Report courtesy of Grays Athletic
Aveley 2 v 1 Grays Athletic
WITH seven players absent through Covid, injury and holiday Blues nevertheless pushed in form Millers all the way in this local derby in front of a large holiday crowd. Short of three regulars in midfield it was always going to be a difficult afternoon, but Jim Smith in the holding role used all his vast football league experience to rally the troops capping off a fine display with an accomplished finish to reduce the arrears in a barnstorming finale pinning Millers back in an effort to salvage a point. Ominously Millers had built a two goal lead with 30 minutes left on the clock so Blues fans must have feared they would add to their advantage, but Blues rallied with the introduction of Joe Paxman playing through injury adding more creativity being instrumental in Smith’s goal. In the end it was not enough Millers claiming the points and bragging rights.
A cagey opening with both teams sizing each other up saw little goalmouth action Blues seeing more of the ball early on. Good work by Kai Brown saw him swing over a low cross across the box without finding a Blue shirt.
The game settled with Aveley shading possession and creating the first moment of excitement when a corner caused confusion in the Blues box eventually the ball scrambled away.
Millers continued to probe utilising the pace of Jon Benton to good effect combined with the long throws of Jason Ring, a potent weapon and instrumental in the opening goal on 26 minutes. Rice’s throw found the head of George Sykes, the ball looked to be going wide of the goal until it struck the head of Lewis Clark wrong footing Danny Sambridge.
It was a cruel blow but Blues responded quickly when Anointed Chukwu came close to an equaliser, his effort deflected but somehow David Hughes stuck out a hand to paw the ball away. At the other end Sambridge made a similar save managing to grab the ball after an attempted lob.
The closing moments of the half produced a more even affair, Brown was again in action producing a smart save from Hughes, Sykes replied volleying just wide and connecting with a corner glancing wide of the woodwork.
From the resumption Millers pushed forward forcing a succession of corners successfully repelled by a hard pressed Blues defence.
Millers continued to shade possession, helped it must be said by Blues failure to complete passes with the required accuracy and care – eventually it proved crucial when Brown lost possession on half way. The ball was swept wide to the unmarked danger man Benton, racing forward he drew the advancing Sambridge squaring to Jon Nzengo who slotted into the unguarded goal.
Now two behind it was going to be an examination of Blues resolve, would they crumble and concede further goals or did they have the character to work together and get back into the game? the answer was yes, helped by the introduction of Paxman.
Millers still had chances to increase their advantage, but now it was from counterattacks illustrating Blues increased share of the play.
Blues persistence paid off just after the hour mark. Ryan Sammons laid the ball into David Knight who fed the advancing Paxman, challenged the ball broke kindly to Smith slotting the ball past Hughes into the bottom corner.
Stunned Millers should have increased their advantage when Alex Akrofi broke free and clear on goal, but he wasted a golden opportunity blasting wildly over. Sykes came close again but it was Blues who now held sway forcing a number of corners, Knight came close but the ball wouldn’t fall kindly for him to create an opening.
In the end Blues late surge was not enough to salvage a point against a good Aveley team, who will no doubt have a big say in the promotion race. For Blues, given the enforced changes it was a battling but not one of their best performances but despite the defeat they remain in the playoff places.
Sambridge, Sammons (McQueen 90), Joynes, Okonkwo, Clark, Smith, Brown, Kettle (Agunbiade 77),Chukwu (Paxman 60), Knight,Gordon
Sub not used: Miller