Seven Goal Derby Thriller
Millers fought back from 3-1 down to dramatically snatch it with minutes to go to win it 4-3.
This was an amazing game for the neutral as a fantastic crowd of 391 packed Parkside of Grays Athletic and Aveley fans, and those fans were all treated to a top draw, pulsating, end to end, dramatic derby.
Grays were dominant and seemed more hungry in the first half and went in at half time 3-2, but Millers improved massively in the second half and kept fighting till the end to snatch a 4-3 win.
The game couldn't have started off any better for us, Jake Pitty crossed the ball into the box, it landed to Tom Richardson who managed to get the ball into the goal, despite Clark Bogard rushing to get on the end of it to clear the ball away, but Tom Richardson found the back of the net for his 18th goal of the season. Grays Athletic 0-1 Aveley.
Despite going ahead earlier, Grays didn't let that get them down and showed great spirit as the better side in the first half, they seemed to be first to the first balls, and first to the second balls, which made frustrating viewing. Grays managed to force a few corners but a headed clearance from Harry Gibbs got the danger away.
From the net set-piece the Blues had, they pulled level, and of course it had to be former Miller Adalberto Pinto, who superbly volleyed the ball into the bottom corner after we made the initial clearance, Pinto plucked the ball out the sky and found the bottom corner of the goal. Grays 1-1 Aveley.
The Millers came back with two superb efforts, but Clark Bogard fantastically denied Louis Hazelwood on both occasions. First was a long-ranged free-kick which was moving everywhere in the air, the second was a well worked chance which came to Hazelwood who had a fierce effort go flying towards the top corner, Bogard was on hand to fantastically tip the ball away.
He wasn't the only keeper who was heavily involved in the action as David Hughes also made some outstanding saves throughout the match. Kieran Bishop looked destined to score after Dennis Oli pulled the ball across the goal, but David Hughes just got enough on the ball to keep it out.
A minute after that super save and the hosts took the lead. The ball was fizzed into the feet of Kieran Bishop, he laid it off to Charlie Allen who smashed the ball home from inside the penalty area. Grays Athletic 2-1 Aveley.
Five minutes later and a potential VAR moment arose, Kieran Bishop looked like he scored when he fired the ball towards goal, the ball somehow hit both posts, David Hughes and amazingly didn't cross the line, the ball at such speed across the goal, no one could've said 100% that it did or didn't cross the line, even with tinted glasses.
On the 43rd minute the hosts made it 3-1, the Millers lost the ball in midfield, Grays are lightning quick upfront with the ball finding Carlos who swept home to put a buffer between the two sides. Grays Athletic 3-1 Aveley.
We came back and on the 45th minute, Tom Richardson connected with an Andy Freeman cross but he just couldn't flick it more towards the goal and it went an inch wide of the right hand post.
More VAR possible usage came as Alex Akrofi went through on goal and was taken out by the Grays last man, Geoffrey Okonkwo, it was so tight to see if it was in the box or outside the box, but normally the rules state a goal-scoring opportunity equals a red card, but on this occasion it was deemed only to be a yellow and outside the box. Louis Hazelwood on his first team debut after being called up from the Aveley Reserves stepped up and delivered a sumptuous free-kick as he got it up and over the wall and into the top right hand corner of the goal to give the Millers a lifeline going into the break. Grays Athletic 3-2 Aveley.
Half Time | Grays Athletic 3-2 Aveley.
The second half started as well as the first has ended, tackles flying in, and an end to end feel, first Louis Hazelwood saw his cross clip the top of the crossbar and within a minute Kieran Bishop did exactly the same thing from a cross of his own as he then cracked the crossbar.
With 30 minutes to go the Millers slightly increased the pressure as time went up we ramped up more pressure. Louis Hazelwood saw a free-kick go a whisker wide of Bogard's right hand post just before Tom Richardson saw his header go just over the bar.
Alex Akrofi, bag from his bug, had a chance as he galloped through on goal, unfortunately for us Clark Bogard saved superbly to keep out Akrofi, Tom Richardson collected the re-bound and chipped it towards goal for Andy Freeman who just couldn't direct it into the goal.
The game could've been over if it wasn't for a David Hughes save, Tommy Wade, who just come on, had the whole goal to aim for after the ball ricochet to him, but he was superbly denied by a flying David Hughes who managed to keep the ball out.
With ten minutes to go, the Millers got the leveller, Jake Pitty had a nice interchange with Tom Richardson and dinked the ball into the back-post where Louis Hazelwood put his head in and guided it into the roof of the net. Grays Athletic 3-3 Aveley.
With five minutes to go Grays were reduced to ten men, another former Miller Michael Toner left his leg in on Tom Richardson and was awarded his second yellow card of the game and given his marching orders.
Two minutes after that on the 87th minute of the game, the turnaround was complete. A corner took a few bounces, landed to James Love who on his left foot fired the ball into the bottom left hand corner to grab all three points. Grays Athletic 3-4 Aveley.
Full Time | Grays Athletic 3-4 Aveley.
Millers XI | David Hughes, Jake Pitty, Sam Mvemba, James Love, Harry Gibbs, Sam Cross, Louis Hazelwood (Wyan Reid 88), Shad Ngandu (Harvey Brown 90), Tom Richardson, Andy Freeman, Alex Akrofi (Marcus Milner 77).
Unsused Subs | Tony Martin, Reggie Hubbard.
Grays XI | Clarke Bogard, Ryan Mahal, Callum Thompson. Charlie Allen (Ade Cole 78), Michael Toner, Geoffrey Okonkwo, Dennis Oli (Zak Henry 61), Adalberto Pinto, Kieran Bishop, Aron Gordon (Tommy Wade 74), Joao Carlos.
Unused Subs | Barry Cogan, Jack Curtis.