Fightback in vain as Grays go down at Aldershot
Despite a second half fight back Grays run of four successive Blue Square Premier victories came to a halt at the Recreation Ground where Aldershot extended their lead at the top of the table to four points.
Grays gifted their hosts a goal after just three minutes. There looked littled danger when the ball was played back to keeper Ross Flitney but former Grays man Ben Harding chased him down and the clearance ricocheted off him and rolled towards goal, with Flitney stranded as Harding followed up to finish into an empty net.
The next 20 minutes was all Grays.
Undaunted by going behind they seized the initiative and forced Aldershot onto the back-foot, forcing a series of corners and dominating possession.
However, they lacked a real cutting edge. Most likely to scored seemed Aaron O'Connor but when it came to the finish he lacked a lethal strike.
He had several shots at goal, forcing a decent diving save from Nikki Bull with one but most were comfortable for the keeper or off target.
He only showed real venom once, lashing the ball into the side netting with such force it broke the ropes holding it up.
Aldershot only got forward infrequently but from one raid Flitney had to be at his best to keep out Joel Grant's fierce strike.
It looked like Grays would close the half out without conceding again but in the closing stages their defence was caught out.
They could claim to be unlucky when Jonny Dixon's drilled shot took a deflection off Jamie Stuart to fly over the diving Flitney but critics would say their shoddy marking allowed the chance in the first place.
And there was a touch of comedy about the third deep in stoppage time when Stuart and Flitney got in a mix-up on the edge of the box, the keeper leaving the area to chest the ball away.
He had barely got back in position when the ball was returned with some interest and unmarked Joel Grant picked up the ball, raced at goal and calmly flicked the ball past the keeper for his side's 40th goal of the season.
Grays came out in determined fashion after the break and once more forced their hosts backwards.
They got their reward with an early goal when Gavin Grant tapped in eight minutes into the half after John Ashton had headed across the face of goal, though his challenge to win the header brought plenty of complaints from the home side.
Justin Edinburgh made the first of three changes, bringing on former Arsenal player and Blue debutant Ian Selly for Ernie Cooksey on 56 minutes and the former Gunner almost saw his side go further behind, but John Grant wasted a glorious chance for Shots, blazing high, wide and not so handsome.
A delightfully worked set piece move also opened up the home defence but a brave block from Jon Ashton kept Grays in the game.
They won several more of the ten corners they were to have in the game but couldn't find a clear opening, despite dominating possession.
Edinburgh threw on Ben Watson fro Jamie Day and another debutant, Gillingham loanee Luis Cumbers for the final stages and he was rewarded three minutes from time with a second goal.
Intense Grays pressure saw Jack Obersteller hit the foot of the post and Bull did well to keep out Gavin Grant's hard driven follow-up. Grant helped the ball back into the box and it fell to Cumbers whose volley was going well wide until it struck Rhys Day and flew into the back of the net.
That set up a dramatic finish and in the third minute of added time Jamie Stuart could have won a point for his side when he burst through but, showing all the finishing power of the centre half he is, he drove the ball wide when a calmer approach might have paid dividends.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report