Maldon rue missed chances as Grays make the most of their opportunities
By Scott Mitchell
15th Jan 2023 | Football
Maldon & Tiptree 0, Grays Athletic 2
A double from Grays Athletic marksman, Sam Bantick saw the visitors take all three Isthmian North points at a wet and windy Park Drive on Saturday (14 January).
A run of three straight wins had seen the Jammers climb to 14th in the league, while Grays were sat just outside of the play-off places in sixth place prior to their visit to Maldon.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with both sides looking to impose themselves early on, moving the ball well and constantly looking for a forward pass when possible. It was Maldon who seized the initiative with a familiar theme of them pressing from the front.
The first chance of note for either side came just after the quarter hour mark for Maldon. A shot came in from last week's match winner, Harry Phillips, which forced Grays goalkeeper, Danny Sambridge to push his effort round the post for a Maldon corner.
Ten minutes later and Maldon had the chance to go ahead that their play deserved. A cross into the Grays box from Kojo Awotwi hit a Grays hand and the referee pointed to the spot. It was left to Harry Phillips to strike from 12 yards and put away another spot kick. As Phillips was steadying himself to take it, Grays' former Jammers midfielder, Rob Clark got into a tangle with Terrell Egbri, pushing him to the ground. For reasons of his own the referee let this gamesmanship go completely unpunished. Perhaps that delay played on Phillips' mind, as his penalty was saved by Danny Sambridge down low to his right and the game remained goalless.
The Jammers kept going and on 33 minutes, came close again. A lovely ball down the line from Awotwi found Callum Boylan who flashed a ball across Grays'goalmouth but it didn't find a Maldon shirt.
It took the visitors until the 40th minute before they troubled the Jammers' goal in any meaningful way. After the ball had pinballed around the Maldon penalty box it broke to Grays centre back, Callum Leahy on the edge of the box. He looped a shot goal wards but it only landed on top of the netting.
That was all Grays had to show for their first half efforts as Maldon had one last chance to go into the break ahead. A great run and clever footwork by Jammers' left back, Peter Mokweyne allowed him to get a cross in, but it was just ahead of Scott Kemp and he could only toe poke it straight at Sambridge.
The halftime whistle signalled the end of a 45 minutes that the Jammers could be happy with, but also one they definitely should have led.
The second half began and so did the rain. Maldon tried to pick up as they had from the first half. 10 minutes after the restart, Boylan cut through the heart of the Grays defence, but could only slice his shot past Sambridge's left hand post.
In spite of that chance, Grays were looking far more lively in the second half and on 62 minutes, they struck and made the hosts pay for not taking their chances. An innocuous throw was only half cleared by the Maldon back line and the ball fell to Bantick on the right hand side of the Maldon box. His well-placed shot into the opposite top hand corner left Maldon keeper, Tommy Dixon-Hodge with no chance. Grays found themselves 1-0 up after their first shot on target.
The Jammers now pushed that bit harder to level and Sambridge smothered an effort a few minutes after the restart.
On 70 minutes, as Maldon pushed forward, a long Grays clearance was missed by the Maldon rear guard and this set Bantick away and he was left in a foot race with Maldon keeper, Dixon-Hodge. It was one the Grays man won, as he rounded the keeper outside the penalty box netted the simple finish into an unguarded net. That put Grays 2-0 up.
Try as they might, the Jammers couldn't land a telling punch on the Grays goal, with Lesley Duru firing wide from about 15 yards out and Phillips putting a freekick the wrong side of the post. In between those two efforts, a good one on one save from Tommy Dixon-Hodge denied Bantick his hat trick.
The game petered out into the cold Essex afternoon, with Bantick's 18th and 19th goals of the season proving decisive and ending Peter Taylor's winning start as Jammers' boss. A relatively even game was settled by two cool finishes from Grays' only two efforts on target in the match.
Next week sees the Jammers back on the road as they travel to Basildon United on Saturday, 21 January seeking to get back to winning ways.