Seven wins in a row for the Seasiders after the late late show

Felixstowe & Walton United left it late, but secured their seventh consecutive victory with an added time winner at the AGL Arena over a spirited Grays Athletic side that had belied their league position all afternoon with a performance that perhaps should have gained them a point for their efforts. 


The Seasiders made just one change to the starting line up with Callum Bennett starting ahead of Lamell Howell. Captain Billy Holland was on the bench as he returned from his hamstring injury layoff. 


There was a disappointing crowd of 299 at the AGL Arena, with yet another sold out Ipswich Town game clashing with local non-league football, and looking around, probably sucking at least 100 off the gate as some of those who support both clubs chose to watch at Portman Road on this particular occasion. With the next home match (Heybridge on 9th March) coinciding with Ipswich being away from home, and the Seasiders continuing their spectacular form since the turn of the year then hopefully the crowds will return for what is looking to be an exciting run in. This attendance issue is obviously not just affecting Felixstowe of course, other local crowds are also very low, with just 160 at Leiston yesterday for example. 


Felixstowe made a fast start to the game and nearly scored after just 41 seconds, Callum Bennett whipping in a cross from the right across the face of goal that Charlie Warren met but failed to turn the ball over the line. Both sides then tried to take control of the game with neither making much headway into dangerous areas until Grays found a way through on 12 minutes, the ball falling kindly to Charlie Stimson in space inside the box and he finished well to the right of Blunkell. The Seasiders did not take long to get back into the game, Stuart Ainsley chased a ball down the left and with space running out he managed to send over a cross that deflected away from his target, with the referee surprising everyone by pointing to the spot, his gesture signalling that he had noted an elbow being used to deflect the cross. Joe Whight stepped up and sent his usual cool finish into the bottom corner on 19 minutes. A minute later and Zak Brown raced into the box from the right but took a heavy touch as he was about to shoot and the goalkeeper gathered. Back up the other end, a long-range lob nearly found the net but nestled into the roof of the net as Grays continued to have their fair share of the play. Stuart Ainsley and Zak Brown interchanged well on the left to set up Noel Aitkens for a chance on 22 minutes, his 20-yard effort flying well wide. Five minutes later and Joe Whight found space on the right in the box and lashed a fierce shot across the six-yard box that flew just wide of the left post. On 28 minutes Stuart Ainsley again did well on the left to beat his man and set up Josh Hitter in a great position just inside the box, his powerful effort was on target and nearly decapitated a defender who bravely met it to save his side. There was a controversial moment in the 33rd minute, with Jack Ainsley sending a pass back to Blunkell via his knee which Josh picked up inside his area. With the noisy away fans baying for blood, the referee awarded an indirect free kick 14 yards from goal despite the protestations from the home side. Jack Ainsley picked up a yellow card for daring to ask the rules, with the officials insisting they were right and that anything used below the waist is deemed as a back pass. (This appears to be incorrect, as after the game it was discovered that the back pass rule clearly states the word “Foot” not the knee that was used, or the thigh that the referee was indicating) The defensive wall did its job superbly to deflect the free kick just over the bar. Stuart Ainsley and Henry Barley did a quick one-two on the left to set up Ainsley to fire just wide on 41 minutes as Felixstowe continued to have the better of the chances, despite the gritty high-tempo display that Grays were producing, no doubt reacting to last weekend’s poor display in the 4-0 home loss to Walthamstow and subsequent lashing by their manager. Josh Hitter saw his effort deflected just wide as he met a corner from the scoreboard side on 45 minutes.


Felixstowe had not been clinical enough in front of goal in the first half and were being frustrated in many areas of the pitch by the determined away side, too many passes were going astray and too much space given to the away forwards when they had their opportunities to attack. A similar story was unfolding at the start of the second half and this led to Grays again taking the lead on 55 minutes. Codey Cosgrave found space inside the area and he rocketed the ball through the defence and gave Blunks no chance. Felixstowe responded immediately and were a whisker away from levelling on 56 minutes. The Seasiders won a corner and the ball was headed against the bar by Sam Ford, Billy Holland’s overhead kick met the rebound and the ball went across the face of the goal but Sam Ford could not find the touch to convert. Billy Holland had come on at half time for Charlie Warren and he levelled the scores on 66 minutes, meeting another corner brilliantly to fire the ball into the bottom corner. Two minutes later and the turnaround was nearly complete, Noel Aitkens sprinting down the right and sending a peach of a cross in for substitute Josh Mayhew who thundered his header against the cross bar. The introduction of Holland had allowed Josh Hitter to play a more forward role and his jinking run on the right with Callum Harrison set up Sam Ford for a golden chance from 13 yards but he slightly delayed his shot and was tackled as a goal looked a certainty. Despite Felixstowe’s many clearcut chances, the away side were still having a good say in the game and it was end to end at times, but any efforts they had were rare, half-chances and wasted. The one time they did get the ball in the net was disallowed, a long throw was caught by Blunks, but two Grays players bundled him, and the ball over the line. This did not stop the vociferous away support behind the goal claiming differently, much to the amusement of everyone else who had seen the offence clearly. With time running out it looked like it was going to be two points dropped, but Noel Aitkens was not finished yet and his inch-perfect free kick from the far right on 89 minutes was met brilliantly by Jack Ainsley on the edge of the six-yard box and his header smacked the face of the cross bar as the woodwork denied the home side for the third time in the second half. With the crowd in disbelief at the lack of luck and with heads still in hands, there was one more chance to grab the glory and Josh Mayhew brought the house down in added time! Josh Hitter took a throw on the left, the ball cleared back to him and he put a great ball in that Josh met and in seemingly slow motion, brilliantly placed the ball into the bottom corner with his head to spark limbs in the home end and utter dejection for the away team and their supporters.





Report by Stuart Daynes

Photos by Tom Bradford

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