Football: Shoot-put agony for Grays in FA Cup

FA Cup Second Preliminary Round

Maldon and Tiptree 2 v 2 Grays Athletic

Maldon and Tiptree win 5-4 on penalties.

DESPITE a squad decimated by injuries Blues came so close to victory in this thrilling cup tie against Maldon & Tiptree. Coming from behind and equalising in injury time they finally succumbed in the lottery of a penalty shoot out but can take heart from a spirited performance fielding a patched up starting line up.

With eight players on the injury list Jim Cooper was forced to play four players carrying injuries and three ,Albert Levett , Rob Bartley and Ash Miller who had had very little game time in the last six months.

Nevertheless they pushed the Jammers all the way and will be disappointed they didn’t take advantage when Maldon were reduced to ten men when Scott Kemp received his marching orders

Unlike last week against Canvey Blues started on the front foot creating a catalogue of chances in a first period where they could have gone in at the break two goals to the good. Forcing a number of early corners Blues established midfield hegemony where Mitch Hahn and Levett bossed proceedings and a goal at this stage was the only downside for the industry shown throughout the team.

But as is always the case when you are on top one slip can be fatal and it nearly was when Ryan Sammons gave the ball away carelessly allowing Aaron William – Bushell to scamper forward and test Danny Sambridge.

Sammons was to atone for his lapse when he dashed forward sending an effort whistling agonisingly close to the woodwork. Joao Carlos was next getting his head to the ball but it lacked direction drifting harmlessly behind.

Maldon sensing Blues had eased off the pace came more into the game looking to exploit space down either flank where the lively Kemp who had earlier been booked for a nasty challenge on Sambridge looked menacing giving Macauley Joynes a torrid time. The winger sent in a driven cross which Sambridge did well to deal with effectively.

Shortly before the break Blues came close to opening the scoring when first a Carlos drive was pushed out by ex Blue Ben McNamara falling to Levett who picked up the loose ball and shaved the upright with a low drive.

HT 0-0

The Jammers started the brighter in the the second period and were rewarded for their pressure on the Blues goal when a Kemp cross deep into the six yard box saw Adam Vyse rise unchallenged and plant a firm header past Sambridge in the 52nd minute.

Just two minutes after the goal Maldon were reduced to ten men when Kemp, who had been combative throughout tussled with Levett pushing the Grays man in the chest leaving the referee no option but to produce a red card.

Blues immediately took advantage of the extra man in the 57th minute when great build up play resulted in Carlos slipping the ball to Hahn who finished with aplomb sliding the ball past McNamara.

The hosts produced an immediate riposte when Hamza Kaid broke free and only a great block with his legs by Sambridge kept the scores level

With the game finely balanced and with Maldon down to ten men Blues had the ideal opportunity to go on and take control of the tie but as often happens it was the ten men who were asking the questions .The Blues goal came under increasing pressure where youngster Roy Omalabi playing out of position at the back belied his years with assured defending, Sambridge was now the busier of the custodians dealing assuredly with the increasing number off crosses into his box.

The introduction of Joe Agunbiade boosted Blues pace going forward but frustratingly he was increasingly starved of the ball. On the rare occasions he did see it he showed his immense potential and match winning capability outpacing his fullback and whipping in some dangerous crosses.

As the clock ticked down the tie looked to be heading for stalemate until in the 86th minute Joe Paxman was dispossessed midway in Blues half , the Jammers pounced moving the ball wide and whipping in a low cross where in an effort to clear Omolabi slid the ball past Sambridge.

Last season that would have been the game lost but Blues new found resilience came to the fore and in injury time they got themselves back on level terms. A Joynes corner to the far post resulted in a melee of legs where Paxman managed to bundle the ball home, cue jubilation from the large travelling Blues contingent .

And so to the penalty shoot out where Levett who had toiled tirelessly in the engine room saw his kick saved by McNamara and thus ending Blues cup journey .

Sambridge, Sammons , Joynes, Bartley ( Agunbiade 57), Omalabi, Miller ( Baker 73), Melaugh (Russell 65), Levett, Hahn, Paxman, Carlos,

Subs not used: Edwards, Stokes

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