GLASS HALF EMPTY: Grays dropped two points in front of the lowest crowd of the season with a goal from Woking’s Paul Lorraine three minutes from time to slump to second from bottom in the league.
They were missing class midfielder Mark Molesley who we understand took great exception to the pay cut offer and was immediately snapped up by a league club joining many Grays rejects who have seen their careers rejuvenate once they drove away from Bridge Road.
The first half was the most insipid since Oxford back in February and after the Burtons suits, The Academy and Chief Executives there is something about Simon Thomas' name scrawled in marker pen on sticky brown paper on his back that seems to sum up the parlous financial state.
GLASS HALF FULL: Grays scored for the first time under Wayne Burnett’s stewardship and were three minutes from victory against a resurgent Woking. The players worked so so hard and there was something about their performance that was better than the performances at Rushden and Northwich.
One suspects that the mass exodus isn’t going to happen (I could be wrong) and one suspects that given time to mould, Wayne Burnett could be the next Mark Stimson ( I could be wrong).
The fans were positive: sparse but positive. Many were just happy to be here and some with their comments in the web-site speak so eloquently from the heart, that you know that in some shape, some form, there will always be a Grays Athletic.
Some of the fans near to the press box couldn’t take to Sean Rigg and his marmalade boots but from the first minute when he carved out space in the box only to find himself dribbling down a cul-de-sac he was always trying to get involved in the game.
Woking came with 4-5-1. it was a calculated decision as new boss Phil Gilchrist adopted a safety first approach that has served them well so far. Giuseppe Sole was particularly dominant, striding in the middle of the park.
Grays were determined to pass the ball wide. Stuart Thurgood, who is going to be vital at this stage passed the ball beautifully and made it certain that Ishmael Welsh got involved.
Welsh was awful at Rushden and rightly dropped but he tried and often succeeded in getting to the dead ball line and terrorising the Woking defence.
Chances were starting to come. In the 11th minute, Barry Cogan floated in a free kick but there was no-one in the box. That no-one included Simon Thomas. Grays may as well have played Terry Thomas as he looked completely out of his depth and has not once looked remotely like scoring indeed has he carved out any form of chance.
Woking nearly took the lead after Sole placed a corner just under David Button’s bar but the Spurs keeper kept the ball out.
The defence with Rob Gier working hard again looked comfortable although one suspected that Kenny Davis may have been carrying an injury.
The attacks had all the hallmarks of a team bereft of confidence in front of goal. In the 40th minute, Sean Rigg shot wide after an attack marked out by dithering and hesitation.
Just before half time, Grays once again attacked but as players poured forward Simon Thomas jogged behind them when what was needed was a full blooded run into the area.
The deadlock was broken just after half time. Ishmael Welsh got down the left and into the box, the ball pinged from Rigg to hit two Woking defenders before Barry Cogan took hold of the ball and crashed it into the net.
The relief was palpable and Grays now played like a team determined to take the three points. Luke Hickie was now driving on and Rigg, having changed his boots to vanilla was running himself into the ground.
The game had opened up as Woking laying 4-4-2 clearly believed they could take Grays. In the 69th minute a curling free kick by Colin Miles was tipped over the bar by Button.
Rigg picked up an injury and had to be subsituted. Fabian Wilnis and Stuart Elliott came on and steadied the ship with timely tackles but it was fellow sub Jonny Dixon who should have wrapped it up in the 81st minute after he broke free with only the keeper to beat but blast it over the bar.
Grays were playing 4-5-1 now. Luke Hickie wanted to press on but Wayne Burnett instructed him to stay deep. Win and it is a shrewd tactic, lose and it looks like scared money never wins. In the 87th minute Lorraine rose high at the far post to take the sheen off the game for Grays.
There is no doubt that the events off the pitch has affected everyone. The players have been able to take advantage of a rich money pit over the last few years. Those days could be over. We could see the return of non-league players - benign postmen, plumber and teachers as was the tradition. Players as recent as former England and Man Utd star, Neil Webb went on to have jobs as postmen and perhaps fans would prefer to see players return to be local heroes instead of remote characters that after training have only the M25 on their minds. Indeed, the club has had such a hard time developing an image in the borough because the players, we understand, are not interested in visiting the schools and other community hubs. Time for that to change.
Questions will still remain as to whether the economic changes are part of an exit strategy or a club taking the financial bull by the horns.
YourThurrock spent the first part of the week filming the Thurrock Schools Shakespeare Festival at the Thameside (in which Vice-Chair Kevin Lamb’s son Nathan was excellent).
Comedy, tragedy or farce will always fascinate and Grays Athletic whether a Comedy of Errors or Much Ado About Nothing is no exception.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report