After the 3-1 defeat by Kidderminster Harriers, Gary Phillips said “Let’s not panic. This is still a work in progress.
“Fitness levels are not what they should be but we will be working them hard next week.”
Grays indeed lost to a faster, fitter and a hungrier team at the New Rec. What was worrying was that the performance had a lot in common with Bromley where Grays stood off the opposition, let them play and were subsequently thumped.
Communication was clearly the problem at the heart of the team. Mix up after mix up saw players berating each other. You could hear Preston Edwards more than usual as he was furiously trying to keep his defence together.
The defence were heroic on tuesday but really suffered today. In their defence many of the Kiddy moves exploited the weak midfield as when they attacked they moved the ball across the line unchallenged by the midfield as they then played neat one-twos, piercing the defence.
Brian Smikle, Kyle Hadley also had pace that sprung the offside trap and pierced the defence.
The key difference was, again, the midfield. For Kiddy, Finnigan and McPhee controlled the game, pulling the strings and dictating play. Indeed it was those two players that boss Mark Yates referred to as the main architects of their victory.
That contrasted with the four passengers of the New Rec. Once again Ronnie Bull was off the pace and out of his depth. In defence he simply shadows the opponent and at a distance of five yards allowing the player time and space. He then jogs up field, knowing that he is not a box to box and not a creative outlet.
On this occasion, he was joined by Tom Harvey, the young West ham trainee who was on a hiding to nothing and playing against season BSP campaigners was locked out of the game. With Braham-Barrett falling over a lot and Graham not possessing the wit, strength or pace to outwit the Kiddy defenders, they were the key reason the team failed.
What was also a key factor was that the team couldn’t string any passes together. Indeed watching them in the warm-up, Gary Phillips was growing increasingly angry as everything broke down after two passes. The same happened on the pitch.
Up front, Slabber and Charge did their best but were starved of supply. Slabber wasted what chances he had but young Daniel never stopped running and deserved the goal to put Grays back in the game. He looked much happier with the long ball over the top. Indeed if Grays don’t have the midfielders and they clearly don’t then that may be the only alternative, especially when (or if) McEvilly and Rigilioso ever come back.
If they do return, their brand of confrontational football is much needed as Grays at the moment are just too nice to play against.
Even after five games, you feel that there are teams that look like bolt ons for relegation. Two seasons ago, it was Farsley, Stafford and Droylsden. Last year it was Lewes and Northwich. This year, Chester, Forest Green and Hayes have the sword of damocles hanging over them.
The reality is that Grays must not panic but must get that midfield right.This could be a winning/drawing ugly time with the dark arts at the forefront in order to ensure BSP football for another year.
Harriers boss was delighted with his team’s performance as they demolished Grays 3-1 at the New Rec
Mark Yates said: “We fancied our chances today. I haven’t enjoyed coming here but we did ourselves justice.”
His team looked impressive in the sunshine but were allowed by a pedestrian and clueless Blues.
Harriers performance was marked by patient build ups with McPhee and Finnigan pulling the strings from midfield.
Yates said: “We have lost a lot of players but Smikle, Hadley are young hungry players who got what they deserved today.”
Kidderminster looked a lot more comfortable in possession. In the 7th minute, Kyle Hadley beat the offside trap, his cross forcing Cameron Mawer to concede the corner. Brian Smikle found himself in space from the corner but his header just looped over Preston Edward’s bar.
Their patience paid off as in the 11th minute Dean Bennett picked up a loose ball in the box to easily shoot home from close range.
Smikle should have made it two as a fine one-two with Hadley saw his shot, just sly over the bar.
Grays had no cutting edge up front and no supply from midfield.
Boss Gary Phillips noticed it: “We aren’t fit enough and we have players out there today who maybe are not up to it.”
In the 20th minute, Daniel Charge nodded the ball into Jamie Slabber’s path but his angled shot was the wrong side of the far post.
Graham fired in another probing corner in the 23rd but Charge mistimed his jump.
Harriers were beating the offside trap at will assisted by Grays conceding possession. They paid the price in the 27th minute as Hadley sprinted into space and crossed to Smikle who scrambled the ball into the net.
Barnes-Homer could have made it three as once again the trap was sprung but Hoyte’s last ditch tackle spared further humiliation.
Grays brought Tommy Black on to inject some invention into the team. It worked. In the 54th minute Gavin Hoyte’s central through ball sent Charge free and he made no mistake firing past Dean Coleman.
Route one seemed to work with Tom Harvey going close a minute later with a header from a corner.
Grays boss Gary Phillips said: “We had words at half time and the players responded for a while but it was a lack of consistency that really hurt us.”
Harriers didn’t mount an attack until the 65th minute when they had two goal-line clearances by Barnes-Homer and McPhee cleared in a desperate scramble in the Grays area.
Grays nearly stole a point in injury time as Charge had a close range shot charged down and Slabber’s curled shot from the edge of the area went wide. At the other end
Deservedly, Harriers wrapped it up as Courtney strolled down the right, floated the ball across the area for McDermott to tap in for the three points.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report