Late blunder saves record
Grays may have been toppled from the league summit but their unbeaten start to the season remains intact after a goal-keeping gaffe handed them a last-gasp point against Kidderminster on Saturday.
The visitors looked to have consigned Grays to their first defeat of the season when Iysden Christie netted his second of the game to restore a lead that was temporarily wiped out by Gary Hooper.
But Harriers keeper John Danbyâ€™s calamitous mistake in the dying seconds of the game ensured that although Exeter City regained the Conference top spot, Grays remain unbeaten and in their slipstream.
Danbyâ€™s howler came just as the Blues faithful were giving up hope of scratching out an equaliser.
Substitute Aaron McLean has wasted a glorious chance to restore parity when he latched onto a sublime Stuart Thurgood pass and blasted over with only the keeper to beat and with the second ticking away their sideâ€™s unbeaten run looking to be coming to an end.
But Blues are nothing if not resilient and with just seconds left of play they forced a corner on the right, which trialist Bertie Brayley swung into the danger zone.
The ball looked to be sailing innocuously wide when Danby decided to come and clear but instead of tipping it over for another corner he somehow managed to flap the ball into the back of his own net to hand Grays an unlikely equaliser.
Amazingly that was the third time this season that Mark Stimsonâ€™s men have fashioned an injury time goal, a trait that has seen them pick up four more points than the might otherwise have had.
And the Grays boss put that down to good old-fashioned determination.
â€ťIt just shows that you have to play to the final whistle,â€ť said Stimson. â€śAnd to be fair weâ€™ve done that three times now, twice to get a point and once at Forest Green to get victory.
â€ťOnce Aaron McLean had missed his chance you do think that you wonâ€™t get a better opportunity and it might not be your day but we kept pushing.
â€ťI though their keeper caught everything today except the one when it mattered. Brayley put in a good cross and it looked like it went through his hands.â€ť
The much-travelled Brayley came on in an unfamiliar left midfield role as Grays chased the game and afterwards Stimson confirmed that thatâ€™s the position the former-Thurrock forward will be asked to play if Blues do decide to sign him on a permanent basis.
â€ťWe are going to have a look at him over the next couple of weeks but thatâ€™s the position he will be asked to play in,â€ť said Stimson.
Grays went into the game unchanged from their last-minute victory at Forest Green eight dayâ€™s earlier but it was the visitors who started the game brighter.
Within a minute Christie got in behind Cameron Mawer on the Harriersâ€™ left and Taiwo Atenio was denied a certain goal by good goalkeeping from Ashley Bayes who plucked Christieâ€™s cross from the air before the Walsall loanee could connect with his header.
Grays carved out their best chance of the half when Tony Battersby slipped in Hooper, who again started up-front, after good work from Mawer and John Martin. .
Hooper shot strongly across goal but Danby made a good block with his legs. The visitors responded in kind and their best chance of the half fell to top scorer Atenio whose looping header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by their fast-retreating Bayes.
Thurgood saw a tonking drive from 25-yards out, whistle over the bar and Hooper again threatened on the break as Blues marginally shaded the first-half, but the usually accurate Martin missed a close-range header top open the scoring.
The dangerous Christie, who hasnâ€™t trained for a month because of a foot infection, showed the Grays midfielder how itâ€™s done three minutes after the restart when he lost Joe Bruce and volleyed home an Atenio header across goal.
Hooper quickly restored parity after Battersby had beaten the off-side trap and steamed towards goal before crossing to the 17-year-old who had the simple chance of converting from yards out, but Grays let that lead slip with another piece of slack defending.
Gareth Sheldon launched a long throw into the home sideâ€™s box which Bayes rashly believed he could come and collect only to be beaten to it by Atenio whose flick-on was again slotted home by the predatory Christie.
â€ťBoth goals were disappointing,â€ť admitted Stimson. â€śThe first one Christie used all his experience to lose Bruce in the box and the second one Bayes has already stuck his hands up and said sorry for.â€ť
Grays huffed and puffed but didnâ€™t look like crating an opening until the closing stages when, led by their inspirational skipper Thurgood, McLean shot wide and eventually Danby blundered to gift his opponents a merited point.
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report