Grays Athletic 3, Tilbury 2
TWO own goals, a penalty and a red card was the story of Saturday’s Bostik North derby at Parkside with Grays getting back to winning ways – leaving the Dockers mired in the relegation zone.
A debut goal for Aron Gordon and a goal on his home debut for the returning Kieran Bishop contributed to Grays’ win but they had to work hard in the closing stages when the Dockers mounted a late rally. At 2-0 the Blues looked in control but the introduction of Lewis Smith was the catalyst for a Dockers fight back .
A bright start from Grays brought an early reward in the seventh minute when a Joao Carlos corner panicked the Dockers’ rearguard, forcing Lewis Jaggs to nod the ball past keeper Rhys Madden. The goal led to period of home pressure with Dennis Oli prominent as he produced some deft touches to bring Gordon and Bishop into the game.
Despite the pressure Dockers had an opportunity to restore parity when a free kick was only half cleared finding Tom Anderson unmarked in the six yard box but he spurned the chance blasting wildly over. Grays replied in the shape of Michael Toner – driving forward he unleashed a powerful drive that whistled just past the upright.
Dockers edged their way back into the game, belying their league position with well-crafted play, Mitchell Gilbey was pulling the strings but a competitive Blues midfield led by Stanley Muguo (pictured with mascots Grays U14 girls with the man of the match award) blunted their progress. Gordon looked lively for Blues recapturing his early season form causing moments of consternation for the Dockers defenders.
Grays had a lucky escape when Toner was caught in two minds, Anderson capitalized, stealing the ball and seeing Bogard off his line he lifted the ball over the keeper – but also the crossbar. Carlos replied after a patient Blues build up turning inside his marker sending a venomous strike over.
In recent weeks Grays’ second half performances have seen them fail to match their first half exertions, but early signs were encouraging when Bishop outstripped the Dockers back line and only a great block by Madden prevented a second goal. The Blues striker wasn’t to be denied though, in the 57th minute a searching ball found Bishop, his first touch was not the best but somehow he regained control and slid the ball past the advancing Madden to give Grays a two goal cushion.
Dockers made a substitution on the hour mark, bringing on the vastly experienced Lewis Smith which altered the flow of the match. Just two minutes after his introduction he was instrumental in the Dockers late comeback. There seemed little danger as an aimless ball deep in the Blues half saw Toner try and shepherd the ball out of play, but not for the first time he hesitated, Smith stole the ball and flashed a cross into the box where Ryan Mahal got a touch turning the ball past his own keeper.
The goal stunned Blues and galvanised the Dockers who upped the tempo, moving the ball at pace with Smith involved more and more. Collective panic ran through Blues play resorting to hasty clearances and giving away possession allowing Tilbury to build pressure. Smith went close, testing Bogard from distance forcing the keeper into a plunging dive to turn the ball behind.
Blues under pressure still looked dangerous on the break, Bishop once again racing clear of the visitors back line set up a great opportunity for Gordon who somehow managed to miss the target from six yards.
An off the ball incident was to reduce the Dockers to ten men when Siju Odelusi appeared to strike Michael Finneran leading to a straight red card. With the visitors reduced to ten men Blues created openings , a second own goal was just avoided when a sliced clearance dropped onto the Dockers bar and behind. Sub Ade Cole then caused Madden some anxiety beating out his well struck effort.
With just five minutes remaining on the clock Blues established a two goal cushion when Gordon weaved his way into the box prodding the ball past Madden to record his first league goal of the season.
Grays’ euphoria was short lived when just two minutes later Dockers reduced the arrears, and it was danger man Smith racing into the box he went down under a challenge and stepped up to roll the subsequent penalty past Bogard. The goal set up a hectic finale with both sides looking for a goal but Grays held on to claim the three points.
Despite the red card it was game played in the right spirit with both sides enjoying periods of dominance. The win keeps Blues in touching distance of the play-off places. Tilbury on the other hand remain in the danger zone but on this performance they should soon start to climb the table.