Michael Kightly’s first senior hat-trick was one of many highlights as Grays trounced Scarborough to move within one win of a confirmed play-off spot.
Kightly was joined on the score-sheet by Glenn Poole and Aaron McLean, who bagged a brace apiece, as Blues ran riot against a woeful Scarborough side whose abject defending outlined just why they are staring relegation full in the face.
But the ineptitude of the Seadogs should take nothing away from Grays whose attacking play was simply outstanding.
The front quartet of McLean, Dennis Oli, Poole and Kightly ripped through he Yorkshiremen almost at will and if Grays had reached double figures, their hapless opponents couldn’t have complained.
Boss Mark Stimson said: “Although we scored seven if we had scored ten I don’t think there could have been too many complaints. Michael Kightly scored a hat-trick but he missed an absolute sitter in the first half.
”But we will take seven goals. It has given us three more points and we need one more win now.”
Stimson could hardly hide his delight at the form of his side, who after going eight games unbeaten look to be peaking at just the right time.
”We are on a fantastic run and we just want to keep it going,” he said. “As a manager you think it will have to stop soon. When it does it’s not a problem for me because I believe in the players but they have to believe as well. It was like after the Forest Green game where we drew. The players were so disappointed with themselves and I had to tell them it’s a point and we’re still in fourth. They have to believe in themselves.”
It’s hard to imagine that belief would be a problem for Stimson’s players at the moment. The confidence running throughout the squad is sky-high and with the likes of Kightly, McLean and Poole in red-hot form no one will want to meet them in the play-offs.
The trio have scored an incredible 22 goals between them during Blues’ eight match unbeaten run and they were given the freedom of the park against Scarborough.
McLean was the first to net against the Seadogs and what a stunning goal it was.
The ex-Aldershot man had already gone close with a stab at goal that was turned away by keeper Ian Dunbavin, before Poole picked him out on the edge of the box.
Seadogs defender, Paul Foot, allowed the Blues forward to spin and square him up before being deceived by a fantastic dip of the shoulders that gave McLean the time and space to rifle confidently into the bottom corner.
Grays doubled their advantage in the 17th minute when more lax defending gave Poole all the time in the word to deliver a pin-point cross into the box that left Kightly the simple task of volleying into the bottom corner from no more than 10 yards out.
Kightly proved he is capable of missing a gilt-edged chance five minutes later though when yet another free-flowing move had the Seadogs floundering.
A wonderful cross-field pass from Poole picked out Kightly who looked to be through on goal until the ball got stuck under his feet. The 20-year-old managed to poke the ball back to Stuart Thurgood who stood up a wonderful cross for Oli whose header clattered the bar. The ball rebounded back into play towards Kightly but, with virtually the whole goal to aim at, the ex-Southend man managed to direct his header to one place he could score, back into the grateful arms of Dunbavin, who was lying prostrate at his near post.
Scarborough rallied temporarily and player-manager Neil Redfearn should have done better when he got in behind the Blues back line only to be thwarted by birthday boy Ashley Bayes.
The hosts’ manager was to suffer for his profligacy two minutes before the re-start when Poole continued his amazing goal scoring run of having scored in each of the last eight games.
Redfearn would not have been happy with his keeper Dunbavin, however, who blundered horribly to drop Poole’s speculative effort from the edge of the box into the back of the net.
Stirred by some stern words at half time, the Seadogs came out in the second period at least showing some sort of character.
They laid siege to the Blues goal and deserved to reduce their arrears when lee Fowler’s lofted pass released McNiven who finished with aplomb.
With Scarborough showing enough vigour to hint at the possibility of a remarkable comeback, Stimson later admitted the next goal was crucial. And it took Grays just 45 seconds to get it!
A long ball from the back was brought down by Oli who released McLean and with the Seadogs defence once again AWOL, McLean surged into the box and delicately lifted the ball over Dunbavin.
Back came the hosts and Simon Weaver capitalised on Grays’ vulnerability at set-pieces to halve the arrears by heading home Denny Ingram’s long throw that had been flicked on by McNiven.
But Grays made the game safe with a devastating three goal blitz in the final 17 minutes.
First McLean played in Poole who, after missing an identical chance earlier in the half, made no mistake and for a second time and buried his finish into the bottom corner.
Poole unselfishly passed up the opportunity of a hat-trick when Oli’s blocked shot fell to him and he squared for Kightly to smash home the sixth.
Then, in the second minute of injury time, Kightly sealed his hat-trick when a hopeful ball forward from John Nutter was made into something by the willing Gary Hooper who squared for the free-scoring midfielder to roll home from close range.
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report