Grays come out on top in local derby

Grays Athletic manager Jamie Stuart

Grays Athletic 1-0 Bowers and Pitsea

BLUES last night followed up their fine victory at Ware with another hard working performance and had they made more of the chances created in the second half could have won by a greater margin. In contrast to the win on Saturday Blues faced a more determined opposition and had to dig deep against a Bowers team who just shaded the first period in terms of possession, but the second period saw Blues register an early goal and then create a plethora of goal scoring opportunities.

Blues made two changes on the night Ade Cole coming in for the unavailable Glen Poole, and Tim Monsheju starting up front in place of the unwell Jamie Slabber.

Bowers made a bright start to the half and enjoyed the lions share of possession forcing a number of corners ,but their most potent threat came from long throws into the Blues box.The first real opportunity of the half fell to Bowers from a corner when Manor rose unchallenged and powered a header wide of the upright.

Blues rearguard marshalled by the impressive Richard Halle proved disciplined and dogged and more resilient in combating the early visitors pressure, with Lamar Johnson looking assured between the sticks.Bowers despite the pressure were not at this stage creating any clear cut chances. So it was that belatedly Blues stirred into action,Joao Carlos was becoming the focus point of they’re attacking forays seeing plenty of the ball ,Monsheju and Kieran Bishop were utilising their pace up front to try and spring Bowers offside trap .

As the half progressed the game evolved into a midfield stalemate with neither side by now assuming any measure of control, Blues nearly snatched the lead following a free kick ten yards outside the visitors box. Sam Cross whose previous two goals came from a similar position stepped up and sent in low drive forcing Chafer into a finger tip save to turn the ball behind.

Bowers replied in the shape of the menacing Manor who turned well and drilled a low shot forcing Johnson diving to his right to make a smart stop. Manor was then the provider setting up Leahy who really should have done better but his aim was wayward and his effort missed the target .At the other end Cole tried his luck from 35 yards Chafer saving comfortably.

The referees whistle brought to an end a half which saw the visitors enjoy a good deal of possession without punishing their hosts and one felt if Bishop and Monsheju could use their pace to get behind Bowers offside trap then a goal would come.

HT 0-0

Right from the whistle it was evident Blues were looking much sharper and as a consequence more competitive ,and it was the increase in tempo that got them off to the best possible start with a goal in the 47th minute.A Bowers attack broke down on the edge of the Blues box the ball was cleared and eventually found Bishop on the half way line.Cleverly shielding the ball he played it down the channel where Carlos collected on the run and threaded a sublime pass to Cole,although surrounded by three defenders he managed to twist and turn creating space for himself and slotted past Chafer .

Blues increased tempo and their ability to get behind the Bowers back line led to a number of opportunities to increase their advantage. Hitting on the break Bishop was left chasing a through ball ,Chafer to his credit rushed from his line and headed the ball away but not out of danger,Bishop quickly regained control of the ball and with the Bowers keeper out of his goal tried to curl the ball into the net but unfortunately his effort slid agonisingly wide of the post.

Clearly unsettled Bowers back line looked shaky under the constant pressure,Bishop once again had a one on one with Chafer but again the keeper rushed from his line forcing the striker wide although he did manage to send in a shot which again slid just wide. A series of corners followed as Blues pushed and probed to increase their advantage.Halle thought he had scored when he rose to power a header goal wards but Chafer performed acrobatically to paw the ball away from under the bar.Bishop and Monsheju backed up by a pressing midfield looked to put the game to bed. Monsheju always willing to take a pot shot when the opportunity arose tried his luck from distance but fired just over.

Bowers at this stage still threatened on the break but once again a more solid looking Blues rearguard were equal to the challenge and held firm.In an effort to get a toe hold in the game the visitors made three substitutions but these were then countered when one of their defenders injured in a challenge could not continue, leaving the visitors down to ten men.

The one man advantage should have given Blues the ideal platform to go on and consolidate their position ,but as so often happens when playing against ten men it allowed Bowers to come back into the game seemingly having a man spare rather than one down.The visitors were now asking all the questions and there were some worrying moments,a couple of penalty appeals left Blues fans nerves jangling as the clock ticked down.With ten minutes to go Jamie Stuart made three substitutions to re-energise and consolidate his team,Suley Zuhdu ,Callum Ibe and Callum Thompson replacing Barry Cogan ,Joao Carlos, and Tim Monsheju.

A succession of Bowers corners and long throws applied more pressure but despite this Blues held firm and the final whistle saw them register their first back to back wins and clean sheets of the season.

In their last two performances Blues have at last shown the hunger and work rate to go along with their undoubted ability and the signing of Richard Halle looks to be significant factor in Blues upturn in fortunes.His experience has proved invaluable at the back and gives Blues a more solid base.Tim Monsheju has added additional pace and competition up front which augurs well for the future campaign.

Saturday sees Tilbury visit Parkside in the Borough’s oldest local derby. Blues fans will be under no illusion that this will be another challenge for a rejuvenated Blues , another win will hopefully kick start what has been a faltering start to the season.