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04.11.2006 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 1163
Grays Athletic 1 - 1 Cambridge United
Referee: D Cann Conference National-Match

Lee Boylan (45)
Robbie Simpson (17)
Starting Line-ups
Ashley Bayes
Chris Plummer
Jay Smith
Ronnie Bull
Jamie Stuart
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Stuart Thurgood
Dennis Oli
Lee Boylan
Justin Richards
Paul Crichton
Robert Gier
Michael Morrison
Matthew Bloomer
Tommy Jaszczun
Ritchie Hanlon
Gareth Jelleyman
Jon Brady
David Bridges
Michael Gash
Robbie Simpson
Danny Knowles
Djoumin Sangare
Tom Williamson
Ashley Nicholls
Glenn Poole
James Meredith
Darren Quinton
Ben Gill
Marcus Richardson
Liam Marum
Glenn Poole -> Michael Kightly (66)
Ashley Nicholls -> Ronnie Bull (82)
Ben Gill -> Robert Gier (44)
Marcus Richardson -> Michael Gash (57)
Liam Marum -> Robbie Simpson (81)
Yellow cards
Justin Richards (57)
Jay Smith (61)
Ronnie Bull (63)
Stuart Thurgood (68)
Tommy Jaszczun (19)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Grays began a new era of sorts on Saturday with an encouraging draw with Cambridge United.

The Mike Woodward chapter of Grays Athletic might have been open for some time but the plot took a new twist after Saturday's game when Woodward revealed he would be taking over the club on a full time basis until the end of the season.

The decision is sure to raise a few eyebrows in the football world but on this evidence at least, the chairman-cum-manager has the full support of the players.

This was a much-improved display from Blues that recalled some of their performances under Mark Stimson to whom Woodward admits he has been heavily influenced.

He has vowed to bring back the attacking policy that was the trademark of Grays under the now Stevenage manager but was reined in somewhat during Frank Gray's brief spell in charge.

What with top scorer Aaron McLean departing the club last week it really does feel like the dawning of a new age at the New Rec and Woodward made sure that point was rammed home by ringing the changes from last week's defeat to Bromley.

Out went Adam Green, Ashley Nicholls, Glenn Poole and Andy Sambrook - the latter through injury - and in their place came new signings Ronnie Bull and Justin Richards, fit again skipper Stuart Thurgood and Jay Smith.

Blues' play was certainly full of gusto and they can consider themselves unfortunate not to have taken all three points.

After conceding early in the first half, Lee Boylan hauled the hosts level with this third goal in as many games and Grays should have gone on to win.

That they didn't can be put down in a large part to referee Darren Cann who missed, or rather mis-read, a cast-iron penalty shout from Michael Kightly and instead booked the winger for diving.

Even the U's fans and management confessed afterwards that Tommy Jaszczun had upended Kightly.

Nevertheless, Woodward was happy with his players' commitment saying: "I think over 90 minutes we deserved to win. We had a definite penalty turned down but we are not going to chastise the referee about that. We deserved to win the game and I'm proud of the players. They gave me everything out there."

One huge plus point for Grays was the performances of strikers Richards and Boylan who have both been through lean spells of late - Boylan for Grays and Richards for Peterborough - but both looked full of energy and goalscoring threat.

Woodward said: "There were some very encouraging signs. Let's not forget they haven't played together at all and I think they can only get better. The quality of Lee and Justin out there was fantastic but so was everyone else. It would be wrong for me to single out players. I know I've got to tweak it and bring players in but overall I think we had an honest, honest performance out there."

The two sides shared eight goals between them in the corresponding fixture last season, with Grays emerging 5-3 victors, and the early stages suggested another goal-fest was on the cards.

“I think over 90 minutes we deserved to win. We had a definite penalty turned down but we are not going to chastise the referee about that. We deserved to win the game and I’m proud of the players. They gave me everything out there.”
Mike Woodward

U's midfielder David Bridges forced a smart save out of Ashley Bayes inside the first 10 minutes when his spectacular bicycle kick was tipped over by the Blues' custodian.

At the other end, Richards missed a gilt-edged chance to mark his Grays debut with a goal when he ghosted in to the box only to glance Thurgood's pin-point cross inches wide.

With both defences looking less than assured a goal was inevitable and it was the visitors broke the deadlock in the 17th minute when Jon Brady's free kick was met by the towering figure of Michael Gash.

Bayes, whose view was blocked by a sea of players, managed to push Gash's header away but Simpson was the quickest to react and he gleefully lashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Grays reacted impressively to the set back and were unfortunate not to be back on level terms five minutes later when Boylan's looping header was tipped athletically over by Paul Crichton.

Dennis Oli was next to go close for the hosts when he got in front of his marker to meet Kightly's centre but couldn't angle his header goalwards.

But the visitor's lively front pairing of Simpson and Gash ensured the U's looked dangerous themselves and Gash will have felt he could have done better with a close range header that was easily gathered by Bayes.

Grays grabbed a merited equaliser a minute before the interval when Thurgood's quickly taken free kick was laid-off by Richards for strike partner Boylan who volleyed confidently past Crichton.

The pace was no less frantic after the re-start but, in contrast to the first, chances were kept to a minimum.

Kightly whipped a free kick well over for the hosts and then thought he had won a spot kick after going down under a challenge by Jaszczun.

Referee Cann thought otherwise and instead booked the ex-Southend man for diving.

Kightly was the first of four Blues players to enter Mr Cann's book as the half became punctuated by the shrill of the referee's whistle.

Smith, Ronnie Bull and Thurgood all picked up yellow cards for late rather than malicious tackles.

Woodward threw on Glenn Poole for the closing 23 minutes and the goal-getting midfielder went close with a fizzing drive over the bar minutes after his introduction.

But the U's stood firm and could even have pinched a winner in the dying minutes.

Blues failed to clear their lines allowing substitute Marcus Richardson to get to the by-line. The big striker fired a cross-cum-shot across goal that struck Smith on the knee and dropped agonisingly over the bar.

By Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.