Stalemate at Mill Field
Blues and Wingate and Finchley fought out a tight game in the FA Trophy writes the Mariner.
This game never really sprang into life with both teams cancelling each other out in a game which lacked the usual cut and thrust typical of cup ties. Grays have fond memories of glories past in the competition having won the trophy twice with current manager Jamie Stuart figuring prominently in both finals.
Wingate produced a stunning performance to trounce high flying Tonbridge Angels the previous Saturday so Blues were in no doubt they were not in for an easy afternoon and right from the kick off the visitors served notice of their intentions striking the angle of upright and bar twice inside the first three minutes.
Shortly after they came close again when Harry Watkins control let him down the ball finding Wales in space but he failed to capitalise on the error sliding his shot wide of the post.
Blues first chance came when Etienne Kababola failed to find the target his effort lacking pace failing to trouble Wingate keeper Gore.
The opening period lacked any real urgency from either side with little goalmouth action, Blues though were creating their own problems at the back when they failed to clear the ball cleanly allowing Wingate to win the important second ball.
The visitors made the breakthrough in the 26th minute and again it was a goal like so many this season that should have been prevented.A deep cross was played to the far post, Blues defenders failed to react and stood appealing for offside leaving Wales in acres of space and he made no mistake crashing the ball past the exposed Tangara.
The lead didn't last long however when in the 33rd minute Blues got on level terms,Kababola picked up the ball wide on the right cutting inside he fired in a crisp drive which Gore could only push out to the lurking David Fallah and he gratefully accepted the gift crashing the ball into the net.
Blues despite levelling the scores were guilty of careless play in their own half playing too many square ball allowing the visitors to intercept and threaten the home goal.
Kababola had a great opportunity to put Blues in front after Jamie Mascoll played a long ball over the visitors back four but the alert Gore raced from his line to hack the ball clear.
Play became increasingly scrappy as the half progressed with neither side able to build a period of pressure proceedings were not helped by some curious refereeing decisions which baffled players and fans alike.The half closed with neither side creating any clear openings.
The opening minutes of the half brought a scoring opportunity for Luke Hornsley when a kind deflection left him with an opening but hesitation cost him and the chance was lost.
At the other end Healey should have done better but his effort was comfortably saved by Tangara,Blues could have gone behind when Abrahams sent in a tantalising low cross which eluded forward and defender alike.
Wingate pressed forward and Blues didn't help their cause when they tended to snatch at their clearances from defence allowing the visitors to mount further attacks.Tangara was kept busy saving well from a low driven cross .
Menga had an opportunity but again hesitation played a part and Cronin was able to block his shot,sub Paquette then did well to chest the ball down to Watkins who missed the target with his shot.
Tangara was called into action again making a block save and then denied ex Blue Luke Iffil who unleashed a fierce drive the keeper diving to his left to clutch the ball.
Blues continued to look for openings but with the loss of Kababola to injury they lacked width which allowed the Wingate defence to condense the play and deny Blues space in and around the box.
Wingate were creating the better openings at this stage but with Tangara dominating his area the Blues defence held firm although Tangara made another smart stop from a Wales effort.
Sub Sandy Cunningham had a golden opportunity to put the Blues in front latching on to a clearance out of defence racing forward and with only one defender to beat he lost control and was dispossed allowing Wingate to clear.
With time running out Wingate produced a late flurry winning a number of corners and once again Tangara had to make a wonderful save to keep the Blues level, it fell to Paquette to have the last chance in injury time sending in a fierce drive bringing a great save from Gore.
So all square after 90 minutes and a replay on Tuesday at Wingate on probably the best playing surface in the league,Worryingly for Grays Kababola and Fallah picked up injuries and could be doubtful for the replay.