Essex Senior Cup quarter final victory for Grays

First published in Sport

Barking 1

Grays Athletic 2

Essex Senior Cup Quarter-Finals.

FOOTBALL: Two goals from Grays Athletic substitute Danny Bunce stunned Barking and completed a 2-1 comeback win for the visitors, who reached the Semi-Finals of the Essex Senior Cup for the first time since 2007.

Nathan Philip’s 8th-minute header meant Barking led for the majority of the last eight encounter, but the Essex Senior Leaguers’ hearts were broken inside the final 10 minutes as Manager Mick O’Shea tasted defeat for the first time in his twelfth match in charge.

Grays, who haven’t reached the final of the competition since their 1-0 win over Billericay Town in the 1995 showpiece, were hindered by an early injury to defender David East, and were still organising their defence when Theo Ola’s free kick picked out Philip at the back post for a thumping header past goalkeeper Lamar Johnson.

The Ryman League Division One North promotion hunters tested home shot-stopper Christian Baffour through Harry Agombar and Kenny Beaney, but Barking maintained a threat of their own and Dumebi GB-Dumaka cleanly struck a dipping half-volley inches over the crossbar just before the half-hour mark.

An entertaining encounter continued to produce chances, and Leon Lalite unlocked the Barking defence soon after that opportunity to put Joe Sweeney in. He beat Baffour to the ball and rolled it goalwards, only to see Philip get back to prod clear on the goal line. Agombar fired narrowly off-target with Baffour beaten in the 32nd minute, although the custodian later made a stunning fingertip save to push Craig Pope’s glancing header over.

Barking’s defence remained strong, even threatening to extend their lead on the stroke of half-time. Ola’s lofted pass found GB-Dumaka and he nodded beyond Johnson with just Junior Baker’s presence preventing the ball from nestling in the bottom right-hand corner.

Grays made changes early in the second period, introducing Jack West as well as Bunce, but Barking continued to doggedly keep them at bay without Baffour being brought into action. It was not until the mid-point of the half, when the custodian brilliantly pushed out Agombar’s close-range snap-shot, that an equaliser seemed likely.

The match turned ten minutes from time. At one end, replacement Daniel Okaa sprinted away to tee-up Ben O’Brien, who slashed inches wide of the left-hand upright, before play switched to the other penalty area and Bunce, who calmly collected a pass on the left-hand side before steering his shot inside the opposite post.

Three minutes later, Bunce delivered the telling blow. The excellent Agombar swung in a pinpoint cross from the right flank and the substitute impressively looped a header over Baffour and into the same corner of the net. Sweeney had a chance to make sure of the success in the final minute, but he drilled across the face of goal from another Agombar assist, although by then it was too late for Barking to source a response.

Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, David East (Ryan Kirby, 7), Junior Baker, Lee Flynn, Luke Marshall, Leon Lalite (Jack West, 52), Jake Hall (Danny Bunce, 68), Kenny Beaney, Harry Agombar, Jake Sweeney. Unused Substitutes: Jared Small, Daniel Subola.

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