The eighth game and the eighth formation but Grays Athletic produced a sparkling, exciting second half to defeat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2 at the New Rec.
With a rare sunday outing the Grays players needed to be driven by faith. Playing 4-5-1 with Charlie Ide on the right and Mark Molesley in the hole, the coaching staff had clearly given this a great deal of thought.
In the 1st minute,Mark Molesley roared into the box. The move came to nothing but showed his intent on getting forward.
Shot s by Sloma and Elliott flew over the bar and Danny Kedwell continuing to dig deep was linking up well without ever really dominating the central defenders.
In the 14th minute a fine move from Sloma and kedwell brought out a fine save form the impressive Adam Bartlett
It was 90% Grays with the odd speculative ball from Kiddy up to Justin Richards. But what was frustrating for Grays was that each move was just a little out of synch: four perfect passes and then a stray ball.
Stuart Elliott nearly broke the deadlock on the half hour with what is becoming his trademark: a 25 yard shot but again and perhaps ominously, Bartlett held out.
And worryingly Brian Smikle left Fabian Wilonis standing to get to the far post in much the same vein as Michael Blackwood had at Mansfield
In the 34th minute, Sam Sloma produced a clever free kick after Mark Molesley was fouled but it whistled just wide.
Fair play to the Harriers who with Andrew Ferrell marshalling in front of the back four, you could see why they were a win away from a play off place.
The second half began portentously for Kidderminster as Stuart Thurgood started to flex his football muscles. In the 49th minute, he dispossesed Keith Lowe outside the box and sent a fantastic diagonal ball to Ishmael Welsh.
Welsh had come on for Alex Campana and could be the perfect impact player. He immediately rattled Kiddy. it was no surprise that the opening goal’s source came from the left as he crossed from the deadball line, the half cleared header finding Thurgood who made no mistake from close range.
But there is still something fragile about the defence. Ross Flitney produced a fine reaction save and Harrier midfielders were starting to walk through the midfield. One shot was a carbon copy of a chance Crawley had on Tuesday. Sure enough Justin Richards took the ball in the box with his back to goal but again the subdued Jon Ashton desperate not to lunge in let him turn and rifle it into the back of the net.
But a key player in this Grays team is Sam Sloma. He can read a game beautifully. In the 67th minute he jinked his way past the Kidderminster defence with a wonderful display of artistry to put the Blues back in the lead.
The crowd rose to their feet having witnessed a genuine piece of skill.
The coaching staff were determined to cement the midfield and implored them to concentrate. The midfield replied by stretching the lead as the mercurial Barry Cogan wil have given himself a huge boost by latching onto clever play by Jamie Taylor to put the game beyond doubt. However as this is Grays, that would not be the end as Kidderminster scrambled one back through Matthew Barnes-Homer.
But the Blues held on for a precious three points which will have gone far to settle the ship. It wasn’t pretty at times but it was clever. This was a win fashioned from the training ground and from the coaching skiils of the staff.
It is obvious that there is a right combination and this may be it. The defence does look shaky. Jon Ashton needs to up his game and Fabian Wilnis pedestrian. But the midfield with the triangle in the middle is smart. Charlie Ide had never played on the right before but you would never have known.
The players looked relaxed especially Jamie Stuart who has been able to put the last year behind him. Just three points but on a sunday they can count their blessings.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report