Great Wakering Rovers 2, Grays Athletic 2
GRAYS were denied their first Bostik North win in seven games when Great Wakering Rovers were awarded a last gasp penalty, but it could have been worse had Jake Gordon converted a second penalty in injury time when he blasted wildly over.
But Blues will look back at this game knowing had they taken their chances early in the second half they could have been home and dry.
Once again ill discipline was punished when Kieran Bishop received his marching orders for petulant retaliation after just moments later receiving a yellow card.
It could be argued the turning point came about when Dennis Oli, rolling back the years giving a virtuoso display of forward play was substituted, allowing Rovers to take control and force Blues onto the back foot.
With a strong and blustery wind blowing down the park the prospect of a high scoring incident packed encounter was assured and so it proved to be although the opening period proved difficult for both teams trying to master the conditions.
Rovers forced the pace early on playing with the wind at their backs, but it was Blues who had the first opportunity when the ball was cleared out to Pinto who hesitated and the chance was lost. Playing against the wind Blues adapted well, keeping the ball low and building pressure on the home goal – Oli, the target man up front used all his experience, holding the ball up and bringing Correy Davidson and Joao Carlos into play out on the flanks – a tactic that worked well allowing Blues to get round the back of Rovers back line.
Michael Toner had a great opportunity to put Blues in front when a corner to the far post found him unmarked feet from the line, but somehow he touched the ball over. The miss was immediately punished – a corner saw Clarke Bogard make a difficult save then stop two further efforts, but he was powerless when a Jake Gordon free kick in the 33rd minute drifted in the wind deceiving the Blues keeper – the ball struck the inside of the post rolling over the line, a goal scored against the run of play.
Blues posted an immediate reply just two minutes later – winning a free kick on the edge of the box Mitch Hahn as ever conjured up a terrific strike to curl the ball into the bottom corner past the outstretched hand of Harry Seaden. Blues made a change after the goal when Michael Toner was replaced by Callum Thompson in a straight swap which puzzled Blues fans as Toner did not appear to be carrying an injury.
Rovers nearly went in front with a quick break from Joshua Wiggins – he crossed to George Cox who brought another fine save from Bogard, involved again and kept busy just before the break
After a number of low key displays in recent weeks the first forty-five minutes saw Blues play with the pace and expression fans have come to expect .
After the break the weather typified Blues misfortunes of late when the strong gusty wind of the first half subsided to a light breeze negating the advantage Rovers had enjoyed.
Blues again looked sharp after the break and had a golden opportunity to go in front when Bishop raced clear of the Rovers back line leaving him one on one with Seaden, but this is not the clinical Bishop of last season who shot straight at the keeper who gratefully held onto the ball.
Moments later another chance was squandered when Carlos ended a Blues move slipping the ball into the dangerous Oli, but this time his radar let him down when he side footed the ball wide with the goal gaping.
It should have been 3-1 to Blues, they could have then gone on to win the game comfortably, but if you waste chances you are always liable to be punished and that nearly happened minutes later when Jacob Wiggins tested Bogard – ex Blue Shomari Barnwell was next when he powered a header downwards forcing a brilliant save from Bogard. Wiggins was again denied by Bogard.
The game was more open as the half progressed Blues still looked dangerous going forward, Davidson thought he had put Blues in front after a menacing break he sent in a rasping drive bringing a fingertip save from Seaden. From the resultant corner Blues went in front in the 65th minute, the ball was only half cleared a series of blocks saw the ball fall to Adalberto Pinto who drilled it through a ruck of players .
A goal in front and in control Blues made a substitution taking off the dangerous Oli for Tommy Wade, a move that appeared to galvanise Rovers who wrestled the initiative and put Blues under increasing pressure. Gordon exploited space firing over, Marc Gorbel nodded into Bogard’s arms, he then produced another stunning save from a pile driver.
Blues so assured earlier in the half became increasingly ragged, their attacks spasmodic as Rovers kept piling on the pressure. With just ten minutes to go came another turning point and Bishop was at the centre of it. Running forward he was blocked off the ball by Gorbell tumbling to the ground, the pair clashed both receiving yellow cards. Inexplicably having won the free kick Bishop kicked out off the ball at the perpetrator and was rightly dismissed by the official, the second petulant and unnecessary red card in as many games following Zak Henrys dismissal at Bowers.
With the one man advantage Rovers went for broke but it was Blues who could and should have put the game to bed when a flowing move found Wade two yards out and with goal at his mercy he prodded the ball forward forcing Seaden into a brilliant save to claw the ball off the line.
Just as it looked like Blues would hold on, in the 90th minute Cox was allowed to run nearly fifty yards unchallenged only to be bundled over in the box, Gordon converted the kick blasting past Bogard. It was to get worse for Blues when Rovers were awarded a second penalty in injury time, but this time the pressure appeared to affect Gordon who put the spot kick over. Moments later came the final whistle to bring to an end a lively encounter.
One consolation for Blues was bringing to an end to a run of defeats, but once again wasteful finishing and poor game management let them down.