Waltham Abbey 1 - 1 GAFC
By Andrew Packer
Joao Carlos salvaged an unlikely point for Grays on Saturday as they drew 1-1 at Waltham Abbey
On a wet and bumpy pitch it was unsurprising that neither side created any opportunities in the first fifteen minutes as both sets of players struggled to keep their footing, let alone play any quality football.
The first chance of the game went to Grays in the 17th minute as Luke Marshall collected the ball on the right wing before cutting inside onto his left foot and crossing the ball. The cross was deflected and looped to Joao Carlos at the back post but his volley was straight at Jake Whincup who saved easily.
On 22 minutes, more good play by Marshall down the right saw his cross find Kenny Beaney in the centre of goal, fifteen yards out, but his first time shot went high over the bar.
The home side’s first chance came in the 26th minute as Louis Bristow ran through the centre of midfield unchallenged before playing in Dean Green just to the right of goal. His shot was on target but was closed down well and cleared for a corner which came to nothing.
Grays responded two minutes later with another chance as a free kick was swung into the area by Lee Flynn from the right. The ball was flicked on at the near post by Jared Small, but was straight at Whincup who saved comfortably.
The away side had another chance on 34 minutes as a corner from Carlos was punched to the edge of the area by Whincup where Small collected the ball. His shot looked goal bound but was blocked and eventually cleared.
As half time approached, Waltham Abbey had the best chance of the game as Bristow found space on the edge of the area to play in Loren Maxwell who fired just wide unchallenged from eight yards.
The second half started much the same as the first, slow, dull, uneventful and muddy.
The only exception was a mazy run by Marshall inside the first minute which eventually came to an end as he could not find a way past Whincup from a tight angle.
Grays first real effort at goal of the second half came on the hour mark as the ball broke to Lee Flynn on the edge of the area who fired first time towards goal but his shot went narrowly passed the far post.
The best move of the game followed shortly after which gave the home side the lead.
A long diagonal pass out to the right hand side was instantly controlled by James Peagram, who cut inside Danny Bunce just outside the corner of the area and curled a superb left footed shot into the top corner of the net, leaving George Kamurasi no chance in the Grays goal.
Grays responded by making a double change, replacing Joe Sweeney and Luke Marshall with Brian Moses and Jake Hall.
The substitutions were largely ineffective as Jared Small was moved out to the wing and Jake Hall playing just behind Brian Moses in a supporting attacker role.
Waltham Abbey had two clear cut chances to put the game beyond Grays, but failed to convert either opportunity.
Firstly, on 75 minutes Lee Flynn called for a short goal kick which was quickly closed down and a simple square pass found Green through on goal. As he drove into the area, Kamurasi came out well to close the shot down and parry the shot away to safety.
Just two minutes later, Green had another chance as a long ball over the top beat the offside trap but his shot was again well saved by Kamurasi from close range to keep the away side in the game.
As is typical in football, the missed chances came back to haunt Waltham Abbey as Grays levelled on 80 minutes. Kenny Beaney picked the ball up in midfield before threading an inch perfect pass between the left back and centre half into the path of Joao Carlos who came in from the right wing to fired first time into the far corner of the net.
The goal appeared to deflect the home side significantly who looked to hang on for a point as Grays looked resurgent and searched for a winning goal.
With five minutes remaining, Grays replaced Leon Lalite with Tyrone Scarlett to try and add pace to the front line.
Grays almost stole all three points in the final minute of the game as a free kick from the left was played into the area by Jake Hall which fell to Junior Baker, but his snap shot was well saved by Whincup. The rebound came back to baker, but with his back to goal, his overhead kick went narrowly over the bar.
A draw was the most Grays deserved out of the game, having been largely unimpressive for long periods of the game, but sees them lose more ground on top side Maldon & Tiptree who ran out comfortable winners again at home.
Grays now have two must win home games, firstly against Ilford on Tuesday evening, followed by Thamesmead Town next Saturday.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Lee Flynn, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Danny Bunce, Luke Marshall (Jake Hall 65), Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite (Tyrone Scarlett 85), Joao Carlos, Joe Sweeney (Brian Moses 65), Jared Small
Unused Subs: Grant Cooper, David East