Defensive Errors Cost Grays
The Blues gave themselves a mountain to climb after conceding soft goals writes The Mariner
Grays knew a tough task lay ahead of them when they travelled to Suffolk on Tuesday evening against unbeaten Leiston and they didn't make life easy for themselves conceding two goals after 34 minutes,goals which could and should have been prevented.
Leiston looked a very accomplished side and could well be challenging for honours this season however the young Blues made things easy for them allowing them too much time on the ball in the first period.
Blues got off to a bright start Fred Osaba outpaced his fullback sending in a low cross half cleared by the visitors the ball falling to Harry Watkins who blasted high and wide.
Obasa then provided Aaron Wickham with an opportunity but his effort was comfortably saved by former Blues keeper Nicky Eyre.
After early Grays pressure Leiston began to find their rhythm feeding wide man Francis at every opportunity he was giving young Ronnie O' Donnell a torrid time.
The hosts were now playing an expansive game switching play from flank to flank as Blues began to chase shadows.Danger man Francis tested Charlie Crowley cutting inside he unleashed a fierce drive which the young keeper did well to keep out, moments later Lawrence saw his effort blocked.
At this stage it was one way traffic and it wasn't long before the visitors went in front.Francis again the catalyst, allowed too much space out wide he sent in a cross to the far post finding the unmarked Blake in space, he made no mistake sending his header past the exposed Crowley on 12 minutes.
In a rare Blues foray Wickham sent in a fierce drive dipping over Eyres goal.
Blues were just holding their own when they had a lucky let off a telling cross eluded Stuart the ball fell to Payne,Cowley was forced into a double save blocking the first shot and smothering the rebound.
Although under pressure Blues regained their composure and seemed to have weathered the storm when they were hit on the break.
A Blues attack broke down the ball was fed to Francis wide on the left he bludgeoned forward,Pilbeam stood off the winger allowing the Leiston man a free run on goal and he made no mistake blasting the ball past Crowley on 34 minutes.
The goal brought an immediate substitution by Grays, Adeyinka Cole coming on for Wickham who was being outrun in midfield.
Leiston continued to press forward looking to add to their tally but the Blues goal held firm,the half time whistle bringing to an end a difficult first period for the young Blues.
In the previous three games Blues had turned in a much stronger performance in the second half dominating possession for long periods.The Managers half time talks obviously having an effect and the opening period of the half started in similar vein.
Ettienne Kabobola replaced Fred Obasa at half time and he made an immediate impact with some powerful runs.
There was now more energy in Grays play,David Fallah who saw little of the ball in the first half came into the game using his pace to good advantage.
There are fine margins during games which can determine the final outcome of matches and one came inside the first ten minutes of the half.Fallah racing forward took a Cole pass in his stride and let loose a thundering shot which Eyre somehow managed to turn onto the upright and was scrambled clear.
A goal would have brought Blues into the game just as they were getting on top but fate played a hand when moments later Leiston struck their third
Another Blues attack broke down,a long ball was played out of defence finding goal scorer Blake unmarked in space out wide on the right,with O Donnell left stranded further forward Stuart was forced to close him down and in a rare mistake was easily outmuscled leaving the Leiston man a clear run on goal ,slotting coolly past Crowley on 49 minutes.
It was a cruel blow for Grays in the space of a few minutes, what could have been a 2-1 scoreline turned into 3-0 but such is the spirit in the side they continued to stick to their task and push forward.
Kabobola was causing havoc in the home defence his powerful runs to the byeline nearly setting up the hard working Lheureux Menga.
Eyre was again called into action when he could only parry a goal bound drive from Cole into the path of O'Donnell who squandered the opening blasting wildly over.
Fallah failed to get on the end of cross and then Cole fired just over, despite the pressure Leiston still looked dangerous going forward,Finch should have done better with a header that slid wide after good work by Blake.
Another raid saw some desperate Blues defending a cross into the box was not dealt with cleanly and the resultant shot was cleared off the line.
Blues continued to probe but it was the visitors again who should have increased their advantage, substitute Winter left one on one with Crowley elected to try and chip the keeper but made a complete hash putting the ball wide.
Blues attacks were becoming less frequent now nevertheless Kabobola was still causing the homesters real problems.
As the clock ticked down the hard working Cole was at last rewarded when he beat Eyre with a great strike into the top corner on 90 minutes.
The goal was just reward for Blues second half efforts but the scoreline was made to look worst when Leiston scored a controversial fourth.
In the dying moments Blues won a free kick deep in their half by the byeline .Pilbeam looked to take a quick kick which struck a Leiston forward standing two yards off, the ball rebounded to Winter who raced forward and scored. Despite Blues protestations the referee who made a number of controversial decisions allowed the goal to stand.
The result although expected does not do justice to Blues performance on the night.The second half showed enough to suggest with a few more games under their belts a win will come.
Next up is another difficult away trip to high flying and newly promoted Worthing.