NEW YEAR HANGOVER FOR BLUES
Blues poor form continues writes The Mariner
Blues succumbed to their third defeat in four games against a spirited Romford team at Rookery Hill who defended doggedly throughout the 90 minutes to record their first league win since September last year. Snatching an early goal the home side defended in numbers to keep their goal intact, their cause helped by a misfiring Blues outfit who dominated possession without creating any clear cut openings. Blues could point to the absence of six of their squad, but they still had enough quality in the side to have at least claimed a point - to rub salt into the wound Michael Finneran was shown a red card late in the game - the only bright note on a disappointing afternoon was an accomplished debut from new signing Zak Henry.
Romford made a bright start to the proceedings when Chris Taylor tested Clarke Bogard claiming the ball at the second attempt, a quick riposte from Blues saw a Joao Carlos effort deflected behind. But it was the home side who were rewarded for their early efforts in the eighth minute when Ayo Olukoga took advantage of slack marking from a corner and stabbed the ball past the exposed Bogard.
The goal finally woke Blues from their slumbers when Aron Gordon was presented with an opportunity - turning inside the eighteen yard box and flashing a shot just wide of the upright. Stan Muguo restored to his customary role was busy in midfield supported by Henry making intelligent runs to receive the ball. A raid saw Carlos conjure up space on the flank, firing a low cross which only needed a touch but to no avail - the move was symptomatic of Blues afternoon, a lack of conviction in front of goal.
Boro' by now having secured the early advantage were content to sit back and soak up the pressure exerted on them , it was not pretty at times but it was effective in repelling the wave of attacks mounted by Blues.
In many ways the game was following the same pattern as Blues encounter with Barking back in December, the free kick and corner tally mounted the execution and delivery though was sadly lacking - too many times the ball failing to elude the first defender or overhit although Michael Toner did get his head to a Ryan Mahal free kick but nodded over.
In contrast to the no nonsense approach by Boro' defenders Blues looked vulnerable to a ball over the top and sloppy in their care of the ball - both Mahal and Finneran were guilty of conceding unnecessary corners, allowing their hosts to threaten Bogard's goal. That lack of care came close to seeing Boro' double their advantage when Danny Cossington met a corner with a diving header. only to see him denied by the boot of Mahal hacking the ball off the line.
Blues came again peppering the home goal with a series of crosses, but they lacked the incisiveness to unlock a stubborn rearguard who stuck to their task to keep their goal intact against a blunted Blues assault team led by a strangely subdued Kieran Bishop.
Boro' manufactured the last opening of the half when a flowing move cut through the Blues midfield with ease leaving Nick Reynolds with a sight of goal but he squandered the chance sliding the ball wide of the far post.
The early minutes of the second half was a continuation of the first - all Grays. Good work by Bishop saw him slip the ball to Gordon who really should have done better when he blazed wildly over. Another typical Carlos run and cross was too hot for keeper Harry Aldridge who failed to hold onto the ball and not for the first time it was hacked clear.
Normal service was being resumed in a wave of Blues attacks, but once again the key to unlocking a resolute back line was missing - Callum Thompson flew down the flank sliding the ball into the path of Bishop, he pulled the trigger but a wayward aim straight at Aldridge allowed the keeper to make a comfortable save.
A rare breakout by Boro' created a moment of danger when a corner forced Bogard to punch the ball away without power or direction, he gratefully dropped on the ball at the second attempt.
With the clock ticking down Blues continued to push forward with their aerial bombardment, it was increasingly clear though that this approach was misguided and ineffectual - what was needed was a more controlled approach to prise open a tightly knitted defensive barrier.
Aron Gordon was sacrificed for Jack Curtis in the 67th minute looking to use his undoubted close control and perceptive passing to find an opening, but still the home goal wasn't breached.
Mahal was denied when his shot was blocked, he then nodded over from yet another corner - Bishop headed wide from a Thompson cross, all these lost opportunities creating further pressure and frustration for players and fans alike. In the closing minutes good work again by Carlos saw Bishop tamely side foot the ball toward goal Aldridge making an unorthodox save with his foot. Blues frustration was further increased when Finneran received his marching orders for an alleged altercation
A frenzied scramble in the dying minutes saw the ball hacked off the line three times as Blues mounted a last desperate charge to salvage something from the game, but Boro' held on to record their first league win since September leaving Blues to rue those missed opportunities.
Bogard, Mahal, Finneran, Toner, Thompson, Muguo, Henry, Carlos, Gordon (Curtis 67), Oli, Bishop
Subs not used:Anderson,Stuart, Okonkwo, Cole
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