GAFC 4 - 1 Harlow Town
A Joao Carlos hat-trick helped Grays recover from a goal down to defeat Harlow Town 4-1 at Rush Green on Saturday.
Grays started the game slowly as they struggled to cope with the pace of the Harlow front line.
In the 5th minute Jeff Hammond was given too much space in midfield and he ran through on goal, leaving the Grays defence lagging behind. As he attacked into the area, George Kamurasi came out and made himself big, blocking the goal bound shot away to safety.
A minute later Hector Mackie picked up a yellow card for Harlow as a loose pass was picked up by Joao Carlos as he looked to counter attack; Mackie dived in to stop his progress.
The away side had another chance to take the lead in the 8th minute as Bertrand Bossu in the Harlow goal, fired a long kick over the head of Ryan Kirby which Hammond chased down. He headed the ball towards goal but again Kamurasi was out well to block the effort. The rebound came to the edge of the area where a Harlow played fired first time towards goal, but the ball went narrowly passed the post.
Grays almost took an unlikely lead in the 10th minute as Jack West stole in front of a defender to win the ball and run through on goal. His left foot shot from twelve yards was out of the reach of Bossu but went inches past the far post.
It was Grays who again threatened in the 16th minute as Carlos collected the ball on the edge of the area. He turned a defender and unleashed a vicious shot towards the top corner. Just as the ball looked to be heading into the net, Bossu pulled off a fantastic diving save, to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
West had another chance to give Grays the lead in the 19th minute as Carlos played the ball over the Harlow defence to Joe Sweeney. His cross from the touchline found West at the near post but his shot was off target.
Harlow took the lead in the 29th minute as a ball through the middle of the Grays defence found Thomas Davie. He got to the ball a fraction of a second before Kamurasi and the knocked the ball past him and tapped into the empty net.
Grays looked for a quick reply and in the 34th minute Bunce found space down the left wing and cut the ball back to Kenny Beaney on the edge of the area. He beat a defender and fired towards goal, but his shot struck the base of the post and rebounded to safety.
Harlow counted immediately as Hammond skipped past Kirby to find himself through on goal. His shot was again smothered by the advancing Kamurasi to ensure Grays only went into half time with a one goal deficit.
Grays started the second half much quicker than the first as they forced a corner inside the first minute. The corner was played towards the back post where Junior Baker rose highest but could not direct his header on goal and the ball went narrowly wide.
Grays continued to knock on the Harlow door with little success as shots by Kenny Beaney and Danny Bunce before the hour mark went close but could not beat Bossu in the Harlow goal.
The game started to turn in Grays’ favour in the 63rd minute as Carlos picked the ball up on the left wing and attacked into the area. As he took the ball passed a defender a trailing leg tripped him up and the referee award a penalty. Harry Agombar confidently stepped up to stroke the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the goal to draw Grays level.
Grays immediately made their first substitution as they replaced Jack West with Luke Marshall.
Harlow were reduced to ten men in the 66th minute as Hector Mackie picked up a second yellow card for a tackle on Danny Bunce.
The ten men could only hold on for six minutes as the Rush Green pitch and Grays two wingers proved too big and too quick for them to cope with.
In the 72nd minute Joe Sweeney picked the ball up in the area and played an inch perfect pass into the path on Luke Marshall. His shot was well saved by Bossu but the rebound fell to Joao Carlos who calmly slotted home to give Grays the lead.
Luke Marshall again came close to getting on the score sheet in the 75th minute as he collected the ball on the edge of the area before his turn and shot went just past the far post.
Grays ensured all three points in the 80th minute as good work from Joe Sweeney in the area allowed him the space to cross the ball to the back post where an unmarked Joao Carlos had the simple task of tapping into the net from close range.
Joao Carlos ensured the first Grays hat trick in the league since Joe Sweeney on the opening day of last season in the 82nd minute as Sweeney again found space in the area and crossed the ball to the back post. This time Carlos brought the ball down and cut back onto this right foot before calmly rolling the ball into the net.
Grays made two late substitutions as Junior Baker and Joao Carlos made way for Joe Nightingill and Tyrone Scarlett.
There was still time left one more chance at each end.
First, Hammond found space on the right wing to cross the ball into the Grays area. Substitute Joshua Cooper timed his run perfectly to meet the ball on the volley and fire towards goal, but again Kamurasi was on hand to push the ball away with a diving save.
Grays broke down the opposite end of the pitch and Sweeney’s back heel in the area found Marshall but his fierce drive went just over the bar.
The referee blew for full time shortly after to give Grays the points. The result certainly flattered the home side considering they could have been further behind at the break were it not for George Kamurasi. However, the second half performance was the kind of response you would expect from a team who are serious about pushing for promotion.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Ryan Kirby, Junior Baker (Joe Nightingill 83), Danny Bunce, Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos (Tyrone Scarlett 86), Joe Sweeney, Jack West (Luke Marshall 64)
Unused Subs: Lee Flynn, James Bunn