A mediocre Sutton were put through the mincer by Grays in the Nationwide Conference South at Bridge Road on Tuesday night.
The visitors hardly got a look in and Blues striker Leroy Griffiths made the game his own, netting two late goals, and playing a part in one of the others.
But despite the solo display, this was a team performance which had few flaws. Everyone contributed in full – obviously determined to exorcise the memory of their weekend loss and impress Blues boss Mark Stimson.
The weekend fall from grace – which also saw them slip from second position – was a cruel defeat. But smiles were back on faces midweek as Grays began their hammering of United with an 18th minute goal from Mitch Cole who slotted home after a 10 yard diagonal ball from playmaker Freddie Eastwood.
Given Sutton’s obvious lack of ambition it came as a surprise when only eight minutes later – Craig Watkins brought the visitors back into the game. Looking half a yard offside the visiting centre forward beat Joe Bruce and caught Carl Emberson off-guard with a questionable goal. But the linesman would not waiver.
After this setback Grays turned the remaining hour into a demonstration match.
Chance after chance was set up including one blinding header from Griffiths which drew an impossible low save from Sutton’s tall keeper Phil Watson. Martin Carthy and Dean Brennan had decent attempts, although skipper Carthy’s usual role is slightly deeper, picking up from midfield and freeing the front pairing.
The time the skipper, looking frustrated that nobody could break the stalemate opted to do it himself with an inch perfect shot from a slotted Griffiths cross just before the break.
Stimson called for his players to improve their finishing as the sport drinks were passed around in the dressing room. And they did.
Grays dominated the second half but had to wait until the 70th for their third.
Mitch Cole’s run with accomplice Griffiths looked doomed after he was challenged outside the box. Luckily for the home side the spinning ball broker well for Griffiths who had his legs swept by Lewis Gonsalves earning Stuart Thurgood a spot kick. Thurgood struck low and left while the keeper went right.
Cole combined well with sub Powell while at the other end the visitors mounted one genuine effort which saw little-to-do Emberson save from breaking Watkins.
Griffiths sealed the deal with two goals in three minutes.
Scoring in the 84sth and 87th minutes, it was easy work for Griffiths against an increasingly sub-standard defence. His first should have been stopped. Unmarked, he was allowed space and drilled Brennan’s cross. His second (Grays’ fifth) was an eight yard slam as Sutton’s demoralised back four waited for the whilst to end their misery.
Grays will face far tougher tests this season. But goals are good for morale, particularly after your cage has been rattled in front of your home supporters just four days earlier.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report