Seagulls Claw Back to Beat Clarets
Having not played for two weeks, Weston-super-Mare could perhaps have been forgiven for a little ring rust, but there was nothing of the sort at Chelmsford City on Saturday afternoon, fighting back for a valuable 2-3 victory at Melbourne Stadium.
The Seagulls snatched the lead in an end-to-end first half via Jacob Cane’s thundering volley with 26 minutes played.
Both sides displayed significant attacking threat, and when a number of subsequent first-half openings were spurned by Weston, Chelmsford hit back hard on the verge of the interval, in the form of a pair of uncontested headers, giving the Clarets a 2-1 half-time lead.
But that lead lasted for a few mere moments after the break, as Dayle Grubb demonstrated his class, stealing the show in the second half.
Firstly whipping home a free-kick three minutes into the period, Grubb tacked on a second 11 minutes later, classily stroking past the helpless Tim Brown in goal.
With the closing stages managed without concession of an equalizer, and many league rivals dropping points, three points on such an afternoon for the Seagulls are as good as gold dust.
Obvious mathematical improvements in the league standings aside, another win in dramatic circumstances extends the Seagulls’ unbeaten league run to six games, preserving the momentum built prior to the weather-forced hiatus over the festive period, in addition to the oozing confidence amongst the squad.
With Clayton Fortune passing a late fitness test, Ryan Northmore made just one change to the side that was held by Hayes & Yeading United on Boxing Day, bringing the commanding centre-back into the heart of his defence in place of the versatile Jamie Edge.
Elsewhere, Northmore had to contend with the departure of top-scorer Bradley Ash to Barnsley, with the Weston boss setting up with Tristan Plummer and Scott Wilson partnered up front.
With conditions deceptive – the carpet-like appearance of the playing surface did little to aid the players’ footing – the opening moments were laden with caution and hurried clearances, but both sides began to settle, and on the quarter hour the hosts came up with the first opening when Bagasan Graham whipped in from the left for Billy Bricknell who was unable to apply the finishing touch, though Jake Mawford was forced to nervily clear behind for an eventually inconsequential corner.
The hosts went close again two minutes later when Graham’s ball from the right ran through to Billy Hunt, who rounded Luke Purnell but Clayton Fortune calmly tidied up on the line to maintain the deadlock.
From the resulting throw in, Graham with a long, looping chuck centred into a cluster of players, with the ball eventually dropping to Luke Daley, prodding towards goal but Purnell saved effectively with his legs.
Weston’s early attacks looked bright, but without an obvious focal point, indeed the first time they looked close to scoring was from a wicked corner from Dayle Grubb which flashed across the box and behind to safety with 22 minutes on the clock.
But the Seagulls weren’t crying for that finishing touch much longer. On 26 minutes, a flowing move from back to front began with Ollie Barnes and Mawford, the latter exchanging in a pinpoint one-two with Grubb that released him down the left flank. His attempt to square for the Weston skipper was cut out, and sent spinning into the air, allowing Jacob Cane to crash the sweetest of volleys into the back of the net from 20 yards out to give the Seagulls the lead.
Riding a wave of momentum, both Scott Wilson and Grubb went agonisingly close to adding to the lead in the immediacy after the goal, both sending firm efforts just fractionally wide of Tim Brown’s bottom corner.
And with Weston failing to capitalise on their threat, Chelmsford nodded themselves into the lead with a pair of headers on the verge of half-time – Bagasan Graham influential in both.
Firstly, a well worked short corner found Graham in plenty of space on the byline, allowing the left-footer to clip into the centre, where Hunt rose above Keary to flick-on into the far corner, levelling the scores on 39 minutes.
And with Weston stunned, Chelmsford wasted no time in snatching the lead, Graham this time turning scorer.
After clearing their lines, the Seagulls’ back line failed to press up the pitch, remaining camped on the edge of the penalty area. Centre-forward Bricknell ghosted out to right touchline, finding space to swing a high, bending cross towards the penalty spot, where Graham jumped highest to head firmly down, into the bottom corner, giving the Clarets a 2-1 half-time lead.
But as Weston have done so often of late, they hit back immediately after the interval.
Grubb was rashly felled in the cusp of the Chelmsford box with two second-half minutes played, allowing the Weston captain a sight at goal from a dead ball. From just right of centre, Grubb wrong footed Brown, who would argue he was unsighted, by whipping it across goal, with the rather limp efforts of the keeper not sufficient to prevent the equaliser.
And if that goal may have been a little fortuitous, the eventual winner was nothing of the sort. Just shy of the hour, the magnificent Cane got his head up, sending a perfect pass through the lines to Plummer, who displayed his instinct for the outrageous when a perfectly weighted flick fooled all in the ground, but for Weston’s skipper who timed his run to perfection.
Presented with a one-on-one opportunity against Brown, Grubb made no mistake in slotting easily past the keeper to complete the turnaround – just reward for a rampant display early in the second half.
The celebrations were fantastic – a brilliant moment for the travelling support behind the goal who revelled in the joy of Grubb’s finish when the Seagulls swamped the fans in jubilation – but Northmore’s charges did not let their focus waiver as the game entered the closing stages.
Chelmsford pressed hard in the remaining 30 minutes and certainly had the majority of the ball, but with speed all over the park and their counter-attacking well-rehearsed, the lion’s share of the chances in the closing stages fell to the Seagulls.
Scott Wilson passed up was perhaps the best of those when he was played through clear on goal by Plummer, but his low effort was well saved by the feet of Brown, spinning behind for a corner that came to nothing.
As the final whistle edged nearer, Chelmsford continued to spread the ball wide, but their crossing game that was so effective in the first period had almost entirely been snuffed out by the defensive-minded half-time substitutions of Withey and Camper, who did well to prevent the ball being pumped into the box with such regularity.
With ten minutes to play, the Seagulls had their goalkeeper to thank for maintaining their one-goal lead when, with a suspicion of offside, Bricknell was sent clear on goal, but Purnell was swiftly off his line to block the striker’s effort with his legs.
The remaining moments were tense, but there home side were unable to break down Weston’s resolute rearguard, ensuring that the points were travelling back to Somerset.
Final Score: Chelmsford City 2-3 Weston-super-Mare AFC
Goals: Chelmsford (Hunt 39, Graham 41); Weston (Cane 26, Grubb 48, 59).
Weston XI: Purnell, Mawford (Camper 45), Barnes, Cane, Keary, Fortune, McClennan (Withey 45), Plummer (Pope 79), Wilson, Grubb, Byrne.
Unused Subs: Edge, Wring.
Man of the match: Jacob Cane – Dayle Grubb’s heroics in the second period could do little to usurp Cane from the accolade, with the 20-year-old offering a near-perfect performance for a battling midfielder. A sensational goal was just the beginning, as the tough-tackling Cane was influential in breaking up play and igniting much of Weston’s red-hot counter-attacking.
Match report written by Sam Frost