Grays Athletic 3, Brentwood Town 1
TEENAGE loanee Jake Hutchinson is proving to be a real goal poacher and his brace helped Blues to a Bostik North win against Brentwood Town, who mounted a second half fightback only for Hutchinson made sure of the points with a goal four minutes from time.
In an entertaining contest both defences came under pressure from some attractive attacking football. It’s now one defeat in ten for Blues – consolidating their position in the top half of the table and a third win for manager Jim Cooper.
Brentwood started brightly, but it was Grays who created the first opportunity, after good build up saw Correy Davidson slide his first time effort wide of the upright.
The visitors continued to press forcing Blues into errors at the back – a recurring theme this season, but fortunately the home goal remained intact.
Blues roused from their earlier lethargy and began to play with verve and panache, putting together some enterprising passages of play and on 22 minutes they went in front.
Patient build up resulted in a searching cross from Jamie Hursit into the penalty area where Mitch Hahn stole in to loop a header over the stranded James Pellin.
Could Blues hold their lead? The answer was emphatically no – just a minute later when a Brentwood free kick to the far post elicited no challenge from a defender – the ball was nodded across the six yard box where it was stabbed home by the unmarked Mitchell Hunter – another illustration of Blues’ vulnerability at the back.
Both teams looked impressive going forward, but equally both defences looked vulnerable and chances came and went at either end.
Blues’ midfield worked hard led by the increasingly influential Nathan Livings, possessing the vision to expand the play and stretch the opposition.
Macauley Joynes was providing a willing outlet out wide sending in a series of dangerous crosses, one of which 16-year-old Hutchinson latched on to but his snap shot was blocked.
The young striker persevered and was rewarded when another Hursit cross found him lurking at the far post, where he bravely stooped low to nod Blues in front on 40 minutes. This time Blues held on to the lead as the teams went in at half time.
In the past Blues have failed to come out strongly after the break, but not this time when they pushed the visitors back and came close to increasing their lead when Davidson’s rasping drive rattled the crossbar – Blues continued to press but the Brentwood goal remained intact allowing them gradually to push Blues back.
Forced back Blues’ work rate dropped, the visitors sensed this and seized the initiative.
Bogard was now the busier keeper coming to his sides rescue. Danny Hurford wasted a golden opportunity when he broke clear, but a lack of composure saw his effort drift harmlessly wide.
Brentwood continued to press forcing a series of corners, but a combination of wayward finishing and the intervention of Bogard denied them an equaliser. Blues still looked menacing going forward, Dennis Oli and his young strike partner combined well to cause problems for the visitors defenders.
Connor Martin should have brought the scores level when a cross into the box found him unmarked, but he nodded straight into Bogard’s hands.
A series of substitutions added impetus to Blues’ play, energising the midfield and providing protection against further Brentwood forays allowing them to push forward.
It proved fruitful with just four minutes left of normal time, sub Ryan Mahal slid a great ball to the far post where Hutchinson who had lost his marker touched the ball home to give Blues a two goal advantage.
Stunned the visitors hit back when Charlie Hughes broke free with a one on one with Bogard coming to his side’s rescue with a crucial block. The let off allowed Blues to create a flurry of chances in the closing minutes with sub Joao Carlos prominent .
In contrast to the end of last season Blues are finishing strongly with just one defeat in their last ten matches and with just three games remaining they have the opportunity to put down a marker for next season.