Soham Town Rangers 3 – 2 Grays Athletic
Grays Athletics’ lack of discipline and two stunning strikes saw them succumb to a 3-2 defeat away to Soham Town Rangers on Saturday.
Both teams started the game slowly as Grays struggled to find any rhythm early with misdirected long balls up to the front pairing of Paul Olima and Louis Dennis and short passing proving un-penetrating against a Soham defence content with simply clearing their lines and preparing for the next wave of Grays attacks.
Grays had the majority of play in the first 10 minutes but for all their endeavour could only manage a corner which was headed over the bar by Craig Pope. Grays ineffectiveness in front of goal was reaffirmed as the first shot on target came from Soham, which debutant goalkeeper George Kamurasi athletically pushed away for a corner.
With 20 minutes of the first half gone Grays finally began to get there fluid passing and movement going and force themselves upon the Soham Town penalty area.
First, Joao Carlos was played in on the left hand side of the area and his shot was saved by the feet of the Soham goalkeeper. Shortly after, Lee Flynn advanced into the Soham half and as the ball broke to him his shot was tipped over the bar.
In the 27th minute more good build up play in the middle of the park led to a through ball for Nathan Gordon to carry into the area one on one with the Soham keeper. As the keeper advanced Nathan hit his shot low but the keeper did well to block the ball for a corner. The resulting corner was swung across the area to the penalty spot where Junior Baker rose highest to head towards goal but his goal bound shot was cleared off the line.
As half time approached it appeared that Soham had weathered the storm and would go in at the break level but in the 40th minute the deadlock was broken as Louis Dennis received the ball from a throw in, spun on the spot to give him a yard of space and cross the ball into the box. The ball went across the six yard box with the defence and goalkeeper both deciding to leave the ball allowing Joao Carlos the simple task of heading home for a yard at the back post.
Further good build up play with a minute remaining in the half allowed Harry Agombar a yard of space in the area but his shot was easily held by the Soham goalkeeper.
The half time whistle went and Grays would have been happy with their lead and content that Soham had so far posed no threat to the Grays goal.
Grays were forced into a half time substitution as Lee Flynn came off for Danny Bunce.
The second half started much the same as the first, with no rhythm from either team but a more aggressive Soham clearly determined to get something from the game.
As Soham tried to express themselves more the game became more open and scrappy with Grays only managing two long range efforts at goal from Paul Olima and Louis Dennis just before the hour mark, but still not real threat on the Grays goal.
In the 61st minute a long ball was played up to Paul Olima who was fouled ten yards outside the area. As Grays were lining up the free kick an argument broke out in the area between several players, resulting in the referee sending off Paul Olima for raising his hands. Much has been rumoured as to what caused Olima to raise his hands and hopefully an investigation into the matter will discover what actually happened.
Grays made their second substitution as they reorganised to have a single target man up front with Louis Dennis being replaced by Jean-Miguel Sigere.
In the 69th minute a long ball was played over the top of the Soham defence which Sigere chased down as the Soham goalkeeper advanced. With the ball still five yards outside the Soham area, Sigere got a toe to the ball first as he collided with the Soham goalkeeper.
With the fans still irate from the Olima red card, many felt the keeper deserved the same outcome but with the ball going away from goal and no clear goal scoring opportunity obvious, the referee decided on only a yellow card for the Soham goalkeeper. The free kick was pushed out for a corner by the Soham goalkeeper and the resulting corner came to nothing.
The Paul Olima sending off had clearly rattled Grays as they lost their shape and discipline. Soham, aided by the one man advantage stepped up a gear and were rewarded in the 73rd minute as they forced a corner and then converted a goal mouth scramble to level up the score line.
The Grays players tried to lift each other but were struggling to gain possession or cope with the tempo of the game.
In the 80th minute, Soham took the lead as a shot from the right side of the penalty area was well blocked by Junior Baker to the edge of the area but a superb strike into the far left corner saw Grays heads drop.
A disastrous half for Grays was made even worse as Soham came forward again in the 82nd minute and a long range effort from thirty plus yards was rifled into the top corner of the goal with George Kamurasi in the Grays goal having no chance of stopping the shot. With Soham having scored 3 goals in 9 second half minutes, Grays looked down and out.
Despite the complete capitulation of Grays in the second half they still managed to keep the game alive as in the 86th minute Nathan Gordon was allowed to run through the heart of the Soham defence completely unchallenged and slot the ball home to give the Grays fans hope.
In the dying moments of normal time Grays’ frustration boiled over as both Danny Bunce and Harry Agombar were booked for dissent.
Grays continued to search for an equaliser into stoppage time as headers from Junior Baker and Jean-Michel Sigere went narrowly over.
The final whistle sounded and Grays fans were once again wondering why the team fell apart in the second half again, something that has happened far too often this season. Others wondered why with five minutes to go and a goal down, new striker James Bunn was left on the bench and one man up front was left isolated to control the long ball.
Although Grays’ 9th defeat of the season saw them drop to 9th in the league, they are still only 2 points off the play-offs and if the team management can turn the recent slump around, then a decent finish to the season can still be achieved.
Grays Athletics’ next game is on Wednesday 7th March at home to Needham Market. A midweek victory would see Grays rise back into a play-off position.
Grays Athletic: - George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Grant Cooper, Lee Flynn (Danny Bunce 46), Nathan Gordon, Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos, Louis Dennis (Jean-Michel Sigere 67), Paul Olima.
Subs not used: - Bradley Thomas, Stanley Muguo, James Bunn.
Report by Andrew Packer.