GRAYS produced the defensive performance of the season to grab a vital point in the goal-less draw at Field Mill.
The first half was a scrappy affair but Grays did their best to dig in and compete.
In the 3rd minute Harlee Dean produced a fine shot that Alan Marriott did well to turn away while a fierce Bradley Hudson-Odoi free kick screamed past the far post.
Cissoko tried to get the team forward but silly fouls meant Grays were conceding acres of territory.
Mansfield took their time and the dancing feet of Briscoe and Perry illustrated the gulf between the two teams.
In the 18th minute, Rob Duffy edged past Billy Crowther but Stuart Robinson did well to smother the shot.
A minute later good work down the right hand side by Paul Heckingbottom saw the ball fall to Jon Challinor but he couldn’t find the target.
Louis Briscoe was the difference between the two teams. In the 35th minute, he turned Danny Bunce in and out on the dead ball line, cut back to Challinor who just couldn’t get his shot in. A minute later he tried again but his shot blazed over.
The confidence of Stuart Robinson and the defenders started to ebb away as the keepers kicking became wayward and players dwelt on the ball.
Harlee Dean tried to drive the team ahead but many of the attacks frittered away to nothing.
Ryan James, the ex-Millwall defender looked a fish out of water up front. Dean’s “competitive” tackle saw him receive a yellow in the 43rd minute as Grays went into the half time break still in the game.
Mansfield picked up where they left off with a great cross from Michael Brough that Cammy Mawer did well to turn away for a corner.
In the 50th minute, Perry whipped in a free kick but Robinson took it safely. A corner a minute later saw more robust defending by Grays.
Ryan James thunderous shot only troubled the side netting
In the 55th minute Hoyte tackled Briscoe with a nicely timed challenge in the area but the referee saw it differently and pointed to the spot.
Grays players were incensed, Hoyte was booked. Duffy stepped up to take it and Robinson guessed right, dived to his left and saved the pen.
A minute later a fantastic thirty yard shot by Duffy struck the bar and bounced down on the line. The Stags were going for the kill. Mawer again made a last ditch tackle to save his team as the pressure really mounted.
Hudson-Odoi was forced into a foul as the Stags hunted in packs but again the free kick was fended off by Grays. Billy Bigham came on for the injured Rnkovic as Odoi went up front. Bingham immediately went very close with a 20 yard shot.
Julian Dicks was imploring his men to not lay so deep but the wave of attacks kept pushing them back. Mansfield started playing neat triangles as a base for their attacks.
In the 75th minute Gray earned their first corner as the influential Bingham was able to put his foot on the ball and direct play.
The Stags once again thought they had broken the deadlock for sure when Kyle Perry’s shot looked like it was dipping over Robinson but the keeper produced an outstanding save to tip the ball on to the crossbar and away.
To top that he produced a wondrous double save from close range as the Stags just couldn’t beat him.
Grays were tired and no wonder but they still going and the defence played as a real unit desperate to cling onto the vital point.
Silk produced another fine run down the right, his wicked cross skimmed right into the six yard box but Lee Morris just couldn’t stretch long enough to convert it.
Sub Agombar had the chance to steal the points in stoppage time as Grays broke with Bingham, he found Agombar free on the right but he shot straight at the keeper.
As the final whistle went, the boos rang out for the frustrated Stags but Grays Athletic can be proud of such an “Alamo” performance.
Due to reporting restrictions, YourThurrock are unable to interview any of the Grays Athletic players and staff.
Attendance: 2776 Grays Ath 8