BATTLING BLUES GRAB VITAL POINT
Blues put a dent in Maldon & Tiptree's play off charge writes The Mariner
Blues showed great resolve and gritty determination to thwart a very good Maldon & Tiptree outfit who had thumped them 5-0 earlier in the season at Parkside and could have grabbed all three points near the end of a very competitive encounter. Blues raced into an early lead before the Jammers replied with two quick goals but a late surge saw Kieran Bishop level the scores. The point allowed Blues to move into sixth place in the table keeping them in touch with the playoff spots.
Right from the whistle it was clear Blues were determined to avenge the heavy defeat suffered back in September - they pushed Maldon back denying them time on the ball and forcing them into hurried clearances. The early pressure led to Blues opening the scoring in the eleventh minute. A long ball forward into the path of Bishop turned the host defenders - he did well to cut the ball back to the unmarked Charlie Allen, who clipped the ball past Ben McNamara to give Blues a deserved lead.
Tommy Wade typically combatant came in for some harsh treatment and fell victim to a crunching tackle from full back Mathew Briggs receiving a yellow card. It was Briggs who used his pace moments later - he was allowed to run unchallenged and send in a searching cross well claimed by Clarke Bogard.
A clearly ruffled Maldon were given a lifeline and way back into the game through Blues sloppy play. Joao Carlos gave away an unnecessary free kick - the ball was played forward quickly - a series of missed tackles and a clumsy challenge resulting in a penalty in the 22nd minute duly converted by Laste Dombaxe.
Now back on terms the hosts showed why they are amongst the promotion hopefuls pushing Blues back and four minutes later they went in front. Briggs powered forward exploiting space behind Ryan Mahal and sent in a low cross flatfooting the Blues back four allowing Stephane Ngamvoulou to slot past Bogard.
Maldon now in the ascendency were pressing hard for a third, Michael Brothers ran through unhindered and thundered the ball over. Blues were clearly rattled fighting a rearguard action - Ngamvalou nearly claimed his second of the afternoon firing wide when well placed. With half time looming it was clear the next goal would be crucial - the question was who would it go to.
Mitch Hahn who had picked up an injury in the first period was replaced by Geofrey Okonkwo at the start of the half, leading to a reshuffle at the back - Okonkwo slotted into the back four - Michael Toner moved to left back allowing Joao Carlos to push forward into his customary role. The move seemed to work, it gave Blues more solidity at the back and potency going forward. Aron Gordon replaced Zak Henry shortly after.
The first chance of the half fell to Wade unleashing a thunderbolt from the edge of the eighteen yard line. Maldon quickly replied with a ball onto the head of Eddie-Louis Diane who nodded into the arms of Bogard.
It was now Blues who were enjoying a period of dominance again unsettling the home defenders the question who would claim the next goal was answered in the 66th minute. The pressure finally told when Blues forced another corner, Allen's delivery found Wade he touched the ball forward finding Bishop who improvised back heeling the ball past McNamara.
With the scores level the game was now finely balanced with the next goal now more then ever the key to claiming the points. Maldon stunned by the equaliser went for broke. A testing free kick from Jack Cawley brought the best out of Bogard plunging to his left to turn the ball behind. Blues replied when Carlos saw his goal bound effort diverted behind. A Blues corner then caused panic the ball ping-ponging around the six yard box and eventually hacked clear.
Blues final chances fell to Gordon who fired wide from an acute angle and Allen who saw his shot hacked off the line.
Maldon went all out in the closing minutes but were denied by a determined and resolute Blues defence, they came close but not close enough with their final effort well saved by Bogard, allowing Blues to a share of the spoils with a gritty determined display
Bogard, Mahal, Toner, Muguo, Carlos,Hahn(Okonkwo 45),Allen, Henry (Gordon 47), Pinto,Bishop,Wade(Oli 73)
Subs not used, Cogan, Thompson
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