Grays Athletic 2 Ware 2
Points slip from Ware's grasp but a draw sees them undefeated in four games.
The first of a series of seven matches in 15 days which could leave Ware vulnerable to injuries and fatigue, this visit to Grays saw the visitors already short of key players. Louis Bowen was sidelined by injury on Tuesday against Haringey whilst Murat Karagul continues to nurse his knee ligaments.
The situation wasn't helped by problems on the roads. This meant a late arrival and delayed kick off with the referee Mr Begley deciding that, with their kit still on its way, Ware would play in all red, the change strip of Grays' landlords Aveley.
Any disjointed feel to Ware's preparation for this match wasn't apparent once the game kicked off and in an even first half the visitors held their own against a side that had humbled them 5-0 on their own ground and had an outside chance of making the play-offs.
Ware had recruited Bradley Fraser from Hoddesdon to fill the gap left by Bowen and he fitted seamlessly into the back four to maintain a tight defensive line-up with neither side offering many goal scoring opportunities.
Ware's first chance came on 14 minutes with a long range shot from Ace'a Laurent that had the power but not the direction to beat Lamar Johnson, the ball being safely gathered by the Grays keeper.
Adeyinka Cole also tried his luck from distance for the home side six minutes later and it needed a strong parry from Harry Voss and then a defender to clear it to safety. With ten minutes to half time Kieran Bishop picked up a clearance and returned it with venom but Voss again parried it clear.
Two minutes later it was Ware's turn as Leigh Rose was set free. He carried the ball into the Grays area and as defenders closed on him and Johnson advance to narrow his angle Rose lobbed the keeper only to see his shot bounce to safety off the top of the cross bar.
However the second half was only a minute old when Jordon Watson was fouled in the area. He was challenged by Johnson and one of his defenders who between them contrived to send the Ware number 9 to the ground. Johnson was booked before Watson stepped up to beat him from the penalty spot.
This was just what Ware needed and they started to move the ball around well, looking generally comfortable in possession and opening up further opportunities. With 15 minutes to go one such chance was ended too abruptly for Mr Begley's taste and he awarded Ware a free kick about 20 yards out.
Former Grays man Dave Cowley took the kick and his shot took a deflection off the wall to wrong foot Johnson and give Ware a 2-0 lead. This looked like being the killer blow and Ware continued to play with confidence but five minutes later they were undone. A cross from the Grays right saw a challenge on Voss and the ball spilled. It appeared to have been cleared but the assistant indicated that it had crossed the goal line.
The goal was credited to Tommy Wade the former Hertford player (and Ware man for that matter though only for half a game) although there was talk after the game of a surreptitious elbow on Voss. If so the referee didn't see it which wouldn't have surprised either side who felt that any number of illegal challenges had gone unpunished.
It was the first goal conceded by Ware in 370 minutes but having breached the dam Wade did it again a minute later. A floated diagonal cross again from the right found him wide of Voss's right hand post and he volleyed it home from close range. Both sides had chances for a winner after that but a draw it was.
Ware would have been satisfied with a draw at the start of the game but after a very confident second half will probably feel that this was two points dropped. If so they should take heart from what was another capable performance against a side that has now not lost in six games.
Blues continue to look good and were well worth the trains, buses and 13,444 steps your correspondent took to and from the match. Getting up to Wodson Park for their next three home games should be a lot easier for supporters but equally rewarding.
Ware: Harry Voss, Charlie Yexley, Dominique Njoya, Gareth Madden, Damien Green, Bradley Fraser, Ace'a Laurent (Alaa Oujdi 83mins), Josh Oyibo, Jordon Watson, Leigh Rose, Dave Cowley (Marcus Milner 83mins). Unused subs: Conor Okus, Harley Haag, Ross Elsom.