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17.03.2007 @ 15:00 Broadhall Way Crowd: 3008
Stevenage Borough 2 - 1 a.e.t Grays Athletic
Referee: K Friend FA Trophy / Semi Final 2nd Leg-Match

Luke Oliver (97)
Steve Morrison (120)
Alex Rhodes (49)
Starting Line-ups
Alan Julian
John Nutter
Luke Oliver
Ronnie Henry
Mark Beard
Barry Fuller
Steve Guppy
Daryl McMahon
Mark Hughes
Jon Nurse
Steve Morison
Ashley Bayes
Andy Sambrook
Jamie Stuart
Cameron Mawer
Anthony Tonkin
Ashley Nicholls
Glenn Poole
Stuart Thurgood
Dennis Oli
Alex Rhodes
Pierre Joseph-Dubois
Danny Potter
Hasim Deen
Mitchell Cole
Craig Dobson
Jamie Slabber
Danny Knowles
Jay Smith
Tom Williamson
Anthony Barness
Ashley Barnes
Mitchell Cole -> Steve Guppy (61)
Craig Dobson -> Daryl McMahon (67)
Jamie Slabber -> Jon Nurse (82)
Ashley Barnes -> Cameron Mawer (61)
Yellow cards
None None
Red cards
None Stuart Thurgood (104)
Match report |
Grays put in the performance of the season in going down to Stevenage in the FA Trophy and came so close to winning place at the new Wembley.

Manager Justin Edinburgh selected a dynamic 4-3-3 formation with Oli, Rhodes and Dubois starting up front and the tactic came so close to reaping rich reward.

Stevenage continued where they left off at the New Rec with a solid strategy. But for a long time, it looked as if they had their eye on the final and not the ball.

The first half began with the pacy threesome dominating possession. Oli through the centre and Rhodes forcing down the right channel.

Rhodes went close in the 9th minute after Oli nodded on but he shot just wide.

With three in midfield, it is vital that someone can do the work of two men.

Stuart Thurgood was outstanding, spoiling Boro attacks and then releasing early for the attackers to create mayhem up front.

In the 16th minute Grays showed they could dominate from the left side as well. Glenn Poole ran from near the half way line to the box, releasing a shot that flew just over the bar.

Grays earned a series of corners which were drilled across by Thurgood. They may have come to nothing but Stevenage seemed to have no game plan and no gears to go up in.

But they did have Alan Julian in goal and his save in the 36th minute from a Poole pile driver was to be the key to the balance of this game.

Whatever Mark Stimson said at half time didn't work His players shuffled onto the pitch to polite encouragement, whereas the fantastic Blues traveling support kept the vocal support going all game.

Grays got their reward in the 49th minute when Tonkin released the ball on the left to Oli standing just midpoint outside the box. He guided his header left into the path of Rhodes who struck the ball past Julian.

Stevenage woke up a bit. Certainly Boro striker Morison did as shots in the 54th and 56th minute were turned over by the Bayes.

But Grays grew in confidence. A beautiful move in the 66th minute saw seven players and nine passes as the ball was taken from the left hand side, over to the right resulting in a Rhodes shot.

Thurgood was lucky not to see red when a two footed tackle in the 90th was punished by a yellow card given by referee Mr. Friend.

4-3-3 is hard to sustain in extra time and some players looked like they had given their all, but the Blues still tried hard to sustain their high tempo.

However in the 95th minute a Stevenage free kick from 30 yards out was deftly flicked on by Luke Oliver to equalise and put Boro ahead on aggregate.

This was the lifeline they needed and Boro took hold of the game. Thurgood had been a hero throughout the match, but in the 105th minute, a scything tackle got the skipper his second yellow and he saw red.

Down to ten men, Grays struggled to regain the initiative. Stevenage didn't do anything particularly outstanding but as was the pattern over the two games they really didn't an awful lot wrong.

With Grays putting everything into attack, Boro booked their ticket to the final when, in the final minute, Morison broke through to shoot past Bayes.

When the whistle blew the Blues looked down but far from out. They knew they had put on show an outstanding display of fresh, dynamic football.

After the game Edinburgh was in philosophical mood.

He said: "I have to applaud Alan Julian. He was the difference between the two teams. I couldn't ask anymore of the players. They were outstanding."

The boss wanted to focus on the future.

"I'm very optimistic. I'm starting to get the side playing the way I wanted. "We are eliminating the grey areas from our game. I'm looking forward to the run-in."

Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to The Thurrock Gazette for the report