BLUES EDGED OUT BY THEIR LANDLORDS
By GAFC News
A late winner settles an exciting local derby writes The Mariner.
On a freezing evening Grays and Aveley served up a feast of football to warm the sizeable crowd at Parkside, at the final whistle it was the Millers who came out 4-3 winners after a storming second half performance to earn the local bragging rights. A scintillating first half of attacking football saw both defences endure a torrid time and both goalkeepers producing some brilliant saves. Aveley grabbed a second minute lead but were then stunned by Blues who hit back with three quality goals only to be pegged back on the stroke of half time. The Millers took the game to Grays in the second period netting the winning goal with just three minutes left on the clock.
Supporters were only just settling into their seats when Tom Richardson put Aveley in front in the 2nd minute when he was left in space in the Blues box, prodding the ball past the exposed Clarke Bogard.
Stunned by the goal Blues recovered and made the early running - Joao Carlos having the first opportunity, but wasting a free kick, blasting over. Blues pace up front was causing real problems for the Millers back line Carlos, Kieran Bishop and Aron Gordon were seeing plenty of the ball. It was Gordon who set up Adalberto Pinto but he was denied by David Hughes turning the ball behind.
Pinto was not to be denied though when he brought Blues level in the 11th minute - driving the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Aveley replied when Louis Hazelwood brought a great save from Bogard - finger tipping the ball behind for a corner. The same pair featured moments later when Bogard made another quality save to keep the scores level.
At the other end it was Hughes's chance to excel when he made a double save to deny Bishop and Carlos in quick succession , Blues continued to cause mayhem up front and increased their lead when a slick passage of play saw Dennis Oli feed the ball to Charlie Allen who fired past Hughes in the 24th minute.
The Millers still looked dangerous going forward - moving the ball at pace with the lively Richardson the target for their attacks - he was proving a real handful for the Blues back line.
The game was to produce many key moments, the first came when a Bishop shot hit the inside of both posts rolled agonisingly along the line eventually cleared from danger. But in the 40th minute Blues went further in front when another sparkling move resulted in a Gordon shot crashing against the bar where Carlos was on hand to fire the rebound past Hughes.
A shell-shocked Aveley replied when a dangerous ball flashed across the box and then just before the break they drew level when Blues gave away an unnecessary free kick in the 40th minute converted by Hazelwood squeezing his shot inside the near post.
Clearly buoyed by the goal just before the break Aveley were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second period - there was a marked increase in tempo as they looked to reduce the arrears. The woodwork which had come to the Millers rescue in the first period returned the favour for Blues when a dangerous ball into the box looped onto the bar with Bogard beaten.
Crucially Aveley were now winning the all important second ball leading to midfield hegemony, allowing them to build pressure on the Blues goal with Bogard now the busier of the two keepers.
Blues still had their moments - characterised by a typical driving run from Bishop, which promised much but failed to deliver when he struck the ball tamely into Hughes arms. Bishop was involved shortly after when from an acute angle out wide he skimmed the bar with a rasping drive .
Still a goal behind Aveley piled on the pressure, the Blues midfield so influential in the first period found it difficult to retain possession dropping deeper and failing to protect their back line. The added pressure resulted in a number of clumsy challenges which the Millers took full advantage of - Hazelwood was presented with a free kick just outside the Blues box, but this time his shot lacked the accuracy of his first goal and drifted wide of the post. Andrew Freeman was next to try his luck when he nodded over from a dangerous cross and then Bogard did well to claim a low cross from Jake Pitty.
Another key moment and without doubt the decisive turning point of the evening came when a poor clearance from Hughes was intercepted - the ball was funnelled through to sub Tommy Wade who had just joined the fray - he was left with only Hughes to beat, but fluffed his lines when he was denied by a great block by the keeper.
Relieved to see themselves reprieved from going two goals behind Millers renewed their efforts in a frantic finale and finally breached the Blues goal in the 80th minute when a cross to the far post was gratefully nodded past Bogard by Hazelwood to bring the scores level. Millers were given a further boost again in a key moment when Michael Toner was given his marching orders after a second yellow for a poor challenge on the lively Richardson .
Two minutes later and with a draw looking the likely outcome Aveley notched the winner and it was from a corner, another set piece - a situation which has caused Blues problems throughout the season. The ball was not cleared effectively, it fell to James Love who fired home through a ruck of players much to the delight of Aveley players and fans alike.
The final whistle brought to an end a pulsating local derby played in the right spirit with Aveley coming out on top, possessing slightly more quality on the night.
Bogard,Mahal, Okonkwo, Toner, Thompson, Gordon (Wade 73), Allen (Cole 78), Pinto, Carlos, Bishop, Oli( Henry 61)
Subs not used;Cogan,Curtis
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