Isthmian Division North
Grays Ath 3 v 0 Dereham
BLUES bounced back after a disappointing run of defeats during the festive period with this efficient performance – recapturing their early season form they dispatched promotion chasing Dereham Town. Super sub Anointed Chukwu made sure of the points late in the game with a brace of well taken goals to add to an early Geoff Okonkwo header. Injury and holiday absences had decimated Blues squad over the Xmas period but the return of Lewis Clark, Jimmy Smith and Lewis Dark had a decisive factor in the win. Clark added steel to the back four, with Dark playing his familiar holding midfield role, it allowed Smith to push forward using all his football league experience to orchestrate proceedings.
Blues got off to the best possible start, David Knight getting a shot on target and then from a corner Okonkwo out jumped the Magpies defenders to nod home after just three minutes.
The early signs were promising and with the goal advantage Blues build up play was neat and efficient pressing high the opportunities kept coming forcing Dereham into defensive duties .
The first visitors chance came after 20 minutes when Rhys Logan tested Danny Sambridge closely followed by a Luke Johnson run and shot whistling over.
Kai Brown scurrying down the right flank did well to swing over a low cross met with a tremendous volley from Freddie Moncur just shaving the woodwork. Blues now with Dark protecting the back four making telling interventions, Smith cajoling and pushing them forward knitting moves together and added aggression all round the park to their play they looked a more balanced outfit going in to the break good value for their one goal advantage.
Dereham were out early after the break no doubt eager to redress the balance and reduce the arrears which they should have done shortly after the restart. Sambridge could only push out a dangerous low cross into the six yard box, the loose ball fell to the combative Shaun Bammant who somehow managed to miss the target from close range stabbing the ball wide.
Not deterred the Magpies forced a succession of corners all to no avail successfully defended by a resolute Blues back line .
Riding out the pressure Blues came close to increasing their advantage when keeper Elliot Pride who had looked nervy throughout fumbled a cross which came close to crossing the line.
Now evenly balanced the game was at a crucial stage and for a time the tension boiled over with a number of niggly fouls resulting in a flurry of yellow cards, Blues kept their heads though and once again established a degree of control and aggression illustrated by a tremendous sliding block tackle from Dark typifying their afternoons work.
Knight who had worked tirelessly throughout made way for Chukwu on 76 minutes, he made an immediate impact unsettling the Magpies central defenders and just four minutes later he increased Blues lead. Smith playing in a more forward role played a delightful ball to the tall striker, racing between two defenders he finished with aplomb planting the ball firmly past Pride into the bottom corner.
The goal clearly deflated Dereham their heads dropped, seizing on this Blues increased the pressure and were rewarded with a third on 88 minutes. Epitomising their increased intent Brown picked a pocket in midfield slipping the ball to Chukwu. Just like his earlier strike he raced between two defenders and slipped the ball past the advancing Pride.
Points now secured Blues played down the clock to secure a much needed three points and push them back into the play off places.
Sambridge, McQueen, Joynes, Okonkwo, Clark, Dark (Gordon 90), Brown, Smith, Moncur ( Kettle 72), Knight (Chukwu76) Paxman
Subs not used: Agunbiade, Sammons