Bunce penalty wins 'Battle of Essex'
By Andrew Packer
Grays Athletic overcame local rivals Aveley in the ‘Battle of Essex’, with the football team defeating the rugby team 1-0.
The game started in true derby fashion, with every 50/50 fiercely contested and neither side wanting to make the first mistake.
The first effort on goal came in the 10th minute as Rashid Kamara cut inside from the left for the hosts, before firing a low shot towards goal from the corner of the area. Lamar Johnson in the Grays goal was well positioned to make a comfortable save.
Aveley had the first clear sight of goal in the 21st minute as a good through ball by Rashid Kamara found Aveley’s top scorer Jordan Cox in space on the edge of the penalty area. His powerful strike was heading for the corner of the net, but Lamar Johnson came off his line well to smother the shot and block with his feet.
Grays had to wait until the 27th minute for their first effort on target as a long ball up to Jeff Hammond was knocked down into the path of Kenny Beaney. His snap shot from the edge of the area was parried for a corner by Andre Foster.
It was not long after that Grays were gifted the chance to take the lead.
In the 29th minute, a deep cross from the right hand side appeared to be heading harmlessly out for a throw in on the far side until Marcus Rose inexplicably raised a hand to the ball when unchallenged. The referee was left with little option other than to point to the spot. Danny Bunce coolly stepped up and fired low into the corner to give the away side the lead.
The remainder of the half lacked any further chances, but neither side could be accused of lacking passion. Both sets of players continued to fly into challenges, so it was somewhat of a surprise that at half time the only yellow card of the first half was for Jordan Cox kicking the ball out of Lamar Johnson’s hands.
The second half continued the format of the first, lots of tackles and very few chances.
In the 56th minute, Lee Flynn played a long ball across his own area which was intercepted by Jordan Cox, but his shot went high over the bar.
This was to be Jordan Cox last effort on goal as he received his marching orders shortly after the hour mark.
With Lee Flynn in possession just inside the Aveley half, he played the ball upfield moments before Jordan Cox rushed in with a clumsy challenge. After numerous handbags had finished flying, the referee gave Jordan Cox his second yellow of the game.
Despite being down to ten men, Aveley continued to push forward searching for the equaliser.
In the 67th minute, substitute Jack Stephenson worked space on the edge of the area to strike towards goal, but Lamar Johnson was again on hand with another smart save.
Grays came close to doubling their lead in the 80th minute as a free kick from Danny Bunce twenty yards out was fired over the wall towards the corner of the net. Andre Foster was at full stretch to get fingertips on the ball and push over the bar for a corner.
As the game drew to a close, Aveley pushed forward with greater urgency and should have levelled the score line.
First, a cross from the left, found Jack Stephenson unmarked on the six yard box in the centre of goal, but his header was straight at Lamar Johnson who saved. A yard either side of the keeper would surely have resulted in a goal.
The final chance came in injury time as a cross/shot by Sheldon Sellears fell to Billy Holland eight yards out and his instinctive shot beat Lamar Johnson but cannoned back off the post.
Grays saw out the remaining injury time to record another impressive win and a sixth successive clean sheet.
Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Lee Flynn, Danny Bunce, Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Jared Small (Joe Sweeney 90), Jeff Hammond
Unused Subs: Luke Marshall, Brian Moses, Daniel Subuola, Jack West