Controversial Decisions Cost The Blues
Two debatable incidents cost a much improved Blues at least a share of the points Writes The Mariner.
Two old footballing clichés were laid bare on Sunday when Grays were made to pay for some very questionable officiating. The first that it is futile to argue with the referee, because he will never change his decision. The second that a referee cannot give a decision for something he didn't see. On Sunday the man in the middle disallowed a goal for offside that neither he nor his assistant saw. Then after being surrounded by Kingstonian players - to the disbelief of Grays players and fans - and following a short conversation they changed their decision and decided they did see an offside infringement. Blues’ misery was compounded by a controversial penalty awarded when it seemed it was a case of ball to hand.
Grays were forced into a number of changes due to the unavailability of Luke Hornsley, Tayshan Hayden-Smith and Jake Hutchings, but despite the changes turned in a much improved performance which deserved at least a share of the points.
It was a low key opening with both sides probing for an opening. Blues were looking a lot sharper with some neat interplay. Lheureux Menga in particular held the ball up well, bringing Blues’ midfield into play where Kyle Roberts was making his full debut.
Kingstonian looked to hit their wide men at every opportunity with Turner seeing a lot of the ball wide on the left.
It was Blues who opened the scoring in the 9th minute following some good approach work. Jamie Stuart played a long ball forward which caught the home defence square. Etienne Kabobola latched onto the ball racing forward and fired past the advancing Tolfrey in the home goal.
The goal was no more than Blues deserved for their efforts. They were playing some neat football moving the ball quickly and asking questions of their hosts. Blues were content to sit back and allow the Ks possession in their own half and then breaking quickly when the opportunity allowed.
Kingstonian continued to probe down the flanks and in the 16th minute got back on level terms when Callum Thomas failed to claim a deep ball into the area, allowing Page to head into an unguarded goal. Once again unfortunately Blues had given away a soft goal.
Not to be outdone, Blues continued to push forward. Good work between Adiyenka Cole and Harry Watkins found Menga, but his shot lacked power and was cleared. A weaving run from Stephane Ngamvoulou went unchecked and he curled the ball just wide of Tolfrey’s upright. Kingstonian did come close to grabbing a second but were thwarted by a great double save from Thomas, first blocking a Moss effort and then holding on to the rebound from Turner.
Blues finished the half strongly having gained confidence as the half had progressed.
Thomas was called into action again early in the second half with another double save at the expense of a corner as the home side began to crank up the pressure.
Turner was now finding a lot of space out wide on Blues’ right flank and sending in some dangerous crosses, but Blues’ defence held firm. But when they did try to break out on the counter the midfield were guilty of running into blind alleys and losing possession.
Kingstonian dominated possession, winning a number of free kicks and corners and putting the visitors’ goal under constant pressure, but unlike previous games Blues managed to maintain their shape and keep their goal intact that was until the 70th minute.
The constant pressure finally told when Kingstonian were awarded a debatable penalty. Captain Kwabene Osei was adjudged to have handled a Turner cross although it appeared to be more a case of ball to hand. Gomez duly converted the spot kick.
Stung by this setback, Blues now began to exert their own pressure with substitute Arron Wickham featuring prominently. Kingstonian were being forced into hasty clearances as Grays searched for the equaliser.
Blues thought they had finally got the breakthrough after a patient build up when Menga slotted the ball past Tolfrey, and despite the protests from the home side the referee and his assistant signalled for a goal. The home players continued to surround and harass the officials who then decided after some discussion bizarrely to disallow the goal for offside.
Incensed by the decision, Blues continued to pressurise the home goal and came so close to snatching a point when Menga won a header at the far post, knocking the ball down to Kababola. He prodded the ball forward but Tolfrey somehow got a foot to the ball deflecting for a corner. There was just enough time to take the kick when the referee blew the final whistle to deny Blues what should have been at least a draw.
Blues produced a much improved performance and but for the intervention of the officials could - and should - have come away with something from the game.
Next up is a home tie with Harlow Town on Wednesday evening.