Blue Square Premier
Altrincham2 v 0 Grays Athletic
You knew this was going to go down to the last week.
Back In August, Grays lost by two goals down in Weymouth. They ended the campaign in similar manner, losing 2-0 to Altrincham at the Moss Lane Stadium.
Goals by Colin Little in the 23rd and then sub Chris Denham in the 80th sealed Premiership football for Altrincham. Their celebrations after the game contrasted with a dejected Grays Athletic.
After the game, Gary Phillips directed the criticism towards the players. The players have never looked comfortable away from home all season apart from the period when Wayne Burnett got going: The draw against Carlisle, the away win at York. Burnett’s team carved out some “winning ugly” results.
Let us see how each player played in order to assess how Grays played and their chances of survival.
A good shot stopper. Kept Grays in the game when they went 4-2-4, especially in the 75th minute saving from point blank from sub Peyton. Kicking almost matched Steve Arnold. With Rob Beckwith injured as well, will be a key factor in the final week. In many ways, did not have that much to do.
An average game. Did not do enough to justifying dropping Sam Long, who was clearly the whipping boy for the Eastbourne defeat. Still being played out of position. Was left flat footed on a few occasions especially in the 65th minute when Alty’s striker, Chris Little looped the ball over Davis’ head in the box.
Has suffered greatly from a perceived pecking order strategy that has burdened the club. Let us hope he plays a pivotal part in Grays Athletic’s future.
With Fabian injured or rested (he didn’t move from underneath his bench jacket all day) these are not the ideal conditions to blood a young player. He looked as if he was learning as he went. Had a real challenge with Little and Doughty but did just about enough.
Did everything he could. Think about it. He had to nurture Ronnie Jones, he had a new keeper to develop some form of understanding. Jamie Stuart was an iconic rock as he cleared ball after ball. Sure his distribution often means the ball is simply punted upfield.
The biggest obstacle for Jamie Stuart came in the 23rd minute when on the edge of the box, he was about to clear when Stuart Elliott got in his way and let the ball fall to Colin Little who barged into the area and poked the ball past Lee Butcher.
As the team went 4-2-4 he popped up all over the pitch in a valiant attempt to get the team back in the game. Expect everything over the next two games to keep the team in the Premier.
The more you reflect, the more you think that the defence did not have that much to do. Beavan looks a class youngster but is clearly more at ease with Ishmael Welsh in front of him rather than a collection of strangers.
He tried and tried, he even got himself booked for ranting at the ref. Grays had countless number of corners but none of them threatened. Had the best and some say only chance of the game in the 36th minute when his close range header was tipped over the bar by keeper Stuart Coburn.
Life should be kept simple for Cogan. Play him on the right so he can do what he does best: Cutting in from the right, playing deft 1-2’s with the front men and striking it goalwards.
You tend to look at Stuart Elliott like a boxer who is at least six fights past his sell by date. A younger man needs to step in here now. You also know that is not going to happen and he will be there for the last two games. I don’t know what happened to the Player-Coach status as he doesn’t seem to have any real input here.
He seems to play in a bubble as illustrated by his dismissal at Oxford and in the 23rd minute here when it was clearly Jamie Stuart’s ball but walked into him.
To be fair, there are the odd interceptions and neat passes here and there but no creativity.
A game of two halves. Recently, Stuart has played like the Thurgood of old. He continued in the same vein for the first half as he hussled away, trying to link up play,
Thurgood disappeared in the second half as he simply couldn’t get himself in the game. It was as if all the changes caught up with him. Alternatively, no matter what he sent up field did not seem to produce anything.
This is a difficult one. Saw an awful lot of possession and was always always looking for the ball. He was always trying to create and became frustrated. He started on the right side of midfield but could not and would not track back, leaving Kenny Davis terribly exposed. Grays were lucky that this was not exploited by Altrincham.
Does Grays survival depend on an overweight loan player who won’t defend? Possibly.
Tried hard as he always has done since he returned but worryingly he didn’t seem to have any relationship or understanding with Jamie Taylor. Shielded the ball very well but needed more players running off him from midfield. If there was a Welsh, Thurgood, Davis and Cogan midfield then maybe. With Elliott and Black: no chance.
It might be harsh but perhaps Grays would be better suited to giving Hudson-Odoi a chance in his natural position.
Despite all the corners and free kicks never dominated at all. The impotency of the attack, without Pugh is a real worry.
His work rate and commitment since his return has been very impressive. He tried to get round the back, he tried to match giant defenders in the air but got very little change all game. Couldn’t forge an understanding with Slabber.
Rested as he is still something of an injury risk. Grays need him attacking the Ball Court End. Made an immediate impact but wasted possession and distribution and shots were poor.
Confident he will be in the zone come Tuesday and Sunday.
Again looked much more comfortable up front.
Seemed to have something about him. Needs to be on the bench next week.
So there we have it. Woking have one game left up at Rushden, who were thrashed 4-0 by Forest Green. Weymouth still look doomed. York’s win against Eastbourne seems to have secured their survival (they have Lewes and Weymouth this week). So, Lewes, Northwich for sure. Weymouth, barring a miracle and then in truth it is between Woking and Grays.
Glass Half Full: The home form has been tremendous and Grays attacking the Ball Court end can carve out the necessary points to stave off relegation.
Glass Half Empty
Crawley are a class apart from Grays and will despatch them with ease. Forest Green have top scorer Mangan who will end the season finding the back of the net.
Altrincham: Coburn, Smith, Welch, Young, Lane, Densmore, Wilkinson (Peyton 60), Danylyk, Doughty, Little (Denham 67), Johnson (O’Neill 71).
Subs Not Used: Acton, McGregor.
Goals: Little 23, Denham 80.
Grays Athletic: Butcher, Davis, Stuart, Jones, Beavan, Black (Welsh 58), Thurgood, Cogan, Elliott (Hudson-Odoi 68), Taylor, Slabber (Sweeney 84).
Subs Not Used: Long, Wilnis.
Booked: Beavan, Thurgood, Cogan.
Ref: R Fletcher (Derbyshire).