Waltham Forest 0 - 3 GAFC
Grays Athletic ensured a winning start to the new season with a comfortable 3-0 win over Waltham Forest.
The game started with a massive blow to Grays as in only the second minute Jake Hall stooped to win a header on the edge of the Forest area only for Forest defender Tom Vickers flying boot to cause a deep cut above his eye. The cut was serious enough that Hall had to be substituted immediately for Lee Flynn and went to hospital to have stiches. Vickers was subsequently booked for the incident and the resulting free kick was blocked for a corner which came to nothing.
Both teams initially struggled on a very hard and very bouncy pitch with the first chance only coming in the 17th minute, which lead to the opening goal of the goal.
With Grays in possession with Luke Marshall in midfield his searching long ball over the top of the Forest defence was chased down by Joao Carlos. With Inaki Ordono trying desperately to keep up with Carlos the defender pulled the Grays winger back resulting in a penalty. Ordono was booked for the foul and Danny Bunce stepped up to fire the ball into the bottom right hand corner o the net to give Grays the lead.
Waltham Forest tried hard to physically impose themselves on the superior Grays midfield and Manu Dagher was booked for kicking through the back of Leon Lalite as the ball was played away.
With Grays controlling the middle of the park and looking comfortable at the back, they had to wait until nearly the half hour mark before the chances really started to flow up front.
In the 27th minute a Grays corner was cleared to edge of the box where Carlos was waiting. His goal bound shot was deflected wide for another corner. His time played deep towards the back post saw Junior Baker rises above a crowded area to head towards goal. The header was blocked on the line and eventually cleared.
Carlos, having a fantastic game with his new streamlined haircut, again created a chance in the 29th minute as he picked the ball up on the right winger and cut inside a defender. He shot from the edge of the area struck the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick.
A break down the left wing this time in the 32nd minute saw a series on one touch passes ended with a ball into Danny Bunce on the edge of the area but his powerful strike went narrowly over the bar.
Waltham Forest did finally manage a shot on goal in the 35th minute as Luke Stanley picked the ball up on the right wing and was allowed to travel to the edge of the Grays area. His shot was deflected onto the bar and out for a corner.
Grays safely saw off the corner and saw out the remainder of the half to take a 1-0 lead into half time although their dominance was worth a bigger lead.
The second half started slowly with very few chances as the players maybe struggled with the heat and fitness in the first competitive game of the season.
Grays had to wait until the 62nd minute for their first chance of the second half as Marshall broke down the right wing before his cross fell to Bunce and his square pass to Jack West should have been converted but was fired over the bar.
Jack West was substituted a minute later for James Bunn which proved to be the catalyst for Grays to find the slick passing they have shown all pre-season.
In the 70th minute Grays gave themselves the cushion of a second goal as a throw in on the right hand side by Craig Pope to Luke Marshall was played back to Pope and his chip over the Forest defence fell perfectly into James Bunn’s path for him to fire into the roof of the net from a diminishing angle.
Grays made their final substitution in the 71st minute as Danny Bunce was replaced by Joe Sweeney.
The outcome was put beyond doubt in the 78th minute as Grays took a 3-0 lead. With possession in the middle of the park Lalite’s played the ball into Sweeney on the edge of the area. As the defence closed him down, a square pass to Carlos left him clear on goal and as he closed in on goal Carlos coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner and a well-deserved goal to wrap up a sensational individual performance.
Joe Sweeney almost made it four in the 81st minute as he stole the ball off a Forest defender but his low shot was well saved by Aaron Omand.
Grays maintained possession in the final ten minutes as both teams tired to secure their first win of the season.
Grays Athletic: - Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Ryan Kirby, Junior Baker, Danny Bunce (Joe Sweeney 71), Luke Marshall, Leon Lalite, Jake Hall (Lee Flynn 5), Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos, Jack West (James Bunn 65).
Subs not used: - Grant Cooper, Tyrone Scarlett.