Blues' unbeaten run comes to an end writes The Mariner
Blues suffered their first league defeat in eight against a young and impressive Maldon outfit who proved lively and dangerous opponents. Two goals in a four minute spell in the first half left Blues with a mountain to climb. To their credit they worked hard to restore parity but rarely troubled the home goal. Maldon without a game on Saturday looked sharper on the night. In contrast, Blues' exertions on a heavy pitch at Bury had clearly taken their toll as they appeared leggy and lacking the energy that had previously contributed to their unbeaten run.
Jamie Stuart made four changes with Ryan Mahal, Jack Fowler, Barry Cogan and Joao Carlos coming into the starting eleven.
Blues looked impressive in the early stages pinning Maldon back. The ball was being moved at pace and created an early opportunity for Kieran Bishop inside five minutes. Kurasik saving comfortably. Maldon appeared nonplussed by the early onslaught but eventually regrouped and forced their way back into the game.Their first chance coming from a corner when the ball fell to Millar whose aim was wayward firing wildly over.
James Folkes pushed into midfield, linked well with Ade Cole and sent in a cross come shot dealt with by Kurasik. Bailey replied at the other end when he found himself in space testing Joe Simmonds with a low drive which the young keeper saved well.
Maldon by now were beginning to gain the ascendency upping the tempo and attacking with real pace.Alarm bells were ringing at the back for Blues causing problems for Richard Halle and Jack Fowler who were being exposed on a number of occasions.Maldon leading goalscorer Ogedi-Ozokwe looked particularly lively with close control and was proving a real handful.
After coming close on a number of occasions Maldon eventually edged in front in the 19th minute. A searching ball in behind Ryan Cross found Clampin in space and he made no mistake drilling the ball past Simmonds. Just four minutes later Maldon increased their advantage. Winning a free kick the ball was whipped in and there was Pollard cutting in front of static Blues defenders glancing a header past Simmonds.
Stunned by the setback Blues strived to get back into the game but too many times they were guilty of careless play. Passes were under hit failing to reach their intended target and when opportunities presented themselves the ball was overplayed and not delivered into the danger area.
There then followed two incidents which could have influenced the final outcome. Ogdei-Ozokwe - not for the first time - outpaced Blues' back line and closed in on goal. Simmonds dived at the forward's feet and appeared to touch the ball away but the Maldon man went down theatrically, the referee awarding a penalty, much to the annoyance of Blues' fans behind the goal who protested that it was a clear dive. Simmonds came to Blues' rescue saving Ogedi-Ozokwe's spot kick. Blues responded almost immediately when Bishop latched onto a through ball and with only Kurasik to beat he delayed his shot and the ball was cleared away.
So from possibly going three behind Blues could have reduced the arrears and given themselves a lifeline just before half time but these are fine margins and the missed opportunity clearly unsettled Blues.
Half time saw Ryan Mahal make way for Kai Brown, James Folkes dropping to right back allowing Brown to slot into midfield in an effort to bring more pace going forward.
Maldon playing a high line compressed play restricting Blues' movement forcing them to revert to long balls from the back which was proving ineffective,although Bishop did manage to capitalise on one long ball. Advancing on goal he was clearly impeded leading to a free kick which proved fruitless.
The hosts still looked the more dangerous and came close when Ogedi-Ozokwe broke clear squaring to Clampin who somehow managed to miss a golden opportunity when he failed to hit the target with the goal gaping.
Blues made a further change when Halle - who was having a torrid evening - was replaced by Joe Bruce - his extra space being used to counter the lively Maldon forwards. Try as they might Blues just could not find a way into the game. Build up - unlike the opening minutes - was slow and lateral and when they did get the ball forward down either channel the ball was not delivered into the danger area with players being guilty of too many touches, thus negating any advantage gained.
Clearly the weekend's exertions were taking their toll. Tackles were missed, passes went astray. Maldon seemed content with their two goal advantage and eased off the pace as the half progressed which allowed Blues to push forward without creating any clear cut opportunities. With twenty minutes remaining manager Stuart made one last change to try and salvage something from the game. Sam Cross made way for Tim Monsheju who typified the evening when his first contribution was to blast the ball high and wide from a promising position.
The final ten minutes saw Blues enjoying the lion's share of possession but they only had one effort from Carlos saved by Kurasik to show for their endeavours. The final whistle brought to an end a disappointing night for Blues. After going two behind they worked hard to get back into the game but the spark was missing and in the end they had to admit defeat, beaten by the better team on the night.
The defeat still leaves Blues in contact with the play off positions and with the Xmas schedule looming with two games at Parkside they have time to regroup and put pressure on the teams above them. The first of these games sees Waltham Abbey arrive with Blues hoping to avenge a disappointing defeat earlier in the season. This is followed by a much-awaited clash with landlords Aveley on Boxing Day.
Simmonds, Mahal (Brown 45),Cross (Monsheju 67),Cogan, Fowler, Muguo, Folkes, Cole, Bishop, Halle (Bruce 58), Carlos
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