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Last gasp goal keeps Grays in the title hunt
1:12pm Wednesday 6th March 2013 in Sport
By CHRIS JONES at Oakside
REDBRIGDE 0, GRAYS ATHLETIC 1
HAKAN Hayrettin’s Blues side left it late against struggling Redbridge last night, but Junior Baker’s injury time winner made it six consecutive wins in the league - seven in all competitions - and 11 matches without defeat.
Having been rested from the starting line-up for the weekend win over Waltham Forest, the recent first choice pairing of Jack West and Jeff Hammond were reinstated in place of Joe Sweeney and Jared Small. David East and Danny Bunce came in for Ryan Kirby and Luke Marshall who took their places on the bench.
Blues started at a frenetic pace, and Joao Carlos earned a penalty in just the second minute as he was pushed over inside the area.
Bunce stepped up to take the spot kick, but he was denied a 12th goal of the season as his effort was well saved by the Redbridge keeper, Dean Neil.
What followed can only be described as an all out onslaught, which had it been a boxing match, would have been stopped by the referee long before the end.
Bunce followed up his penalty miss by heading over shortly after, before East also saw his header go over the bar.
Hammond and Carlos were stretching the home defence, with Hammond delivering an excellent near post ball for West. Had it not been for Paul Shave’s block, it would certainly have been the opening goal.
There were further chances in the first period for Craig Pope, Carlos, Hammond and Bunce, but none of them could find a way past the resolute Redbridge defence.
Redbridge started the second period by making two substitutions to try and nullify Blues’ attacking threat. It worked for a short period of time, but the attacking flair of Blues shone through, and again they did everything other than get a final touch past Dean Neil.
East’s tame header was easily saved, whilst Baker went extremely close late on, only to see Neil make a first-class save.
Substitute Jared Small injected some much needed pace down the right-hand side, but he too was frustrated by a Redbridge defence who were playing out of their skin; in fact their performance belied their lowly position in the table.
There were a number of free-kicks for both sides, but surprisingly referee Oleksandr Saliy let many go unpunished. This all changed as the game went into injury time, as Hammond challenged the Redbridge keeper’ Dean Neil for a loose ball.
The latter was incensed by Hammond’s attempt to win the ball and shoved the ex-Harlow man to the ground, in full view of the officials. Redbridge were down to ten men, however since the goalkeeper had the ball in his control at the time of the incident, no penalty was awarded.
The winner came deep into injury time as Baker scored with an overhead kick from 12 yards. The ball travelled through a sea of players, which gave the make-shift goalkeeper no chance.
It was a win that on the whole, Blues deserved, but with the recent records of each side, it was a much more difficult game than some had expected.
With Maldon & Tiptree winning 2-0 at Soham Town Rangers, the difference is still eight points, but with Blues having three matches in hand on the league leaders. Incidentally, the two clubs clash at Rush Green on the 13th April.
Next up for Blues is a trip to fifth placed Heybridge Swifts on Saturday.
Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, David East, Junior Baker, Lee Flynn, Danny Bunce (Jared Small), Leon Lalite (Daniel Subuola), Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos, Jeff Hammond, Jack West (Joe Sweeney)
Subs not used: Ryan Kirby, Luke Marshall