Ashton's head wins day for Grays
The Blues travelled to Altrincham on Saturday and took all three Blue Square Premier points in a tense encounter.
Grays received an early wake up call after just two minutes when Alty's Warren Peyton put the ball in the back of the net at the far post, only to see the strike disallowed for offside.
It was Grays who took the initiative after this though with Charley Hearn causing the Altrincham defence some distress. And on 17 minutes a long throw from the right found Dany Kedwell who created some space to drill a half volley at goal which was well saved by Stuart Colburn.
Joe O'Neill was booked for Altrincham on 27 minutes for a late challenge but Alty fought back into the game and a cross from the right once again found Peyton at the back post who headed wide.
A minute later Kedwell popped up in the Altrincham box only to slice a volley to the left of the goal but shortly after Grays won a corner that everyone in the box missed.
Kedwell, Ben Watson and James Lawson were a contant thorn in Alty's side, the latter showing some assured touches on the right.
Although Ross Flitney fumbled a cross 10 minutes before half time, Lawson regained possession and took on two defenders only to swerve his shot the wrong side of the post.
Just before half time Kedwell turned in the area and drilled the ball against the near post, and despite the fact that Lawson finished neatly, the referee judged Ben Watson to be offside and iterfering with play so the goal did not stand.
The Blues came out in the second period where they left out, on the counter attack with Watson and Kedwell looking lively up front.
On 54 minutes they won a corner and Jon Ashton timed his run to perfection, rising high near the back post and headering the ball downwards past Colburn to make it 1-0.
Chris Lane was booked soon after for a bad tackle on Dennis Oli who had begun to frustrate the altrincham back line. Hearn then swung a free-kick into the area and another good header, this time by Kedwell, was excellently turned round the post by Colburn.
Kedwell picked up a loose ball from the resulting corner and after a hasty challeng the man in charge was quick to point to the spot. Stuart Colburn once again came to Alty's rescue diving low to his right to save the penalty.
Colin Little attempted a speculative half volley for altrincham with 15 minutes to go but Grays were keeping the ball well and looked in control.
Cooksey and Stuart looked solid at the back, despite the odd error, and substitute Aaron O'Connor was doing a fine job holding the ball up in attack.
With five minutes to go, Little couldn't reach a delicate through ball and kicked out at Jon Ashton in frustration, the ref showing the Alty forward a straight red for violent conduct.
A section of the 807 fans in attendace booed Altrincham off at the end but Grays boss Justin Edinburgh will be more than satisfied with the creativity shown by his side, especially the skill and determination shown by Lawson and Kedwell.
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report