Amazing finale as Blues draw again
A final five minutes that will rank as one of the most amazing finales ever seen at the New Rec saw Grays draw for the second time in as many Blue Square Premier games.
Former Grays boss Frank Gray may not have overly endeared himself to the Blues faithful during his brief stay at the New Rec - but he won a few friends on Tuesday by ordering his team to allow Blues to equalise Woking's 85th minute controversial opener.
With everyone expecting Cards midfielder Matt Pattison to return the ball to Grays on the half way line after an injury stoppage, he instead chipped the ball 60 yards into an empty net.
Referee Ian Cooper awarded the goal amid chaotic scenes both on and off the pitch as Grays could hardly contain their shock.
But Gray stepped into the fray and ordered his team to let Blues walk the ball in from the re-start.
Ben Watson did just that, dribbling through a statuesque defence and slammed the ball into the Woking net.
But the drama didn't end there.
With barely a minute remaining, Jon Ashton misjudged the weight of his header back to keeper Ross Flitney allowing Marvin Morgan a run on goal.
The lanky striker poked the ball past Flitney who hung out an arm and down went Morgan.
Referee Cooper had little hesitation in pointing to the spot but Flitney, who got a yellow card rather than red as Morgan was going away from goal, made amends by diving brilliantly to his left to deny sub Michael Charles.
Perhaps suffering from a hang-over from Sunday's gritty draw with title-favourites Torquay, Grays were slow out of the blocks.
Their passing was disjointed and movement cumbersome, not that their visitors' play was any better.
Eventually, after the urgings of Edinburgh and his number two, Jimmy Dack, Blues' game began to click into gear.
Stuart Thurgood and Charlie Hearn began to get on the ball with more frequency and Mark Marshall was starting to worry Woking right back Paul Lorraine.
A lofted pass from Jamie Stuart carved out the hosts' first opening as Aaron O'Connor ran free of Tom Hutchinson but dragged his shot wide on his weaker left side.
A smart dummy from winger Marshall then set Ernie Cooksey free whose cross picked out Danny Kedwell but his shot was deflected over by Hutchinson.
In a rare Woking attack Giuseppe Sole latched on to Marvin Morgan's header and worried Ross Flitney with a crisp drive that fizzed just past the post.
Grays finished the half a lot more impressively than they started and spurned two good chances to lead at the interval.
Jamie Stuart headed Hearn's free kick wide when all alone in the six yard box though, to be fair to him, it was some surprise the ball reached him after Jay Gasson completely missed his header.
Then, seconds before the whistle, Hearn's corner was badly spilled at the feet of O'Connor by Nick Gindre only for the Blues striker to be denied by a goal-line block by Hutchinson.
Dennis Oli came on for Stuart Thurgood, who later went to hospital on crutches with his foot in splints, and helped continue the home side's dominance with some thrusting runs from deep as the skies above the New Rec opened.
Ashton missed a golden chance to turn the territorial advantage into a numerical lead when he met Hearn's free kick six yards out but headed straight at Gindre.
Ashton then turned provider, whipping in a delightful cross that O'Connor did well to volley goalwards but the ball reached Gindre at a comfortable height.
Oli then created a real chance for O'Connor when he skipped past two Woking challenges and slid in the striker who should have let fly first time but dallied too long allowing Gasson to get back and make a last-ditch tackle.
Kedwell, prolific for Welling in the Conference South over the past few seasons, thought he had his first Conference goal when he was left with a free shot from six yards after his initial header from Hearn's corner was saved by Gindre.
Kedwell's rifled his shot towards the empty net but it hit Hutchinson for his second goal-line clearance of the game.
That was to be Kedwell's last chance of the game as he was withdrawn for ex-Card Craig McAllister.
Watson was also thrown on for O'Connor as Grays pushed for the winner but struggled to breach a well-disciplined Woking back line.
The game looked to be drifting towards a goaless stalemate before the extraordinary final five minutes unfolded.
Those Blues fans who left early will have missed something they are unlikely ever to see again.
Frank Gray later said:
"It's not something I've seen or been involved in before but the unwritten rule is that you give the ball back after an injury and Mark was trying to do that. I'm sure he didn't mean to knock it into the net, he just misplaced his pass"
"I didn't consider doing anything else but letting Grays score. It was the right thing to do in the circumstances. If I hadn't done it I don't think I would have lived with it and I would hope that it's something that everyone who is right-thinking in football would do"
Aside from the incident-packed finale, Grays was justifiably proud of his young team's performance.
"I'm pleased with what they showed and the team spirit. Their work ethic is fantastic and they work very hard for each other. I'm proud and pleased with them."
Grays manager Justin Edinburgh called on his creative players to show more bravery, but was still pleased with the overall performance of his team after Tuesday's amazing 1-1 draw with Woking at the New Rec.
He said: "I think we did enough to win the game but Woking came here with a plan, worked hard at it and defended well. We had plenty of chances and pegged them back and they rode their look with some good saves and I think they got three off the line.
"On any other day we might have won by two or three. I thought we controlled the game well but we let outselves down in the final third, particularly at the end of the game when we seemed to run out of ideas. That's when you want your creative players to show a bit more, to be a bit braver, but it will come.
"This is still a new team, coming together. We had a decent pre-season but you learn about things when it gets competitive and I'm happy that we are improving. We are still unbeaten and we've got another game coming up at home on Saturday."
Edinburgh expressed praise for Woking boss Frank Gray for his decision to let Grays score after the controversial opening goal late in the game when Mark Pattison put the ball in an unguarded net after an injury break, but he blamed referee Ian Cooper for the incident.
"During the game, he'd run and dropped the ball with a player from the team who were gaining possession, then he goes and give it the other way at the end so we were caught off guard."
Edinburgh also expressed sympathy and best wishes for midfielder Stuart Thurgood who went to hospital lafter coming off just after half time with what could be a broken foot.
"Stuart's had some really bad luck but we hope that this is just bruising and not a break and that he will be back in contention soon," said the boss.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report