Grays make in 5 league wins in a row at home to Waltham Forest
By Andrew Packer
Goals from Joe Sweeney, Luke Marshall and Jack West earn Grays a 3-1 win at home to Waltham Forest and close the gap at the top of the league
Grays backed up their three hard fought away wins in the league to record the seventh league win out of eight games against a resilient Waltham Forest.
The home side almost took the lead in the first minute as good link up play by Joe Sweeney and Craig Pope saw a floated cross into the area fins Jared Small unmarked six yards from goal but his header went narrowly passed the right hand post.
Grays forced a corner in the 3rd minute which was whipped into the box. After a brief scramble the ball fell to Junior Baker at the back post but the snap shot on his weaker right foot went high over the bar.
Waltham Forest had a chance to take the lead in the 7th minute as they won a free kick on the edge of the Grays area. Joel Palmer stepped up to fire towards goal but the ball took a deflection and went for a corner.
Grays were in front just two minutes later as a long ball up field was well won by Joe Sweeney and he cut inside from the right hand side before firing towards goal with the outside of his right foot, the ball finding the far corner of the net, repaying the trust manager Hakan Hayrettin showed in the started the striker.
The lead only six minutes however as a ball through the heart of the Grays defence found Jack Leachman in space twelve yards from goal and he fired low into the corner of the net.
A fine move saw Grays restore their lead in the 20th minute as Jared Small was played in down the left and he broke free of the defence to drive into the box before playing the ball back into the path of Luke Marshall who fired home from eight yards.
Grays looked to extend their lead and came close in the 32nd minute. Joao Carlos picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove toward the edge of the Waltham Forest area. His shot looked to be heading for the bottom left corner of the net but went inches passed the left hand post.
Another chance, this time in the 37th minute, came and went as a corner for Grays was cleared to the edge of the area where Luke Marshall hooked the ball back towards goal and Craig Pope was left unmarked but missed his header from close range with Chico Ramos in the Waltham Forest goal claiming the ball.
Waltham Forest struggled to find the space they enjoyed in the middle of the pitch earlier in the half and were reduced to long shots from the edge of the area by Jack Leachman as the game drew closer to half time.
The final chance of the half cam e in the 40th minute as Luke Marshall did well down the right wing before crossing into the six yard box. Kenny Beaney timed his run perfectly to meet the ball but his shot was saved at point blank range by Chico Ramos to keep the lead at just one goal at half time.
If the first half was an end-to-end spectacle, the second half was anything but, with few chances being created.
Grays had the first meaningful effort on goal as a free kick was delivered into the area and Jared Small rose highest on the penalty spot to head toward the corner of the net. Only a full stretch one handed save by Chico Ramos denied Jared Small the goal and the rebound was played back into the box, this time headed over the bar by Junior Baker.
Luke Marshall and Joe Sweeney were replaced around the hour mark, their work done with a goal apiece for Jeff Hammond and Jack West respectively.
Shortly after coming on, Jack West had the chance to extend Grays lead as he stole the ball off a defender and found himself through on goal. He drove to the edge of the area and fired towards goal, but Chico Ramos was out well to save with his feet. The rebound was played back across goal but Jack West’s headed went narrowly over.
Grays made their final substitution in the 77th minute with Ryan Kirby being replaced by Dave East, back from the injury he picked up at Barking back at the start of January.
With both sides struggling to create any further chances, the game appeared to be heading for a dull finish but in the 88th minute Joao Carlos meandered his way into the area and was bundled over, the referee showing no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
With regular taker Danny Bunce on the bench, Jack West stepped up and fired into the corner for his fifth goal in three games and sealing victory for the home side.
Grays are now only 8 points behind Maldon & Tiptree following their 0-0 draw with Aveley, still with 3 games in hand and the league title firmly in sight.
Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby (Dave East 77), Lee Flynn, Luke Marshall (Jeff Hammond 56), Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Joe Sweeney (Jack West 66), Jared Small
Unused Subs: Danny Bunce, Daniel Subuola