Grays Athletic 2, Redbridge 0
SOMETIMES in football you have to win ugly and that was certainly the case on Saturday for Grays Athletic for the Blues who made hard work of beating Essex Senior League Redbridge who belied their Essex Senior status with a spirited display in this FA Cup preliminary round tie.
Goals from Sully Zuhdu and Joao Carlos were enough to ensure Blues name is in the hat for the draw on Monday the only downside of the afternoon was what looked a nasty injury to James Folkes.
The opening period saw Redbridge make the early running and they quickly created a chance from a free kick. Blues were thankful to Lamar Johnson who made a smart save. Blues were clearly second best at this stage as Redbridge swarmed and buzzed around the park winning the decisive challenges. Ex Blue Brian Moses was proving a handful up front and came close to notching the opener with an effort that flew over.
Zuhdu set about bringing Blues back into the game with another hard working performance, in one attack he broke down the left shrugged off a challenge and fired in on goal, winning a corner. Blues at last sparked into life and began to exert their own pressure.
Carlos found himself in space and tried his luck with a volley forcing a save. A corner saw a Perry Dunn header destined for the net only for it to hit Kieran Bishop and rebound to safety but it was to be a temporary reprieve for Redbridge. In the 38th minute Zuhdu struck the goal his effervescent contribution warranted. Barry Cogan started the move threading a searching ball to Zuhdu who nodded the ball forward and cleverly volleyed past the keeper to give Blues some breathing space. Buoyed by the goal Blues created another opportunity when Bishop flicked the ball into the path of Folkes who nodded the ball just wide of the upright.
In the dying minutes of the half Folkes appeared to catch his foot as he played a pass and went down in obvious agony, after lengthy treatment he was carried from the pitch on a stretcher.
Minutes after the break Moses was presented with an opportunity to level the scores unfortunately for him the ball caught under his feet and was cleared to safety.
Kieran Hughes-Mason, on for the injured Folkes, was quickly into his stride and provided a ready outlet for Blues down the right flank foraging forward and utilising his pace to good advantage and just six minute after the break he was involved in Blues’ second. Picking up the the ball in midfield he played the ball through to Ade Cole who raced to the bye line dragging the visitors’ defence out of shape and squared the ball back for the onrushing Carlos who swept the ball home from close range.
The goal led to a period of Blues pressure when they at last began to play with some freedom moving the ball at pace pinning Redbridge back in their own half half. Cole became more prominent and he and Cogan were now orchestrating proceedings in midfield, Hughes -Mason looked dangerous on the break and it looked increasingly likely they would add a third but Redbridge had other ideas. Blues retreated into their shells and for a time the visitors enjoyed a period of pressure without making a breakthrough.
With the clock ticking down Hughes-Mason had one last opportunity to increase Blues’ advantage and he drove forward into the box and shot but the ball drifted just wide of the upright.
Blues then secured the win but they were made to work hard for the victory and only showed patches of the kind of football they are capable of, in the end though their extra quality proved decisive against a hard working Redbridge outfit who pushed them all the way.