Blues Bring Gifts To The Abbey
A poor second half display condemned Blues to a second defeat of this fledgling season writes The Mariner
Blues were short of four squad players when they travelled to Waltham Abbey on Saturday. Glenn Wilson and Callum Ibe suspended,Sully Zuhdu, holiday and James Folkes groin injury, but even allowing for these absences, Blues performance fell far short of the standards they have set themselves,yes they had a good shout for a penalty but even so they were always second best against a well organised Abbey outfit.
The opening 15 minutes saw play confined to the middle of the park with little goal mouth activity until Jamie Slabber rose highest in the box to glance a header over Lockyer only to see the goal ruled out for pushing. Abbey quickly broke away and had an opportunity when the lively Gordon sent in a tantalising cross forcing Lamar Johnson into a one handed interception to nullify the danger.
With the game settling down there emerged a clear contrast in approach ,Blues were content to build slowly through Barry Cogan and Ade Cole whilst Abbey were moving the ball at pace down the flanks and crowding the midfield so much so that they gradually gained the ascendency .Perry Dunn and Jack Fowler were working hard to keep Blues goal intact and were arguably the pick of the Blues on the day.
Blues had an opportunity when Slabber broke wide but his floated cross into the box was easily claimed by Lockyer,Cole then came close when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box but his first time effort skimmed the bar.
In the 20th minute we then had the bizarre decision one of many by the referee to call a drinks break much to the amusement of both sets of supporters,yes it was warm but it was hardly Qatar in high summer!!
Blues were quickly into their stride following the break,a long clearance from Johnson found Sam Cross out wide he swung in a dangerous cross finding Slabber but he failed to make good contact and the ball flew over.Slabber though was the architect of Blues opener in the 25th minute when he threaded the ball behind the Abbey back line into the path of Kieron Bishop who drew Lockyer and stroked the ball home.
Abbey rallied after the goal and enjoyed a period of domination as they searched for an equaliser , the dangerous Assambalonga came so close to a goal when he latched onto a pinpoint pass and slotted the ball past the advancing Johnson only to see Fowler clear his goal bound effort off the line.At the other end a flicked header from Slabber found Keirnan Hughes-Mason in space but he spurned the opening volleying over.
Blues rearguard were by now working overtime to keep their goal intact , in the dying seconds of the half following a patient build up Assambalonga tested Johnson with a fierce drive which the Blues keeper did well to hold diving to his right.
From the restart Abbey showed their attacking intent launching some swift and menacing attacks,Blues in comparison were off the pace and finding it difficult to contain the speed and movement of the their hosts chasing shadows at times, it seemed only a matter of time before Abbey would register an equaliser and that they did in the 53rd minute.Ryan Mahal was guilty of a clumsy challenge following a corner and the referee pointed to the spot.Up stepped Assambalonga who sent Johnson the wrong way to bring the teams level.
With their tails up Abbey looked the more likely to get their noses in front but in a rare Blues rally they thought they had a good shout for a penalty.Hughes-Mason looked to have been chopped down in the Abbey box but much to the amazement of players and fans alike he was given a yellow card for simulation another strange decision amongst many on the day.
Abbey still looked the more dangerous and once again Assambalonga was the focal point,Daniel swung in dangerous cross and the burly striker steered his header just over.
Cole who was already carrying an injury eventually succumbed to be replaced by Furo Gogo-Ibiami but it did little to stem the tide.Blues were not helping their cause by failing to retain possession playing aimless balls forward when a simple ten yard pass would have been the better option and being too easily knocked off the ball .When they did manage to create an opening there appeared a reluctance to pull the trigger opting to pass rather than shoot.
Abbey had come close on a number of occasions so it was no surprise when they went in front in the 75th minute and the goal summed up Blues afternoon.A cross field ball found Russell out wide on Blues left, bringing the ball under control he sent in what looked to be a cross shot,the flight of the ball appeared to deceive Johnson who stood motionless as the ball flew into the top corner.
Now a goal down and with little time left Blues at last showed some urgency and began to create pressure of their own, Joao Carlos was causing problems down the flank,Bishop had an opportunity but shot weakly at Lockyer who gathered comfortably. A frenzied five minutes saw Blues create a number of openings but again a reluctance to shoot proved costly.Hughes-Mason was presented with a golden opportunity to bring the scores level in the closing minutes but fluffed his lines and allowed Lockyer to deflect his weak effort.
It was left to Assambalonga to have the final opportunity of the game bringing a good save from Johnson.
Another disappointing afternoon then for the Blues who started brightly enough but then faded as the game progressed failing to match their opponents high tempo game and physical approach,Blues certainly have the players with the skill but without the work ethic it counts for little.In mitigation the balance of the side was upset by the missing personnel and we are still only three games into the season so no need to panic at this stage but Blues now know what they can expect in the coming weeks.
Next up this Monday Blues face their landlords Aveley which promises to be an exciting encounter.
Don't forget to vote for your man of the match on the unofficial Fans Forum!