More than 600 people saw Saturday’s bruising encounter between Blues and Weston-Super-Mare at the New Rec.
Blues broker the 60 point barrier with the win – in the process leaving Seagulls floundering and relying on agricultural methods of slowing the lively Blues attack. Despite an often used offside trap, Grays netted two goals and three points in a match that boiled over and the outclassed visitors down to 10 men.
Blues boss Mark Stimson was thankful for the inclusion of big Tony Battersby, a player who is always willing to have a go. His handful of goals this season does not do this powerful marksman justice. Battersby came in for the injured Steve West and Lee Matthews was back in the line-up.
The first chances of the game went to inspired midfield terrier Stuart Thurgood, big bold Battersby and Leroy Griffiths.
The game threatened to go off the rails with just 21 minutes gone when Weston’s Matthew Rose hacked Thurgood and then squared up to Battersby.
Just 10 minutes later Blues went ahead thanks to Griffiths’ 19th goal strike of the season, a sliding strike thanks to a cross from Mitchell Cole.
Although former Southampton defender Steve Jenkins tested Grays there was to be more yellow carding, because of another bone-crunching tackle on Thurgood, right on the edge of the box. Weston midfielder Lewis Hoff was the culprit.
As tempers grew shorter Battersby went agonisingly close with a punt which went just the wrong side of the upright.
At the start of the second period Seagull striker Stephen Cowe nearly levelled when his shot ricocheted off the underside of the bar.
When Thurgood was again targeted by former pro Jarman he received just a carding rather than the marching orders he deserved.
After a double substitution – bringing on Adie Mings and Paul Hunt for Andy Robertson and Thomas Bradley – Weston nearly equalised when skipper Billy Clark had a cross cleared off the line.
Stimmo countered by bringing on John Martin for Cole and Gary Hooper for Griffiths.
Battersby should have made it two when his volley from a Martin free kick flew high.
In the 92nd minute Dennis Oli was floored and the challenge turned up the heat in an already simmering game. As tempers rose Hogg made a challenge too many and a second yellow was converted into red.
Deep into stoppage time Jarman knocked Brennan down in the box and referee Pollard pointed at the spot while the on-pitch altercation flared for several seconds with both teams guilty. Jarman escaped a caution in the melee, but skipper Thurgood had the last laugh, drilling home an angry penalty which would have taken bits off visiting keeper Northmore had been able to get to it.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.