Aveley 0 - 1 GAFC
Danny Bunce scored the only goal of the game from the spot, as Blues won a hard-fought local derby at Mill Field, home of Justin Gardner’s Aveley.
It was an unchanged line-up for Blues, as Hayrettin stuck with the side that won 3-0 at home to Redbridge nine days previously; meaning Jared Small and Jeff Hammond were preferred up top. Aveley lined up with ex-Blue Bradley Thomas at the heart of their defence, whilst 24-goal striker Jordan Cox led the line, although he failed to see out the 90 minutes, seeing red for two bookable offences.
Shortly before the half hour, Aveley full-back Marcus Rose handled a deep cross inside the area, leaving the referee no alternative other than to point to the spot. Bunce, playing in his 150th appearance for the Club stepped up and made no mistake, firing past Andre Foster; it was Bunce’s 10th goal of the season, which put him level with Joao Carlos.
Cox picked up his first booking late in the first half, as he appeared to knock the ball out of Lamar Johnson’s hands. The striker coolly finished into the unguarded net, however after consulting his linesman, Cox was shown the yellow card, presumably for ungentlemanly conduct.
The Millers pressed hard in the second period, but the pace and threat of Cox was soon extinguished as a late challenge on Lee Flynn was enough for referee Stephen Moore to show the red card.
The decision appeared to galvanise Aveley, and for much of the second half, they pinned Blues back inside their own half. Blues were caught up in the physical battle of midfield, and hearts were in mouths late on as Billy Holland saw his shot crash against the bar.
A 1-0 win is impressive when it comes in such a match, against a side who have won their previous six matches, and who should certainly be in the mix for the remainder of the campaign. Two stats which came out of the match were that it was the first time Aveley have failed to score in a match this season, but more impressively, it was a sixth consecutive clean sheet for Blues. That last one has left the statisticians trying to find out the last time that was done before.
The win was enough to see Blues go back into second place, ten points behind leaders Maldon & Tiptree, but with two games still in hand.
Terry Spillane’s side have the chance to extend their lead on Thursday evening, as they host Brentwood Town at the Wallace Binder Stadium. After their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cheshunt at the weekend, their recent position of security at the top has come under threat by Blues, and the other three teams in the play-off positions. With a number of games still to be played between the top five sides in the remainder of the season, there are plenty of points to be won and lost.
There are five matches being played on Tuesday evening, although the top five don’t feature. Steve Witherspoon’s Brentwood play their first of three matches inside a week as they head to Cheshunt. With Blues set to travel to the Brentwood Centre next Tuesday, it will be interesting how they cope with such a heavy workload, with the pitches playing very heavy at the moment.
AFC Sudbury will be looking to continue their own mini revival, unbeaten in the three matches since their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Blues a month ago. They entertain a Waltham Forest side who have gone five matches without a win, a run which has seen them slip into the bottom five. Last season’s beaten play-off finalists Needham Market will be hoping its 14th time lucky as they look for their first home league win of the season. With just one win in their last eight league matches, it could be another long evening at Bloomfields as Norfolk side Wroxham are the visitors.
Tilbury will be hoping to pick up their first win in four matches as they head to struggling Ware, although the Hertfordshire side have improved a great deal in the opening weeks of 2013. After having to wait until the 8th December to pick up their first win of the season, they have managed a further three since the turn of the year; including a 3-2 win away at Chatham Town on Saturday.
The final match of the evening is between Witham Town and Waltham Abbey. Last season’s Essex Senior League winners Witham have been impressive so far, and they will surely harbour an outside ambition of making the end of season play-offs, as they currently sit just eleven points behind 5th placed Aveley. Waltham Abbey’s league form has been about as consistent as the weather, and they are suffering from a fixture backlog of their own. With an Essex Senior Cup semi final to come next Tuesday against AFC Hornchurch, and seemingly safe from any relegation worries, Abbey could view it as a time to rest some of their key players.