Grays Athletic 3-1 Enfield Town
By GAFC News
Solid win for Bentley's Blues writes The Mariner
It was a double celebration at Mill Field on Saturday, as Mark Bentley's caretaker role as manager was made permanent and fans favorite Joao Carlos made his 200th appearance for the Blues.
Since taking the helm at Grays, Bentley has rejuvenated and instilled a sense of togetherness within the squad that is clear for all to see.
Grays named an unchanged side after last Saturday's disappointing loss at the hands of high flying Dulwich, ironically the club received an email from the referee apologizing for his error in awarding the home side's clearly offside opening goal.
Enfield have always provide tough opposition and yesterdays match was no exception, but such is the renewed confidence in Bentley's young squad that they were able to soak up late Enfield pressure to seal a hard working victory and consolidated their mid-table position.
Enfield stared the game brightly and took the game to the Blue's without creating any real openings. The first Grays opportunity fell to double centurion Joao Carlos after five minutes but his lob was saved by Enfield custodian Nathan McDonald.
Both sides were testing each other out with Grays playing a more direct attacking style dictated by the playing surface.The Blue's pushed forward and striker Dumaka's snap shot fell just wide of the upright, moments later Carlos slipped when well placed and the chance went missing.
James Stevens was beginning to orchestrate proceedings in midfield with his incisive long-range passing, ably assisted by the tireless Kenny Beaney. On 18 minutes a back header from Jay Leader failed to find a Grays head and the ball was cleared. Enfield continued to knock the ball around but the Blue's rear guard looked comfortable with Connor Gough commanding his area and taking the pressure off his back four.
On eleven minutes Grays were awarded a free kick wide on the Enfield right flank taken by Jey Siva and his floated effort was glanced home by Manny Parry for Grays first and his second for the club in as many weeks. Blue's began to press home their advantage and were playing expansive football at pace causing Enfield's rear guard many problems.
In one such move Carlos was brought down whilst in full flow in the area and the referee had no hesitation to award the penalty. Kenny Beaney stepped up but the kick was well saved by McDonald who turned it round for a corner. Grays however were not to be denied when a minute later Joao Carlos nodded home to make it 2-0 to the Blues.
Enfield were being well marshaled being restricted to long range efforts which Gough managed to deal with comfortably, although they came close with Gough making a good save from a deflection.
On the stroke of half time Enfield pulled a goal back through Bobby Devyne following hesitation in the Grays defense.
Enfield as expected started the second half brightly and forced two early corners. Liam Hope was denied by Gough in the opening minutes as they began to pin the Blue's back.
The Grays tactic appeared to be what we have we hold dropping deep and frustrating Enfield but still looked dangerous on the counter attack. Dumaka and Nouble were causing the Enfield rear guard problems with their movement off the ball.
On 55 minutes Grays won a corner which was comfortably cleared Enfield countered quickly but Parry managed to clear the danger.
Enfield came closest to equalizing in the 67th minute when Tajbakhsh's shot was heading for the net but was cleared off the line thanks to a goal line clearance from Jay Leader. From the resulting corner Gough did well to claim the ball under pressure.
Enfield then produced their last throw of the dice sending on Whitley and Livings to try and turn the game round. Jordan Wilson was finding more and more space on the right as Grays continued to look for that third goal to kill the game off.
A double substitution by Grays saw Nouble replaced by Bentley to add more cover in midfield. Joao Carlos was replaced by Nathan Ferguson as Grays looked to close the game down.
In the 80th minute Jordan Wilson was unlucky when he fired just over but only five minutes later Wilson latched onto a through ball and skillfully lifted the ball over the advancing McDonald to seal the points for the Blue's.
This was a game that prior to Mark Bentley's appointment could well have resulted in a different outcome, but Grays are made of sterner stuff and their renewed spirit and togetherness was evident for all to see.
Next up for the Blue's is a League Cup quarter final at Divsion One North AFC Sudbury on Tuesday night, kick off for the game is 19:45. This will be another tricky encounter but the Blues new found resilience should see them through to the semi finals for the second year running.