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09.09.2006 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 1024
Grays Athletic 4 - 0 Southport
Referee: L Hodgson (Nuneaton) Conference National-Match

Aaron McLean (20)
Aaron McLean (29)
Michael Kightly (42)
Michael Kightly (88)
Starting Line-ups
Ashley Bayes
Jay Smith
Adam Green
Jamie Stuart
Cameron Mawer
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Ashley Nicholls
Glenn Poole
Dennis Oli
Aaron McLean
Paul Harrison
Chris Lane
Stephen Rowland
Mark Boyd
James Olsen
Lee Hoolickin
Kevin Lee
Liam Blakeman
Rob Booth
Tony Gray
Dino Maamria
Danny Knowles
Djoumin Sangare
Tom Williamson
Lee Boylan
John Turner
John Bagnall
Alex Smith
Paul Martin
Mark Jackson
Carl Baker
John Turner -> Aaron McLean (67)
Lee Boylan -> Dennis Oli (67)
Tom Williamson -> John Martin (77)
Paul Martin -> Rob Booth (52)
Mark Jackson -> Dino Maamria (53)
Carl Baker -> James Olsen
Yellow cards
John Martin (65)
Lee Hoolickin (56)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
GRAYS' star duo of Aaron McLean and Michael Kightly grabbed a brace apiece as Blues routed sorry Southport at the New Rec on Saturday.

The pair, who were both the subject of frenzied transfer rumours ahead of the closing of the transfer window, are fast becoming non-league football's hottest properties and will undoubtably have a huge say on how Grays' season pans out.

The duo now have got 13 goals between them - with McLean leading the way on seven - and if that run continues (and if Frank Gray can hold on to them in January), Blues won't be far away from promotion come May.

Gray said: "They are important players for us. When they are in form like they were today they would be important players for any side and long may it continue.

"Aaron is on fire at the moment and a threat to anyone at this level, His workrate, his pace, his finishing is first class. Michael is a goal threat and his pace is a constant problem. His second goal today was excellent and he fully deserved his England cap last week.

"We will have to protect them a bit but I'm delighted with them and delighted with the whole team."

Kightly, who won his first England National game cap last week, has set himself the target of 10 league goals this season and with six by the second week of September, admits he may have to revise that tally: "Every year I set myself the target of 10 goals and then when I get there I can set another target and another and so on," he said "Once I get to 10 we will see where I go from there."

As good as McLean and Kightly are performing at the moment, Grays are not all about two men as the destruction of Southport showed.

Dennis Oli, who is revelling in a slightly deeper role this season, is returning to somewhere near his menacing best. Old heads Jamie Stuart and Ashley Bayes are ensuring the defence is as sound as it has ever been and in midfielder Ashley Nicholls, Gray looks to have made a shrewd acquisition indeed.

Even with McLean and Kightly Nicholls was the best player on the park against Southport, pulling all the strings from midfield and with Stuart Thurgood's return not far off, a formidable partnership could be on the horizon.

The hosts didn't look like they would have it all their own way though after an opening 15 minutes dominated by the Sandgrounders.

The visitors had plenty of possession and though they never troubled the Grays goal, Paul Cook's men were stroking the ball around confidently.

The last thing that the Southport boss would have expected then was for his players to gift the hosts a goal - but that's exactly what happened in the 19th minute.

Glenn Poole was given too much time to pick out Aaron McLean with a diagonal ball over the top but even then centre back Stephen Rowland and keeper Paul Harrison were favourites to deal with the danger.

But the pair inexplicably dallied and allowed the predatory McLean to steal in between them and head into an unguarded net.

With Blues tails now up they pressed on for a second, which wasn't long in coming.

Poole spurned a good opportunity, by his standards at least, to double the advantage minutes later when he blazed over from 12-yards out.

And it was left to McLean to take care of things just short of the half hour mark.

Adam Green escaped down the left and crossed for the red-hot front man who initially mis-timed his header but, with Kevin Lee flat-footed, picked up the loose ball and prodded past Harrison.

The industrious Ashley Nicholls then worked a cute give-and-go with Oli and fired straight at Harrison as Blues began to dominate.

And it was with a sense of inevitability that the third goal arrived three minutes before the interval - but what a goal it was.

Cameron Mawer played a wonderfully disguised cross into the feet of John Martin who played a one-two with Poole before rolling in Kightly who confidently tucked the ball into the bottom corner via the far post.

There was little let up for the visitors after the re-start and only a smart block from Harrison denying Martin after good work from Poole and Kightly.

Cook threw on strikers Paul Martin and Mark Jackson for Robbie Booth and the injured Dino Maamria as the hosts bravely sought a way back into the game.

Centre back Lee headed narrowly wide from Mark Boyd's precision set piece and the Sandgrounders' skipper went close himself with a 25-yard free kick that rippled the side-netting.

The visitors' best chance came 15 minutes from time when Tony Gray did well to skip past Stuart and play in Liam Blackman who powered into the box from midfield only to be denied by a splendid save from Bayes.

At the other end, Nicholls saw a cheeky chip palmed over by the back-tracking Harrison who then denied Tom Williamson's low drive from the ensuing corner.

The fourth goal arrived in spectacular fashion two minutes from time when Williamson released Kightly down the inside left channel and the ex-Southend man finished sublimely in the top corner to round off a comprehensive win.

By Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.