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21.01.2006 @ 15:00 KitKat Crescent Crowd: 2461
York City 1 - 2 Grays Athletic
Referee: M Matadar Conference National-Match

Joe O'Neil (5) Aaron McLean (30)
Aaron McLean (89)
Starting Line-ups
Chris Porter
Darren Craddock
James Dudgeon
Mark Hotte
Dave Merris
Emmanuel Panther
Mark Convery
Darren Dunning
Clayton Donaldson
Joe O'Neil
Tcham N'Toya
Ashley Bayes
Andy Sambrook
Brett Johnson
Christian Hanson
Andy Edwards
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Stuart Thurgood
Gary Hooper
Tony Battersby
Aaron McLean
Leo Bertos
Byron Webster
Nathan Pleat
Aaron Reid
Levent Yalcin
Nicky Eyre
John Nutter
Cameron Mawer
Tom Williamson
Jamie Slabber
Levent Yalcin -> Mark Convery (88) Tom Williamson -> Michael Kightly (50)
Jamie Slabber -> Tony Battersby (57)
Yellow cards
Darren Craddock (7)
Darren Dunning (82)
Aaron McLean (13)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Grays got their promotion big back on track on Saturday with a dramatic late winner at play-off rivals York City.

A brace from the in-form Aaron McLean, helped Blues recover from an early deficit and sealed their first league win since November 26 when they defeated Stevenage at Broadhall Way.

McLean, who was incessantly booed following an early clash with York defender, Darren Craddock, silenced the home fans in the 88th minute when he capitalised on a defensive mistake to score a fine individual winner.

The 22-year-old has now scored three goals in his last two games and is beginning to prove to everyone that he has what it takes to become a regular scorer.

”I get a look of stick for not scoring enough goals so it was great to score twice and help us to a much-needed win,” said McLean afterwards. “I noticed the crowd booing every time I touched the ball but I take that as a compliment because they don’t boo bad players. To be honest, I’m just pleased that we got back to winning ways.”

Grays went into the game knowing they needed to arrest the decline in their league form but were nearly denied the chance to play at all when, after a lunch-time pitch inspection, referee, Mr Mo Matador decided the pitch wasn’t fit to play on.

Due to a problem with York’s drainage system, a large rectangular section of the field between the penalty box and touchline, was flooded and despite the grounds man’s efforts to sand the area, Mr Matador still didn’t think it would be safe for the players.

Eventually, after a lot more sand was added to the area, it was agreed the pitch was playable and the game went ahead.

Grays handed debuts to new defenders Brett Johnson and Andy Edwards, who played at left back and centre back respectively, while Christian Hanson made his league debut also in the back four.

Given that the new defensive quartet hadn’t even had time to train together – let alone play alongside each other – it was no surprise that they took time to bed in as a unit and York looked particularly threatening early on.

But, as the game progressed, all three players grew in stature. Though they struggled to gel initially they couldn’t be blamed for York’s opener which was as good a goal you will see all yea.

Scottish striker Joe O’Neil, latched onto Clayton Donaldson’s flick before spectacularly volleying over Ashley Bayes from 25 yards.

At first the strike seemed to be sailing over the bar, but it dipped viciously at the last second and flew above Bayes’ hands and into the back of the net.

Bayes then made an equally spectacular save shortly after to prevent the hosts from doubling their lead. A long ball was flicked on by O’Neil and met by Donaldson at the far post who seemed certain to score until Bayes flung himself across goal and, a la Gordon Banks, scooped the ball clear.

York certainly dominated the early exchanges with Grays struggling to keep hold of the ball for more than a few passes, but once Stuart Thurgood began to get a foothold in the game, the visitors clawed their way into contention.

And they equalised with their first real effort on goal when Thurgood’s corner found Tony Battersby at the back post and his hook back across goal was headed in by McLean.

Blues were almost caught out seconds after the re-start when Minstermen debutant, Tcham N’Toya, set Mark Convery free in the box and his low shot was beaten away by Bayes. The rebound fell to Donaldson who blazed wide.

Bayes was called into action again two minutes later when he was forced to punch clear Donaldson’s mis-hit cross only for it to fall invitingly to N’Toya. But the man who York signed from Chesterfield earlier in the week, fired his effort straight at Bayes.

At the other end, McLean had a good chance to give his side the lead when he collected a cute pass from Gary Hooper but his first touch took him too wide and he fired over from an acute angle.

The pudding of the pitch then came to the aid of the visitors when it slowed down N’Toya as he raced towards goal and forced him into rushing his shot which he dragged across goal from a good position.

The game destined for a 1-1 draw until City defender, James Dudgeon, made the fatal error, allowing McLean to nick the ball away from him and surge towards goal.

The centre back’s poor first touch, just inside his own half, allowed McLean to nick the ball away from him and surge towards goal.

The ex-Aldershot man had an awful lot to do as he sped towards goal attempting to negotiate the sponge-like pitch. But his pace burned off the pursuing defenders and as keeper, Chris Porter, came out to deny him, McLean coolly dinked the ball over him and into the net.

Boss Mark Stimson said: “Aaron gives you a hell of a lot with his game. He’s probably be the first person to say he would like to score more goals and it’s something we’re working on everyday in training and he’s getting better and better at it.

”He demonstrated that with the composure he showed to score the winner. Three months ago he would have probably blasted the ball over in that position and knocked down the stand behind the goal. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic and he’s got a great passion to play for Grays.”

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