Dumaka back in the goals as Blues draw with Hendon
Blues turned in a much improved performance against Hendon on Monday night writes The Mariner.
HENDON 2-2 GRAYS ATHLETIC
In a game played at a high tempo Grays looked more like a team who led the league table in the early stages of the season against a Hendon outfit who belied their lowly position.Four goals in a pulsating first period all taken with aplomb certainly entertained the sparse crowd at Earlsmead.
Blues got off to the best possible start, after conceding a free kick on the edge of their box in the first minute. A quick break out of defence saw Luke Iffil feed Bradley Fortnum-Tomlinson who outpaced Hendon fullback Sprague,cutting the ball back inside to DD Dumaka he quickly brought the ball under control firing across Wright Into the bottom corner to put Blues one up in the 3rd minute.
Seizing the initiative Grays pinned Hendon back in the early stages denying them time on the ball.Jay Leader did well to intercept a promising Hendon build up he drove forward and nearly increased Blues advantage with a lob which sailed agonisingly over.
Blues were asking all the questions but a defensive mix up in the 10th minute led to the Hendon equaliser.A speculative high ball into the Blues half saw Leader and Cronin both challenging for the ball with neither making good contact the ball fell invitingly to Cracknell who made no mistake beating Lamar Johnson's despairing dive.
The goal appeared to lift the home side they started to compress play denying space to Grays and it was only determined defending that kept the visitors on level terms.Tommy Cummings did relieve the pressure driving forward he exchanged passes finding Cronin out wide his floated cross found the head of Montel Angyemang but was saved by Wright.
Hendon managed to increase their lead from a free kick in the 30th minute,Pattie whipped the ball in with pace Grays were slow to react leaving Cracknell with a free header he made no mistake powering the ball past the exposed Johnson.
Finding themselves a goal down Blues began to apply their own pressure increasing the tempo and pinning Hendon back.A great run from Joao Carlos produced an opportunity for Dumaka turning his defender he unleashed a fierce shot which just cleared the Hendon crossbar.Alex Addai was causing problems with his pacy runs as Blues won a succession of corners.
In the 38th minute Montel Angyemang won the ball in midfield driving forward he threaded a searching ball to Dumaka eluding the advancing Wright he restored parity playing the ball into an unguarded goal.It was all Grays now,in the closing stages of the half.Dumaka combined well with Carlos who fired in a low drive Wright gathering at the second attempt,and then Tommy Cummings unleashed a 25 yard pile driver which brought a wonderful save from the keeper.
Hendon were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second period Sprague made a penetrating forward run firing just over with Johnson beaten.The Blues goal came under pressure as the home side searched for an opening,a dangerous cross caused panic in the Blues rearguard the ball was eventually cleared after a frantic scramble in the area.
Blues weathered the early onslaught and began to see more of the ball,a break down the right found Tomlinson in space he fed the ball to Kenny Beaney who layed the ball into the path of the onrushing Cummins who again unleashed a fierce effort which just cleared the crossbar.
Dumaka combined well with Tomlinson who founded the unmarked Carlos, driving forward his shot deflected for a corner much to the dismay of Blues fans who due to the angle thought he had scored.
The game really opened up as both sides went looking for the winner,Addai had a great opportunity using his pace he ran at the Hendon defence beating his defender he opted for placement over power side footing the ball just wide of the post.
At the other end Hendon came close when a quick break and cross found Pattie unmarked in the box but his header failed to hit the target.
It was Blues turn to break Carlos who looked lively all evening cut the ball back to Addai and only a desperate block prevented him from putting Grays in front.
It seemed at this stage every attack from either side could produce a goal, Hendon came close again when a great cross saw Pattie again put his header into the grateful arms of Johnson.Then Blues won a succession of corners cleared under pressure by the home defenders.
After a four goal feast in the first half the second period although full of exiting attacking football failed to produce a goal and both sides had to settle for a share of the points in what was a very entertaining encounter.
So a much improved performance from the Blues they looked sharp and hungry for the ball much as they had early season.Certainly a decent playing surface was a major contributor you could sense the players were confident the ball would run true allowing them to play at a higher tempo and play a more expansive game.
STARTING XI: Johnson Ifill Cummings Cronin Leader Agyemang Addai Beaney Dumaka Fortnam-Tomlinson Carlos
SUBS: Bentley Hutchins Siva Michael-Percil Agombar