The form table doesn’t lie.
Over the last eight games, Grays are in a play-off place. They may not have displayed play-off form but when they resume on January 17th against the unstoppable Burton, they will relish the challenge of facing all the main contenders over the next six weeks.
Apart from the wretched 2 minutes against Histon when one team gambled and came up trumps, Wayne Burnett has fashioned a resilient Grays Athletic with an outstanding defence a creative midfield and attackers working hard to fashion chances.
The team started with Luke Hickie on the bench and Scott Forrester in the sidelines. The starting eleven was truly a side full of Blue Square Premier standard (or above) players although they started quite jittery and found it difficult to establish any chances.
Jamie Slabber was working hard and produced a good run down the channel to earn a corner from which the keeper Lance Cronin did well to punch away. Slabber never gave up all game working the channels and providing a fulcrum for the team to rotate around.
Ebbsfleet are in a poor run of form themselves and most of their chances came from speculative punts. Michael Gash was playing really well trying to carve out chances and up to the challenge of Ashton and Stuart but received little support.
A corner in the 15th minute threatened but was stopped near the line by Fabian Wilnis.
Grays' rhythm started to come back and a sweeping move from side to side involving Welsh, Thurgood and Sloma earned another corner as the pressure mounted as the Fleet conceded another corner.
Sloma’s corner was punched out by keeper Cronin straight to Stuart Thurgood standing outside the box. His aim must have been to simply get it on target but the shot burst through the crowd and into the net.
Ebbsfleet look in wretched form and the fans must be worried. Along with Salisbury, Weymouth, Barrow and York they are in six shades of freefall. Only the form of Lewes and Northwich can be of any comfort. Although this may be a league in which the most influential player may be the administrators.
Fleet rang the changes with two subs at half time. Former Blue, Karl Murray was subbed for his own sake. But before the subs could make amy impression, the Blues kept their new year resolution by getting a second vital goal.
Another counter saw Barry Cogan from the middle, spot Ishmael Welsh in open space on the left. Welsh took the ball into the area and thumped it straight past the keeper to put the Blues further ahead.
Grays did take their foot off the gas. What had been true of goal leads became equally applicable to 2-0. Slabber looked tanked and Welsh started to keep Fabian company.
In the 51st minute, Michael Gash beat the offside trap but his shot went wide. Fleet started to work the ball
Sub Kezie Ibe impressed on Boxing Day as a sub and once again impacted on the game. In the 70th minute he wriggled in the box to carve space and put the ball beyond Steve Arnold.
Grays were now relying on the stakhanovite work rate of Wes Thomas. The former Thurrock star never gave up and carved out chance after chance. Granted his shots were woeful and he started to freeze and retreat when reaching the box but you feel confident that the management can work on this.
Thomas was fouled by Sacha Opinel in the 79th minute. Sam Sloma took the free kick which drifted over but was instructed by referee Mr McLaughlin to take it again. He duly did and it was sweetly met by ther head of Jamie Stuart to put the game beyond doubt.
To say Liam Daish was incandescent is to put it mildly. Whatever troubles are beyond his control you could hear the sound of a nail going in.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report