GAFC 2 - 1 AFC Hornchurch
Blues rounded off their pre-season campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Conference South new boys AFC Hornchurch at Rush Green.
Craig Pope and Lee Flynn returned to their respective full back positions after their absence at Braintree the previous week, whilst Grant Cooper and Ryan Kirby partnered one another in the centre of defence. Leon Lalite, Kenny Beaney and Jake Hall continued in the centre of midfield, with Luke Marshall and Joao Carlos supporting Jack West.
The Urchins had ex Blues Joe Woolley and Sam Cutler in their starting line-up, with Leon McKenzie being introduced as a second half substitute.
The visitors started the stronger of the two sides and had a great chance to open the scoring in the 10th minute as Martin Tuohy latched on to a long clearance from Woolley, only to see his chip over Johnson just go past the post.
Moments later, it was Lewis Smith who collected another long up-field clearance, however his effort came back off the post, and from the rebound Smith was unable to finish.
Ten minutes into the second half came the first talking point of the match, with Cooper adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball inside the area. The fact the ball simply bounced up onto his arm eluded the linesman who flagged for the decision, after the referee had initially waved away any appeals. Up stepped Tuohy to give the Urchins the lead.
Shortly after it was Blues who were to benefit from a questionable decision, as Paul Goodacre was penalised for a tackle on Hall. Again the referee didn’t make the decision, but it was left to the opposite linesman to signal for a penalty. West levelled from the spot; his final act before being replaced by Joe Sweeney.
With fifteen minutes remaining, last season’s player of the year Carlos collected the ball just outside his own area. He advanced through midfield and with few options ahead of him, unleashed a rocket of a shot from 35 yards. Woolley was left stranded as the ball cannoned in off the underside of the bar to give Blues the lead, and ultimately the victory.
The win was Blues’ third in three matches at Rush Green following the wins over the XI’s of West Ham United and Dagenham & Redbridge.
A trip to Cricklefields next Saturday sees Blues face Waltham Forest in the opening league fixture, whilst they are back in action at Rush Green on Tuesday 21st August against Brentwood Town.
Grays Athletic: - Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Grant Cooper, Ryan Kirby (Junior Baker), Lee Flynn (David East), Luke Marshall, Leon Lalite, Kenny Beaney, Jake Hall (Tyrone Scarlett), Joao Carlos, Jack West (Joe Sweeney)
AFC Hornchurch: - Joe Woolley, James Love (Fola Orilonishe), Joe Anderson, Reiss Noel (Joey May), Paul Goodacre, Frankie Curley (Jonathan Hunt), Sam Cutler (Michael Spencer), Simon Glover (Elliot Styles), Martin Tuohy (Leon McKenzie), Lewis Smith, Alex Bentley.