Canvey Island 2 Ware 2
Ware return from Canvey with a draw but it might have been more.
On the face of it neither side had anything to play for in this match yet, whilst it may not have reached the heights, the game was an entertaining one.
The home side had one eye on Wednesday's play-off game which will now see them in a local derby at Bowers & Pitsea. Canvey manager Danny Heale will doubtless be considering what changes he will make to his side for that game in the wake of performances in this.
John Dreyer can afford to take a longer and more considered view of his team which is perhaps as well for Louis Bowen whose attempted back header after 73 minutes gifted the Gulls an equaliser when it seemed Ware had the game in their pocket.
A Canvey through ball with little pace on it came down the middle of the pitch and Bowen attempted to head it on to Harry Voss. With his back still to the keeper the attempted flick on had no chance of reaching Voss and fell in a no man's land just inside the Ware area. Gulls Mitchell Gilbey was quickest to react and took the ball round the advancing Voss to score into an empty net.
Ware's young centre back looked distraught but has played well since his debut in January so even a blot on his copybook of this size may yet find forgiveness. It was Mitchell's second goal of the match, a 25th minute strike having given his side the lead with another goal that would bring general criticism for the Ware defence.
The opening period of the game had seen Canvey enjoy greater possession but their attacks were absorbed by the Ware defence. Neither side had built anything threatening until a cross from way out on Ware's right dropped into the six yard box and there was Mitchell ("One of the shortest men on the pitch", said a frustrated Dreyer after the game) on hand to head home.
Ware's own poacher Jordon Watson played his usual one hander up front. It can be a frustrating role chasing every half-chance but he never seems to lose enthusiasm for the task, venting any emotions by appealing loudly after every nudge, trip or slip. From a spectator's point of view his contest with Canvey's George Allen was an enjoyable highlight of the match.
Ware came out with all guns blazing in the second half and it was Watson who brought them level in the opening minute. Maybe the home defence was still in the dressing room but a through ball into the Canvey right had the Ware number nine chasing hard. No half-chance this one and gathering the ball Watson drove through tackles and into the area to score past Henry Newcombe's left. It all looked too easy.
Four minutes later Ware had the lead when Dave Cowley's effort again from out wide on the Canvey right looped in and over Newcombe's grasp to nestle in the same corner of the net as Watson's strike.
The home side were struggling at this point and suddenly looking vulnerable with Newcombe fumbling the ball in another attack. But they had a chance on the hour when their first corner of the match was not handled well by the defence and Ryan Charles' return effort bounced off the top of the bar.
But Ware were still looking confident and Charlie Yexley was coming into his own with runs from deep up the Ware right ending in telling crosses to the box. Just after the hour mark Yexley took his chance and this time shot for goal, giving the home crossbar tit for tat.
Canvey's equaliser certainly opened the game up and either side might then have claimed all three points. With fifteen minutes to go Ace'a Laurent dribbled past what might have been half the home defence before releasing Cowley on the left. His cross into the box eluded Newcombe and there was Watson steaming in like an express locomotive. Somehow and from close range he scooped the ball over the open goal.
These chances are always much easier in the telling than the actual but it was a disappointing miss. Much the same might be said of Marcus Milner's effort after another of Yexley's good runs had provided him with a chance but again the ball went over the bar.
Canvey's own chance for the points came with three minutes left when Ryan Melaugh got behind the Ware defence and rolled the ball past Harry Voss. It looked as though it was destined for the net but Bradley Fraser was there in time to scoop it away from off the line.
As the game went into added time Yexley was withdrawn and replaced by Finley Long. A product of the Ware youth system Long had been an unused substitute in each of the eight preceding matches. He had earned his chance in this one.
Ware: Harry Voss, Charlie Yexley (Finley Long 91mins), Dominique Njoya, Gareth Madden, Bradley Fraser, Louis Bowen, Marcus Milner, Dave Cowley, Jordon Watson, Ross Elsom (Anthony Furlonge 67mins), Ace'a Laurent. Unused sub: Harley Haag.