Athletic maintain unbeaten home run
Mark Stimson’s Grays finished one of their best ever seasons with a bang on Saturday.
Blues maintained their undefeated home record – totalling an unprecedented 23 games without a loss – ending their Ryman Premier season with a 4-0 hammering of a luckless Hayes.
And this was despite Grays keeper Mel Capleton receiving his marching orders for an elbowing incidents which made the ref see red.
Capleton was out for most of the second half – but despite some tricky moments Grays never looked like having too many problems with Hayes.
Blues ‘usual suspects’, Martin Carthy, Freddy Eastwood and Leroy Griffiths were in full goal-mongering action again and made the afternoon a brilliant one for fans at Bridge Road.
Young fans cheered Blues after the game as local youngsters – many kitted out in their blue replica club kits – clamoured for autographs.
The game was an eventful one and dominated in midfield by Chris Wild who was on in place of Steve Robinson.
Wild stamped his authority on the midfield, controlling much of the area and exploiting the poor quality of the visitors’ defence, which they breached again and again.
Daniel Lunan came in and produced a cross which found Martin Carthy at close range but the striker’s header was weak.
It was Carthy who – just a few minutes before the break – opened up clear daylight between the two teams. Wild’s cross fell to Danny Hayzelden. His shot was blocked by the visitors’ keeper, but the spring-loaded rebound was far from safe and fell to Carthy who made sure.
Blues were blistering after the restart and were 2-0 up within 10 minutes. Leroy Griffiths – relishing the chance to demonstrate his talents for the last time in front of the Blues faithful – played off Stuart Thurgood. He passed to an unmarked Freddy Eastwood who headed his last goal of the season.
It was Eastwood’s 37th goal – it’s no wonder that the speculation about this teenage striker is still the talk of the town at The Rec.
Then the game turned ugly. Hayes front man David Warner and Grays keeper Mel Capleton clashed – the visitor ending up on the deck. Capleton was red carded for using his elbow and Warner received a yellow for his part in the incident.
With Blues keeperless but two up, ‘Stimmo’ sent on reserve keeper and coach Scott Barrett – who had been doing his bit in a half time penalty competition.
Carthy scored Grays third with 25 minutes remaining, heading in a cross from Eastwood.
And perhaps it was fitting that the final goal of the season went to Griffiths from a Thurgood free-kick. Griffiths tipped the ball in to complete Hayes’ misery.
The visitors managed to ruffle the Grays net once, but the Peter Holsgrove ‘goal; was ruled offside.
The result left Grays in sixth place in the Ryman Premier with 81 points.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report