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26.12.2006 @ 15:00 The Glyn Hopkin Stadium Crowd: 1855
Dagenham & Redbridge 0 - 0 Grays Athletic
Referee: G Ward Conference National-Match

None None
Starting Line-ups
Tony Roberts
Danny Foster
Scott Griffiths
Shane Blackett
Jake Leberl
Sam Sloma
Glen Southam
David Rainford
Sam Saunders
Craig Mackail-Smith
Paul Benson
Ashley Bayes
Andy Sambrook
Ronnie Bull
Jamie Stuart
Sheku Kamara
Charlie Comyn-Platt
John Martin
Tom Williamson
Ashley Nicholls
Lee Boylan
Matt Bodkin
David Hogan
Tim Cole
Paolo Vernazza
Bamass Lettejallon
Cliff Akurang
Danny Knowles
Djoumin Sangare
Glenn Poole
John Turner
Justin Richards
Cliff Akurang -> Sam Sloma (77) Glenn Poole -> John Martin (72)
John Turner -> Lee Boylan (75)
Yellow cards
Craig Mackail-Smith (37) Sheku Kamara (19)
Ronnie Bull (39)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Grays ground out a well-deserved point in an entertaining Boxing Day derby at promotion hopefuls Dagenham & Redbridge.

Blues have now gone three games unbeaten for the first time since the start of September and it's clear that slowly and surely new boss Andy King is putting his stamp on the side.

King has been hamstrung by a lengthy injury list since his appointment in November and was again without a host of influential faces for the clash with the Daggers including Stuart Thurgood and Dennis Oli.

But the players are clearly rallying around the new man in charge and are putting in performances that may lack the verve and excitement of 12 months ago but are at least grinding out results.

And a draw was no less than they deserved against the high-flying Daggers who were frustrated by an ever-improving Grays back line that, bar a five minute spell shortly after the interval, was rock solid throughout.

Blues lacked a real cutting edge at the opposite end but had two great chances to win it late on through birthday boy Ronnie Bull and Ashley Nicholls only to be denied by last-gasp interventions from Shane Blackett and Tony Roberts respectively.

Bull, celebrating his 26th birthday, said: "I thought we had a good couple of chances but we would have taken a point beforehand. They are flying at the moment and we knew it would be a tough place to come.

"I probably should have scored at the end. I was thinking whether or not to blast it but thought if I did it would be going down the A13 so I tried to place it. I thought it was in at first and had turned around to celebrate but it looked like it hit the defender's heel at the last second."

King made two changes from the side that beat Weymouth in the FA Trophy last time out with new signing Matt Bodkin replacing Justin Richards up front.

The former Welling United forward partnered Lee Boylan who returned for Danny Cadamarteri.

As you would expect from a derby, the game began in frantic fashion with plenty of tackles flying around but little in the way of goalmouth action Blues had the first shot in anger when Bodkin nodded down for Boylan but the fit-again striker could only fizz his shot wide.

Peterborough-bound Dagger Craig Mackail-Smith replied in kind at the other end when he linked well with Paul Benson and stung the hands of Ashley Bayes in the Grays goal.

Mackail-Smith's effort apart, however, Grays were dealing fairly comfortably with the Daggers threat and, if anything, looked the better of the two sides during the opening exchanges.

Bodkin, who started alongside Boylan, was showing up well, particularly on the right where he was causing full back Scott Griffiths plenty of problems while Ashley Nicholls, used sparingly in recent months, was showing some of his early season form.

But the hosts, who began the day second in the table, started to force their way back into the game though they were restricted to shots from distance.

The unlikely figure of Andy Sambrook - once again starting in midfield - almost put Blues in front just past the half hour mark when he latched on to a quick free kick from Boylan only to be thwarted by a splendid tackle from Danny Foster just as he threatened to go clean through.

Daggers responded by finishing the half on top but, despite the enthusiastic running of Benson and Mackail-Smith, failed to create any clear-cut chances.

That all changed within five minutes of the re-start when Bayes was called upon to make two fine saves in the space of 60 seconds.

First he spared Nicholls' blushes with a great block to deny Benson who had latched on to a weak header from the Grays midfielder.

But Blues failed to clear their lines and Sheku Kamara allowed Benson to get to the by-line and cross for Sam Saunders whose shot was blocked impressively by the legs of Bayes.

Former Thurrock wide-man Sam Sloma twice went close with well-controlled volleys from the edge of the box as Daggers cranked up the pressure and Bayes almost undid all his good work by spilling Saunders' 40-yard daisy-cutter.

The impressive Benson went close again when he flashed a header wide after Griffiths skipped past Bodkin and whipped in a wonderful left-footed cross that was just begging to be headed home.

But Grays soaked up the Dagenham pressure and responded with a spell of their own in which Ronnie Bull really should have put the visitors ahead.

Nicholls showed great footwork to get to the by-line and rolled the ball right across the box for Bull whose shot looked bound for the back of the net until it clipped the heels of Shane Blackett and went behind for a corner.

Nicholls went close himself 10 minutes from time when his acrobatic bicycle kick produced a smart stop from veteran Daggers stopper Tony Roberts after Bull's free kick was half cleared by Jake Leberle.

Both managers made attacking substitutions in a bid to win the game - King bringing on Glenn Poole and John Turner and his opposite number John Still throwing on Cliff Akurang - but neither side could find a way through as both defences held firm.

Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.