Isthmian Division North
Grays Ath 3 v 2 Maldon and Tiptree
BLUES brought the curtain down on their season and manager Paul Joynes’s career in management with a thrilling comeback to defeat Maldon & Tiptree. With just fifteen minutes on the clock and looking to be heading for a third successive defeat a late rally produced two goals, and it could have been more.
Once again Blues were without a number of absentees and featured two youth players in the squad. Despite this they held their own for long periods, never letting their heads drop, they came back strongly and could have increased their one goal advantage. It was the introduction of youth player Don Tantele that sparked a revival, he showed he has the ability to hold his own at the higher level with an eye for goal, epitomised by his cool finish to register his first for the senior team and the winning goal.
The game was barely five minute old when the first goal chance materialised. Maldon keeper Tommy Dixon-Hodge dallied on the ball, Anointed Chukwu blocked his clearance but couldn’t find the right purchase to find the back of the net.
What followed for a time was typical of an end of season encounter with a lack of intensity, but Maldon created the first real opening squandered by Olumide Oluwatimile blasting high and wide.
Eventually the game opened up with Maldon edging possession and coming closest, when Emmanuel Martins forced Danny Sambridge to turn his fierce drive behind. Shomari Barnwell was the supplier when his ball into the box was met with a first time shot crashing against the upright from Oluwatimile.
Blues were creating their own chances but a reluctance to pull the trigger allowed Maldon to clear the danger on a number of occasions.
After coming close Maldon finally got their noses in front on 35 minutes, when Martins converted at the near post from an Oluwatimile cross. From the restart Chukwu should have brought Blues level when he failed to beat Dixon-Hodge from close range.
Blues did get back on level terms though four minutes later and it was a goal from nowhere. Macca Joynes played a speculative ball into the box, Chukwu glanced a header forward where Martins trying to clear turned the ball into his own net.
The last action of the half fell to Maldon only to be denied by a point blank Sambridge save.
Maldon came close again just after the restart when a Blues attack broke down. Rob Clark spotted Sambridge off his line and from inside his own half sent in a lofted shot that Sambridge back peddling, managed to turn behind at the last moment. But Maldon were not to be denied in the 54th minute. Winning a corner, the ball was delivered, Sambridge came but missed the ball allowing Barnwell the simplest task to touch home.
The goal affected Blues who lost their shape and momentum, Maldon took advantage, dominating possession and came close to adding a third when Martins scampered down the flank cutting inside and sliding a shot just wide of the far post.
It was a signal for Blues to reorganise, reverting to a back three, they edged their way back into the game gaining possession and territory, examining Maldon’s defensive credentials.
The real turning point came just after the hour mark with the introduction of Tantele. His movement and pace created openings, Blues pushed forward looking to get back on level terms. David Knight in midfield played some astute passes, and Jack McQueen exploited space down the right flank. The pressure told in the 76th minute when Chukwu receiving the ball in the six yard box turned and fired past Dixon-Hodge.
Four minutes later Blues went in front. A ball dissecting the Maldon central defenders set Tantele free, keeping a cool head he slotted the ball past the advancing Dixon-Hodge. The goal led to a prolonged period of pressure on the Maldon goal, Freddie Moncur tested Dixon-Hodge with a fierce volley. Tantele was set up again unleashing a low drive whistling past the post.
A shellshocked Maldon responded, former Blues favourite Ade Cole tried his luck from distance missing the target and then in the dying minutes Sambridge pulled off a brilliant save to turn the ball over and guarantee Blues the points.
Sambridge, McQueen, Joynes, Okonkwo, Daniel, Watts,(Tantele 61),Paxman, Moncur(Wright 89), Chukwu, Knight, Brown
Sub not used; Miller