A worryingly lethargic and ruddlerless Grays Athletic were left pointless at Tamworth, going down 2-1 at The Lamb.
It had started so well as Grays defence contained Tamworth in the early exchanges as it appeared that they had picked up where they left off on tuesday.
Early exchanges went for Tamworth but the windy conditions not helping.
In the 6th minute, Gavin Hoyte’s challenge on Nick Wright gave the Lambs the first free kick of the game but the kick was easily shepherded away by Grays. A minute later Hoyte classily dispossesed Alex Rodman on the edge of the area.
Nick Wright then beat the offside trap and Preston Edwards did well with an unconventional header clear.
Grays opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a consummate piece of skill by Dean Morgan. 20 yards out he dummied and fooled two Tamworth players, shimmied into the area and stroked the ball past Danny Alcock.
Tamworth were momentarily shaken but in the 20th minute a similar moment of brilliance saw Bradley Pritchard twist and turn in the left side of the box before sliding the ball under Preston Edwards to equalise.
Grays really needed the virtually anonymous Sam Cutler and Paul Terry to step up to the mark but every pass was misplaced and their was a total lack of drive or impetus from the midfield.
Tamworth went into the lead in the 25th minute, as this time Jake Sheridan evaded a Cameron Mawer tackle to power the ball under Edwards and into the bottom corner of the net.
On the half hour, Graham had the chance to equalise as Slabber broke from the right, slid it to an unmarked Morgan. He was tackled, the ball spilled to Graham whose shot was scrambled off the line by Chris Smith.
Hoyte implored the players to buck their ideas up as Grays had disappeared from the game but the mistakes continued.
In the 40th minute Alex Rodman sprinted past the woeful Ronnie Bull, got to the dead ball line but his pull back was scrambled clear.
Grays had a half hearted appeal for a penalty dismissed as Slabber dived in the area
Morgan should have equalised on the stroke of half time when Terry’s pass split the defence but Morgan was pushed just wide enough by Alcock for the shot to be easily blocked for a corner.
Wright picked up where he left off in the second half bursting through but Edwards did well to gather the ball up.
Grays had reshuffled taking the ineffective Cutler off, putting Bull in midfield and Braham-Barrett into defence.
Grays won a free kick but as Morgan gathered it near the corner flag he received no help whatsoever.
The Lambs still hussled away winning first ball and snuffing out attacks and a lovely move involving the evergreen Blackwood and Sheridan down the left hand side illustrated the potency of Gary Mill’s squad.
Dean Morgan was substituted on the hour, holding his groin but receiving no treatment.
Tommy Black came on and produced a shot that whistled over the keeper.
Alex Rodman skipped several challenges in a fine 40 yard run in the 70th minute and a minute later produced a rasping shot that flew just wide.
Grays just couldn’t produce any fluency and looked like the relative strangers they were.
In the 73rd minute, Slabber’s rose high in the box but his header,like all Grays chances, was off target.
Daniel Charge should have done better in the 80th minute with a free header in the box but it went straight to Alcock.
Tamworth should have made it 3-1 but after great work by Rodman sub’s Lake-Gaskin shot was blocked on the lime by Hoyte.
It was the lack of commitment that was the most worrying aspect of this performance. It was as if some players were just saving themselves for something else.
There were players like Jamie Slabber who, once again, was putting in such a shift.
Sam Cutler has looked way out of his depth on both occasions as does Ronnie Bull. Why he has the captain’s armband is a mystery.
Paul Terry looks extremely semi-detached and needs to come to the party.
Dean Morgan is clearly a class apart but the fact that he has twice come off injured is a worry.
The team need time to bed in. They will be training on sunday but they will have to appreciate that time is short as is patience especially for the loyal fans who made the 300 mile round trip to see undercooked players lay down before The Lambs
P Edwards (6), K. Davis (6), C Mawer (6), G Hoyte (6), R Bull (4), S Long (5), P Terry (5), S Cutler (4) D Morgan (7) R Graham (7) J Slabber (8)
Subs: W Lumley, T Black, C Braham-Barrett, D Charge, S Mafoko
D Alcock R Tait C Smith M Wylde (36 M Blackwood) N MacKenzie N Wright A Rodman B Pritchard J Sheridan T Shaw M Briscoe
Subs: M Blackwood S Nicholson D Lyttle S Lake-Gaskin T Benjamin