WE said keep the faith and the fans faith was restored with a tough uncompromising 2-0 victory against much-fancied Cambridge United.
The U’s were a pale shadow of the team that steamrollered Grays last year and have appeared at Wembley two years in a row,
Grays set out their stall from the start. Butcher was dropped and Edwards rightly restored. McEvilly’s name was on the team sheet but he did not appear (Obersteller was there).
Grays played five midfielders across the park and over the 90 minutes each one grew into this role. They developed a sense of when to make the breaking role and when to hang back, Daryl Robson especially grew into his role.
In the 6th minute, Richard Graham swept the ball wide left to Glen Poole whose shot flashed across the goal and really buoyed Grays as they continued to close The U’s down.
But for all Grays work, the U’s slowly got themselves in the game. In the 26th minute, U’s gained a free kick after good build up play. Courtney Pitt’s sharply curling ball just missed Edward’s right post and the U’s goal seemed inevitable.
In the 31st minute Grays won a corner after good work from Braham-Barrett. Poole’s deep corner found the head of Uddin but he could only direct it straight at keeper Danny Potter.
Edwards parried a close range shot from Holroyd and that was soon followed by another chance from Pitt.
Edwards had another great game and it is so important that he is given the assurance of the goalies jersey.
The game was being played at a high tempo but once again players like Craig Braham-Barrett wasted possession but to be fair to him as the game developed his defending was solid and started to produce probing runs.
There was an attritional beginning to second half. Grays fans were fearing the “switch off” moment but it was Cambridge who obliged.
Pitt’s woeful shot over the bar in the 56th was punctuated by Grays moves that just lacked the finishing touch.
It was Cambridge who broke first. In the 58th minute, Glenn Poole swung over one of his trademark corners to the far post. The U’s headed out. Paolo Vernazza put the ball into the mix and found Daniel Charge unmarked who cooly slotted the ball past keeper Danny Potter.
This was a vital time for Grays as Cambridge stepped up their game but Edwards was outstanding and a one handed point blank save showed why this keeper is destined for higher things.
In the 73rd, Pitt earned a corner as his shot was charged away by Hoyte for a corner which was stoutly defended by the Blues.
A minute alter Holroyd’s header was neatly saved by Edwards before Grays wept upfield to earn a corner themselves.
The Uddin-Hoyte axis stood firm. Time and time again the fast forward line swept forward but were frustrated by pinpoint tackles, strong headers and resolute defending. Time and time again, Julian Dicks shouted out “Switch on!”
Grays midfield continued to sweep forward and it paid off in the 89th minute when Brian Saah held Richard Graham in the area and with the help of the linesmen, pointed to the spot. Glenn Poole made no mistake to seal the win and take Gray out of the relegation zone.
Grays Athletic: Edwards, Mawer, Hoyte, Uddin, Braham-Barrett, Davis, Vernazza, Robson, Poole, Graham, Charge (Taylor 76).
Subs Not Used: Butcher, Cutler, Jeffery, Obersteller.
Booked: Mawer, Poole, Braham-Barrett.
Goals: Charge 58, Poole 90 pen.
Cambridge Utd: Potter, Gleeson, Saah, Hatswell, Tonkin, Willmott (Beesley 82), Reason (Ives 78), Carden, Pitt, Holroyd, Phillips (Crow 68).
Subs Not Used: Coulson, Parkinson.
Booked: Reason, Gleeson, Hatswell.
Ref: J Farries (Oxfordshire).