A mis-firing Grays Athletic did well to escape from Crawley with a 1-1 draw.
Grays made four changes from the Kidderminster game including Bridge Road favourite Glen Poole.
Crawley were ravaged by injuries but started brightly, looking far more comfortable on the ball and only a last ditch tackle by Grays debutant Sam Gaughran on a clear Jefferson Louis saved Grays.
In the 5th minute, Crawley opened the scoring as Glenn Wilson headed down for Louis who had time to position himself, angle and put Crawley in the lead.
Grays best chances came from route one. In the 8th minute, skipper Adriano Rigolioso put a sweet through ball into Danny Charge’s path but his shot hit the post.
Two minutes later minute Richard Graham did the same as confidence seemed to leak from Grays.
Grays were once again suffering from a central midfield pairing that were no more than passengers and once again their lack of cover allowed the opposition time and space.
Crawley’s key player was Michael Malcolm as he led Grays a merry dance as well as firing in dangerous balls from the left.
Grays had further chances. The admirable Daniel Charge broke from the left to motor into the box. He crossed to the left and found a rampaging Glen Poole whose shot just flew wide.
Crawley came out in the second half determined to finish the game off. In their first attack, Malcolm crossed from the left and had four Crawley midfielders in the area ready for the ball that unfortunately went over their heads.
Just when you thought Grays would be over-run, they then started to get back into the game. Richard Graham started to come in and look for the ball and the more possession that Glen Poole got, the more confident the team seemed.
The changes, with Cutler and Harvey pulled off brought more urgency to the midfield. I
In the 65th minute, his crafty free kick was neatly tipped over by Nick Jordan. In the 70th minute another deep probing corner by Poole was met with a weak header by Gavin Hoyte.
Grays knew they had a chance. There were over 20 free kicks in the game and John Yems felt the referee was turning it into a non-contact game. That’s not exactly how he expressed himself to the fourth official and he was sent to the stand.
Grays made the tiring Crawley pay in the 82nd minute as sub Charlie Taylor latched onto a Glen Poole corner to head from close range and take a vital away point.
Grays could have taken all three points with further chances for Charge but the team were ecstatic when the referee blew for time.
The team celebrated and the morale going into the big bank holiday fixture will be high.
If the bottom line is fifth from bottom then this was the type of point that will ensure survival.
Speaking to John Yems after the game, he was insistent that the team must be given time to bed in. Fair comment.
The midfield is still the conundrum. Sam Cutler looked anonymous against Maidstone and he has done nothing since. Harvey wasn’t much better and it was significant that they were both pulled off and Grays performance improved.
What Wimbledon will make of the such an inert midfield is food for thought. If Cutler, Harvey or Bull appear as the fulcrum of the team then they will be steamrollered by AFC.
The truth is that had they taken their chances, Grays would have been out of sight against the makeshift Crawley defence.
Rigolioso was impressive and brought a bit of bite to the team. Poole improved as the game went on.
The key will be stability. With 30 players this year already, the disaffected fans are leaving in droves (well..drips) as they don’t know whose coming and going. The fans forum has been removed as a link to the main site but even the forum seems like a ghost town as fans seem to have lost the will to even chat.
John Yems even refused to describe what his position is when asked by BBC Essex.
There will be speculation that many players will quietly disappear out of the Essex Sports Village including Dean Morgan, Paul Terry, Tommy Black and a host of blinks and you’ll miss ‘em (Dos Santos for example) will follow.
Once again, Chester, Forest Green, Gateshead and Hayes look vulnerable. September will be key but it will be an opportunity.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report