Blues exit Velocity Cup
A good start but Blues undone by Bostik Premier Hendon
Report by Charlie Skinner
After a 2-0 win away at Bowers & Pitsea back in September, Grays travelled to Hendon FC on Tuesday night for their second round tie of the Velocity Cup. Multiple changes to Saturday's side that faced Canvey Island saw goalkeeping coach, Daniel Howett, start between the sticks with Lamar Johnson suspended, Ben McNamara cup-tied and new signing, Joe Simmonds, falling ill before the match.
Following a hectic start to the encounter, the Blues enjoyed a spell of good possession although nothing threatened the Hendon goalkeeper. Despite this pressure, Hendon responded with a couple of shots in quick succession that tested Howett in goal but he saved both comfortably.
Grays were the team to break the deadlock after 22 minutes. Excellent work from Joao Carlos down the left wing saw him glide past the full back and fizz a low cross into the box from the byline. On the edge of the six yard box was Jamie Slabber, who had gotten in front of his marker to tap into an open goal.
Athletic's lead was short lived as just 5 minutes later the hosts equalised. After a dubious throw-in decision, Hendon's Zak Joseph floated a pinpoint cross, from the left hand side, into the box. Subsequently, Keagan Cole was allowed a free header from six yards out and guided the ball into the Blues net.
The first half culminated in a great Grays chance. Following a driving run, Ryan Mahal slipped a neat ball through to Kai Brown. Brown evaded his marker and fired a dangerous low cross but a Hendon defender managed to get in front of Kieran Bishop and cleared his lines.
Grays started the second half brightly with a few early chances. Both Ade Cole and Bishop saw good individual efforts gathered by Hendon keeper, Tom Lovelock. This was followed by possibly the best Blues chance to regain the lead as Jamie Slabber's pressure created a chance for himself. Consequently, he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but a left footed shot could only find the side netting from ten yards out.
Against the run of play, Hendon took the lead for the first time in the 56th minute. A precise through ball carved open the Blues defence and was expertly controlled by Zak Joseph. Hendon's number 9 then dinked a chipped effort over an out-rushing Howett and into the bottom left corner.
Perry Dunn managed 60 minutes on his return from injury before being replaced by new signing, Teddy Perkins, who is on work experience from Leyton Orient's academy. Soon to follow was another Grays chance. After a neat one-two between Kai Brown and Ryan Mahal, the full back's cross found Slabber in the penalty area but his header was deflected wide for a corner.
Just minutes later, Hendon were awarded a free kick around 20 yards out central to the Blues goal. Subsequently, a simple pass to the left of the wall found the unmarked Zak Joseph who comfortably slid past Daniel Howett to make it 3-1.
In the 72nd minute, Hendon gained a three goal advantage. Ade Cole was dispossessed in the middle of the park and the resulting pass from Hendon's midfielder again found Joseph on the left hand side. The striker's initial strike was saved well by Howett but the ball fell straight back to Joseph who finished neatly.
A foul on Blues midfield substitute, Tre Zailor, resulted in a dangerous Sam Cross free kick just missing the top of the crossbar. Finally, with a couple of minutes left on the clock, Hendon scored their fifth of the evening. Joseph again found himself in the box; he managed to turn his marker and fire a shot against the post. Unfortunately, the ball ricocheted straight towards Hendon's Matt Ball who tapped into an open net from 6 yards.
As the Blues crash out of the Velocity Cup, we look forward to our next home fixture this coming Saturday against Mildenhall Town at Parkside. Jamie Stuart's side will be looking to bounce back from the defeat against Canvey last weekend and regain the form his side had in the league previously.