O'Connor double warms Blues in Trophy
CHRISTMAS is traditionally a time for giving and nobody entered in to that spirit more than Lewes defender Jay Conroy who came bearing two gifts in Grays splendid 3-0 victory in the first round of the FA Trophy.
That must not detract from the fact that Grays thoroughly deserved the victory. Having spent three weeks on the sidelines bar an Essex Senior Cup game and with several new faces in the line up, there were concerns that they might be a little ring rusty.
However, they made a great start and after five minutes Aaron O'Connor's speculative flick was met by Jay Conroy whose backpass was disastrously short. Danny Kedwell pounced and smoothly rounded the keeper to slot the ball home.
One expected Lewes to come straight back but they were a shadow of the team that were so combatant in the FA Cup in October. Top striker Paul Booth couldn't get into it and their midfield had no cohesion.
Grays' front three of Kedwell, O'Connor and Ben Watson continued their recent good work. What they do very well is when one drops deep to fetch and controls while the other two make darting incisive runs. Kedwell performed both roles admirably.
In the 26th minute this routine came close to producing a second but Watson drove straight at the keeper.
Former Gunner Ian Selley settled in well and produced a moment of pure class for the second.
In the 20th minute, picking up the ball on the left side outside the box, he glanced up and saw Karl Murray floating at the back. His precision ball was chested down by Murray but he was tripped by Dale Binns and referee Mr McLaughlin pointed straight to the spot.
Keeper Steven Williams picked the right side but O'Connor's penalty was slotted away perfectly to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.
Again Lewes had no response. Their usual leaders such as Leon Legge, Stephen Robinson and top striker Booth seemed listless and uninspired. Even boss Steve King seemed resigned to playing the role of comedy dame as he bantered with the crowd.
In the 35th minute, Downer made the first of 14 successive passes by the Blues. It was a beautiful piece of movement and skill. There is a balance, calm and maturity in the Blues play that if allowed to flourish and develop could prove fruitful.
The game was put beyond doubt just after half time when Simon Downer's cross field ball was neatly headed by Jay Conroy around his keeper and into the path of O'Connor to make it 3-0.
The ex-Canvey player, resplendent in black stockings and tied back hair was soon taken off after that. He was last seen heading in the direction of Thameside Theatre.
Lewes again had no answer. Three subs came on including Derek Duncan who was warmly received by the Grays faithful.
Grays new boy from Nottingham Forest, Alan Power having made a tentative start started to dominate in midfield with searching runs and committed tackles and can be well satisfied with his debut.
The defence were untroubled including an unruffled Marsio Gaia. When needed Stuart and Ashton once again were imperious.
It was an excellent performance by Grays. The only disappointment was the paltry attendance of 401. Perhaps there needs to be a coherent mature public debate in the new year on how the club moves forward as part of the Thurrock community.
After the game, Justin Edinburgh was delighted with his team's performance.
He said: "We totally dominated the game and fully deserved the result.
"I was worried we would be ring rusty but all the players looked hungry and sharp. I look forward to the next round and some intriguing games in the league."
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report