GAFC 4 - 1 West Ham United XI
Blues ran out comfortable 4-1 winners as they hosted a West Ham United XI in their first match at the Rush Green Stadium.
With the West Ham XI including the likes of Frédéric Piquionne, Ravel Morrison and Bilel Mohsni this looked to be a tough test for Blues but they started the game better and looked like a team who were playing more than just their first pre-season game together.
In just the 7th minute a free-flowing move saw Luke Marshall attack down the right wing, with his dangerous ball across goal causing panic in the West Ham six yard area. Under pressure from ex-Tilbury striker Jack West, trialist Mohsni ended up putting past his own keeper.
West Ham did show spells of the quality they had in the team as in the 9th minute the ball was played over the top of the Grays defence towards Piquionne. As Lamar Johnson came rushing out of his goal for Grays, the Frenchman got the ball first to flick the ball towards goal, but it trickled agonisingly past the post.
In the 18th minute, Piquionne was again found in the Grays area, but his turn and shot was well saved by Johnson.
Grays once again took over the ascendency as good build up play in the 21st minute saw Jack West fire wide from the edge of the area, before Danny Bunce shot wide moments later.
Blues reaffirmed their control on the game as they took a 2-0 lead on the half hour mark. West Ham conceded a free kick about 25 yards out in a central position and Lee Flynn made no mistake as he stepped up to fire low under the wall and into the corner of the goal.
The Hammers tried hard to force their way back into the game and started to build pressure and create numerous chances. First, a shot from Pelly Mpanzu was saved at the near post, before Gorge Moncur rifled a powerful strike towards goal only for Johnson to save again with a smart diving save.
The final action of the half came from Grays as they took a 3-0 lead into the interval.
Lee Flynn’s deep cross from the left hand side was missed by West Ham keeper Jake Larkins, leaving Joao Carlos to calmly head the ball into the empty net.
West Ham started the second half the brighter of the two sides, but despite dominating possession, they were unable to break down the resolute Blues defence.
On the hour the game effectively ended as a contest, as Grays won a corner and Craig Pope glided in unnoticed at the near post to head home from five yards to give Grays a 4-0 lead.
West Ham fans didn’t have to wait much longer for their team to finally register a goal as in the 64th minute a corner was swung in from the left and the ensuing scramble in the area saw Mohsni fire into the Grays net to make in 4-1 on the night.
West Ham looked to close the gap further as they again created numerous chances and rained more attempts on the Grays goal.
In the 67th minute, an accurate shot by Piquionne was directed towards the bottom corner of the goal, only for Lamar Johnson to once again pull off an excellent diving save to preserve the three goal cushion.
A minute later a cross from the right caused confusion in the Grays area and the home team just managed to clear for a corner. The subsequent corner was headed narrowly wide.
In the 75th minute West Ham looked to have scored again as substitute, Leo Chambers fired towards goal and saw his shot parried away by Lamar Johnson. The rebound was calmly slotted home; however the flag had already been raised for offside.
The last fifteen minutes was largely uneventful as the game became disjointed following numerous substitutions.
In the second half Grays replaced Jack West, Luke Marshall, Leon Lalite, Lee Flynn, Jake Hall, Joao Carlos, Craig Pope and Ryan Kirby for James Bunn, Joe Sweeney, Ryan Maxwell, Brain Moses, Tyrone Scarlett, Alex Cruickshank, Dave East and Ryan Palmer, showing the strength in depth the squad has for the coming season.
As the final whistle went, the Grays fans looked very pleased with what they had seen, not only of the team but also of the new home Grays have for the next two seasons.
Blues’ next fixture is on Saturday 28th July as they travel to Erith Town, 3pm kick off.
Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Lee Flynn, Luke Marshall, Leon Lalite, Danny Bunce, Jake Hall, Joao Carlos, Jack West.
Subs - Ryan Palmer, Luke Stanley, Ryan Maxwell, James Bunn, Joe Sweeney, Dave East, Brian Moses, Tyrone Scarlett, George Kamarusi, Alex Cruickshank.