Monday, April 15, 2024

Football: Vital away win for Grays Athletic

BLUES pulled off a tremendous win at Aldiss Park despite playing with ten men in the second half after a contentious red card picked up by Callum Leahy on the stroke of half time. It was a performance which has epitomised their season – structured, determined, and with resolve, built on hard work and organisation. It would be churlish to single out a man of the match sufficient to say there were ten men of the match in the second period. 

The Magpies would have believed playing against ten men and a gusty wind behind them, the game was theirs for the taking and although they pushed Blues back, Danny Sambridge was only forced into one noteworthy save late in the game, Blues defended in depth ensuring Dereham played across them and then forcing them to overhit their passes. The win and other favourable results enabled Blues to open up a five point gap between them and the other play off hopefuls who were looking to finish in the top five.

The early exchanges saw chances at either end, Magpies were first to threaten when Luke Johnson missed the target from close range, a quick reply saw Aron Gordon swing in a cross cleared out to Freddie Moncur who fired over.

Worryingly for Blues early on the hosts were exploiting space wide on the flanks where Adam Hipperson threatened getting away from Jack McQueen fortunately his delivery lacked accuracy.
In the 17th minute Blues made the breakthrough, Dereham had looked vulnerable from corners and so it proved their achilles heel, when they went behind from a corner excellently delivered to the near post by Ryan Melaugh finding the head of Lewis Clark glancing the ball via a deflection past keeper Antoni Bort.

The goal stirred the hosts who created an opening for Shaun Bammant which was comfortably saved by Sambridge. It was now Blues who edged possession. Gordon was enjoying success out wide. Occupying the attention of two defenders , he did well to wriggle free setting up David Knight but he blazed wildly over.

Blues looked comfortable and good value for their lead. Secure at the back and compact in the middle of the park and threatening up front . For Dereham, Hipperson was the main threat. One run took him into the box, but his finish was wayward.

Just before the break Leahy was shown a red card after a tussle with Bammant. it appeared innocuous, but not to the official who brandished a red card.

HT 0-1

A man down, Blues needed to reorganise which they did. Knight was sacrificed in favour of Jimmy Smith to bolster the midfield and utilise his organisational skills. 

It was now the hosts task to unlock Blues renowned defensive capabilities, but it was Anointed Chukwu who produced the first chance of the half with a penetrating run at the heart of the home defence finishing with a shot that had accuracy, but not power allowing Bort to save comfortably.
Blues were content to surrender territory, allowing the Magpies to build from the back to half way, but then forcing them to play across the park and then they overhit long balls which were dealt with comfortably by Blues’ banks of defenders, keeping their defensive shape well.
Hipperson did create a chance when he found space as his effort was deflected behind , Dereham forced a succession of corners which were invariably overhit and either cleared comfortably or drifted behind.
To a man, Blues worked tirelessly to break up play and counterattack menacingly when the opportunity presented itself. Melaugh and Gordon continued to offer a threat with Chukwu ploughing a lone furrow chasing and harrying. He set up Freddie Moncur his effort sailing over.

Frustrated, Dereham resorted to shooting from distance and not with any accuracy, but when Blues broke they created excitement. First Moncur broke, but scuffed his effort and then Melaugh drove forward and only a last minute block denied him.

In a frantic final bid to rescue a point, Hinton thought he had equalised ,only to be denied by Sambridge at full stretch plunging to his right to turn the ball behind.

The final whistle brought roars of delight from the Blues Choral Society who had out sung the home fans and undoubtedly lifted the players acting as the eleventh man. 

So another resolute and hardworking win against fellow playoff hopefuls setting up another six pointer at home to Brentwood next Saturday.

Sambridge, McQueen, Joynes, Okonkwo, Clark, Gordon (Paxman 83), Leahy, Chukwu, Knight (Smith 46), Melaugh

Subs not used: Brown, Watts


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