A wonderfully observed one minute silence for Remembrance Day, heralded an entertaining, but frustrating game for the Blues.
Grays set their game plan as early as the second minute when Baker headed goal ward from an Odoi cross which was stopped by man of the match, Murefu, in the Ware goal. Both Odoi and Fontaine on the wings looked lively and took the game to the visitors. Apart from the occasional attack by Ware, Grays dominated the first half and should have had this match wrapped up by the break.
Ware almost took the lead in the 13th minute after a mix up in the Blues defence between Reynolds and Northwood almost let Wade through but a last ditch tackle kept the ball clear. From this moment on Grays played a neat passing game and took the play to the opposition. Si Thomas put young Osborn through on the right side of goal only for the ball to go wide, Pennant hit the ball wide from the edge of the box and the extensive pressure was held back by some sterling tackling by the tough Ware defensive line.
Si Thomas got through to a one on one only to be judged offside. Danny Bunce, playing his normal solid game, shot from fully 30 yards with a rocket shot that Murefu parried away. Ware had a shot saved on the line by Northwood on one of their rare attacks, and Pennant was booked for a challenge on Wade in the 43rd minute.
Pennant, in the thick of things at both ends, sent a free kick over the bar late in the half to see out the whistle, leaving the home supporters wondering why it was still level after a good display.
Grays started the second half as they finished the first with Odoi, Osborn and Fontaine all missing decent chances for the home side to take the lead. Slowly the hard working Ware team got back into the game, their midfield started to take control and their forward line started to pressurize the defence of the blues. Wade, Marshall and Roles tried to push home their advantage with shots which were saved by Northwood, and the Grays defence held off forays into the box by Karagul and Mitchell. Grays were set in their own half. Julian Dicks tried to steady the ship by replacing Odoi with Welsh in the 65th minute.
The game was lightened for the home supporters when the ball was put out for a throw in and ended up in the burger bar, which got one of the biggest cheers of the day.
Unfortunately neither incident changed the pressure being applied by Ware. Another substitution, Aiken on for Fontaine, in the 75th minute seemed to settle the Blues and Grays attacked. Marefu saved from Osborn and Welsh and with the ball coming into the penalty area from Welsh no-one from the Grays attack could get their foot to the ball to send it into the visitors goal.
Then came the defining moment in the game. In the 80th minute the Ware defence set the ball out to their midfield, Ruff combined well with Roles who passed the ball into the Blues penalty area to find Luke Marshall free in the box to slot home past Northwood, against the run of play, Ware were one up to silence the Grays fans.
From the kick off the Blues pushed for the equaliser, Bunce and Baker pushing up from defence to give the Blues extra bodies in the opponents penalty area this paid off in the 85th minute when Bunce crossed into the area to be stopped by the Ware keeper only for Osborn to stab it home from close range.
Grays went looking for the winner with ten player in the Ware half at times but to no avail, a booking for Marshall late in the half ran down the clock as the Ref blew to end an entertaining game.
Report by Stephen Allen
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report