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31.12.2005 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 1214
Grays Athletic 2 - 2 Stevenage Borough
Referee: M Harris Conference National-Match

Michael Kightly (16)
Michael Kightly (73)
Dino Maamria (77)
Jefferson Louis (88)
Starting Line-ups
Nicky Eyre
Andy Sambrook
John Nutter
Jamie Stuart
Joe Bruce
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Glenn Poole
Stuart Thurgood
Tony Battersby
Aaron McLean
Alan Julian
Michael Warner
Ronnie Henry
Justin Gregory
Robert Quinn
Dannie Bulman
George Boyd
Jon Nurse
Dino Maamria
Darryn Stamp
Jefferson Louis
Ashley Bayes
Ade Olayinka
Tom Williamson
Gary Hooper
Jamie Slabber
Matt Hocking
Shane Gore
Michael Brough
Daniel Williams
David Perpetuini
Gary Hooper -> Tony Battersby (45)
Daniel Williams -> Darryn Stamp (66)
David Perpetuini -> Justin Gregory (80)
Yellow cards
Stuart Thurgood (48)
Aaron McLean (84)
Justin Gregory (14)
Ronnie Henry (37)
Jon Nurse (56)
Robert Quinn (56)
David Perpetuini (83)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Defensive errors cost Grays for the second game in succession on Saturday when they threw away a two goal lead against promotion rivals Stevenage.

After the disappointing defeat at the hands of Canvey Island, Grays put in a much improved performance and should have had the three points to show for it after a Michael Kightly double had given them a deserved advantage.

But two Borough goals in the final 12 minutes ensured the points were shared and meant that Grays ended the most successful year in their history without having won a league game in the whole of December.

Indeed, their last league victory came against Stevenage on November 26 but boss, Mark Stimson, isn’t getting worried about his side’s form and says there were many positives to take out of Saturday’s draw.

”I’m a little disappointed with the result because I thought for 80 minutes we were fantastic,” he said. “We looked far the superior team and looked like we would go on and get a very good three points but a game lasts for 90 minutes and we have switched off twice and it has cost us.

”But overall I think I’ll be happy when I sit down and think about it because we played some good stuff and were getting back to the sort of form we were in six, seven weeks ago.”

Another big plus point for the Grays boss was return of striker Tony Battersby who completed the first 45 minutes after nearly four months out with a groin injury.

”To have him complete 45 minutes and perform really well was a big bonus for us. He gives us experience and he was solid today., held the ball up well and Aaron McLean up alongside him was outstanding him too. There was some good performances all round.”

Stimson made three changes from the side that lost to Canvey with Battersby and McLean replacing Dennis Oli and Jamie Slabber up-front and Andy Sambrook coming in for Lee Matthews with Joe Bruce moving into the centre of the defence.

Battersby’s ability to hold up play and pick out a pass was evident inside the first 30 seconds when he played in John Martin with a sublime pass that should have led to the opening goal.

Receiving the ball from Glenn Poole the big striker stepped across his man and slipped in Martin but the diminutive midfielder wasn’t to have the best of days in front of goal and he blasted his first of three glorious chances agonisingly wide of the post.

Stevenage midfielder Dino Maamria – playing his first game since he was sent off for pushing Sambrook into the advertising hoardings in November – then fires straight at Nicky Eyre after good play from Jefferson Louis and George Boyd lashed wide of goal as play swung from end to end.

Grays broke the deadlock mid-way through the half when, after seeing out a spell of Borough pressure, Martin lofted a long ball towards the speedy Kightly who shrugged off the attentions of Michael Warner, skipped past keeper, Alan Julian and rolled the ball into the empty net.

Battersby, who was playing his first game since the home game against Kidderminster on September 10, was taken off at half time and replaced by Gary Hooper who was preferred to birthday boy Jamie Slabber.

And the 17-year-old was straight into the thick of the action when he exchanged passes with Kightly to send the ex-Southend man clear down the right. The in-form winger scampered to the by-line and picked out Martin all alone in the box, but the midfielder missed his second gilt-edged chance of the game when he smashed his shot against the bar.

At the other end, Stevenage looked threatening as Dannie Bulman tested Eyre from distance and Boyd lashed a good chance over after a good knock down from Darryn Stamp.

Then Louis, who was making his debut for Borough, was denied a certain goal by his own player when his header, from a Bulman corner, was blocked on the goal line by Jon Nurse.

Stevenage boss, Graham Westley, threw Danny Williams on with nearly 25 minutes to go and reverted to three up front but his best paid plans looked to have gone to waste when mi9nutes later Grays added a second.

A half-cleared Poole corner eventually came to Martin at the back post and he managed to turn the ball back to Kightly who shot low through a crowd of players and past the unsighted Julian into the back of the net.

Martin then had the chance to put the game beyond any doubt when he flung himself at Kightly’s inch-perfect cross but his header was brilliantly palmed over from Julian and how vital that save proved to be.

Because just minutes later, Jamie Stuart misjudged the flight of a long ball forward and allowed Maamria to sneak in and fire past Eyre with real aplomb to start the unlikely comeback.

Louis almost equalised following an almighty scramble in the box but twice he had efforts blocked by a posse of Grays defenders and Williams couldn’t find the target when the ball eventually came to him at the edge of the box.

But Borough weren’t to be dnied and with two minutes left Warner made tracks up the right and crossed for Louis who out-jumped Bruce and powered his header past Eyre.

Unbelievably Stevenage could have won it in injury time when Nurse wriggled himself free in the area and fired at goal only for Eyre to make a top save with his legs and Bulman couldn’t convert the rebound from the edge of the box.

Grays too had a great chance to regain the lead during a pulsating five minutes of injury time when Poole’s corner found it’s way to Bruce whose thumping volley was turned acrobatically away by Julian.

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