Football: Grays Ath held in entertaining draw

Isthmian North

Grays Ath 1 v 1 AFC Sudbury

THE Blues and AFC Sudbury served up a superb evening of attacking football on Wednesday evening with Joe Paxman on the scoresheet for both teams. Play flowed from end to end, chances were created and scorned, the woodwork intervened , goals ruled out for offside – all ingredients mixing together to entertain supporters. In the end a draw was probably the right conclusion with the two teams cancelling each other out. The draw lifted Blues to second place in the table keeping them in the promotion race.

After the disappointing reverse at Great Wakering Rovers Paul Joynes made changes to the starting eleven, Kai Brown and Callum Watts came in at the expense of Freddie Moncur and Anointed Chukwu. The change designed to inject pace into Blues play and from the kick off it seemed to work with the ball zipped around the park.

First opportunity of the evening fell to Sudbury’s Jamie Shaw who did well to turn and get in his shot, which Blues Player Of the Month Danny Sambridge did well to grab at the second attempt. But it was Blues who were making the early running where Watts featured prominently linking well with Brown.

It was Brown down the flank who provided Blues first chance when he darted forward crossing low into the six yard box to David Knight, but his connection fell invitingly into the arms of Alfie Strong , shortly after Paxman fed Danny Gould, taking a touch his low drive was blocked by the advancing Strong. Paxman was again denied by Strong who was the busier of the two keepers at this stage.

The game was flowing, end to end at a fast pace with both teams playing attractive passing football, defences were asked questions and answered, Lewis Clark and Geoff Okonkwo looking solid at the back. Sudbury’s main threat was coming from Cruis Nyadzayo out wide on the right flank occupying Macca Joynes on a number of occasions.

Often when a team fails to capitalise on chances created they are punished and thats just what happened on 35 minutes. From a Sudbury corner the ball was played into the six yard box where the unfortunate Paxman lost his sense of direction nodding the ball past the static Sambridge who maybe should have come to claim the ball.

Stung by the setback Blues continued to probe, Knight and Strong locked horns again when the keeper did well to turn behind the strikers free kick plunging to his right to turn the ball behind, the last scoring opportunity of a pulsating first period.

HT 0-1

Looking to restore parity Blues made an inauspicious start to the half when passes went astray with a tendency to knock long balls bypassing midfield. They were given a fright when the ever lively Nyadzayo bustled down the flank cutting inside and unleashing a shot saved by Sambridge.

And then from nowhere Blues drew level in the 56th minute. Watts did well to carry the ball forward executing a slide rule pass into the feet of Paxman who redeemed himself from his earlier mishap taking a touch and sliding the ball under Strong.

The goal enlivened Blues, Gould tried his luck cutting inside only to be denied again by Strong – Sudbury countered always looking dangerous from set pieces taken by Reece Harris causing nervous moments for the home fans. It was anyones game now and clearly whoever made the breakthrough were likely go on to claim the points.

A double substitution saw Knight and Watts depart at the expense of Moncur and Chukwu which appeared to disrupt Blues rhythm and shape, combined with Sudbury’s constant pressing and ability to win the second ball Blues came under increasing pressure for a time.

Emerging from the pressure Blues rallied in the closing minutes – Chukwu shot tamely, a frantic period saw the Sudbury goal come under attack culminating with Moncur seeing his thunderous drive rattle the woodwork and then it was Sudbury’s turn to threaten when Marley Andrews embarked on a penetrating run at the heart of Blues back line but fired wildly over.

Deep in injury time Sudbury had one last throw of the dice from a free kick which came to nothing, ending an intriguing evening of football between two teams playing the game as it should be with fast attacking football played in the right spirit. At the final whistle both teams were warmly applauded for a game that showed non league football at its best.

Sambridge, Sammons, Joynes, Okonkwo, Clark, Watts(Moncur 65), Paxman, Hahn, Brown ( Gordon 76), Knight(Chukwu 66), Gould,

Subs not used: McQueen, Oyenuga

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