MALDON and Tiptree bounced back in style from Boxing Day disappointment as they picked up back-to-backs wins against Walthamstow and Grays Athletic within 48 hours of each other, writes LEE WITNEY.

First up, it was Walthamstow who visited Park Drive on the penultimate day of 2023.

It was Maldon who made the brighter start and could’ve been ahead after 15 minutes.

Terrell Egbri did phenomenally well to keep in a pass from Harrison Chatting and got a great cross into the back post where he found Louis Britton, but the Jammers marksman was under pressure from a Walthamstow defender and could only fire over from close range.

Both sides continued to trade half chances and on the half hour mark, the visitors nearly took the lead when a long range shot deflected off Lewis Jaggs and smashed down on the goal-line off the underside of the bar.

Jordan Watson was on hand for what looked like an easy headed rebound, but his effort was comfortably gathered by Luca Collins.

Just four minutes later, Maldon were ahead and it was a peach of a cross from Alfie Mason that found Britton at the back post who headed back across goal to leave Amarillo Cekrezi with no chance.

Britton should have had a second on 42 minutes, but he somehow headed Egbri’s cross against the post from all of two yards out.

With 58 minutes played, Maldon had daylight as the in-form Harry Phillips slotted home through a forest of legs having seen his initial shot blocked.

Two minutes later, Phillips had his second and Maldon’s third of the day although the goal owed a lot to the mercurial talents of Milton Oni as he burst into the Walthamstow half, skipping through challenges before cutting the ball back to Phillips on the edge of the box and the latter finished with aplomb low to the goalkeeper’s left.

Oni was on hand after 68 minutes to play a sensational pass through the Walthamstow defence with the outside of his boot to Britton who cut in on his left foot and slam home to make it 4-0 Maldon as they finished the year in style.

After a day’s rest, next up was Gray Athletic on New Year’s Day at Tilbury’s Chadfields.

Maldon were rewarded for a bright start after just sven minutes when Egbri took aim from all of 25 yards and fired home past Danny Sambridge to give the Jammers the lead.

The visitors just about shaded proceedings in the first half on a difficult pitch, Grays’ Alejandro Machado firing over with the best opening for the home side after 17 minutes.

Oni and Britton nearly repeated their trick from a couple of days prior, but Milton’s through ball was a smidge too far in front of Louis allowing Sambridge to gather.

Some great work from Louie Remi down the Maldon left allowed him the chance to pull the ball back to George Smith on the edge of the box, but the ball got caught up in his feet and the chance was gone.

With five minutes of the first half left, only a brilliant last ditch tackle from former Jammers man, Michael Finneran denied Britton a certain second goal as we had to settle for a slender one-goal advantage going into half-time.

The second half was an entirely different affair as Grays came out with a point to prove and Rob Clark drew a smart save from Collins in the opening moments of play.

Kien Connolly had a couple of quick fire chances to level the game, first heading over Clark’s cross and then a shot from distance that needed tipping over by Collins.

Gradually, Maldon stemmed the tide and created chances of their own, Finneran clearing a cross from Egbri off the line who then linked up well with Remi who played the ball to Smith in front of him who let fly from 20 yards out, only to be denied by Sambridge palming the ball over with 20 minutes to play.

The best chance for Maldon to seal the deal came on 73 minutes as the ball was whipped across the face of goal, but no-one was there to tap home and Grays were still in the contest.

With just a couple of minutes left, there were huge Grays appeals for penalty, but the referee adjudged Oni to have won the ball from Jordan Peart and the hosts had to settle for a corner- much to their dismay.

A total of six minutes additional time followed and every single man in a Maldon shirt put their body on the line to block anything and everything Grays threw at them to claim a hard-fought 1-0 win and a big three points, to start 2024.