300 up for Carlos as Blues Progress to the next round
Blues through to the next round of the FA Trophy
Grays Athletic vs Norwich United Match Report – by Charlie Skinner
After a midweek excursion to AFC Hornchurch where the Blues fought well for a 2-2 draw, we returned to Parkside for the preliminary round of the FA Trophy. Opponents Norwich United are a fellow Bostik North team but after a poor start they picked up their first win of the season in the weekend leading up to this fixture.
Grays, who fielded the same side that performed excellently at Hornchurch, enjoyed early possession with the midfield and forwards linking up well. A good delivery from Sam Cross was flicked on by Kai Brown to Ade Cole who managed to guide the ball into the bottom corner only to be ruled offside. The deadlock was broken though when Ryan Mahal's long volleyed clearance landed in between the Norwich defence and goalkeeper. The Blues' prolific striker, Kieran Bishop, was first to pounce touching it around out-rushing keeper, Andy Wilton, and slotting the ball into an open net.
Shortly after, Norwich – who had enjoyed a good spell including decent chances from both a corner and a free kick - equalised. A chipped ball over the Grays defence found Liam Jackson in behind. The forward then fired a right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area into the top corner past Lamar Johnson in goal.
Despite this, it didn't take long for Grays to regain the lead just five minutes later. A battling run from Suley Zuhdu, who cut in from the left hand side and dribbled past a few players, resulted in the ball falling to Stanley Muguo on the edge of the box. The intimidating Blues midfielder placed the ball excellently into the bottom corner past a sprawling Wilton.
Athletic extended their lead with five first half minutes remaining. As Kai Brown applied pressure to the Norwich centre half, Shaun Wones, and the skipper's under-hit back pass fell into the path of Bishop. Consequently, a similar scenario to the first goal unfolded as a calm and collected Bishop shifted the ball around the keeper and tapped in from close range.
Just two minutes later, Grays were awarded a penalty. A neat dink from Ade Cole, who was looking creative in an attacking midfield role, found Kai Brown whose effective touch inside deceived Norwich left back, Olumide Lapite, resulting in him hand-balling quite evidently. Subsequently, Grays Athletic legend Joao Carlos, who made his 300th appearance for the Blues that day, stroked the ball into the bottom right corner sending the keeper the opposite way, adding a goal to his already special afternoon.
With the Blues leading 4-1 going into the second half, a change was made at half time as Carlos, who has only recently returned from injury, came off for Callum Thompson. Grays sustained pressure throughout early periods of the half with a long range free kick from Thompson finding Zuhdu’s head but he could only steer wide. Grays continued to look the better side and when Bishop beat his man he found himself one-on-one. Despite being on a hat-trick, Bishop unselfishly squared the ball to substitute Glenn Poole for a tap in but the experienced goal-scoring midfielder uncharacteristically sliced his effort wide.
Good passages of play from Athletic were to follow with excellent one-twos and link up play resulting in chances for both Cole and substitute Jamie Slabber, yet they could only find the side-netting and force a save by the goalie respectively.
Against the run of play, it was Norwich who pulled one back. After a sloppy foul by Jack Fowler around 20 yards out from Johnson’s goal, Adam Hipperson stepped up to take the resulting free kick. Norwich’s number nine fired an unstoppable strike into the top corner around the wall with the goalkeeper left helpless.
Consequently, Norwich gained momentum and tried to seek out another goal to really put the pressure on the hosts in the final 15 minutes. Firstly, a free header from Shaun Wones after a good corner delivery was straight at a thoroughly thankful Johnson. Although, soon after Norwich closed the deficit to just one goal when a lofted ball over the Grays defence found substitute, Adam Probert, who took the ball around an approaching Johnson and steered it easily into the open net.
Following a nervy final few minutes of stoppage time, the referee brought the game to a close giving Grays the victory, 4-3. With both their first win in five games and a much appreciated £3000 prize money in the bank, the Blues will travel to Cray Wanderers in the next round which will be played on October 28th. Next up for the Ath is another home game on Wednesday evening when we welcome mid-table Potters Bar Town to Parkside for our eleventh Bostik North fixture of the season.