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21.04.2007 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 1131
Grays Athletic 0 - 0 Crawley Town
Referee: A Halliday (West Yorks) Conference National-Match

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Starting Line-ups
Danny Knowles
Andy Sambrook
Jamie Stuart
Simon Downer
John Martin
Anthony Barness
Ashley Nicholls
Stuart Thurgood
Dennis Oli
Aaron O'Connor
Alex Rhodes
Ben Hamer
Ben Judge
David Woozley
Scott Hiley
Magnus Okuonghae
Lee Blackburn
Stephen Evans
Dannie Bulman
Anthony Scully
Marcus Richardson
Scott Rendell
Ashley Bayes
Abdou El-Kholti
Ben Harding
Matt Bodkin
Pierre Joseph-Dubois
Tyrone Berry
Rob Tolfrey
Elliot Benyon
Jack Obersteller
Lloyd Blackman
Matt Bodkin -> Alex Rhodes (64)
Abdou El-Kholti -> Simon Downer (76)
Elliot Benyon -> Marcus Richardson (64)
Jack Obersteller -> Ben Judge (69)
Lloyd Blackman -> Scott Rendell (75)
Yellow cards
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Red cards
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Match report |
It looks like relegation issues will go down to the final game of the season as Grays played out a frustrating goalless draw against fellow strugglers Crawley Town at the New Rec on Saturday.

The point was enough to lift the hosts out of the drop zone as Halifax lost at Forest Green but there are tense times still to come in the final week of the Nationwide Conference.

Grays completely dominated the game for 90 minutes with keeper Danny Knowles hardly troubled for the game but once again key opportunities were squandered by the Blues.

Crawley set out their stall early on. With defensive midfielder and captain Lee Blackburn acting as the pivot and anchor of a team that were not prepared to take any risks. Having said that, Blackburn was outstanding all game.

Indeed, many of the criticisms of Grays game have to be balanced by the fact that Crawley put in a strong defensive performance.

In the first half, Grays gave the Reds far too much room on the right flank with Scully, Judge and Bulman able to play triangular football in space.

With Oli anonymous and O'Connor shackled the bench implored the struggling Grays skipper Thurgood to "take responsibility" in midfield In the 16th minute Thurgood did exactly that.

His free kick was met by Alex Rhodes whose knock down found Aaron O'Connor who shot over the bar.

Credit must be given to the Grays fans. Another Thurgood free kick, a few minutes was blasted over the bar but the New Rec faithful responded by shouting Thurgood's name.

Rhodes continued to scamper and hustle for the ball on the left side of the three man attack but tensions began to seep through. In the 21st minute Martin and Nicholls poor communication in midfield let a Crawley player in who then shoot feebly wide.

Grays continued to endeavour and chances started to come. Rhodes shot meekly past the post in the 27th minute. A minute later Rhodes was fouled very close to the penalty area. Again the free kick sailed over the bar.

The attacks led to nothing but they had sowed enough seeds of doubt in the minds of the Sussex team. Grays continued to push forward. Ashley Nicholls played higher up than usual and Martin continued to drive forward.

The second half began quietly. Stuart and Downer continued to have complete control of the lumbering Richardson and the whining Rendell.

The best chance of the game came in the 54th minute. Oli crossed from the right and found Rhodes unmarked in front of goal but he pushed the ball past the left post.

Rhodes, on-loan from Brentford, obviously wants to prove himself and the young and talented player let the miss get to him. He spent the next five minutes shaking his head. It was no surprise when he was substituted soon after for Matt Bodkin.

In the 57th minute, the increasingly influential Oli put John Martin through on one of his trademark runs but again, with only the keeper to beat, the shot missed the target.

The introduction of Bodkin gave the Blues more width and certainly left back Barness felt he now had more of an outlet.

This was a great period of pressure by Grays but it frustratingly produced nothing. O'Connor had a great chance in the 65th from a Thurgood corner but again blasted a close range effort over the bar.

As the game entered the final third, Crawley seemed content to settle for a precious away point and refused to commit more than four men to any attack.

Downer, clearly still suffering the effects of the bug that has laid many of the Blues players low, was replaced in the 75th minute by El-Kholti.

Grays still attacked. In the 75th minute Thurgood's free kick was tipped over by Red's keeper Ben Hamer.

The game petered out into a draw. Crawley remained dogged in their defence and Grays simply couldn't find a way through.

In the 82 minute, Ashley Nicholl shot high and wide from 30 yards out.

It was the last chance of a game that was keenly supported by an impressive crowd of 1,131.

The final whistle was met by a few boos from a few disgruntled fans but the majority applauded a Grays Athletic team that has scrapped for a point to mark their seventh game undefeated at the New Rec.

After the game, Crawley manager John Yems paid credit to the Blues.

He said: "Fair play to Grays. They brought the game to us and never gave up. They are so much better than where they sit in the league."

Blues boss Justin Edinburgh wanted to accentuate the positives.

He said: "It was a frustrating afternoon, however we earned a point and moved out of the relegation zone."

He added: "This is a young side and many of the players have never experienced a relegation battle. It's not something you can coach, but we all believe in ourselves and we now look forward to Kidderminster on Tuesday."

Grays face Kidderminster Harriers on Tuesday at the New Rec and then play their final game of the season away at Morecambe.

By Michael Casey
Thanks to the Thurock Gazette for the match report