Isthmian Division North
Brentwood 1 v 0 Grays Ath
AS a spectacle this encounter proved to be a disappointing occasion marred as it was by a heavy and uneven surface hindering both sets of players. Brentwood eventually emerged the victors courtesy of a Tom Richardson strike in the first half, but Blues not for the first time this season felt hard done by when the officials failed to spot a clear handball in the build up to the goal. Adding to their problems Blues were struck with another Covid withdrawal on the morning of the game this time it was Jim Smith who succumbed to join the list of the other absentees and all coming at one of the crucial periods of the season.
The opening minutes failed to inspire littered with stoppages for infringements it was no surprise then that fluid passages of play were few and far between. The only real moment of drama came from the lively Ashley Nzala with a pacy run firing wildly over, followed by a similar effort from George Craddock.
Blues first real chance fell to Geoffrey Okonkwo who nodded wide of the woodwork. Once they had settled Blues saw more of the ball with Kai Brown and Joe Ogunbiade using their pace on the flanks.
Brentwood did establish a degree of control as the half wore on without causing Danny Sambridge too many problems , they held sway in midfield but a more dogged Blues worked hard to disrupt the hosts rhythm restricting them to attempts on goal from distance.
Holding their own and offering a goal threat going forward Blues were dealt a cruel hand on 38 minutes when a Brentwood arm was used to control the ball and then played into Richardson who took advantage racing clear he drilled a low drive past the diving Sambridge into the bottom corner.
Not to be deterred Blues responded when Brown showed a clear pair of heels, cutting in from the flank he unleashed a fierce drive saved well by Ollie Bowles. Agunbiade was next when he found space from a corner and should have done better failing to hit the target from close range.
After a spirited first half performance when Blues worked hard to frustrate Brentwood and could have reduced the arrears the hope was that they would continue in the same vein, unfortunately the second period was a complete contrast. They failed to spark and threaten the home goal struggling to contain a series of Brentwood attacks.
Nzala capitalised on a wayward pass breaking clear but again he failed to deliver blasting over, George Craddock was next to try his luck forcing a smart save from Sambridge.
Increasingly dropping deep Blues lost their shape and cohesion, passes went astray allowing Brentwood to dictate play without increasing their advantage.
A free kick on the edge of the box saw Joe Paxman waste the opportunity failing to test Bowles the ball sailing high and wide.
The heavy surface was having an increasing impact on proceedings both teams forced to adopt a more direct approach which Brentwood employed with more accuracy pinning Blues back adding more pressure to an overworked back line who worked hard to contain the constant attacks.
Sub Aron Gordon did add impetus going forward and for a time Blues enjoyed a period of possession but without the cutting edge to prise open the Brentwood back line, unlike Richardson who was a constant threat and only another Sambridge save prevented him from increasing his tally.
A succession of Brentwood corners in the closing minutes put further pressure on Blues goal, but were successfully defended bringing to an end a game that never hit the heights .
Another disappointing reverse, but the recent run of results should be put in to context considering the loss of key players due to Covid and others playing while not fully fit after Covid infection. The two players absent through holiday at a critical and busy period of the season is disappointing and has not helped the cause one would argue.
Sambridge, Sammons (Melaugh 78), Joynes, Okonkwo, McQueen, Kettle, Brown, Moncur (Knight 69), Chukwu, Paxman, Agunbiade (Gordon 69)
Sub not used:Akins