Grays Athletic slipped into the relegation zone with their third 1-0 defeat, this time at the hands of Mansfield Town.
At the home of Rebecca Adlington, it is the Blues who find themselves in at the deep end and even though over 80 players have come and gone over the last few years, they may have to go into the market again and fast.
What will perplex players, management and fans is that the team are not playing badly. They have looked comfortable with all six opponents. There has been no humiliations, no emphatic victories or surrenders just six shades of coming up short.
In the 4th minute, Sam Sloma whipped in a vicious cross but there was no-one there to meet it. That was to be typical of the day as Taylor and Kedwell couldn’t make any impression at all.
Taylor was buzzing around but Kedwell was short of pace and penetration. The Stags defence were good with seasoned League players. What they needed up against them was a durable centre forward prepared to get into a rutting war.
Danny Kedwell is palpably not as fit as he should be but whether Charlie Ide or Craig Reid offer a viable atlernative is a moot point.
Meanwhile problems were surfacing on other sides of the pitch. Michael Blackwood was passing players for fun on the left flank and he was starting to make Fabian Wilnis look a very old man indeed.
In the 22nd minute he strolled around Wilnis crossed low and hard into the box. Jon Ashton went to ground in the tackle and was adjudged to have palmed the ball with his hand. Michael Stallard drove the penalty high and hard into the net.
Grays tried to fight back. One wonderful counter attack involved Stefan Bailey breaking from midfield passing to Ish Welsh and then dynamic Sam Sloma but once again the cross into the area of uncertainty found it a Grays attacker free zone.
On the right side, Barry Cogan was having a wonderful match but all his efforts count for nothing.
Mansfield had been in free fall in the leagues but a new regime has brought a fresh optimism to the club. Hardy pros like Michael Blackwood and pineapple free Jason Lee show they are a club that could soon find themselves back in League Two.
Jamie Stuart and Jon Ashton aren’t the players of last year. Jamie understandably and even sub-consciously may have Monday on his mind but he was struggling today however what the two lacked in cohesion, they made up for in bravery and determination as they put their heads everywhere and left their blood on the pitch.
In the 54th minute, another great cross came over from Sam Sloma was hooked away for a corner by Stags defender Alan O’Hare. Barry Cogan’s corner met by jamie Stuart in a clever move that again just didn’t quite come off.
Grays chances started to accumulate. Paddy Gamble did well to stifle a close range header from Jamie Taylor. Soon after a snap shot by the durable Stuart Elliott went straight at the keeper.
Craig Reid and Mark Molesley came on at the hour mark to try and inject something new. Reid showed plenty of energy but never really got a break. Molesley simply didn’t have a target to aim for.
Stags midfielder Nathan Arnold danced on the edge of the area and his curled shot was well parried away by Ross Flitney
In the 70th minute Danny Kedwell dithered in the area, passed to Cogan who needed another touch and then the ball was mis-controlled by Molesley.
But Mansfield remained stoic in defence and their dour manager may possess the right stuff to get them winning ugly and out of the division.
On Monday against Eastbourne, Mick Woodward couldn’t pick himself out of the dug-out. This time, he came out of the dug out after the match, shook hands with the opposition and then sat the players down for a ten minute lecture on the realities of life in the working world.
Mick simply believed that some people were not putting in their shift while others were putting their necks on the line.
Some believe that the team’s position is simply due to the fact that they don’t have a manager . Some believe that now is the time for a hardened experienced man from the lower leagues to come in and manage.
At the same time, the Mansfield journalists believed that Grays are the best team they have played against so far and that the team shouldn’t panic.
After the game Mick Woodward said: “The table doesn’t lie. A lot of players out there put a hell of a shift in. Jon and Jamie are walking off bloodied and our wingers put so many classy balls in but there was no-one there. Whether it is Jamie, Danny or Charlie or Craig, we need goals and we need men who are going to shake up the defenders.”
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report