Grays Back On Track At Stafford
It wasn't pretty but it was certainly effective as Grays bagged three points in a 2-0 victory away at Stafford.
Grays were acutely aware that they had gone three games without scoring but started the game with a series of well structured moves as Hearn and Thurgood continued the good work from Tuesday.
Gavin Grant started up front as O'Connor and Kedwell dropped to the bench. Grant continued to look sharp and he needed to be, as former Blue Sangare was in fine form in defence.
In the 4th minute, Charlie Hearn went close on two occasions and looked keen to link up with the attack.
However as Grays pressed it was surprising that each member of the Grays defence struggled to come to grips with the Stafford attackers. Adaggio did his best to disturb the defence's rhythm whilst Neil Grayson's energy was remarkable for a man of 43.
But in the first half each one of the back four made a series of unforced errors most notably Andy Sambrook who was lucky in the 10th minute not to be punished more after letting Grayson through.
As the half wore on, Grays struggled to find their rhythm. After their good start,Thurgoods radar continued to be off, frustrating the skipper greatly and Hearn started to become a peripheral figure.
But Oli was working really hard and determined to link up with equally industrious Grant.
It was difficult to see a goal coming but in the 32nd minute Charlie Hearn sent over a sublime free kick from the left hand side. Stuart stormed in to the area determined to head the ball on and his presence was enough to ruffle keeper Alcock who missed the ball entirely as it floated into the net.
Grays relief was palpable and started to play with flourish and style whilst Stafford's part timers without a win all season were cursing their luck.
Worse was to come. Oli topped off an excellent half in the 46th minute with an excellent pin point pass that cut through the defence. The speedy Grant latched on and the shot bounced over the hapless Alcock.
Stafford burst out of the blocks in the second half. In the first ten minutes McNiven, Flynn and Adaggio all had gilt edged chances but were foiled by an impressive Ross Flitney who, dodgy kicking aside has been a totemic presence in the Grays goal.
The defence had returned to their authoritative self by now but it was the midfield who found it hard to find any fluency. Karl Murray struggled on the right hand side. His levels of energy were woeful. The right flank needed a speedy winger like Lawson not a player clearly unable to work up and down the line.
Stafford tried everything and certainly didn't give up. Subs Stones and Street had free headers but they looked like a team who know where they are heading.
Grays continued to try and score a third but found themselves offside on far too many occasions. O'Connor came on but couldn't find a way through.
As the final whistle blew Grays players congratulated each other pleased with the four points gathered in the week that have seem them rise back up to 8th place.
After the game boss Justin Edinburgh reflected on the game.
He said: "I'm delighted that we have continued to produce excellent results away from home.
Getting back on the score sheet was very important and I was especially pleased that Gavin Grant did so.
This is a young squad who have gelled really well and are keen to learn their craft.
If we can get back to last years home form then I am confident of the future."
By Michael Casey
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report