FA Cup Preliminary Round
Grays Athletic 3 v 1 Potton United
BLUES avoided a potential banana skin when they came from behind to defeat a young Potton United team and progress to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup . Potton from the Spartan South Midlands League belied their lower league status taking a deserved lead, but in the end Blues superior fitness and that little bit of quality allowed them to come through with a strong second half showing. Jim Cooper had named an unchanged starting eleven following Saturday’s impressive opener at Brentwood.
Any thoughts that it was going to be an easy night for Blues was quickly dispelled when the visitors started on the front foot playing neat attracting fast flowing football but ironically it was Blues who had the ball in the net early on only to be ruled out for offside.
Such was Potton’s aggressive start that they upset their hosts rhythm forcing them into errors and tentative challenges. Pat Ahern was culpable when he allowed the lively Abraham Eze in on goal and played in Ibrahim Camara whose effort whistled past the post.
Blues looked off the pace lacking sharpness and bite whilst Potton were dictating proceedings and Blues were indebted to Danny Sambridge who was called into action saving from David Etheridge.
Blues hesitancy was the catalyst for Potton’s opener on 23 minutes when a loose pass was picked off by the hungry visitors, driving into the box the Potton man went down after a clumsy challenge, Etheridge converting from the spot.
A goal down Blues at last started to play with more energy, the transition from the back was swifter but Potton came close to a second when Eze troubled Sambridge with a fierce effort grabbed at the second attempt by the custodian.
After a lacklustre opening half hour and a goal down Blues new found resilience came to the fore when they restored parity – Mitch Hahn the creative hub in the middle of the park and who was to play a part in all three goals, played in a sublime cross to the far post where Ryan Melaugh ghosting in planted a downward header past Josh Hollison.
It was now Blues with their tails up who made it an even contest at last showing far more urgency , Tony Stokes was seeing more of the ball supported by Melaugh and Darelle Russell on the flanks.
Potton threatened as the half opened when a free kick whistled inches wide of the woodwork, but Blues no doubt chided by Jim Cooper at the break certainly looked eager to match their opponents drive. Melaugh looking more menacing with every game escaped his marker and fired over.
Increasingly pressure was applied on the visitors goal and in the 54th minute their defence was breached. Hahn was involved again when his long throw into box was headed on to the unmarked Stokes who made no mistake crashing the ball home.
Undeterred Potton provided a spirited riposte when a looped cross from Camara found a Potton head – the ball looked destined for the net but a last minute clearance preserved Blues slender advantage.
With the match finely poised it was a more open contest, play ebbing and flowing, a swift break by evergreen Stokes fed Melaugh, flashing in a wicked cross which Russell just failed to make contact. Potton countered quickly without success and it seemed their high energy start was beginning to take its toll , Blues fitness and physicality allowing them to edge possession.
The gangly but deceptively fast Moroyin Omalabi was introduced and after a dart forward slipped a slick pass to Stokes who saw Hollison make a smart save.
The next goal was clearly going to be decisive and it was Blues who increased their advantage in the 81st minute when another Hahn long throw was cleared out to Omolabi who showed great technique to drive the ball low into the bottom corner. Potton were not done though when Sambridge was called into action to maintain the two goal lead.
The final whistle brought to an end a great night of cup football played in the right spirit, Blues now go into the hat for the next round and Potton can look forward to their continued participation in the FA Vase.
Sambridge ,Sammons, Joynes, Ahern, Clark, Dark, Russell (Agunbiade74), Hahn( Bartley 84), Stokes, Paxman (Omalabi 64), Melaugh
Subs not used:Baker, Carlos, Moore