Super Danny double dumps Droylsden live on Setanta on night when tragic teens were remembered
A DANNY Kedwell double helped Grays repel a stubborn Droylsden in a lively 3-1 victory at the New Rec on Thursday evening.
Many had wondered how attractive this live game on Setanta television would be with the Bloods almost relegated and Grays in mid-table obscurity.
However, both teams came out with only entertainment on their minds as the game slipped into a frenetic pace.
In the first minute a slick passing move ended with Scott Taylor's shot whistling over the bar.
Neil McCafferty took off where he left off on Saturday, marshalling the game from in front of the back four but it was the acres of space up front that had many convinced Grays could get a hatful of goals if they could find the target.
Danny Kedwell could sense this and fans also sensed they were in for a treat of herculean football that has been his trademark ever since the Salisbury game in November.
In the seventh minute, he fended off two aggressive challenges in midfield before delivering a beautiful curling ball down the left to the increasingly influential Marlon Patersson whose shot curled just past the post.
A minute later Kedwell slipped a ball through to Aaron O'Connor who looped the ball onto the top of the net.
In the 10th minute, Grays produced what is unquestionably their goal of the season.
Adam Gross picked up the ball on the left, he passed through to the agile Scott Taylor who produced a sublime reverse ball to Patersson. In turn he whipped a cross over to the marauding Kedwell who volleyed the ball home past the flailing Paul Phillips.
The floodgates should have opened but against the run of play, the Bloods equalised two minutes later when the lively Dale Johnson latched onto a Lee Roche cross to fire home.
The game began to to and fro. Stuart Thurgood and Neil McCafferty threw in a series of well-flighted balls while Conall Murtagh and Dale Johnston gave the Grays defence plenty to think about.
Patterson, Gross and Taylor produced some fine triangle work down the left while in the 26th minute Greg Strong produced a fine last ditch tackle to prevent Thurgood marauding through Unfortunately, McCafferty was stretchered off in the 28th minute after a wretched challenge from Levi Mackin.
McCafferty's presence of mind and timing have been absolutely key in the last few games and it was no surprise that although Michael Standing came on, the team completely lost its shape and focus.
The chances still came. In the 34th minute Patterson found space in the area focred the ball across to O'Connor who was adjudged to have controlled the ball with his hand. A minute later Gross fired a ball across the area but no-one could connect.
Droylsden went on the attack but it broke down. Standing led the counter with options aplenty including O'Connor free on the right but he turned into Droyslden players and the move broke down.
The crowd were becoming restless as the avalanche of goals didn't materialise as the players went in for half time.
Half-time saw the crowd entertained by a penalty competition by the under 8s. Some fine examples of penalty taking and a few Chimbonda's but well done to Jake and Jamie who won their respective categories.
Droylsden brought on Ashley Burbeary who immediately added extra edge to the midfield.
Grays on the other hand had switched off. Simon Downer and O'Connor simply don't have the same understanding as the left flank. It was a question of whether Droyslden could exploit the fact.
In the 51st minute Grays were very fortunate not to not have a penalty awarded against them when Downer cut down a Droylsden attacker in the box.
Jamie Taylor came on for namesake Scott but the team had lost its rhythm. The voluble coaching staff began to go as quiet as they did at Kidderminster, just at the very time that players need not stock phrases but tangible ideas.
If they couldn't help then only one man could.
In the 62nd minute, Thurgood passed to Kedwell and from 25 yards he released a thundering shot that dipped under keeper Phillips into the net.
Kedwell went to the fans with delight. He couldn't have picked a better shop window in which to score a double. Onlooking Aldershot boss Gary Waddock may well have noticed.
Droyslden weren't beaten. In the 67th minute they produced a fine double save from Nicky Eyre who had quietly kept his team in the game.
Jamie Taylor was once again working hard. In the 80th minute he intercepted a pass back, scooped the ball over the keeper only to see it hit the bar.
The game was wrapped up in the 86th minute when sub Barry Cogan dribbled into the box had one shot foiled, got the ball back, played a neat piece of keepie-uppie before firing it into the net off the diving Burbeary.
After the match, boss Mike Woodward reflected on a difficult game He said: "Much respect to Droylsden. They came here without fear and really gave us a game.
"It was a superb double strike by Danny whose fitness and dedication are second to none.
"The defence looked a bit nervous tonight. They could be victims of their own success. We will need to be on our toes to match Histon on Monday."
Bill Shankly once said that football wasn't a matter of life and death, it was much more important than that. After he prematurely retired, Shankly became a forlorn figure standing from afar watching Liverpool train before dying of a broken heart.
Shankly got it absolutely wrong.
To reinfoce that view, this game was dedicated to the memory of Stifford Clays teenager Katie Johnson who died in a car accident on the A13 last month along with Georgia Hammond from Purfleet.
Katie's dad, Brian is coach of the Grays Under-8 Tigers. The lads played a 5-a-side before the game. While Brian and his two children led the teams out before relasing a balloon dedicated to "The Pink Princess" into the cold night air. As it was live on Setanta many of her relatives across the country could see the special poignant moment.
After the game Brian said: "It has been a very special day. We have been to Shaw Primary in South Ockendon (Katie's old school) for a day of celebration. Tonight has been very special. I would like to thank Mike Woodward and all at Grays and Linzie Roberts-Egan and all at Shaw Primary."
Anyone who has the pleasure in meeting Brian Johnson will be moved by the grace,strength and dignity of the man as well as the warmth of his family.
Danny Kedwell was a great man on the pitch tonight but Brian Johnson was the man we should all pay our greatest tributes to.
By Michael Casey
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report