DISMAL BLUES DUMPED OUT OF CUP
A below par performance saw Blues beaten by FC Romania writes The Mariner
What a difference a week makes in football, especially when watching Grays Athletic. After producing a high tempo and forceful display against Canvey Island the previous Saturday, Blues produced a performance today that lacked passion, cohesion, pace and commitment. It seems last season's problem of inconsistent displays has returned. FC Romania treated the game as it should be - a cup tie - whereas Blues seemed to approach the game as if it was a pre-season friendly and never looked like finding the key to unlock a resolute defence - apart from one chance in the first half, which brought a smart save from Adrian Darabant. Only keeper Lloyd Anderson could be absolved from criticism, given little protection from his outfield colleagues.
A cagey opening period saw very little in the way of scoring opportunities as both teams were content to knock the ball around in midfield. The only frisson of excitement came when a Mitch Hahn trademark long throw into the box was helped on by the head of Shomari Barnwell falling to Ade Cole, but he miscued horribly, completely missing the target.
FC Romania began to settle producing some nice one-touch football played at pace and came close to opening the scoring when Maradona Chiriac was allowed to run unheeded. Cutting inside, he unleashed a teasing drive that sailed just over the angle of post and bar. At this stage Blues were allowing their opponents far too much time and space on the ball, failing to shut down and seemingly reluctant to press the ball, content to sit off and wait for things to happen. The midfield - so effective last week - lacked any drive and when the ball was played forward Barnwell was left isolated with little support.
Following a corner, Usman Adeniji could have given Blues an undeserved lead when he tested Darabant who made a brilliant block save as the ball appeared to be crossing the line. The chance was lost and Blues were punished for it in the 21st minute. A speculative ball forward caught the their backline square and as striker Toby Cleaver advanced on goal he went down under a tangle of legs, a clear penalty, with Gabriel Ghinea dispatching the spot kick.
Stung by the setback, Blues had an opportunity to restore parity when a Callum Thompson cross found the head of Adeniji, but he headed weakly wide of the upright. In contrast to Blues' ponderous approach, FC Romania broke quickly, decisively and moved the ball around the park with precision. The only drawback in their approach was the tendency to go down dramatically under the most innocuous of challenges. With time ticking down to the break Ghinea came close again when he latched onto the ball from a corner and fired just wide. Muguo replied for Blues from a corner, but he failed to generate any momentum with his header and the ball dropped invitingly into Darabant's hands.
It was left to Felix Lupu to provide the last chance of the half, when he forced Anderson into a fine save, leaping to his left to turn the ball behind.
The start of the half saw Adeniji try his luck from the edge of the box, only to see the ball drift wide of the post. Thankfully Blues started to play with a little more urgency and were now edging possession. A succession of corners was won but failed to trouble the home goal, although a Cole free-kick was met by the onrushing Perry Dunn, who had to stretch to make contact and touched the ball over. A rare intricate passage of play led to a tantalising cross from Ryan Mahal, which Darabant did well to claim from sub Dennis Oli.
Mitch Hahn was presented with an opportunity in an almost identical position from where he scored a wonder goal last week, but this time his effort, although struck well, was straight into the arms of Darabant.
FC Romania were visibly tiring with twenty minutes to go, but despite this Blues failed to up their tempo and although enjoying the lion's share of play it lacked the cutting edge and incisiveness needed to breach a resolute back line. The double substitution of Curtis and Oli for Cole and Adeniji failed to ignite the spark needed as the clock ticked down.
The forward threat from FC Romania was less frequent, but still looked menacing and in the 84th minute they made sure of the tie. There seemed little danger when the ball was played forward. Geofrey Okonkwo looked to have the situation under control, but hesitation saw him lose the ball, allowing the ball to eventually be played to Begenari Vadim to advance on the exposed Anderson and plant the ball firmly in the back of the net.
The goal left Blues with a mountain to climb and apart from a miscued effort from sub Michael Mignot they never looked likely to salvage something from the day and the final whistle brought the curtain down on a performance that players and supporters alike will want to forget.
Anderson, Mahal, Okonkwo, Dunn, Thompson (Mignot 73),Gordon, Muguo, Hahn, Cole (Curtis 65), Barnwell, Adeniji (Oli 65),
Subs not used: Bogarde, Finneran, Gogo-Ibiama, Cogan
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