Deserved draw for hard-working Blues against higher opposition

By Nub News Reporter

7th Jul 2024 | Football


Grays drew 0-0
Grays drew 0-0

Chatham Town 0, Grays Athletic 0.

GRAYS kicked off their pre-season at the weekend with a draw at Isthmian Premier Division Chatham Town, a club that has made great strides over the past few years.

The new-look Blues rose to the challenge admirably and came away with a well-deserved draw. Players both new and old were not overawed by their opponents and there were some standout performances to excite the fans.

The first clear chance of the game fell to Chatham but a long range shot was well cleared by Danny Sambridge, back in the Blues goal after his spell out with injury. He also kept out attempts including a strike from former Blue, Bradley Sach.

Grays fans then nearly witnessed a long-awaited first goal for the club from Makali Toussaint whose fine shot from distance was only parried by the keeper. Returning centre-forward, Luke Hirst, was first to the rebound, but his attempt came back off the post.

Blues were particularly competitive in midfield where new recruit, Sid Walker, was getting seriously stuck into his work - he has the chance to become a real fans' favourite. And George Craddock, in his first game after a long lay-off with injury, looked composed and another potentially excellent new signing.

At right back, another debutant, Kendri Dariri, was showing some class, nullifying the Chatham wide play. Alejandro Machado was also notable at centre-half for his calmness on the ball and his growing defensive partnership from last season with skipper, Michael Finneran.

Late in the half, Matas Skarna let fly from distance but the ball just curled away from the goal.

Half time: Chatham Town 0 v 0 Grays Athletic

Whereas the first half had been a seriously good game of football, the second became more of a typical pre-season friendly, with both managers ringing the changes, to try out new pairings and formations.

But still Blues gave as good as they got. Chatham undoubtedly, as expected, saw more of the ball, but Grays were resolute in defence and held their shape well, despite the changes in personnel. Both debutant replacement full-backs, Alex Moss and Isaac Long performed well - and the Blues fans were even treated to the sight of Joao Carlos at centre-forward !

Then with just a couple of minutes left on the clock, the Chatham no10 went down in the penalty area and the referee awarded the spot kick. The home player picked himself up and took the kick himself but Sambridge dived low to his right to make the save. Defeat would have been harsh on the Blues and the long-serving keeper was on hand to save the day.

In his interview afterwards, manager Darren Manning was delighted with this first run out of the season. There was much to like about the collective performance, which showed a real team spirit. But it is, of course, only the first step on the long road ahead and there is the chance to see and learn more on Tuesday evening (9 July), when Blues take on a Colchester United XI (the match taking place at Maldon & Tiptree's ground).

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