It's only a cliche because it's true. When you're down in the relegation zone, the gods of fate design decisions like the one the referee made in the 94th minute.
Barry Cogan went up for a challenge in the box. His arms and those of the Cambridge attacker went up but the referee, perhaps with the bolt on penalty appeal for Cambridge that the ref waved away in the first half, went for the old even things up shtick. Two wrongs don't make a right but it gave three points to Cambridge and led Wayne Burnett and his players incandescent.
The Blues had started well. The defence looked assured as Kenny Davis continued his good form from Thursday while Fisher loanee Gavin Dayes slowly found his form. His task was particularly difficult as U’s striker Chris Holroyd was one of the most vibrant players seen this year in the Blue Square.
Sean Rigg was working hard up front. In the 9th minute he beat the offside trap but his chip across the penalty area could not find Kieran St Aimie. In fact very little could find Kieran St Aimie who is showing fans why a team with one point sent him out on loan.
Grays looked comfortable as they moved the ball around the pitch, although the U’s midfield and attack seemed to be cutting through the Blues defence at will.
In the 18th minute, Danny Crow stole a yard from Jamie Stuart in the box. He pulled his shirt back and Crow fell. The referee, Mr Smedley waved play on to the ire of players and fans alike.
The U’s fans are tense and you could feel it in the stand. The bonhomie that we witnessed at Wembley in May in the play-offs has been replaced hostility towards the management and the board on the terraces and in the forums (that sounds vaguely familiar).
David Button was again supreme. His height and angular reach frustrating chips by Challinor and Holroyd
Holroyd turned Jamie Stuart on a sixpence and strode past the rest of the defence but his shot went wide..
Boss Wayne Burnett was becoming very animated on the bench. He implored his team to assert themselves on the pitch.
In the 25th minute, neat work by St Aimie got to the dead ball line but yet another ball found nobody in the box.
Wayne Burnett looks like a man who can make himself clear in no uncertain terms and a little bit of the fear will do this team good, certainly they came out blazing in the second half. For the first ten minutes Cambridge were parked on their own penalty area. The problem was that, granted Wayne Hatswell and Phillip Bolland were excellent but none of the free kicks and corners by Stuart Elliott and Sam Sloma could be met by anyone with threat in the box.
St Aimie was replaced by Jonny Dixon in the 59th minute. David Button tipped over from Holroyd.
The pressure mounted as Grays players could not retain possession. Stuart Elliott and Ishmael Welsh were in particular culpable.
It looked as if Grays would escape with a point. The players were working tirelessly for each other and the loyal loyal band of supporters.
Then, in the 94th minute, the decision was made by the fourth official who had come on after the referee had pulled up lame. Lee McEvilly took his chance and the Blues were devastated to lose the three points.
This is tough for Grays. Every press box compliments the team on their passion and style. Even the “too good to go down” shtick is starting to appear. Wayne Burnett has only taken one training session and needs time to put his imprint on the team. Everyone will have to recalibrate their expectations for this year and perhaps longer.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report