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27.02.2007 @ 19:45 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 803
Grays Athletic 2 - 1 St. Albans City
Referee: S Creighton Conference National-Match

Dennis Oli (5)
Gavin Grant (86)
Leon Archer (10)
Starting Line-ups
Ashley Bayes
Jay Smith
Jamie Stuart
Cameron Mawer
Gavin Cowan
John Martin
Tom Williamson
Glenn Poole
Stuart Thurgood
Dennis Oli
Gavin Grant
Paul Bastock
Gary Elphick
Ahmed Deen
Chris Seeby
Patrick Ada
Matthew Hann
Tom Davis
Dean Cracknell
Lee Clarke
Simon Martin
Leon Archer
Ian Joyce
Abdou El-Kholti
Ben Harding
Dean Howell
Leroy Griffiths
Fally Basse
Ricky Perks
Chris Watters
Ranbir Marwa
Malik Buari
Leroy Griffiths -> Dennis Oli (46)
Ben Harding -> Tom Williamson (63)
Abdou El-Kholti -> Glenn Poole (90)
Ranbir Marwa -> Dean Cracknell (75)
Malik Buari -> Leon Archer (79)
Yellow cards
Stuart Thurgood (71)
Matthew Hann (41)
Gary Elphick (90)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
It took four months, four managers and whole lot of heartache, but Grays are finally able to celebrate a victory in the Nationwide Conference thanks to Gavin Grant's last gasp winner against St Albans at a distinctly damp New Rec on Tuesday.

But the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the home side who must wish they could play Saints every week - after all they were their last league victims way back on October 21 last year.

Grays boss Justin Edinburgh stuck with the 11 that had started against Welling United in Sunday's FA Trophy triumph, a rare piece of continuity in an unsettled season, and he was rewarded with a good start.

Grays had the better of the opening exchanges and they opened their account when Dennis Oli scored after five minutes, running onto the end of a through ball and moving past a couple of defenders before slotting it past oncoming keeper Paul Bastock.

However, sloppy defending allowed Saints back into the match with five minutes. Grays first conceded an unnecessary corner and when Matthew Hann put the ball in the box Leon archer headed goalwards and the ball threaded its way through a mixed-up defence into the net.

Grays responded well and created a couple of half chances but the next real threat on goal came in front of Blues keeper Ashley Bayes who did well getting down to his right to save from Hann, who had been put into a scoring position by a good ball from Tom Davis.

Bastock was called into action on 38 minutes when he turned a shot from Cameron Mawer round the post and the home side might have gone in with the half-time advantage when a good move, started by Stuart Thurgood who sprayed the ball out wide to Glenn Poole, ended when Grant got on the end of Poole's cross but his effort was blocked at the far post at the expense of a corner - which came to nothing.

Edinburgh made a change for the start of the second half, bringing on Leroy Griffiths for Dennis Oli.

St Albans came out of the traps slightly sharper but Grays quickly gained the initiative and began to force the visitors back with lengthy periods of sustained pressure.

However, they found the St Albans defence, which conceded six on their own turf when these two last met, in resolute mood.

Edinburgh made his second tactical switch on 63 minutes, introducing Ben Harding for Tom Williamson as his side continued to press.

After 67 minutes Griffiths made his mark with a turn and shot from the edge of the area that went just wide of the post.

Mawer then crossed from the right and Grant's header at the near post brought a good save from Bastock.

With six minutes to go another effort from Grant was deflected wide for a corner and it looked as if the Blues were going to be denied a win again.

But, three minutes from the end Grant chased down a ball over the top and outmuscled Patrick Ada and slotted past the Bastock as the keeper came off his line.

After that there was little ambition from Grays other than to play out time. Not surprisingly they kept the ball in the corners and a 90th minute substitution, Glenn Poole being replaced by Abdelhalim El Kholti, ate up another few seconds.

In the end they held out without further trouble and will now be hoping this victory is the catalyst for their long-awaited climb back up the table.

By Colin Munford
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report