Grays Athletic 1-2 Hendon
(Sarpong 85': Ibe 45', Ball 78')
From Mill Field
BY DANNY RUST
GRAYS Athletic missed out on the chance to climb off the foot of the Ryman Premier League table, as they lost 2-1 in a six-pointer against Hendon.
Despite Jamie Stuart's side having the better of the first half, striker Kezie Ibe fired Hendon into the lead and Matthew Ball doubled the visitors' advantage with 12 minutes still to play.
Lartey Sarpong pulled a goal back for the hosts but Grays - who had substitute Lheureux Menga sent off late on in a brawl that involved both sets of players and benches - could not find an equaliser.
In the first half, Grays were the better side and central defender Jon Ashton went close to giving the home side the lead inside 15 minutes.
But Ashton, who met a Matthew Baxter corner, sent his header from six yards out over the crossbar.
Baxter then forced a good save out of Hendon goalkeeper Tom Lovelock on the half hour mark.
The energetic midfielder's free kick from 25 yards out beat the wall and looked destined for the back of the net, but Lovelock just got enough on the strike to divert the ball over the crossbar.
As it looked like the half would end goalless, Hendon took the lead.
A breakaway from the visitors resulted in the ball finding striker Ibe, whose low drive from the edge of the penalty area found the bottom corner of Amadou Tangara's goal.
Grays went in search of an equaliser and Lovelock was once again required to keep Stuart's side at bay as he denied Menga with time running out.
And that save proved decisive as only minutes later, Hendon doubled their lead as Ball found the top corner with a sidefoot shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Ball came close to notching his second and Hendon's third two minutes later, but his effort from a pull-back smashed against the crossbar.
Sarpong grabbed a consolation goal to give Hendon a nervy five minutes to hold on. A poor clearance from Hendon found Sarpong 12 yards out, and he found the bottom corner.
But in the dying moments, a Menga challenge resulted in both sets of players and benches clashing and the striker was sent off by the referee.
The result has helped Hendon up to 22nd, while Grays remain bottom of the Ryman Premier League and five points off safety.
Grays Athletic: Tangara, Mahal, Payne, Sarpong, Campbell, Ashton, Williams, Osei (Watkins), Baxter (Menga), Bishop, Carlos (Kabobola)