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10.12.2005 @ 15:00 Christie Park Crowd: 1785
Morecambe 3 - 0 Grays Athletic
Referee: A Taylor Conference National-Match

Gary Thompson (22)
Danny Carlton (38)
Jim Bentley (58)
Starting Line-ups
Steven Drench
John Hardiker
Jim Bentley
Michael Howard
Chris Blackburn
Gary Thompson
David Perkins
Ged Brannan
Michael Twiss
Wayne Curtis
Danny Carlton
Nicky Eyre
Nathan Koo-Boothe
John Nutter
Jamie Stuart
Cameron Mawer
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Stuart Thurgood
Gary Hooper
Jamie Slabber
Aaron McLean
Scott Davies
Kieron Walmsley
Michael Stringfellow
Paul Lloyd
James Kelly
Ashley Bayes
Lee Matthews
Ade Olayinka
Tom Williamson
Glenn Poole
Paul Lloyd -> Michael Twiss (74)
James Kelly -> Ged Brannan (87)
Lee Matthews -> Cameron Mawer (45)
Glenn Poole -> Gary Hooper (45)
Tom Williamson -> Stuart Thurgood (62)
Yellow cards
Ged Brannan (17)
Chris Blackburn (42)
Michael Howard (43)
Wayne Curtis (68)
Jim Bentley (76)
Cameron Mawer (9)
Stuart Thurgood (18)
John Nutter (80)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Grays slumped to only their second league defeat of the season on Saturday after a truly woeful defensive display was punished to the full by an impressive Morecambe side.

Such was the slackness of their defending, Blues can count themselves fortunate to have left Christie Park having conceded just the three goals, for it wouldn’t have been unjust had the Shrimps’ winning margin been even greater.

Indeed if it wasn’t for a combination of bad luck and desperate defending the Lancastrians could have been four up by half time alone as the Grays defence fell apart.

As it was the Shrimps only managed to bag two goals in the first half – courtesy of Garry Thompson and Danny Carlton – and had to wait until just short of the hour mark to seal the game when Jim Bentley volleyed home at the back post.

Furious Blues boss, Mark Stimson, hauled both Gary Hooper and full back Cam Mawer off at the interval but one or two of the others can consider themselves extremely fortunate not to have stayed in the changing room for the second half.

MK Dons loanee, Nathan Koo-Boothe was particularly lucky to remain on the field after a wretched first half performance that improved little in the second.

In fact, so bad was the centre half’s showing, Stimson later revealed that he will be packed odd back to the Dons as soon as his loan spell comes to an end next week.

”All three goals were individual errors” said Stimson afterwards. “We haven’t done out work in out 18-yard-box today at all. There are a lot of disappointed faces in the dressing room and some home truths have been told but the boys should learn from it.

”Mawer came off because we wanted to protect the lad. He had been booked and their left-winger had the beating of him and we didn’t want him to be sent off.

”But Koo-Boothe was no-where near it today and I could have easily taken him off, but I thought the young kid whose on a contract with us.”

Stimson added: “I’ve got no complaints with the scoreline. We’ve come to a side today who are by far the best we have played this season. I thought they had absolutely everything. Great technical ability, great physical presence and they were sharp in front of goal.”

It could have been all so different for Grays had Michael Kightly not missed a sitter inside the first three minutes.

Mawer made tracks up the right and crossed towards John Martin who managed to force the ball onto Kightly, but the ex-Southend man lost his nerve in front of goal and scuffed his shot horribly wide.

The tireless Wayne Curtis, then served notice of the Shrimps’ intent when he skipped past Mawer and forced a smart save out of Nicky Eyre with a drive from the edge of the box.

Blues then invited pressure on to themselves by giving away a string of needless free-kicks around the box, one of which was almost turned in by Shrimps’ skipper Bentley.

A swift break at the other end saw Nutter fire straight at home keeper, Steven Drench, but Grays couldn’t keep the ball long enough to stem the Morecambe tide and it was hardly a surprise when Thompson opened the scoring mid-way through the half.

But the goal could have been prevented had the hapless Koo-Boothe not kicked fresh air as he tried to clear Curtis’ cross and allowed Thompson to sweep the ball home beneath Eyre’s despairing drive.

Jamie Stuart, returning after a three game ban, was the next Grays player to gift a chance to the opposition when he failed to deal with a long ball and let Thompson in behind him.

The tricky winger got to the by-line and crossed for Curtis, whose curling left-foot effort pinged back off the far post.

Eyre then scrambled a deflected effort from the same man just round the post and Bentley saw his header cleared off the line by Stuart Thurgood as the hosts threatened to score every time they went forward.

Kightly and Jamie Slabber both tried solo runs in a bid to restore parity but both blazed wildly over the bar and things went from bad to worse for the visitors minutes later when they found themselves two down.

Home-grown winger Thompson tore past Nutter on the right wing and crossed for Carlton who was left in acres of space to turn the ball home from 10 yards.

Glenn Poole and Lee Matthews were then the men sent on to replace Hooper and Mawer and both performed admirably in difficult situations.

Poole, who give the side greater balance on the left, swung in a corner five minutes after the re-start that Stuart almost bundled over the line and the ex-Thurrock man went close himself when he fired over the bar after being released by Slabber.

But Grays still looked decidedly dodgy at the back and game was effectively over when Carlton’s corner picked out Bentley unmarked at the back post and the skipper made no mistake with a thumping volley.

Thurgood, who has picked up a first half booking and will be suspended for next week’s game versus Aldershot, was withdrawn to give Tom Williamson some game time ahead of that clash as both sides went through the motions in the final half hour.

Aaron McLean did come close to salvaging a consolation for the Blues when his fantastic header, from a Poole free-kick, drew an even better save out of Drench and it was a credit to Stimson that his players kept on trying until the final whistle.

But, a deflated Grays fan, driving the 275 miles back to Essex, hit the nail on the head on BBC Radio Five Lives’ phone-in when he said “Morecambe played us off the park today”. That they most certainly did.

Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report