3 October 2006.
Grays Athletic (a)
On the Road with Jim Tucker
Wednesday 3 October 2006
Grays Athletic 2 Exeter City 2
Another Tuesday night, another away game, and this time it's through the Dartford Tunnel and into deepest Essex. Not everyone's favourite place, Grays, if only because of our shocking record there, but the locals seem largely apathetic. Outside the ground, you would hardly know there was a match on. None of my sons can make it, but I have for company, my sister-in-law and we take our place behind the goal with around 150 hardy souls there to support the Grecians.
It was typical October, pitch a bit greasy after earlier rain, the surface fairly fast, but as the teams came out the clouds cleared and the moon lit up the sky. Nor was it all that cold. Once again, City fans showed respect for their hosts, as you could hear a pin drop during a silence held for an old-time stalwart of Grays who had just passed away. us,
City kicked off defending the goal in front of an unusual line-up with a defence having neither Chris Todd nor Rob Edwards. Jon Richardson and Danny Seaborne were entrusted with the not insignificant job of containing some of the most exciting strike players in the non-League game. Almost immediately the benefit of a closely-knit squad became clear, as City's sense of organisation and mutual purpose suffered hardly at all from the changes.
Seaborne was soon in action clearing an early Grays move, then Billy Jones won a free kick out left, from which Andy Taylor's effort was blocked by the home wall. Early attacking attempts from the City came to nothing, then Jamie Slabber for Grays put the game's first shot wide. When Jon Challinor was fouled, Seaborne stepped up to cross the dead ball, but Lee Phillips couldn't get his head to it.
The early pattern was one which had Grays doing the more organised attacking, but the City defence coping well, thanks to a coolness and organisation which has been rediscovered this season. After Rico broke up one attack at the expense of a corner, we had a fright, when Aaron Mclean picked up the loose ball and smacked it on to the inside of Ricey's right-hand post, but luckily it curled away to safety. City were trying hard to get going up front, with no lack of effort from strikers or midfielders. Stansfield was crowded out, a move involving Taylor and Buckle broke down, and Challinor-having a good first half-made some promising runs.
But Grays were undeniably having the better of it at this stage, and not until the half hour mark, announced by a firework rocket, did Andy Taylor get in our first shot. "Rocket" was not the word to describe that one though, and the evergreen Ashley Bayes dealt with it easily. But the City defence was doing well, keeping their eyes on the ball all the fime, and blocking what Grays had to offer before it became firm chances. The City keeper also made a couple of good
saves, and Taylor popped up at the back post to clear the ball after a dubious corner led to some head tennis. But 5 minutes or so before the break it was City who showed how to take their chances. It started on the left, Lee Phillips fed Challinor in the centre, and Jon took the ball to the right before planting it in the corner of Bayes's goal. Grays wasted a couple off half chances, Dennis Oli shooting wide, then Stansfield almost put the City fans in dream land before his shot was blocked.
City one up at half-time, that had to feel good against our record at Grays. After all, we had never before been in front. up there! And with the team attacking the end where we travelling supporters were, we felt quietly optimistic. Sadly, that lasted barely 5 minutes. Billy Jones seemed to give his man too much room, and the cross picked out Slabber for a comfortable headed equaliser.
Grays with their tails up is something to be avoided, so the defence had to dig in to stop the home side getting on top, and they did just that. Patrick Ada, who replaced the injured Seaborne at the break, fitted in well and showed that we now have strength right through the squad, when he dispossessed the ever- dangerous Mclean like a veteran. And by the hour, we were back in it, with the midfield busy, and combining well. We were also treated to one of those wonderful surging runs into the box by Woodards, but Bayes was able to beat out Danny's shot. This was now a really entertaining game, both sides going for a winner. Ada almost put Stansfield through, then Adam set up Lee Phillips to net, only to be pulled back for handball. But our weakness down the Grays right caught City out again. With less than 10 minutes remaining, another deep cross found Mclean, who made no mistake. This was a cruel blow, as for one felt that City were more likely to score. But, as when Phillips couldn't quite play Matty Gill in, the ball just would not run for them.
On came Moxey and Mackie for Stansfield and Buckle, and as the minutes ticked by, the resilience of the boys - making a rare away appearance in red and white was there for all to see, as we put the home side under more and more pressure. Ada had a terrific run and shot, just as Woodards had. The home side resorted to time-wasting, but they couldn't stop a furious climax to the game as City went for the equaliser they surely deserved. And into stoppage time, the ball fizzed over from the right, Phillips touched it on, and suddenly Billy Jones had half the area to himself. And he rifled it, first time, back into the opposite corner of the net. Cue delirium!!!
Regular readers will know I haven't seen a win yet, but this was far and away the best City performance that I have been at this season. Determination hard work, a refusal to give up, I was proud to be a City fan this time. We seem to building slowly, and I reckon that is better than starting quickly and going off a like a damp squib. know will see them win soon.
Grays Athletic 2 Exeter City 2.
Tuesday 3 October 2006.
Referee Steve Tomlinson
Grays Athletic: Bayes, Stuart, Sangare, Smith, Kightly, Nicholls, Sambrook, Oli (Poole 75), Williamson, McLean, Slabber (Boylan 81).
Subs Not Used: Knowles, Green, Martin.
Goals: Slabber 52, McLean 79.
Exeter: Rice, Woodards, Richardson, Seaborne (Ada 45), Billy Jones, Challinor, Gill, Buckle (Mackie 82), Taylor, Phillips, Stansfield (Moxey 82).
Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Clay.
Goals: Challinor 39, Billy Jones 90.