IF GRAYS Athletic are to be relegated then the defeat by Gateshead 3-0 may be a significant reference point.
The three debutants from seven days ago were joined by another three. They also had the challenge of playing 4-5-1.
In the 6th minute, Andrew Howarth showed great skill down the right, fired in a cross that keeper Preston Edwards did well to turn away for a corner.
A minute later, journeyman Daryl Clare scored a fine individual goal as his cutely curled left foot shot curved past Edwards.
It looked early on as if Glenn Poole was carrying an injury and it was no surprise that he limped off in the second half joining Kenny Davis who failed to start due to a knee injury.
Graeme Armstrong should have made it two in the 10th when his downward header hit the post.
Grays came back but hardly created a chance. Midfielder Harry Agombar pounced on to a through ball but keeper Paul Farman had it covered.
In the 38th minute Glenn Poole’s thirty yard free kick was well saved by Farman.
In the 42nd minute Graeme Armstrong again broke free, but Edwards came way out of his area to bundle the ball away.
The game changed in the 53rd minute when Fola Onibuje’s reckless tackle gave him his second yellow.
Gateshead pounced. Four minutes later, another classy cross by Craig Baxter was met by Daryl Clare whose sharp header found the back of the net.
A shot by Daniel Bunce saw Grays flicker into life but for the rest of the game, Gateshead marshalled by James Curtis at the back saw off a rudderless Grays.
The rout was complete when Baxter’s rasping thirty yard shot was deflected by Daryl Clare for his hatrick.
It is hard going to travel 600 miles and see such a poor performance by Grays Athletic but at least the reporters are being paid to watch and write about the game.
Reporters don’t enjoy writing about defeats. The mission statement for all yourthurrock reporters is to accentuate the good and scrutinise where appropriate.
We have really tried to accentuate the positive in recent games. We thought we could see the makings of a plan, the green shoots of recovery against Luton but this was such a retrograde step that we really really cannot see Grays getting out of this one.
Yes, there are five months to go but this is such a chaotic situation that you feel that it is in freefall.
Fola Onibuje simply couldn’t play as the lone striker up front. That isn’t his game. He needed someone to play off his shoulder such as Rnkovic or Charge.
It was blindingly obvious that the new players were struggling to read each others game.
It was nothing to do with heart or commitment or desire. It was simply being handed such a duff hand as 4-5-1 with three debutants and three playing their second game against a canny geordie team full of savvy time served Blue Square players. It was a turkey shoot.
When editing sports reports, we are now much more familiar with the Thurrock line-up than Grays as it is so consistent. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in Hakan’s team. Let us face facts: they were relegated last year but were reprieved. They were tipped for relegation this year and yet they have blazed a trail.
Our reporter believes it is because the players are a year older and really benefited from the experience of last season.
Surely, Grays should write off this season. Take sixteen young players led by Cammy Mawer and give them that year of experience. There may be defeats but the best sparring sessions are when you are punching bigger, faster opponents. That which does not destroy you will make you stronger.