Table-topping Grays were the victims of a mugging at the Rec on Saturday when promotion-chasing City sprang the surprise of the day and ended the home side’s 14 match unbeaten run.
It could, and perhaps should, have been a very different story as Grays spurned innumerable chances, missed a penalty and were caught cold by two opportunistic Cambridge counter-attacks.
Grays were missing the suspended Stuart Thurgood, one of their most influential players, but they still set off at a cracking pace and created early chances for Leroy Griffiths and John Martin.
However, they went begging as Cambridge showed their defensive qualities and the fact that luck was on their side on the day. Certainly things were beginning to look potentially disappointing for the home side as Martin & Griffiths and then Steve West contrived to miss further chances.
The writing was firmly etched on the wall on 31 minutes when Jon Stevenson broke quickly for City and his found Dale Binns who gave home stopper Ashley Bayes no chance.
Despite further pressure rays were unable to get things level by the break.
After the second half restart Grays boss introduced three substitutes and Vill Powell, Gary Hooper & Tony Battersby all made an impact.
It looked as if things would turn in Grays’ favour on 53 minutes when the Blues were awarded a penalty but Dean Brennan failed to strike his spot kick with conviction and keeper Duncan Roberts made the save.
Grays’ disappointment was compounded minutes later when another Cambridge breakaway gave Dave Sadler the chance to extend his side’s lead.
After that it was all Grays, but City produced a memorable rearguard action and though 16-year-old Hooper gave Grays hope with a scrambled 83rd minute goal, that was all the home side could muster and they go into the festive derby double with Thurrock on something of a low after drawing and losing two matches they would have expected to get maximum points from.
However Stimson remained philosophical afterwards and he is confident his team haven’t suffered a long term blow.
”We had enough chances to win the game handsomely but that’s football. You don’t always get what you deserve but I still believe we are the team to beat in this league and I have told my players the same. We have a very good chance to win this league.
Thanks to The Thurrock Gazette for the report.