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.
â€ťI 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,â€ť said McLean afterwards. â€śI noticed the crowd booing every time I touched the ball but I take that as a compliment because they donâ€™t boo bad players. To be honest, Iâ€™m just pleased that we got back to winning ways.â€ť
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 wasnâ€™t fit to play on.
Due to a problem with Yorkâ€™s drainage system, a large rectangular section of the field between the penalty box and touchline, was flooded and despite the grounds manâ€™s efforts to sand the area, Mr Matador still didnâ€™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 hadnâ€™t even had time to train together â€“ let alone play alongside each other â€“ 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 couldnâ€™t be blamed for Yorkâ€™s opener which was as good a goal you will see all yea.
Scottish striker Joe Oâ€™Neil, latched onto Clayton Donaldsonâ€™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 Bayesâ€™ 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 Oâ€™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 Thurgoodâ€™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 Nâ€™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 Donaldsonâ€™s mis-hit cross only for it to fall invitingly to Nâ€™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 Nâ€™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 backâ€™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: â€śAaron gives you a hell of a lot with his game. Heâ€™s probably be the first person to say he would like to score more goals and itâ€™s something weâ€™re working on everyday in training and heâ€™s getting better and better at it.
â€ťHe 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. Heâ€™s young, heâ€™s enthusiastic and heâ€™s got a great passion to play for Grays.â€ť
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to The Thurrock Gazette for the report