Grays undone at the Abbey
Grays fell to their first away defeat of the season by a single goal in an edgy 90 minutes at Cambridge.
The first half opened briskly, with both sides showing why they had made such a strong start to their campaigns.
As early as the second minute Andy Sambrook had to turn away the ball sharply for a corner from which skipper Albrighton produced a screaming volley that whistled past the Grays left hand post.
On the left side Courtney Pitt was a bundle of trouble for Andy Sambrook who looked worryingly exposed with Grays' ambitous 4-3-3 formation But Jimmy Quinn's men radar was completely off beam. Over the next 30 minutes they missed around a half a dozen clear chances outside the box.
Industrious midfielder Darren Quinton had two chances near the half hour that should have tested Flitney.
Grays' movement in the first half hour was excellent especially on the right hand side where triangular movements between Karl Murray, Donny Barnard and an effervescent Aaron O'Connor caused Cambridge a great deal of discomfort.
Grays looked a class outfit at this stage but although they went close with efforts by Craig McAllister and Jamie Stuart they never looked to have the beating of the solid but static Yellows defence.
It was understandable that assistant boss Jimmy Dack's mantra from the sidelines throughout the first half was "patience" and "passing" as Grays were at their least effective when balls were hit aimlessly up the middle.
The defence had their work cut out. Veteran Leo Fortune-West continues to be a thorn in defences' sides and had a good understanding with Scott Rendell As the half went on, Grays' Ernie Cooksey and Barnard started to produce probing runs from the midfield.
There were no quarter given for many of the tackles. Over the last few games, Blues boss Justin Edinburgh has instilled steel in his team without malice. The half finished with Cooksey and Fortune-West involved in an altercation.
Grays started brightly n the second half with Cooksey showing good movement to produce a corner. But it was Cambridge who broke the deadlock.
In the 47th minute, Stephen Reed's cross from the left side was met by with a lovely curling header from Scott Rendell that curved round the flailing Ross Flitney.
Grays were on the ropes and a series of unforced errors led to a number of Cambridge chances, including a fair shout for a penalty.
Having withstood the pressure, this would be the time when Grays would face the same questions as when they played Cambridge's neighbours Histon: Do they have a Plan B?
Cooksey continued to be a hive of industry and there is no doubt that Dennis Oli, O'Connor and McAllister were working hard but Murray and Barnard could not produce any invention or incision. Stuart Thurgood and Charley Hearn were beginning to be sorely missed.
In the 59th minute, Oli knocked the ball down to McAllister but his tepid shot failed to trouble the keeper.
Barnard was replaced by Jamie Day in the 65th.
Soon after Flitney came out of his box to make a strong double save with his feet. He received a yellow card for his tussle with Cambridge attacker Dan Gleeson but then made another fine point blank save from Rob Wolleaston.
The goal had totally transformed Cambridge from a team full of self doubt following three draws to a confident, free-flowing outfit.
Edinburgh made a brave double substitution in the 70th minute bringing on Gavin Grant and Danny Kedwell for Oli and McAllister.
Grant looked lively and brought a free kick outside the box which Adam Gross should have done much better with as he fired into the wall.
But Cambridge had the game under control. Grays poured forward but the attacks in the dying minutes flattered to deceive.
Cambridge fans were exultant as the final whistle blew. Still unbeaten, they looked like a formidable outfit.
After the game, a bitterly disappointed Justin Edinburgh reflected on the defeat.
He said: "The goal was down to sloppy defending. It was disappointing as we had edged the first half.
"But we once again came out slowly from the traps in the second half and were made to pay.
"We have to make more of our chances.Our movement is good but our execution must be more ruthless.
"We will go on to Saturday against Forest Green determined to put things right."
By Michael Casey
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report