Positive Grays out of luck
Former Grays boss Mark Stimson got one over his old club on Saturday but will still be scratching his head as to how his Stevenage side managed it.
Another former Blue Adam Miller netted Boroâ€™s winner during the hostsâ€™ only spell of dominance in the whole game shortly before half time.
Up until that point it would be fair to say that the two sides had cancelled each other out bu following the re-start there was only one team in it.
Grays absolutely pummelled Stevenage during a pulsating 45 minutes that recalled the panache and edge-of-the-seat style football that has become Bluesâ€™ trademark under Stimson.
The only thing lacking in their play was the finishing touch for had this been a boxing match Stevenage would have been sent back to their corner long before the final whistle sounded.
Indeed I would go so far as to say that the second half performance was the best Blues display since the FA Trophy final in May.
Chairman/manager Mick Woodward agreed: â€śI would say that probably was our best performance (of the season). We kept our attacking options out there like we did last year. Iâ€™m a great believer that the best form of defence is attack and that will be our policy.
â€ťA bit of naivety has cost us during the last 10 minutes of the first half but overall I thought we dominated the game. I can only say we are going in the right direction.
Close your eyes and it could have been this time last year. Glenn Poole was buzzing around the park, dispatching shot after shot, in a manner we became familiar with last year; the enigmatic Dennis Oli was ghosting past defenders like they were statues and, most pleasing of all, skipper Stuart Thurgood dominated the midfield.
All it took to shatter that perception, however, was a glance towards the home dug-out where Stimson sat presiding over his new team.
Stimson admitted afterwards that he was pleasantly surprised that there not more vitriol directed at him by the Blues fans who once adored him but there was certainly no shortage of noise from the pumped up away end. In fact, the travelling support was the only thing that kept me awake during a pretty dull opening half hour.
Stimson may feel he got off lightly but John Nutter, who spent two years at the New Rec before following Nutter to Stevenage in the summer, certainly did not. His every touch was greeted with a cacophony of boos and you can imagine the Graysâ€™ fans delight when Thurgood clattered into his former team-mate in the opening minutes, leaving Nutter dumped on his backside.
That incident pretty much summed up the opening half hour which was scrappy and disjointed with both side cancelling each other out.
One man who did stand out in the opening exchanges was George Boyd who was showing just why is attracting admiring glances from league clubs.
The talented youngster was causing the Blues back line problems with his subtle flicks and quick feet.
Jay Smith in particular found Boyd too much to handle and was booked for a late lunge on him which started Stevenageâ€™s only spell of domination in the whole game â€“ unfortunately for Grays that spell of pressure reaped the winner.
It must be said that Grays did not help themselves by gifting their opponentâ€™s free kicks on the edge of the box.
Adam Millerâ€™s free kick, following Smithâ€™s foul, was deflected past Ashley Bayes but hacked off the line by Jamie Stuart and then Ronnie Henry almost stabbed home Boydâ€™s free-kick after John Martin had committed a foul on the edge of the box.
Bayes then made a fantastic save to deny Boyd, who had been released by Jon Nurse before Miller made the breakthrough.
This time Jim Sangare was guilty of a mis-timed tackle on the edge of his box. Boydâ€™s free-kick ricocheted off the wall, deceiving Bayes, and Miller slammed the ball into the bottom corner.
Boyd could have doubled the hostsâ€™ lead seconds before the interval when he was played through by Bradley Johnson but his shot shaved the base of the post.
That was to be Stevenageâ€™s last chance of note because after that it was all Grays.
Poole and Oli switched wings after the re-start and the move had immediate effect.
Poole fired just wide from 25 yards and then forced a spectacular save out of Alan Julian after Jamie Stuart teed him up inside the box.
Justin Richards showed quick feet to manoeuvre some space for himself inside the area but couldnâ€™t beat Julian and Stuart nodded wide from Pooleâ€™s swinging free-kick as Grays poured on the pressure. Lee Boylan then blazed over from Thurgoodâ€™s cut back and Thurgood himself was inches away from netting with a crashing drive from the edge of the box.
But try and they might Grays could not find a way through and Stevenage rode out the storm to win a most undeserved three points.
Report by Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report