GAFC 1 - 1 Needham Market
By Andrew Packer
10 man Grays fight back with a late Luke Marshall strike to draw 1-1 with Needham Market at home on Saturday.
Grays found themselves under pressure early on in the game as Needham Market looked lively and moved the ball around well on the excellent Rush Green pitch.
In the 4th minute a shot from Jack Wilkinson from the edge of the area was heading for the top corner of the net until Jake Larkins in the Grays goal stretched out a hand to push the ball over the bar for a corner.
Only one minute later a Needham Market attacker found the ball at his feet just 10 yards from goal but again Larkins was on form to deflect the goal bound shot over the bar with his feet for another corner.
Grays day was made more difficult on 35 minutes as Jake Hall received a straight red card after he retaliated to a shove by Needham’s Bradley Barber by pushing him in the face which was deemed violent conduct by the referee.
Needham should have taken the lead in the 42nd minute as they broke quickly down the right wing and a low cross into the area found Wilkinson unmarked just five yards out with the whole goal to aim at. However, he managed to hit the inside of the post with his shot and the ball ricocheted off to safety.
The home side’s first opportunity of the game came on the stroke of half time as Jack West fought well on the right wing to work his way into the area. His cut back to the edge of the area found Lee Flynn unmarked but his shot went wide of the goal.
Grays made a change at half time replacing Tyrone Scarlett with Harry Agombar who returns to the club on a one month loan deal from Macclesfield. Grays changed to a 4-4-1 having spent large parts of the first half camped in their own half as they struggled to gain possession in midfield.
The substitution and change in formation failed to change the flow of the game however, as Needham again looked dangerous right from the start of the second half.
In the first minute Sam Newson found space on the right wing before running into the Grays area unchallenged to unleash a vicious strike towards goal. Larkins made an excellent diving save to push the ball onto the crossbar. The rebound was played back across goal to Newson but his free header was put narrowly wide.
Grays almost took the lead on 50 minutes as a free kick by Agombar from twenty five yards was played low around the wall. The ball looked to be going in but hit the base of the post and went out to safety.
This seemed to kick start Needham as they broke immediately down the other end and with the Grays defence all over the place Wilkinson found space inside the area to control the ball and pick his spot before firing calmly into the bottom corner of the net to give the away side the lead.
Grays responded by replacing Danny Bunce with Luke Marshall on 54 minutes.
Jack West picked up a needless yellow card on 66 minutes as he disagreed with a referring decision and talked himself into the book, as Grays frustration threaten to boil over.
It was almost one goal a piece on 75 minutes as Agombar chased down a lost cause deep on the left wing before beating a defender and attacking into the Needham area. His deep cross to the back post found Marshall and his volley was heading for the corner until a defender got a block on the line to clear the ball for a corner.
Needham almost doubled their lead in the 79th minute as Newson was found unmarked in the middle. He attacked into the area and cut inside a defender to shoot but the shot was straight at Larkins who made a simple save.
This miss proved vital as less than a minute later Grays were level. A long ball over the top found its way to Marshall’s feet and he ran clear through on goal. As the keeper advanced, Luke Marshall calmly slotted the ball past Louis Johnson much to the pleasure of the home crowd.
Craig Pope and Duane Wright each picked up a yellow card on 88 minutes as they clashed off the ball.
Grays made their final substitution with one minute to go replacing Jack West with James Bunn.
The change had no chance to make an impact on the game as the referee blew for full time shortly after with both sides happy to take a point from the game.
Grays next game is a Tuesday as the travel to Cheshunt before another away trip to Tilbury next Saturday.
Grays Athletic: Jake Larkins, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Lee Flynn, Danny Bunce (Luke Marshall 54), Jake Hall, Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos, Tyrone Scarlett (Harry Agombar 46), Jack West (James Bunn 89)
Unused Subs: Leon Lalite, David East