Greshams faced one of their longer away trips to play high flying Raydon Ravens. As they congregated in a changing room apparently designed for 5 a side teams, the pre match banter centred on Froudy's nostalgic recollections of some action in the romantic surroundings of the playing field car park. Meanwhile some of the squad were busily designing a dating app called Kinder, which would have been full of surprises.
Manager Cashen finally called the rabble to order and named the team, with the returning Rob White taking his place between the sticks; a back four of Danny Bond, Hamblin, Rich Minns and Cash; in midfield, Emy, Heady, Froudy and, er, Matty; with Steve Norfolk and Rob Minns up front and Dan on the bench.
Although Raydon were flying high, having beaten Leiston earlier in the season, the game at Greshams was a close one with Raydon only scoring two late goals when Greshams were down to 10 due to an injury occurring when they had used all their subs. This was therefore a winnable game and Greshams started the game very much on the front foot. Raydon like to play the ball around at the back but the pressing and closing down by Steve Rob and Emy was really impressive. The Romanian Exocet was his all action self, attacking and defending aggressively and linking well with Danny Bond down the right.
It was no surprise when Greshams took a relatively early lead. Again it came from Emy pressing the defender who was hurried into a back pass. Steve Norfolk had anticipated the mistake and intercepted the ball before making a tricky finish look easy, nonchalantly lifting the ball over the keeper and into the far corner of the net. A really excellent goal, and no more than Greshams deserved. They very nearly got a second when again a great link up between Norfolk and Emy put the Exocet through on goal. Emy wisely decided against the toe poke on this occasion and instead produced a great hit with the outside of his foot that the keeper did well to save. Greshams were forcing a lot of corners but were just unable to find the finishing touch with one flashing fractionally in front of Heady before he had time to react. On another occasion Emy got the header away at the far post only for it to fall agonisingly onto the roof of the net.
At the other end, Raydon were playing some decent football but without really troubling the Greshams back four, with Hamblin and Rich Minns handling the giant number 9 excellently. On the one occasion they opened Greshams up the striker rather selfishly took an a shot which went well wide when his team mates were better placed. Shortly before half time Rob had to make his first save of note. The Raydon number 14 just evaded Cash at the far post and got the shot away but Rob showed excellent reflexes to throw up a hand and make the stop. With Heady and Froudy energetic in midfield Greshams were winning most of the battles and deservedly went in at half time 1-0 up.
Half time Raydon 0 Greshams 1
This was a tight game and Greshams were aware that there would be a lot of hard work to do to secure the win and indeed, they were made to really battle in the second half. However, they were still playing some lovely football at times. Early in the half, Cashen made an interception and strode forward before slinging the ball into the box for Steve Norfolk. It arrived fractionally behind Steve but he was able to create a brilliant lay off to Matt who hit a lovely shot from the edge of the box that went narrowly over the bar.
Greshams task became more challenging when Emy, who had been excellent, felt his hamstring go and had to limp from the fray. Dan came on at right back with Danny Bond going to right midfield. Shortly after this Raydon managed to grab an equaliser when the striker managed to get free in the box and beat Rob at his near post.
However, any thought that Greshams would capitulate was way wide of the mark. Instead they came out fighting and soon regained the lead. They won a free kick in the centre circle from which Steve Hamblin produced a perfect delivery. Matt had evaded his marker and got in a great header, right across the goal. It beat the keeper and looked destined for the net but Danny Bond was on hand to make sure, smashing it home from about a foot out to the delight of his team mates.
With plenty of time still left this was now a backs to the wall job for Greshams to see if they could see the game out. Steve Norfolk dropped unselfishly into midfield to counter the Ravens formation. With ten minutes or so to go there came a moment of controversy. Raydon took a quick corner, the ball was partly cleared and a shot came in from the edge of the box which flew into the Greshams net by way of a deflection. Ravens were celebrating until the referee's attention was drawn to the Romanian benefits fraudster who, living up to his reputation for dishonesty, was standing with flag aloft. The Exocet, who as we know, cannot speak England, nevertheless gave a very lucid account of the situation to the referee and the goal was duly chalked off. Your reporter was not well positioned to see but apparently the decision was absolutely spot on. However Raydon were in no mood to accept the decision and their loud protests culminated in a red card for one of their players for swearing at the ref.
The sides were so effectively equalised at 10 men each as Matt also felt a hamstring and was reduced to hobbling around up front while Rob Minns went to left midfield where he put in a very unselfish and hard working shift. It was backs to the wall for Greshams now but they were able to resist everything Raydon could throw at them. On one occasion Rob's heart was in his mouth as he spilled a shot but the glint of sun off a bald pate told him that Cashen was on hand to clear the danger. With Raydon becoming increasingly frustrated with the referee and each other, Greshams held on for an excellent and hard fought victory.
Full Time Raydon 1 Greshams 2
Man of the Match
After a great team performance against high flying opposition, the Man of the Match award went to a vote again. Once more there were many players getting honourable mentions including Hamblin, Heady, Steve Froud, Rich Minns and Steve Norfolk. However the winner of the bubbly by a narrow margin was Danny Bond. Danny had a tidy game at right back, linking well with Emy and starting several good moves down the right and, when moved to right midfield, capped the performance with a goal. Well played mate.