Late Baker strike sees Grays win thrilling encounter against Romford
By Andrew Packer
A last gasp Junior Baker goal saw Grays see off local rivals Romford 3-2 at Rush Green on Wednesday night.
Grays started the game much the better side and were two goals to the good before some fans had even entered the ground.
First, in the 8th minute good work down the right wing by Jared Small saw him find enough space to dig out a cross to the back post where Joao Carlos had ghosted in unmarked for a simple head home to give the home side the lead.
The second goal, juts two minutes later was somewhat fortunate. A free kick from twenty-five yards was struck towards goal by Harry Agombar, which Chris Clark in the Romford goal looked to have well covered. However, the ball hit the outside of the wall, completely wrong footing the goalkeeper and bounced into the opposite corner of the net.
Romford’s first real effort on goal came in the 27th minute as Ben Jones struck a powerful volley from twenty yards which looked to be heading for the corner of the net, until George Kamurasi at full stretch tipped the ball round the post for a corner which came to nothing.
The away side came even closer in the 34th minute as George Woodward’s shot from the edge of the area hit the crossbar with Kamurasi well beaten and the rebound fell to Nick Reynolds. He had the simple task of hitting the target from eight yards unchallenged, but inexplicably headed over when it was easier to score.
Grays clearly thought their work was done at half time whilst Romford were obviously told to up their game, which is exactly what they did.
In the first minute following the restart, Ben Jones found space on the edge of the Grays area to drive into the area and shoot towards goal, but Kamurasi was out well to save with his feet.
Romford did grab a goal back just before the hour mark. A free kick from the left hand side was played toward where the penalty spot where goalkeeper and defenders alike stood and watched as Paul Clayton had time to pick his spot and head home unchallenged into the bottom left hand corner.
Grays responded by replacing Jared Small with Jack West.
But it was Romford’s substitute that had the next impact on the game as Kurt Smith moved into the penalty area on 67 minutes and was brought down for a penalty.
George Kamurasi guessed correctly with the penalty, making a good diving save low to his right but was powerless to stop Ben Jones rebound, who reacted first following the penalty.
Grays were on the back foot and hanging on but almost retook the lead in the 75th minute. Joao Carlos drove into the area from the left wing before firing across goal where Jeff Hammond came sliding in at the back post but narrowly missed connecting with the ball for a certain goal.
The home side made their second substitution in the 76th minute, replacing Jake Hall with Joe Sweeney.
Grays suffered another setback in the 82nd minute as they were reduced to ten men. Jeff Hammond, booked shortly before as he appealed to the referee for having his shirt pulled and going down, received a second yellow card as he chopped down a Romford player who was attacking towards the edge of the Grays penalty area.
Grays final substitution came in the 86th minute as Joao Carlos was replaced with Luke Marshall.
In the 88th minute Grays looked to have snatched all three points as Joe Sweeney played the ball out wide to Harry Agombar. His cross to the middle of goal, six yards out, was met by the perfectly timed run of Kenny Beaney and his low header looked to be heading in only for Chris Clark to pull off a fantastic save to keep the scores level.
However, Grays were not to be denied as in injury time, good link up play between Craig Pope and Harry Agombar allowed space to cross deep to the back post where Junior Baker popped up to tap into the net before the goalkeeper or defenders could react.
Grays held on for the final few seconds in what may prove a vital win come the end of the season.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Danny Bunce, Jake Hall (Joe Sweeney 76), Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos (Luke Marshall 86), Jared Small (Jack West 60), Jeff Hammond
Unused Subs: David East, Leon Lalite