Tilbury 0 v 1 Grays Ath
BLUES injury hit squad emerged triumphant over long time and fancied rivals Tilbury on Tuesday evening.
With a squad down to the bare bones missing seven regulars, fielding three teenagers, losing Joao Carlos after just nine minutes and Ryan Sammons playing the last hour with a muscle strain the win was all the more remarkable and in truth had they taken three clear cut chances the win could have been more emphatic.
A brilliant solo goal from teenage prodigy Joe Agunbiade after 21 minutes ensured Blues won at Chadfields for the first since 2017. The Dockers may have thought this was a banker three points but they came up against opponents who fought to a man to preserve their one goal advantage and although under pressure at times rarely troubled Danny Sambridge.
The game was barely nine minutes old when Blues injury jinx struck yet again , Carlos chasing a through ball pulled up with a hamstring twinge to be replaced by eventual match winner Agunbiade.
An early Blues raid caused confusion in the box where the ball was eventually hacked away, Blues were taking the game to their hosts at this stage where Darrell Russell and Agunbiade’s pace worried the Dockers back line.
The Dockers settled and for a time took control of midfield , their first opportunity came from Oliver Spooner who as his name suggests spooned the ball over. Blues kept their shape playing a high line negating the Dockers ball over the top where they were caught in an efficient offside trap.
Blues struck in the 21st minute after weathering pressure when Nathan Fox pressed into action despite still suffering from injury that had kept him out for a number of week released Agunbiade. With instant control reminiscent of that illustrious ex Blue Gary Hooper, taking the ball on the run on his chest he drove forward jinking left and right cut inside striking the ball crisply past a wrong footed Harry Girling into the roof of the net, a classic counterattacking goal.
Lewis Smith was the Dockers go to man but he was well marshalled by his former East Thurrock team mate Sammons failing despite various opportunities to unlock Blues rearguard.
Ryan Melaugh had a golden opportunity to increase Blues advantage but with the goal gaping and from close range he somehow managed to stab the ball wide. Spooner then tested Sambridge from distance who turned the ball smartly behind.
The opening minutes of the second period would be crucial to the outcome of this encounter so when Brian Moses had a great opportunity just after the break to bring the scores level he fluffed his lines rising highest to nod wide of the upright.
The Dockers continued to pressure the Blues goal without success pushing forward at every opportunity but that left them vulnerable to counterattacks which came to fruition when a swift break saw Agunbiade tease Eljay Warren and send the ball agonisingly rolling along the goal line and out of danger.
Although edging territory and possession Tilbury still failed to engineer a clearcut opening , Blues midfield were working tirelessly to protect their back line and then looked to exploit space behind . It worked well when Mitch Hahn slipped in Agunbiade , Girling coming to the rescue clearing the danger. Russell was next and really should have converted a golden opportunity, left with a clear sight of goal inside the box he inexplicably blasted over.
With pressure building the question was would Blues wilt but they held firm leading to a frantic finale . Hahn again had a half chance , the Dockers piled forward in search of an equaliser resorting to long balls into the box playing into Blues hands. A couple of hopeful appeals for penalties went unanswered . In a final throw of the dice keeper Girling went up for a corner which he met unchallenged but nodded wide of the woodwork.
Blues held on then to record a well deserved win against an in form Tilbury with the bonus of a clean sheet moving them up to 6th place in the fledgling table.
Sambridge, Sammons , Fox , Miller , Omalabi, Levett, Melaugh (Baker 74), Hahn, Russell (Madu 87), Paxman, Carlos (9)
Subs not used:Edwards , Adeyemi