A Michael Kightly double ensured Grays came from a goal down for the time in a week to secure a vital three points in their quest for promotion.
Though the comeback may not have been as satisfying as Saturday’s victory over league leaders Accrington Stanley the win was no less important as it ensured Grays moved up to fourth in the table and cemented their place in the Conference playoff positions.
After falling behind to a scrappy goal twelve minutes after the re-start, Blues produced a stunning five minute period that yielded three quality goals and lit up a disappointing match.
Not that the Grays manager, Mark Stimson, will care a jot about the performance of his die which, at this stage of the season, becomes very much secondary to the result.
Stimson said: “I’m delighted especially after being a goal down from a set piece and to come back with three quality goals give me great pleasure.
”Plus to take nine points from three back-to-back away games is a fantastic achievement and I’m so proud of the boys.
”It was a game where the ball was off the pitch more than it was on it, for most of the first half at least, but we had to keep it tight and we knew the quality would come out in the end.”
On Kightly’s contribution Stimson added: “Michael gets into those positions quite a lot and maybe his finishing is not always the best. But we told him after Saturday that if you get a one-on-one chance with their keeper then perhaps you should go round him. He took that on board and that is what he did for his first goal and his second was another great finish.”
The first half was as dull a game of football as you are likely to see with Gravesend poor and Grays seemingly being dragged down to their level.
Neither side created too many chances of note with Bradley Johnson going closer than anyone when he latched on to a Danny Slatter cross but could only drag his shot wide.
At the other end Grays failed to trouble home stopper Aaron Kerr once during a truly lacklustre half of football.
Blues must have been on the receiving end of some stern words from their manager during the half time break because they came out for the second period a completely different outfit.
Passes were beginning to find their targets and within two minutes Mark De Bolla came a whisker away from scoring when he collected Stuart Thurgood’s lofted pass and lashed into the side netting.
Ironically enough it was as Grays began to boss the game that they fell behind. On a rare foray forward Gravesend won a corner on the right which was dangerously swung in by set-piece specialist Jimmy Jackson.
Not for the first time this season Grays failed to deal with the delivery and after the ball fell loose in the box Johnson prodded home from close range.
The hosts almost doubled their lead minutes after when another Jackson corner caused chaos in the Blues defence as first Danny Slatter and then James Smith had shots blocked by a posse of defenders.
Spurred into action Grays began the turn around in the 68th minute and by the 73rd minute they had virtually sealed the three points.
Glenn Poole restored parity when he crashed home a stunning 20 yard free kick hat had Kerr routed to the spot and then two minutes later Kightly grabbed his first of the game.
A long ball forward was adroitly flicked on by De Bolla to allow Kightly to race away from a static Gravesend defence, round Kerr ad roll the ball home with his left foot.
The ex-Southend winger couldn’t believe his luck two minutes later when he was presented with an almost identical chance which again he converted with great composure.
Thurgood won the ball just inside the Gravesend half and played a defence splitting pass towards De Bolla.
The Gravesend defenders’ arms went up in unison appealing for offside against De Bolla who was retreating from an offside position.
But the ex-Notts County man made no effort to collect the ball and as the Fleet back line stood still Kightly raced through and waited and waited until Kerr had committed himself before driving into the roof of the net.
Gravesend’s best chance to cut back the deficit fell to Smith whose goal bound header was hacked off the line by Christian Hanson but Grays never looked like throwing their lead away.
The game finished on a sour note however when Gravesend skipper Steve McKimm was dismissed for a crude lunge on counterpart Stuart Thurgood which sparked a bout of handbags that resulted in Aaron McLean picking up a booking.
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.