GAFC 2 - 2 Soham Town Rangers
Grays were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Soham Town Rangers in the league on Tuesday evening.
Grays manager, Hakan Hayrettin, made three changes to the starting line-up, replacing Grant Cooper, Luke Marshall and Joe Sweeney with Ryan Kirby, Danny Bunce and Kenny Beaney. He also changed the formation from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 with James Bunn up front on his own.
The home side returned to league action hoping a change of competition would eradicate the memory of Saturday’s 5-0 defeat to Maidstone United.
However, they made the worst possible start falling behind in only the 3rd minute as Jack Paxman collected the ball on the left wing, cutting inside Craig Pope in the area and firing low into the net.
Grays responded almost immediately as good intricate passing around the Soham Town area found Kenny Beaney in space and a miss-timed tackle saw him fouled in the area for a penalty.
Danny Bunce stepped up and fired the ball hard into the top right hand corner of the goal, giving Daniel Bircham no chance.
Despite playing on the right of a five man midfield, Joao Carlos was still able to cause the Soham Town defence problems. In the 16th minute, he won the ball well on the touchline before playing a one-two with James Bunn to put him through on goal. A Soham Town defender came across to cover with both players colliding and going down. The home fans appealed for a penalty, but the referee was unmoved and a goal-kick was awarded.
Soham almost retook the lead in the 24th minute as a slip by Ryan Kirby allowed Robbie Mason to find space on the edge of the Grays area. His fierce shot was heading for the top corner only for George Kamurasi to push the ball wide with a full stretch diving save.
The final chance of the first half came to Grays in the 36th minute as Bunce picked the ball up on the left hand side and attacked towards the corner of the area. His left footed shot narrowly avoided the attacking Grays players, who were diving in to try and get a touch towards goal, and the ball went narrowly past the far post for a goal kick.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with Grays failing to learn from their mistake of conceding an early goal, as Soham went back in front on 47 minutes.
A corner from the right hand side was whipped into the area and Kamurasi could only get a hand on the ball to deflect it out for another corner. This one, from the left hand side, was again played into a dangerous area and Frank Atangana rose unmarked to head into the net from five yards out.
Grays almost continued the sequence of the first half with an instant reply as Danny Bunce unleashed a vicious strike from twenty yards that was heading into the top corner, but Bircham got a finger tip to the ball and deflected it over the bar.
On 54 minutes, Buster Harradine picked up a yellow card for a foul on Carlos thirty yards from goal. The free kick was slightly over hit and Bircham rose to punch the ball clear. Lee Flynn collected the ball and crossed into the area where Jake Hall headed towards the bottom right hand corner, only for Bircham to once again deny the home side with an excellent diving save for a corner.
The Soham resistance was finally broken from the resulting corner as a deep ball across found Kenny Beaney at the back post and his header eluded the defenders on the line and Bircham to draw the home side level.
Grays immediately made a double change, replacing Kenny Beaney and James Bunn with Joe Sweeney and Jamie Richards and they searched for a winning goal.
In the 64th minute Grays were almost in front for the first time in the match as Flynn attacked down the left and crossed deep to the back post. Carlos brought the ball down into the path of Joe Sweeney on the edge of the area and his shot looked to be heading in before being deflected by a brave block for a corner.
Just two minutes later, Soham nearly took the lead again as a deep cross from the left found Robbie Mason all on his own at the back post. His header back across goal was heading for the bottom corner, but Kamurasi stretched out an arm at the last instant to push the ball round the post for a corner.
Grays replaced Danny Bunce for Luke Marshall with ten minutes remaining and the game looked to be heading for a draw as both sides struggled to create any clear cut chances.
With one minute of normal time remaining, a mistake almost gifted Grays a goal as a long diagonal ball by Carlos was played back towards Bircham in the Soham goal by a defender. The pass was under hit however and Luke Marshall stole in to shoot at goal but his effort was tame and the Bircham pushed the ball to safety.
This kick started a mad few moments in the game as Sweeney collected the ball on the right wing and his cross found Jamie Richards unmarked in the centre of goal just five yards out but his weak effort was straight at Bircham who collected easily.
Soham counted immediately as they broke to the Grays byline and as the ball was cut back into the Grays area Robbie Mason had time and space to score the decisive goal but his low shot went agonisingly past the post.
Grays surged forward again and were awarded a free kick following a foul by Ryan Auger, who was subsequently given a yellow card after kicking the ball away.
The free kick was played into the area and cleared for a corner. The ball was crossed along the six yard box and Junior Baker timed his run and header to perfection to fire towards goal. His header looked to have settled the game only for Bircham to pull off yet another outstanding save, this one the best of all, to somehow push the ball over the bar with an outstretched arm.
This was the final action of the game as the referee blew for full time.
Soham will be happy with a point but will feel on another night they could have taken all three from the game.
Grays will be happy to have twice come from behind but missed the chance to go a point clear at the top of the league.
The next game for Grays is against Ashford Town (Middx) on Saturday at Rush Green in The FA Trophy.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Ryan Kirby, Junior Baker, Lee Flynn, Joao Carlos, Leon Lalite, Jake Hall, Kenny Beaney (Joe Sweeney 56), Danny Bunce (Luke Marshall 82), James Bunn (Jamie Richards 56)
Unused Subs: David East, Tyrone Scarlett