Costly Errors Downs Blues
Blues produced a Jekyl and Hyde performance against Harrow Borough writes The Mariner
Blues loyal fans could not have foreseen the outcome of this encounter with their team two goals to the good in the opening fourteen minutes but like so many times in this troubled season the opposition were gifted four goals three directly attributable to the usually reliable Amadou Tangara which consigned them to a demoralising defeat .
It was evident from the first whistle lessons had been learnt after Saturdays' languid performance, Blues were quick out of the blocks and were rewarded with a goal with just two minutes on the clock. A quick break down the left saw Joao Carlos send in a tantalising cross finding Lheureux Menga who turned quickly and fired past Hazllett in the Harrow goal.
What followed in the ensuing fifteen minutes was a taste of what Blues are capable of, there was real purpose throughout the side and Harrow had no answer to the high tempo start , they appeared shellshocked as their goal was under siege from a rampant Blues who produced in this period probably their best football of the season.
Jon Ashton tested the Harrow keeper after getting on the end of a Wilson free kick but he could only stab the ball goal wards Hazllett saving comfortably.Carlos came close to adding a second after Matt Baxter made a telling intervention inside the Blues half he quickly fed Menga, driving forward he slid the ball through to Carlos who drew the Harrow keeper and deftly chipped the ball over him but agonisingly over the visitors goal.
Blues fans didn't have to wait long though for the second , Kieron Bishop worked an opening on the edge of the visitors box and despite the close attention of two defenders managed to get a cross into the box which caused confusion in the Harrow defence , Menga was quick to capitalise his first shot was blocked but he quickly hooked the rebound into the net from a prone position in the 14th minute
Two goals to the good and playing like a team pushing for promotion rather than in a relegation battle it looked likely Grays would go on to record a decisive win but just three minutes later Harrow were given a lifeline back into the game.A speculative cross appeared to be covered by Tangara but he inexplicably fumbled the ball which struck the crossbar falling to the feet of Nicholas who gratefully accepted the gift and smashed the ball into the empty net.
The goal gave the visitors a lift and they then began to play with real purpose ,in contrast Blues seemed to go into their shell and errors began to creep into their game.Tangara seemed unsettled and made a hash of a clearance sending his kick straight at Charles-Smith who powered forward and fired the ball at Tangara's goal but the keeper made amends for his error by blocking at close range.
The middle period of the half was marred by a number of stoppages through injuries to both sides although it seemed Harrow were pushing the boundaries with some of their players going to ground owing more to theatricals than actual injury,the resultant stoppages disrupted Blues rhythmn and their play became more disjointed.
The visitors should have levelled the scores when a dangerous cross found Nicholas unmarked six yards out but he put his header over,by now the visitors looked the more dangerous going forward in contrast to earlier in the half mainly due to Blues dropping their work rate.
A corner late in the half provided an opportunity for Lartey Sarpong but he failed to trouble Hazllett
Just minutes after the start the hard working Barney Williams set up a chance for Baxter with a deep cross to the edge of the Harrow box unfortunately his ambitious attempt at a volley failed to hit the target
Harrow looked a lot sharper and began to ask questions of the Blues rearguard and were soon level in the 51st minute.There seemed to be no danger when Nicholas with his back to goal and surrounded by two defenders managed to turn unopposed and sent a skidding ball across the six yard area, Blues defenders appeared rooted to the spot and the ball eventually found Cumberbatch unmarked at the far post and he had the simple task of prodding the ball home past the stranded Tangara.
The goal was a hammer blow to the home side who had seen their two goal advantage disappear but they did respond with a quick break from Bishop who slid the ball into the advancing Ryan Mahal turning inside he squeezed a shot but failed to make a firm contact on the ball seeing his effort cleared away from danger.
Harrow then broke quickly through Cumberbatch racing clear it looked like he would put the visitors in front but Tangara did well to get to his fiercely hit drive.Not to be outdone Blues created a chance for Baxter following a free kick his shot looked destined for the top corner until a timely deflection sent the ball behind for a corner.
With both sides looking for that all important third goal Harrow were awarded a rather dubious free kick midway in the Blues half, the decision was one of many that had infuriated Blues management and players alike .From the kick the ball was played into Blues box and Blues sense of injustice was further compounded when the referee awarded Harrow a penalty when there seemed to be little or no contact by a Grays player,that Harrow themselves did not appeal just added to the mystery.Driver stepped up and duly dispatched the kick past Tangara in the 71st minute.
From two in front and cruising Blues now found themselves a goal down and time not on their side, you could sense a collective sense of frustration reflected in their play .If they had a hill to climb to get back on level terms that hill became a mountain in the 75th minute and again Tangara was culpable for the visitors fourth.Harrow played a long ball into the Blues area the keeper advanced from his line to collect the ball but his timing was all wrong allowing Preddie to steal in and plant the ball into an unguarded goal.
Etienne Kababola replaced the fading Carlos and almost immediately made an impact with a pacy run and shot that Hazllett did well to gather,Ashton then latched on to a Wilson free kick managing to flick the ball towards goal but into the arms of Hazllett.Blues did exert some late pressure but without the same intensity and accuracy.
Harrow were not finished though Lomas came close to scoring when he outstripped the home defence and unleashed a stinging drive seeing Tangara turn the ball over.The big keeper however capped a miserable display when he gifted the visitors a fifth in the 83rd minute, a corner was swung over and cleared out to the edge of the area the ball was fired back, Tangara appeared to have collected the ball but then let it squirm from his grasp allowing Driver to roll the ball home.
The final whistle brought to an end a miserable evening for all concerned with Grays Athletic,what had started so brightly ended in despair .Once again individual errors were the difference between the two teams, too many times thIs season teams have not been made to work for their goals and the cumulative effect is likely now to see relegation a certainty.
Next up is a tough trip to promotion chasing Tonbridge Angels .