The home side on a run of good form, six wins on the run, Grays Athletic un-beaten in three, promised to be a tough game which would test both teams to the limit, and that is what it turned out to be.
Great Wakering defended in the first few minutes from Grays pressure, but counter attacked well with breaks from Walsh and Hawkins, the Grays defensive four held firm, Junior Baker particularly throwing himself into solid tackles. The game opened up with good flowing football from both sides.
The first opportunity fell to Grays on 15 mins with a well worked move between Si Thomas and Fontaine which saw Pennant shoot just over the bar, then a Reynolds free kick skimmed the top of the Rovers bar. Three minutes later Pennnant was booked for obstruction on Walsh, but the resultant free kick sailed harmlessly over the visitors bar. On the half hour a Grays corner was turned goal ward by Samuel only for Gorbell to block the ball on the line.
Great Wakeringâ€™s Hawkins was substituted in the 38th minute after a knock, to be replaced by Martin, within minutes he had missed an open goal from a cross by Walsh with Northwood well beaten.
You could visibly see Grays confidence building as they played some quality passing football, using the width of the pitch and the half finished 0 â€“ 0 with Grays in a buoyant mood.
The 70 or so travelling fans looked forward to more of the same in the second half and for the first few minutes it looked as if Grays were going to carry on as they left off. A piece of Fontaine magic on the right, a cross but a tired looking Odoiâ€™s half scuffed shot went harmlessly to Goodwin-Green in the Wakering goal, Odoi was replaced shortly after by Welsh. The players from both sides seemed to change tack midway through the half as the ball was kicked high from end to end, with both sides struggling to control the ball in the swirling wind and rain that had started .
Another substitution by Grays, Aiken on for S.Thomas, could not change the style of play. Slowly the Rovers started to gain an edge and several attempts at goal were aimlessly cleared by the Grays defence. Both Bradley and Carlile had scoring chances with the latterâ€™s shot turned round the post by Northwood, when it looked to be going in.
The game looked to be heading for a goal-less draw when Grays picked up the pace and attacked . The 85th minute, the ball came back in from Bunce on the left, and a loose ball melee resulted in Reynolds getting his foot to the ball to knock it past the stranded Goodwin-Green,1-0 to Grays.
The home team pressed for the equaliser but solid defending from Thomas, Baker, Reynolds and Bunce allowed the dying minutes to run down, a late sub for Grays, Harvey on for Osborn, seemed to pass un-noticed as the final whistle blew. The Blues first league win since September, and well-deserved.
Report by Stephen Allen