Grays Athletic 3-1 Kingstonian
By GAFC News
Mark Bentley's first game is well-deserved win against the side with the best away record in the division
A rejuvenated Blues swept aside the Ryman Premier League's best away record with a resounding 3-1 win against Kingstonian at Mill Field tonight as caretaker manager Mark Bentley looked to restore some confidence to a side that had lost it's last four league games, conceding nine goals in the process. Blues, though, have the second meanest defence at home in the league this season and our first choice back four looked solid and well organised all night and it really did take something special to dent their resolve when K's scored with a cracker that would be a contender for goal of the season at any level.
The first half was an even affair with neither able to gain control or the lion's share of possession though K's forced a number of corners while Blues created the better openings and with a little more composure in front of goal this game could have been over as a contest before Carlos volleyed the Blues ahead on 22 minutes. The visitors were not testing the Blues defence despite their well-executed set pieces. It soon became clear a lot of work is done on the training ground with dead ball situations and it appeared that K's preferred option, aside from the occasional speculative long-range shot, was to draw a foul out of the defenders as the best means to get a ball into dangerous areas.
The home side opened the scoring in style after Ladapo latched onto Gough's clearance down the right, played the ball inside to DD and continued his run. DD bamboozled three defenders as Ladapo's run pulled two defenders with him and DD was able to lift the ball into the path of Carlos arriving on the left. Everyone expected him to smash the ball towards the near post but he let the ball bounce once before cleverly dinking it inside the far post across the helpless Rob Tolfrey.
Four minutes later it was all-square when K's scored with a contender for goal of the season. Full back Aaron Goode played the ball upfield and Elvis Hammond, with his back to goal near his right touchline around 40 yards out, controlled it into space to his left and as the ball sat up nicely he caught the sweet spot with his right-boot and drove it across Conor Gough who was going in the other direction and could only snatch at thin air as the ball curved just inside the post.
Bradley Tomlinson carved open a great opportunity beating Goode and getting into a great position but his shot was sliced high and wide. Blues had a great chance to go in front when Siva played a neat one two with Carlos before rolling the ball into Ladapo inside the box on the right but the striker's shot just bobbled past the far post. Aside from a couple of free kicks lofted into the area K's were unable to break down the Blues back four and the home side were comfortable going in at the break.
Blues started well after the break though their hard work and patient possession looked like it might be undone at times by conceding the free-kicks the visitors were looking for. K's always looked dangerous and well organised at set pieces and early scramble might have seen the ball in the back of the Grays net and lend the game a different complexion. As it was Blues accepted their slice of luck and went on to gain complete control of the game.
DD made way as Jordan Wilson was introduced on the right with Ladapo pushed up into his usual attacking role and a tweak to Bentley's tactics stretched K's whose usually well organised back four started to open up and look uncomfortable. Beaney was relishing the space he was being given and Siva and Best-Riley were able to get forward and you sensed it was only a matter of time before the goals started to rain in. Again, more composure in the final third would have seen this result look like a rout but Blues fans had to wait until the 66th minute before their side made the breakthrough.
Beaney found Carlos in space near the corner flag on the left and he was allowed to put his foot on the ball before floating a cheeky chip into the area. James Stevens slipped his marker and met the ball on the the penalty spot with a cracking low volley that gave Tolfrey no chance as the ball whistled beyond his dive down to his right.
Blues manager Bentley then replaced Stevens to give the midfield more of a physical presence and a challenge for Daniel Sweeney as the K's natural playmaker finally started to get into the game. Siva and Best-Riley were sitting higher up the pitch and aside from the occasional free kick the visitors couldn't get out of their own half and their fate was sealed 4 minutes from time when Jordan Wilson finished off a brilliant sweeping move to make the score 3-1.
Bentley, determined to hold onto a win in his first game in charge, sent on Luis Derbyshire for Carlos to ensure Blues could see the game out with the scoreline intact.
A good and very important win for Blues on a night when the result was far more important than the performance. Blues extra work on the training ground this week reaped rewards as the players maintained a high-tempo and workrate for the full 90-minutes and Kingstonian simply struggled to cope as the game wore on and the pitch got heavier. A great first win for caretaker manager Mark Bentley.