Blues Horror Show
The young Blues were put to the sword by lowly Merstham in a below par performance writes The Mariner
It proved to be a disastrous afternoon for Grays suffering a heavy defeat against a team who had previously failed to register a win.
The hosts victory was made that much easier by a Blues side who failed to compete in all areas of the park gifting their opponents all six goals.
Blues included loan signing Marcel Barrington up front with Hanfeez Sanusi coming into the back four.
In a sign of things to come Merstham could have gone ahead inside the first minute when a slip by Sanusi allowed Okoye a clear run on goal only to be denied by a smart stop from Mikheil Kharshilaze
Okoye and ex Blue Alex Addai were proving a real handful for George Pilbeam and Jamie Mascoll out on the flanks, using their pace to get behind their markers and whipping in some dangerous crosses.
Unlike previous games Blues were looking sluggish and ponderous in the opening period failing to close down their opponents allowing Merstham to spray the ball around at will.
Blues goal was coming under increasing pressure which eventually told in the 14th minute after Blues could only scramble the ball away for a corner.From the kick Merstham centre back Hector rose unchallenged at the back post and firmly planted his header past Khardshiladze who was caught in no mans land.
It was one way traffic at this stage and it wasn't until the 17th minute that Blues had their first effort on goal when Sanusi tested Wilson with a header from an Adiyenka Cole corner.
The hosts continued to dominate proceedings and it was no surprise when they increased their advantage on 30 minutes following another Blues defensive lapse. A speculative ball was played forward,Pilbeam had the ball covered and looked to play the ball back to his keeper but failed to make good contact allowing Okeye a clear run on goal and he slotted past the stranded Kharshiladze with ease.
With their two goal cushion the hosts took their foot off the throttle allowing Grays to see more of the ball.Aaron Wickham tried his luck with a shot that fizzed past Wilson's goal.The keeper then produced a fine save from a Cole free kick turning the ball over the bar.
Barrington powered forward and laid the ball into Cole who saw his shot deflected for a corner the resultant kick cleared comfortably.
It was to be the last action of a half in which Grays were outplayed for long periods allowing their hosts too much time and space.
Manager Stuart made two changes at half time with Gradi Milengi replacing Pilbeam and Tashan Hayden-Smith coming on for Lheureux Menga.
The half was barely a minute old when Blues reduced the deficit following a corner,Cole swung the ball into the near post where David Fallah was quickest to react getting in front of his marker and glancing a looping header into the far corner eluding Wilson's outstretched fingers.
The goal seemed to lift Grays they were now playing with more energy and beginning to ask questions of the Merstham defenders.Smith and Cole were combining well probing for an opening,Fallah was seeing more of the ball causing his fullback problems as Blues searched for the equaliser.
Cole played a neat one two and rifled the ball just wide of the post but it was Merstham who struck next in the 54th minute.
After a period of Blues pressure Merstham played a quick ball out of defence Okoye raced forward into the box, Milenge jockeyed the winger but was enticed into a rash challenge scything down the wide man.Bennetr converted the spot kick to increase the hosts advantage.
Wilson then made two crucial saves from Cole the second from a free kick a wicked low drive through the wall which he did well to hold on to.
Taking advantage of their two goal cushion Merstam once again began to assert their authority and in the 63rd minute they went further ahead after another agricultural challenge brought a second spot kick this time converted by subsitute Vidal.
Blues heads collectively dropped at this stage,passes went astray and the work rate was lacking noticeably from some individuals and it was no suprise when Merstham added a fifth just three minutes later.
A free kick was awarded some 25 yards from goal ,Blues completely switched off allowing the unmarked Vidal to smash home to record his second of the game.
Blues tried in vain to rescue something from the game as they pushed forward but were undone when a quick break down their right saw the ball swept across to the unmarked Addai who made no mistake dispatching the ball past the exposed Kharshiladze in the 76th minute.
Barrington then missed a golden opportunity to register a consolation goal but somehow managed to miss the target from 3 yards.Smith fired over from the edge of the box and then Jake Hutchings saw his tentative shot touched behind for a corner with the resultant corner hit high and long.Fallah had an opportunity in on goal his drive was comfortably saved by Wilson.
Mercifully the referee brought proceedings to a close on what proved to be a miserable afternoon for players and fans alike.
Blues were beaten not by the best side they have met this season they were beaten mainly by a lack of application on the day. previous games have shown they are capable of matching teams when they apply work rate and skill.
They are a young side and sometimes with youth comes inconsistency a valuable lesson will have been learnt in this game,the season ahead is a marathon not a sprint so plenty of time to regroup and move on.
Next up a League Cup Tie at Dulwich on Tuesday evening.