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25.11.2006 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 725
Grays Athletic 1 - 1 Altrincham
Referee: C Evans Conference National-Match

Dennis Oli (67)
Val Owen (23)
Starting Line-ups
Ashley Bayes
Jay Smith
Adam Green
Jamie Stuart
Charlie Comyn-Platt
John Martin
Glenn Poole
Stuart Thurgood
Dennis Oli
Lee Boylan
Justin Richards
Stuart Coburn
Stephen Aspinall
Karl Munroe
Stephen Rose
Gary Scott
Robbie Lawton
Val Owen
Steve Bushell
Warren Peyton
Lewis Chalmers
Colin Little
Danny Knowles
Djoumin Sangare
Tom Williamson
Ashley Nicholls
John Turner
Colin Potts
Patrick McFadden
Joe O'Neil
Rod Thornley
Peter Thompson
John Turner -> Lee Boylan (62)
Tom Williamson -> John Martin (80)
Joe O'Neil -> Gary Scott (78)
Peter Thompson -> Colin Little (90)
Yellow cards
Adam Green (59)
Stuart Thurgood (72)
Gary Scott (13)
Colin Little (48)
Stephen Rose (52)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Dennis Oli's first goal since last season's FA Trophy final saved new boss Andy King from marking the start of his Grays career with defeat.

King had less than 48 hours to make his mark on Blues after getting an unexpected job offer from chairman Mick Woodward on Wednesday evening and he admitted the team he sent out was based on the recommendations of his coaching staff

"I've only had 48 hours and I did not know anyone," said King. "I was working under a little bit of advice from people who know the club far better than me but we didn't lose. I don't like losing football matches. I suppose Altrincham at home is a game you expect to win but what I've done is had a massive learning curve since I arrived.

"I came in on Thursday and it was deadline day, which I didn't know and that made it an unbelievably hectic day. Then I had Friday and you can't touch a lot then. So, I had not seen enough to make a decision on who I would play. I was hoping we would pinch a result and then I would see enough in the game to start changing things the way I want to."

King's pick or not, the Grays players certainly picked up for the new man in charge with Oli in particular turning on the style for his new boss.

An impressive debut from centre back Charlie Comyn-Platt and Stuart Thurgood's gradual return to something like his imperious form of last season were also big plusses for Blues.

But Grays' performance was not just down to King's presence on the touchline, however, as credit must go to Altrincham who were determined to spoil the beginning of the King era and forced the hosts to up their game.

Val Owen had given the visitors a shock first half lead and the part-timers defended valiantly until Oli finally levelled the scores in the 66th minute.

The Grays players started out keen to impress their new boss and could have been ahead inside the first two minutes.

The lively Oli was given far too much time to pick out a cross but Lee Boylan could not make the visitors pay and headed straight at Steve Coburn albeit from a difficult angle.

Boylan's strike partner Justin Richards could not pin the blame on angles minutes later however when he missed a gilt-edged header to bag his first Blues goal.

Again it was Dennis Oli who was the creator, gliding past Gary Scott on the right touch line before whipping in a wonderful cross for Richards.

But, from no more than eight yards out, Richards could not find a way past Coburn who clawed his header away. Glenn Poole was the first to react to the rebound but his half-volley was blocked well by Karl Munroe.

The hosts continued to dominate but could not turn possession into goals with Richards going close again with a shot on the turn that was blocked by Coburn's legs.

So it was something of a shock when, with their first attack of the game, the Robins took the lead.

Oli, who had been so dangerous going forward, proved to be less impressive going the other way and was robbed by Owen on the edge of the Blues box after a flaky attempt to shield the ball.

Owen, who is not renowned for his goalscoring expertise, immediately let fly and his left-footed drive caught Ashley Bayes by surprise and nestled in the bottom corner - the former Halifax's man first goal for Alty in the Conference.

The goal rocked Grays who had been in total command of the game while their visitors visibly grew in confidence.

Indeed they could have doubled their advantage shortly before the interval when Lewis Chalmers's huge throw into the box was horribly mis-judged by Jamie Stuart forcing Bayes to make an instinctive tip-over to deny Colin Little.

Grays should have been level five minutes after the re-start when Boylan got the run on his marker to meet Poole's corner but glanced wide when it seemed easier to hit the target.

Oli was the next to miss a golden chance when, after a lovely flowing move involving Adam Green and Richards, he got in behind Scott but with just Coburn to beat dragged his shot horribly wide.

But Oli made amends five minutes later when, following an almost carbon copy move, he scampered onto Richards through ball and slotted past Coburn with a confidence that belied his chronic lack of goals this season.

Richards and Oli combined again 10 minutes later when Oli's right wing cross picked out the Peterborough loanee but his stooping header clattered against the post.

Altrincham continued to pose a threat of their own as well though and Little almost put an upset back on the cards when he battled his way past two Grays defenders only to blaze over the bar.

By Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.