MAKESHIFT BLUES EDGED OUT
A much improved performance saw Blues come close to victory writes The Mariner
The curtain came down on Blues season with this narrow defeat at AFC Sudbury, but they can take great heart from their performance considering they were without six first team regulars and were forced to start with three youth team players and manager Jamie Stuart, with two keepers and a half fit Stan Muguo on the bench. Injuries, sickness and suspension and a birth! - robbed them of the services of Michael Finneran, Richard Halle, James Folkes, Joao Carlos ,Tommy Wade and the retired Glenn Poole! As if that was not bad enough three players were carrying knocks into the game. Given all these setbacks Blues produced a hard working and much improved display and could even have come away with all three points with a little sharper finishing. The performance of the youngsters with Geoffrey Okonkwo giving a polished and calm performance in defence was particularly pleasing.
Blues made a confident start to the game, playing some neat and controlled football on the 3G surface they have become so accustomed to at Parkside . Dennis Oli and Kieran Bishop worked effectively together, prompted by Ade Cole ,Barry Cogan , and Furo Gogo-Ibiama. Callum Thompson was industrious and adventurous out wide making some intelligent forward runs.
Despite Blues good start it was Sudbury who created the first goalscoring opportunity, when Billy Holland powered a header forcing Lamar Johnson into a superb plunging save to turn the ball behind. Blues quickly replied after a slick passage of play, eventually seeing Ryan Mahal deliver a tantalising cross which Thompson reached, but could not generate power and direction and the ball was cleared. Bishop was next to try his luck when he powered into space, but his fiercely struck shot was blocked.
Sudbury had their moments, but they were constantly caught in Blues offside trap - well marshalled by Stuart, Joe Bruce and Okonkwo, who were rarely troubled, having time to deal with any danger posed by Sudbury.
Cole created a great opportunity when he weaved his way forward flashing a cross which just eluded the head of Bishop. Bruce went close when he rose to nod a Cogan free kick over. Oli was rolling back the years with some intricate footwork and astute passes, one audacious scooped pass left Bishop with a half chance, when he toe poked the ball agonisingly over.
Both sides came close just before the break, Phil Kelly forcing another good save from Johnson and at the other end good work by Bishop - clipping the ball into Oli, who glanced a header against the upright and away.
Blues started the second half brightly taking the game to Sudbury. Thompson, playing with growing confidence, intercepted the ball just inside the Sudbury half and rolled a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Bishop, advancing on goal he was denied by the legs of keeper Luca Collins and the ball was cleared for a corner, Bruce nodding over the resultant kick. Sudbury replied immediately with a rapid drive forward, finding Ollie Peters who brought another smart save from Johnson.
As the half progressed the game really opened out, Sudbury produced a quick break allowing Tom Dettmar to get a sight of goal, where he forced another great save from Johnson. The long throws of Gogo-Ibiama had caused Sudbury problems all afternoon and another resulted in a game of ping pong in the home six yard box with Thompson getting a touch to the ball that was eventually scrambled away.
The ebb and flow continued with Blues just edging possession for a short period, but Sudbury still posed a threat, a deep ball to the far post found Callum Harrison who blasted wildly over. The miss was a momentary reprieve for Blues, when Sudbury broke the deadlock on 78 minutes. A break saw Thompson make a last ditch challenge conceding a corner and injuring himself in the process. With Thompson off the field the kick was played to the near post, where Kelly met the ball with a powerful header past Johnson.
The goal was a cruel blow for a patched up Blues, who had battled gamely and created chances of their own . With the clock ticking down they continued to push for an equaliser, Bishop came close when he flashed a shot agonisingly past the far post. Cole tried his luck from distance firing over and then Thompson had Blues last chance of the afternoon when he strode forward to the edge of the box, but failed to hit the target the ball sailing over.
In the end despite their efforts Blues succumbed to another defeat, but unlike those previous recent reverses, this time they worked tirelessly for each other and were unlucky not to come away with at least a share of the points.
So that's it for another season that brought many highs and lows. After a promising start Blues form tailed off both in the league and cup competitions during the autumn, mainly due to an inability to kill games off when leading. A mid term revival brought hopes of a say in the play offs, but those hopes were quickly dispelled by a downturn in form towards the end of the season. One encouraging aspect to the season was the emergence of some of the youth players, who acquitted themselves well when selected. Kai Brown grabbed the headlines with some mature displays, rewarded by a move to Ipswich Town. Callum Thompson is fast turning into an accomplished left sided player, with Furo Gogo-Itbiama looking at home in the first team squad and Geoffrey Okonkwo thrown in at the deep end, giving a mature and calm display yesterday.
Johnson, Mahal,Okonkwo,(Howett 85),Stuart,Bruce, Thompson, Gogo-Itbiama, Cogan, Cole, Bishop, Oli