attacking and defending, with the ball bobbling around in the Heybridge area. The ball fell to Ogunrinde, and following the narrative of the half, shot straight at the keeper from close range.
The game was brought to life again on the 67th minute-mark, this time from an outstanding counterattacking goal from Grays. From a defensive free kick in their own half, Grays cleared the ball comfortably to George Purcell, who slid the ball down the left-hand side to Joao Carlos. With a clever one-two he found himself open on the edge of the box, and put in a great, low cross onto the waiting left foot of Ogunrinde, who slammed it into the roof of the net from close range. Unfortunately, Grays were unable to capitalise on the swing in momentum, and the game ended with neither side threatening each-others goal again.
Sambridge, Sammons, Joynes, Clark, King (Fox 63), Peter, Ogunrinde, Hahn, Stokes, Purcell, Carlos,
Subs not used: Pearce, McQueen, Girling, Bourne.