Blues Tanned by Leatherhead
Grays crashed to their second defeat of the season at Fetcham Grove writes The Mariner.
A lack lustre Blues were beaten by a Leatherhead team who themselves suffered a heavy defeat at home on Saturday,worryingly the home side were gifted all three goals in a performance that was littered with errors throughout the evening.
Top goal scorer DD Dumaka was unavailable due to holiday and with skipper Kenny Beaney still recovering from injury manager Mark Bentley brought in Harry Agonbar in midfield with Bradley Fortnum Tomlinson playing as a central striker.
Blues started brightly,Tomlinson just failed to reach a searching ball into the box Leatherhead keeper Wells gathering comfortably.Shortly after he should have done better firing wide when in a good position following good work by Roman Michael-Percil.
The visitors were now dominating the opening period playing an expansive game on a pristine playing surface with James Stevens pinging forty yard cross balls at will but for all their possession Wells In the Leatherhead goal was rarely tested.
In the home side's first attack they won a corner out on the Blues right the kick was played deep to the far post Lamar Johnson stayed rooted to his line and with no other Grays defender taking responsibility the unmarked Gallagher was given the simplest of tasks to slam the ball home on 13 minutes.
The goal gave the home side a real boost as they began to harry and hustle the visitors not allowing them time on the ball as a result many passes were now going astray.Sean Cronin dwelt on the ball allowing another home attack to be mounted as Grays became increasingly guilty of overplaying the ball in dangerous areas.
Nathan Ferguson weaved his way forward at the home defence but then over ran the ball was dispossed allowing Karagiaminnis to break forward drawing Johnson his shot beat the keeper and fortunately for Grays the post.
Percil was the pick of the Blues at this stage using his pace and trickery he beat his fullback cutting the ball back from the bye line but unfortunately behind the onrushing Tomlinson and the ball was cleared to safety.
The Blues goal came under increasing pressure as the home side continued to press the ball and that pressure eventually told.In the 28th minute Leatherhead were awarded another corner which caused panic in the visitors penalty area,the ball pinged around as if in a pinball machine with Blues defenders having numerous opportunities to clear the danger but again with no one taking responsibility Gallagher pounced on the loose ball and lashed it into the roof of the net.
Despite the setback Grays tried to get back into the game but the build up was slow and ponderous with too many lateral passes allowing the Tanners to get numbers behind the ball.Percil and Carlos were having some success on the flanks but too often the final ball was not delivered with any degree of accuracy allowing the home defence to clear comfortably.
Blues again started the second period on the front foot as they searched for an opportunity to get on the scoresheet.Good work by Agonbar found Percil who rounded his fullback cutting the ball back he found Tomlinson in space but his miscued effort sailed wide.
At the other end Blues were grateful to Cronin when a cross found the unmarked Karagiannis on the edge of the six yard box his first time shot was blocked on the line by the Blues skipper.
Ferguson was becoming more influential in the middle of the park with some driving runs, on one such run he played a great ball to Agonbar in space on the edge of the home area but his woeful effort lacked power and accuracy and drifted yards wide of the home goal.
Leatherhead Karagiannis broke quickly and hit a curling shot that looked bound for the top corner but a deflection took it behind for a corner which the visitors managed to clear.
Blues to their credit although clearly not at their best continued to take the game to the Tanners,Leader weaved his way forward slipped the ball through to Tomlinson but Wells blocked his goal bound effort.
A Blues corner found the head of Cronin but his effort lacked accuracy and dropped harmlessly wide,Tomlinson then elected to pass when in a great shooting position much to the frustration of the Blues fans.
Leatherhead were beginning to feel the effects of their earlier pressing tactics which allowed Grays to dominate possession and territory without turning either into any clear cut goal scoring opportunities,too many times a pass failed to reach its target or was played across and not through the home back four.
The Tanners in contrast were more direct and as a consequence looked most likely to hit the back of the net and that's just what they did in the 64th minute.The normally solid Leader dwelt on the ball on the edge of the Blues area he was too easily dispossed the ball finding former Blue Wes Daley who made no mistake crashing the ball past Johnson,there were some half hearted appeals for a foul on Leader but these were turned away quite rightly by the Referee.
Lamar Reynolds replaced the ineffectual Agonbar following the goal as Blues continued to probe for an opening to try and avoid a second defeat of the season.
It was all Grays now in the closing minutes,Ifill sent in a delightful cross meeting the head of Tomlinson his effort looked bound for the net when Wells pulled off a stunning save to turn the ball onto the post and away to safety.Ferguson hit a fierce drive which brought another flying save from Wells as Blues continued to press.
Glen Little was introduced at the expense of Stevens but it was too little too late as by now the game was out of Blues reach.
So a bitterly disappointing evening for Grays,they quite clearly missed skipper Kenny Beaney who is the engine room in midfield his drive and vocal encouragement was sadly lacking,couple that with the threat up front of leading goal scorer Dumaka and it was always going to be a difficult game.
What would have disappointed manager Bentley despite these absences was the quality of passing and decision making throughout the side.If one conclusion can be drawn from tonight it is that if you dominate possession and territory early in the game you have to turn that into goals.
Blues will not have to wait long to see if they can halt a run of three games without a win when Kingstonian visit Mill Field on Friday evening.