Grays Ath chose to put in their worst 45 minutes of the season so far against a team equally struggling for form and points. It is no secret that Derek Asamoah is New Salamis’ key man and he ran riot with a first half hat trick to sink Blues hopes of chalking up their first win of the season.

The writing was on the wall as early as the 10th minute when Grays failed to clear their lines properly and the ball fell to Asamoah on the edge of the box. With no closing down, he had the time to slot the ball expertly past Danny Sambridge in the Grays goal for a 1-0 lead.

To their credit Blues looked to hit back quickly. Sam Bantick’s snap shot went wide after good work by Jesse Olukolu and then after a barrage of blocked shots Rob Clark picked up the ball outside the penalty area and his deflected shot wrong-footed visitors’ keeper Reuben Rabstein to level the scores.

But it was then all New Salamis. They played with greater structure and purpose, attacking Blues down their right flank and Romy Meodod pulling the strings in midfield. On 25 minutes, Lorenzo Saponara lost the ball in defence and quick one-two saw Asamoah bearing down on goal. Sambridge brought him down and was lucky to escape with no more than the awarding of the penalty – which Asamoah dispatched with aplomb.

Things got worse for Grays just a couple of minutes later, when a hopeful long ball over the top by New Salamis was chased down by Wraynell Hercules and he finished smartly to make it 3-1 to the visitors. It was now virtually one-way traffic and a very difficult watch for the Blues faithful. Josh Williams broke free but shot wide, when he should have done better and then Asamoah somehow managed to hit the bar from no more than five yards out after a stramash in the Blues box.

But Asamoah was not to be denied his hat trick. Just before the break with his back to goal and shielded by the Blues defence, he somehow flicked the ball over his shoulder and past Sambridge to make it 4-1 to New Salamis. And in all honesty it could have been six or seven.

Half time: Grays Ath 1 v 4 New Salamis

To their credit, Grays came out for the second half determined to make some amends. Just three minutes into the half came the most controversial moment of the game. Another long shot from Rob Clark somehow found its way into the New Salamis net. Initially, the referee blew for offside against Sam Bantick who appeared not to touch the ball on its way past him, nor was his position interfering with a defender. After a consultation between the officials, the goal was awarded. Some of us long for the old days when you were simply either offside or you weren’t.

Whatever, Grays were back in the game and seemingly with their tails up. And on 55 minutes, Andrew Tayaca brought Bantick down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Bantick himself stepped up and somehow screwed the ball well wide of the goal. Had that gone in, the pendulum would surely have swung in Blues direction – but it seemed typical of where the side is at present that the chance to put the visitors under real scrutiny went begging.

And that really was that. New Salamis recognised they had been let off the hook and largely looked comfortable for the rest of the game. Olukolu had a chance late on to close the gap but it was all too little too late.

In truth, Grays first half performance was a shocker and deserved nothing in return. That said, Blues created the opportunity to get themselves back in the game but failed to capitalise. Most home fans had this game down as a “must win” against fellow strugglers, in order to kick-start the season, especially with a run of games to come against teams at the higher end of the table. They went home very disappointed.

Final score: Grays Ath 2 v 4 New Salamis

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