Grays Athletic 2 v 2 Tilbury
The two oldest clubs in the borough locked horns once again in front of a large and vociferous crowd both eager to claim the bragging rights. Blues holding a two goal advantage at half time held the upper hand but a spirited Dockers second half fightback ensured honours were shared. For Blues the equalising goal was a bitter disappointment when for the second time in three games they were victims of a dubious penalty decision, Geofrey Okonkwo was ajudged to have unfairly challenged Lee Noble, but video evidence suggested he had won the ball fairly nodding behind to concede a corner, certainly the linesman thought so signalling a corner but after consultation with referee Kirsty Dowle a spot kick was awarded. But nothing should be taken away from the Dockers who controlled long periods of the second half helped by Blues who were caught in a dilemma – defend their lead or look for a third goal to give them breathing space, in the end they did neither failing to match Dockers intensity .
The opening period was a scrappy nervous affair both teams conscious not to make unnecessary errors, consequently the ball spent more time in the air than on the ground. Eventually the Dockers were the first to settle and conjured up the first moment of excitement when a Roman Cambell flicked header found Noble who forced Danny Sambridge into a point blank save. The lively Jordan Peart then scampered forward sending in a dangerous low cross evading both defenders and attackers.
Blues at last roused from their sluggish start and began to examine the visitors defensive credentials. The pace of Aron Gordon and Kai Brown were causing problems so much so that in the 25th minute Brown darted forward into the 18 yard box and tumbled under the challenge of George Allen – a clear penalty – David Knight made no mistake with his spot kick.
The goal had an immediate affect, the earlier caution gave way to a more open game flowing end to end with Blues now holding sway using the full width of the park to stretch the play and searching for a second goal. After a period of Blues pressure resulting in a succession of corners it was Gordon who figuring prominently, looked particularly dangerous whenever on the ball he was rewarded for his efforts when he increased Blues advantage in the 44th minute. Latching on to a through ball he cut inside the box and although stumbling under a challenge he regained his composure lashing the ball into the top corner past Harry Girling.
After finishing the first period on top Blues would have been looking to continue in the same vein and it appeared that was the case when a Mitch Hahn long throw found Brown but he fired over.
Relieved at the let off Dockers looked a rejuvenated outfit pressing high and playing with more intensity, in contrast Blues after their initial burst went into their shells. They were to pay the price for some sloppy play when Brown gave the ball away on the half way line, Dockers shifted the ball out wide to Coombes whose cross found Noble, with a sure touch he wrong footed Lewis Clark sweeping the ball past the static Sambridge.
Now it was game on, Dockers with their tails up pushed forward, Roman Cambell thought he had claimed the equaliser only to be denied by a superlative touch over from Sambridge.
For a time it was end to end football both sides conscious that the next goal could prove significant and decisive and so it proved to be when Dockers achieved parity albeit under dubious circumstances in the 73rd minute. Noble and Okonkwo tussled for a ball into the box , the Blues man won the contest appearing to make contact with his head to force the ball behind but he was adjudged to have challenged unfairly and after a lengthy delay Roman Cambell dispatched the ball past Sambridge.
The goal set up what was to become the most exciting and feisty period of play in the final ten minutes, more reminiscent of a local derby. Clark and Noble engaged in a bout of handbags at dawn, the Blues man and Cambell who unnecessarily got involved seeing yellow.
Smith was denied and at the other end the same fate fell to Brown in a frantic finale which failed to produce further goals.
Summarising Tilbury will have gone away the happier of the two combatants having seemed down and out after the first period seeing it as a point won. For Blues it was a pock marked display, some enterprising flashes interspersed with sloppy care of the ball and a failure to defend a lead.
Sambridge, Sammons , Joynes, Okonkwo, Clark, Dark, Paxman, Hahn, Brown(Chukwu 80), Knight, Gordon (Gould 79)
Subs not used: Moncur, McQueen, Watts