Grays Athletic 2 v 3 Witham Town
THIS game was always going to be a tricky encounter against a much improved Witham Town and so it proved to be . Town came with a game plan to frustrate and hit on the break capitalising on their fleet footed front runners to get behind Blues back line and it worked to perfection.
Although enjoying the lions share of possession it’s what you do with that possession and the ability to create goal scoring opportunities ,Blues despite an early Ryan Melaugh strike found it difficult. Significantly for the second week running they conceded just after the break seemingly as they say “still in the dressing room”,. The goal coming from a lightning Witham break, ominously the warning signs were there in the opening half, but they failed to heed the warning. It was only when they went a goal behind they upped the tempo but too much of their play was frenetic and coupled with a resolute Witham rearguard failed to engineer a clear cut opening.
The game started brightly enough and it was Witham who caused consternation when Callum Leahy misjudged his header, Josh Osude pounced, raced into the box testing Danny Sambridge who did well to turn the ball behind.
After the early scare Blues forced an early corner Melaugh capitalised on a poor clearance drilling into the bottom corner past Rhys Madden on 4 minutes.
In front and on top the Witham goal came under pressure, Aron Gordon provided a number off crosses not seized on, Madden protected by a resolute rearguard was rarely tested . When the visitors did break out it was rapid and dangerous although Danny Sambridge in the home goal, apart from the early save was untroubled.
The game continued in similar vein, Blues probing and Witham soaking up pressure and breaking when they could . One frenetic goalmouth scramble saw the ball resembling a pinball eventually cleared away to safety.
Just before the break came what looked a pivotal moment – Joe Paxman weaved his way into the box and unleashed a fierce effort bringing a superb one handed block save from Madden preventing Blues going two up at the break.
It took Witham just four minutes to level up the scores thanks to Blues languid start to the half reminiscent of the goal conceded just a week ago at Stowmarket, a ball into midfield was nodded on finally finding Osude who had the easiest of tasks to beat an exposed Sambridge.
Gordon provided a quick riposte when he forced Madden to turn his goal bound shot behind. But Blues tempo needed more impetus to open up the spaces , Anointed Chukwu held the ball up well but the support at times was not there.
Winning a succession of corners without success Blues toiled but they had to be on their guard to the speed of the visitors breaks which eventually led to their second goal.
From a Blues corner the ball was played out to half way, Freddie Moncur was too easily outmuscled when challenging for the ball which was rapidly moved forward finding Osude in acres of space to convert on 62 minutes.
It took going a goal behind to finally see Blues playing at a pace which had served them so well during their unbeaten run, for the remaining minutes of the half they laid siege to the Witham goal, pressing high and forcing a succession of corners and free kicks putting the visitors goal under real pressure but they just couldn’t find a way through. Madden claiming arial balls dropped under the posts although he was rarely at full stretch.
But when the occasion presented itself, Witham looked to break which led to their third goal on 88 minutes – taking advantage of the space left at the back they broke down the flank feeding Ramiah Mills who slotted home.
It was left to Melaugh on the stroke of time to wrap up the scoring with a deflected from an acute angle to register his and Blues second.
Sambridge, Paxman, Melaugh, Leahy, Clark, Dark, Brown(Joynes 77), Smith(Knight 59), Chukwu, Moncur (Hahn 77), Gordon.
Subs not used:McQueen, Tantale