Isthmian League North
Grays Ath 1 v 3 Canvey Island
IT was New Year woe for Blues when they succumbed to their heaviest home defeat of the season against a very good Canvey Island who controlled long periods of the encounter. Danny Sambridge produced a man of the match performance making a number of crucial saves to keep the scoreline respectable such was the Gulls dominance. It must be said though that Blues contributed to their own downfall with two of the Gulls goals coming from self inflicted error and hesitant defending . Despite the defeat Blues remain in the playoff places.
Inside three minutes Canvey edged in front, from a corner Sambridge saved from Matt Price the ball ran loose where Evans Kouassi was quickest to react touching the ball home through a tangle of legs.
The goal stunned Blues allowing Canvey to dictate proceedings, exploiting space they moved the ball around the park at pace creating a number of opportunities with the pacy and dangerous Kouassi prominent , he should have done better when he found a good position but failed to hit the target firing wildly over.
Blues first opportunity was provide by an Aron Gordon cross to the head of David Knight , lacking power and accuracy the ball sailed harmlessly wide of the goal.
Blues struggled to construct any forward momentum, constant pressure from the Gulls forced them to cede territory pushing them into defensive employment . The second Canvey goal on 26 minutes then came as no surprise and it was an avoidable error. Macca Joynes in possession dallied, Tobi Tinubu closed down the space and blocked the attempted clearance giving him the simplest task to slot the ball past the exposed Sambridge.
It looked ominous for Blues but they were given a lifeline four minutes later when a rare sortie saw Gordon wriggle into the 18 yard box, challenged, the ball broke free where the lurking Kai Brown swept it passed Bobby Mason.
Normal service was resumed though Canvey continued to threaten and once again Blues had to thank Sambridge when he brilliantly denied Odei Martin Sorondo .
Blues made a positive start to the second period looking to reduce the arrears and once again Gordon featured prominently but they failed to test Mason .
Any hope of getting back on terms were quickly extinguished in the 51st minute, and once again despite the efforts of Sambridge the goal could have been prevented. Sweeping forward the ball was played in to Kouassi, from close range he drew a brilliant save from Sambridge, Connor Hubble was then denied by the keeper and though surrounded by three defenders Martin Sorondo was able to stab the loose ball home.
With a two goal advantage Canvey visibly eased off the pace content to hold on to their lead allowing Blues to enjoy a period of possession, Knight, Brown and Joe Paxman were denied by Mason although their efforts lacked power allowing the keeper to make comfortable saves.
The duel between Canvey and Sambridge continued with the keeper saving well from Elliot Ronto, then the ever dangerous Kouassi broke free drawing Sambridge but Blues defenders managed to clear the danger.
The closing minute saw Blues for once shading possession but without creating an opportunity save from a low drive from sub Joseph Agunbiade touched behind by Mason.
A disappointing start then to the new year, yes Blues were depleted by illness, injury and holiday absences but Canvey are arguably the best side Blues have faced in the league so far this season and it would be no surprise if they went on to win the title. For Blues although the defeat is a setback they still remain in the play offs and with nineteen games to go all is to play for, it remains to be seen if they can maintain their promotion challenge.
Sambridge, Sammons (Okonkwo 72), Joynes, Okonkwo, McQueen, Smith, Brown, Moncur, Paxman(Agunbiade 83), Knight, Gordon (Melaugh 76)
Sub not used: Kettle