Grays Athletic 4 - 1 Soham Town Rangers
Grays earned a victory with a dogged performance against ten-man Soham to put themselves back into second place
The Blues had the first attack when loanee Leon McKenzie linked well with Lee Flynn for Danny Bunce to test Danny Bircham, but it was Soham who had the bulk of the play in the early exchanges.
From a free kick Dan Cotton floated in a cross for Scott Carter to push back to Denny Escorcio. His hard hit shot was superbly stopped by Ali Aksoy with a one-handed diving save. Cotton was very quick, and his pass to Dubi Ogbonna clear in space caused a diving challenge by Grant Cooper in which both players reacted. Ogbonna was red-carded for retaliation with only ten minutes gone but it didn’t deter Soham from taking the game to Grays.
Some neat play saw Carter go close, and Mike Simpson forced a save from Aksoy but it was a run into the box by Carter that saw Cooper pull him back for the referee to award a penalty, comfortably converted by Cotton. The away defence dug in as Grays moved forward looking for a way through and McKenzie hit the ball wide after a series of passes between Flynn and Bunce.
Harry Agombar’s free kick was cleared long and a slip by Bradley Thomas let Carter through only to see his shot slide wide of the post with Aksoy beaten to remind the home side they had to be wary. McKenzie found Joao Carlos clear and his shot was charged down, Craig Pope had a shot well saved by Bircham and Bunce dragged another shot across goal as the home side dominated the play.
A free kick to Grays just outside the box saw Flynn step up to hit the ball through the wall and wide of the keeper to level the game on the half hour. The Soham defence were under pressure but the Blues could not break the dead-lock. A Carlos header was tip wide by Bircham, McKenzie hit the ball wide twice as the half wound down and the whistle blew to give Grays the chance to regroup.
From the restart Grays looked to carry on their domination and an offside goal by Carlos early in the half warned the Soham defence of their intentions. Flynn and Bunce were in the mood to maraud down the flanks and a pass to Carlos saw his clever chip tipped over by Bircham.
Kenny Beaney and Agombar were struggling to find space in the middle as the Soham players never gave up and a quick break by Escorcio almost put Matt Robinson through but Cooper cleared the ball. Bunce put Joe Sweeney through and then McKenzie but both efforts went wide as Grays pushed forward looking to force their advantage.
It was a perfect pass by McKenzie to Flynn that broke the deadlock as the defender hit a rocket shot from 30 yards along the ground to settle in the net, half way through the second half. The away players were starting to tire as the numerical advantage told and Grays were dominating the play.
Carlos and Agombar came off for David Cowley and Stanley Muguo as the Blues looked to add to their total. Pope saw his shot tipped over by the keeper and a Flynn shot was charged down but Grays could not get through the defence.
A free kick from Coleman found Simpson clear and Aksoy held his tame shot. A long clearance from Aksoy found McKenzie clear in the middle to hit a pass to the feet of Bunce who hit the ball first time past Bircham to make it three with five minutes to go.
Joe Dixon came on for Sweeney to give him his debut and his electric pace and vision pulled the defence wide allowing the other forwards space. It was a pass from Thomas to Bunce that saw him reciprocate the honour for McKenzie to slot the ball into the net in the dying minutes to complete the scoring and a satisfying night for the Blues. The added time was finished with the Blues camped in the Soham half but unable to add to the score.
Grays Athletic: - Ali Aksoy, Lee Flynn, Bradley Thomas, Grant Cooper, Craig Pope, Danny Bunce, Harry Agombar (Stanley Muguo 80), Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos (David Cowley 68), Leon McKenzie, Joe Sweeney (Joe Dixon 88)
Subs not used: - Charlie Brien, Jared Small.