Canvey Island scored twice in the final 13 minutes to defeat local rivals Grays Athletic 2-1 in the BetVictor Isthmian League North at Park Lane on Tuesday night.
Manager Mark Bentley made one change from side that beat Romford three days earlier, with Elliott Warren coming in to replace the injured Sammy Knott. Alex Stephenson shuffled across to left back with Warren taking his place alongside Michael Finneran in central defence.
New signing Jason Hallett was named on the bench, while Jose Figura dropped off after picking up an injury against Romford on Saturday.
There were a number of familiar faces to opposition supporters in both squads. Canvey’s Lamar Johnson and Mike Finneran had both played for Grays in the past, while Nathan Fox, Tony Stokes, Ashley Miller and substitute Rob Bartley were all ex-Canvey players in the visiting ranks.
Both benches also had ties with each other as well, with Mark Bentley having played and managed Grays while former-Canvey left back Chris Bourne is now on the coaching team with the Blues.
The first half was a quiet affair, taking until the 20th minute for either side to have a serious attempt on goal when Alex Stephenson poked a couple of yards wide of the target from 14 yards.
A minute later George Purcell pulled the trigger from all of 30 yards with a powerful dipping effort. Danny Sambridge had started moving to his right but did well to correct his feet and drop low down in the opposite direction to make the save.
On 27 minutes Purcell played a good through ball to release Tobi Joseph who got his head down and advanced towards goal. However, he held onto the ball for too long rather than take on the shot, eventually having possession stolen at his feet by the keeper.
With the score deadlocked at the break, the second half was just as quiet as the first until the 68th minute when Grays took the lead. A good flicked pass from Tony Stokes down the left found the run of Joao Carlos in behind the Canvey defence and he was able to shoot across goal and in from an angle.
Mark Bentley responded immediately to going behind, replacing Kane Gilbert with Jason Hallett to give his side an additional attacking option.
It was nearly 2-0 soon afterwards when former-Canvey striker shot from 20 yards towards the bottom corner. However, Lamar Johnson was able to pull off a brilliant save, dropping low to his right to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
The Gulls drew level on 77 minutes when left back Alex Stephenson shot low from 25 yards. The shot caught a deflection off a defender which took the pace off the ball and presented the ball for Jason Hallett. The forward had work to do having been taken wide, but his turn and shot saw the ball creep in at the back post to mark his return to the club with a goal.
Not settling for a draw, the goal spurred Canvey on to go in search for a winner.
A minute later Josh Hutchinson delivered a cross from the left wing which found George Purcell in the centre of the area. The cross was powerful and meant that Purcell was unable to bring the ball under control, but instead he inadvertently setup Jason Hallett who shot wide on the half volley.
Hutchinson was causing more trouble down the left with four minutes remaining when he sent over a cross to the back post which found Tobi Joseph. His touch flicked the ball up in the air for Hallett to steer goalwards with his head, although it went straight at Danny Sambridge who saved.
Just when it looked as though the match was heading for a draw, Canvey had other ideas. Josh Hutchinson delivered an excellent corner into the danger area and Tobi Joseph rose highest to power home a header to win the match for the Gulls.
Photo: KJA Sports Images
LISTEN: Mark Bentley Post-Match Interview with Simon Pitts