Grays’ miserable run of form continued on Monday night when Ryman Premier Division side, Chelmsford City, won a penalty shoot-out to dump them out of the Essex Senior Cup.
The competition may have been low down on their list of priorities at the start of the season, but Blues’ recent run of bad form meant that a win in any competition was much needed.
This was reflected in a stronger than anticipated line-up that included first team regulars Gary Hooper, Tony Battersby, Stevland Angus and Jamie Slabber.
But despite those four in the team, Grays struggled to find anything like the form they discovered early in the season and although they didn’t really deserve to lose, they certainly didn’t merit a win either.
Boss Mark Stimson, said afterwards: “It’s not good to lose a game. But, to be honest, there were only two or three players that are likely to start at Kidderminster on Saturday so they won’t be affected but for the others it would have been nice to get a win.
”Defensively their goal was disappointing because it was another long ball over the top and our defenders failed to head it clear again.”
City, managed by former Blues boss Craig Edwards, opened the scoring in the 16th minute when their Portuguese front-man, Helder Valzed, took advantage of a break-down in communications between Joe Bruce and Angus, and lobbed Ashley Bayes from just inside the box.
Slabber came closest to equalising for Grays in the first half when a wonderful reverse pass from Tom Williamson put him clear on goal but he was denied by a good stop from Gavin King.
Angus also had a gilt-edged chance when he found himself alone in the box but his chip over the keeper skewed horribly wide.
The game then exploded into life just before the interval when the referee booked five players in a two minute spell including Ade Olayinka who was to receive his second yellow card after the restart.
The card count mounted in the second half as referee Simon Beck, seemed intent on tarnishing even further what was already a pretty poor game.
He even found cause to give the two benches a ticking off and when City boss, Edwards kicked a ball away in amusement, he was sent from the touchline by one of the most pedantic officials you are ever likely to see.
Olayinka rightly got his marching orders with a little over 10 minutes to go when he cynically pulled down Jamie Richards as he burst towards goal and that looked to be lights out for Grays.
But to their credit, they kept on battling and for the umpteenth time this season they got their rewards in the dying seconds.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, newcomer Joss Labadie, flicked the ball into the path of Hooper who shot low across King and into the far corner.
The goal was greeted with wild celebrations on the Blues bench and by the handful off loyal Grays fans who saw the game through to the conclusion.
Those die-hards were to be ultimately disappointed though because after an appalling period of extra time the game ended in penalties.
Grays looked to have secured their passage into the quarter finals when the first four kick takers, Glenn Poole, Hooper, Battersby and Williamson all scored.
Bayes then saved Jamie Lunan’s kick leaving Bruce the task of scoring to win the game for Blues but King pulled off a fantastic save.
Cam Mawer then blasted over the bar and City midfielder, Alex Fiddes, slotted home the decisive kick.
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report