A 4-0 HUMILIATION at the Pirelli Stadium by Burton Albion saw Grays still stuck in the relegation mire with seven games to go.
The result leaves things as they were: three points behind Weymouth and still above Woking and Ebbsfleet.
Teams find it very difficult to adapt to the bobbly surface. Middling teams such as Altrincham and Mansfield became frustrated and didn’t raise their game. Grays enjoy the rhythm of the home games especially in the second half as they attack the ball court end.
Histon, Oxford and Burton are simply three to four goals better on paper than Grays and proved it on the pitch.
Kettering stood off Grays and Torquay did not play well.
The results against Forest Green and Barrow were draws by teams also in the same position.
The result against Burton wasn’t about application or falling asleep etc, it was simply about ability. Lee Morris is faster than Jamie Stuart and was able to latch onto the through ball in the 2nd minute to round Rob Beckwith and score.
Burton under Roy MacFarland have been a mid-table team but got their confidence back with an away win at Eastbourne. The opening goal with the wind at their backs was just the boost they needed.
While they stroked the ball around, Grays huffed and puffed. It was a total mis-match to pit the spent forces of Stuart Elliott and Tommy Black against the power skill and energy of The Brewers’ midfield.
In the 16th minute, Fabian Wilnis fouled Lee Morris on the edge of the box. John McGrath curled the ball beautifully around the Blues wall and into the net.
It now became a training game as Burton sensing League Two was now in touching distance totally dictated the game.
Every Grays attack ended with an unforced error that sapped the teams confidence and morale. It did not help the diminutive Taylor and Pugh that high balls kept being thumped up to them.
The match was sealed in the 22nd minute when Lee Morris turned “Cruyff-like” on the edge of the box, completely fooling Kenny Davis and easing the ball past Rob Beckwith.
Grays made the changes taking off Bradley Hudson-Odoi and Tommy Black (who screamed a highly audible: “What?”) for Ishmael Welsh and Sam Long.
Welsh returned in fine form and his ability to attack the flank back at Bridge Road will be the difference between survival and relegation. Sam Long looked a class apart and it is vital that this lad should be given the right back berth for the next seven games.
There were people having good games: George Beavan played well at left back and Barry Cogan tried to keep things going.
Grays consolidated in the second half with the bitter wind now at their backs. By this time, Burton put all their subs on including ex-Hammer Greg Pearson illustrating the strength in depth they possessed.
Worryingly, Rob Beckwith picked up a knock on the hour which he did well to hide but with no keeper on the bench left him vulnerable. The final goal in the 84th minute saw good work on the left by Keith Gilroy, he chipped the ball towards the left hand side of the goal and Beckwith fumbled it into the goal.
Grays had a few chances but seemed to want to pinball the ball into the box hoping for a lucky break.
Kenny Davis was substituted. To the fans he has become the “Sam Sloma” of the month.
Eyes now turn to Weymouth playing today (Sunday) and Woking on Monday.
Grays now have five out of seven games at home, which is vital. They are now done with the top teams and can concentrate on those carving out those points.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report