Romford return ends in heartache
Grays Athletic 3 Romford 2
Romford’s return to their former Rush Green home ended in injury-time defeat last night.
Boro had battled back from going two goals down in the opening stages to high-flying Grays and looked set to claim a point after the hosts were reduced to 10 men.
But Junior Baker poked home at the far post to clinch all three points for Grays in front of a crowd of 262.
Romford had not played at the old Ford Sports & Social Club ground since 2008, when their last game as tenents ended in a 5-2 defeat against Barkingside in the Essex Senior League.
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The land then was sold to Premier League West Ham and Boro began a ground-sharing agreement with Aveley, which lasted four seasons before their move to Thurrock for the current campaign.
Grays, meanwhile, had been left homeless by the sale of their Bridge Road ground in the town centre and struck a deal to move into Rush Green last year, having previously shared with East Thurrock.
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And they went into last night’s match unbeaten in league competition on their new home turf.
Boro had the first chance, when Ben Jones fired over, but Grays then struck twice in quick succession to take charge.
Jared Small’s cross was headed home by Joao Carlos in the eighth minute, before Harry Agombar saw his free-kick deflected past the helpless Chris Clark two minutes later.
George Kamurasi kept out a dipping shot from Jones on 27 minutes and Lewis Francis broke the offside trap and fired against the crossbar, with Nick Reynolds putting the rebound over.
The chances continued to come at both ends in the second half, with Jones shooting straight at Kamurasi after a mistake by Baker and Agombar firing over for Grays after good work by Small.
Romford’s Lewis Francis saw his free-kick fly just past the target before the visitors finally hit back through stand-in skipper Paul Clayton.
The long-serving captain, deputising for the suspended Jack Bary, headed home a free-kick from Francis just before the hour to give Boro hope and they were awarded a penalty soon after when the returning Kurt Smith was brought down by Kamurasi on his 100th appearance for the club.
Kamurasi atoned for his error by saving the resulting spot-kick from Francis, but Jones reacted quickest to poke home the loose ball and level.
Carlos flashed a shot across the face of Romford’s goal as Grays looked to regain the upper hand, before the home side saw Jeff Hammond sent off for a second bookable offence on 83 minutes.
Clark pulled off a superb save to keep out Kenny Beaney’s header in the last minute of normal time, but there was no escape for Romford in the first minute of injury time as Agombar crossed low from the right and Baker raced in to finish.
Romford: Clark, Salmon, Dicks, Clayton, Payne, Sammut, Richardson, Francis, Reynolds (Hunt 80), Jones (Hilton 87), Woodward (Smith 65).