TOO LITTLE TOO LATE BLUES
Blues suffered a disappointing reverse at Mildenhall writes The Mariner
This was a game of if only. If only Grays had played with the same intensity they showed in the last twenty minutes of the second half, and if only they hadn't conceded two poorly defended goals in the first then they could have come away from Mildenhall with all three points. Football is a game of ninety minutes, but unfortunately Blues failed to compete until the game was out of their reach. It's frustrating for the management team and fans alike when they witnessed the climax to the game where Blues showed what they are capable of - if they apply work rate to their undoubted ability.
The opening ten minutes was something of a non-event littered with stoppages and the only incident of note was a contentious booking for skipper Stan Muguo.
Blues - playing down a notable slope - shaded the early possession with Callum Thompson and Joao Carlos working in tandem down the left flank. During this period Blues won a number of corners and free kicks but uncharacteristic poor delivery from Barry Cogan failed to beat the first man, allowing Mildenhall to clear the ball with ease.
Alarm bells though were ringing for Grays in the shape of on-loan Stevenage youngster Claudio Ofuso. With lightning pace he looked dangerous every time he was fed the ball, and it was no surprise when he was the architect of the opening goal for Mildenhall in the 21st minute. Picking the ball up inside Blues' half he raced forward with gusto past James Folkes and Joe Bruce and whipped in a low cross to the unmarked Mathew Green who drilled the ball past Charlie Burns.
Grays responded from the kick off with Ade Cole driving into the box, he pulled the ball back from the byeline , finding Cogan who stabbed the ball wide of the upright - but that was a rare opportunity. Blues fell into the habit of pumping long balls forward, which proved fruitless with the ball running away down the slope. In contrast, every time Mildenhall played the ball forward, Blues' defenders looked hesitant and uncertain. Thompson was having a torrid time dealing with the tricky Jake Chambers -Shaw but he was not helped by his more senior team mates who gave him little support.
Mildenhall were lively and energetic, looked sharper, more hungry and more determined, winning the battle in midfield in part due to Blues timidity allowing their younger opponents to dictate play . Hunting in packs Mildenhall denied Blues time on the ball and when they did create openings Blues failed to convert them, rarely troubling Hallett.
Blues survived a number of close shaves before the hosts doubled their advantage in the 27th minute and again it was a poorly defended goal. A diagonal ball to the edge of the Blues' box saw Thompson caught in two minds. His indecision saw him lose control allowing Chambers-Shaw to fire decisively past Burns.
The goal failed to rouse Blues from their slumbers, build up was slow and laboured, allowing Mildenhall to get numbers behind the ball. Jamie Slabber and Kieran Bishop were feeding off scraps chasing down aimless long ball which invariably ran out of touch. Late in the half a Cole cross fell to Stan Muguo but he failed to hit the target, sending the ball over.
Manager Jamie Stuart made a reshuffle at half time replacing the unfortunate Thompson with Ryan Mahal at right back and moving James Folkes to the opposite flank.
Blues looked a lot sharper after the break and came close to reducing the arrears when Slabber was released closing in on goal he was denied by Hallet who blocked his effort. The ball was now being played to feet and with more urgency subsequently Blues looked a more potent force going forward but they still had to be on their guard. Burns came to the rescue when he clawed a dangerous cross away from danger in a Mildenhall break.
Halle in the home goal was tested when Cole fired in a fierce free kick which the keeper gathered at the second attempt. At the other end Ofuso caused consternation when he powered forward and saw his goalbound effort deflected.
It was now Blues looking more dangerous in creating opportunities. Cole weaved his way forward and unleashed a powerful shot too hot for Hallet who palmed the ball away. Richard Halle rose highest from a corner sending a header just wide. Mildenhall were clearly feeling the effects of their first half exertions. Gone was their high pressing game allowing Blues more time and space to push forward and build pressure. Carlos came more into the game getting round the back of the home defence.
Tre Zialor replaced Cogan in midfield. Jack Fowler came on for Slabber and Halle pushed up front as manager Stuart went for broke to try and salvage something from the game. Blues laid siege to the home goal, but it held firm with a series of blocks and desperate last minute challenges, but in the 82nd minute their goal was finally breached. Mahal who had been impressive since coming on stormed forward and sent in a cross to the near post where Bishop glanced the ball over Hallet it looked over the line but Folkes got arguably the final touch. It was all Blues now and Halle almost salvaged a point when his header looked bound for the back of the net but Hallet managed to grab the ball on the line.
Mildenhall were relieved to hear the final whistle but for Blues it was too little too late and a wretched first half performance was the nail in the coffin. Had they competed over the 90 minutes then this could have seen a different result but that's the story of the season so far- inconsistency.
Next Saturday Blues entertain Maldon and Tiptree and will be looking to avenge a 2-0 defeat earlier in the season.
Burns, Folkes, Thompson(Mahal 45),Bruce, Halle, Cogan( Zialor 67), Muguo, Cole, Carlos, Slabber(Fowler 75), Bishop
Subs not used;Simmonds, Stuart.