GRAYS made hay while the sun shone with a well-earned 1-0 victory over Windsor and Eton in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round.
The game was a considerable test for Grays as The Royalist play in a league above but they passed the test with flying colours.
The Blues made a hesitant start as they gave away possession needlessly. Danny Bunce and Jason Fontaine worked hard with 1-2’s down the left but elsewhere Grays were nervous while The Royals with skipper Fiston Manuella dominating up front looked confident that they would soon score.
Touch players such as Jared Small and Jason Fontaine were becoming frustrated as player kept punting the ball in the air rather than have faith in the ball-playing strategy that had served them so well over the last four games.
Grays went into the lead from nowhere. In the 26th minute, Jason Fontaine picked up the ball from thirty yards out. His shot looked like it was going over but dipped over keeper Delroy Priddie’s head and into the net.
Windsor fought back and nearly equalised when Ashleigh James’s free kick was cleared off the line. It was now clear that the strength of Grays game lay in the defensive pairing of Junior Baker and Duran Reynolds snuffed out chance after chance.
Gray should have made it two just before half time. Jared Small payed a deft square ball on the right to Simon Thomas who crossed low to the hard-working Stephen Demetriou whose shot was well blocked by the Royals defence.
Many thought that the Royalists would have come out in the second half and imposed themselves but instead they let Grays play at their own pace.
Grays were able to pierce the Windsor defence at will. In the 50th minute, Simon Thomas scored but was adjudged offside. A few minutes later, Demetriou’s solo effort just missed the right post.
Windsor piled on the pressure but for all their chances, they never really troubled the Grays goal. Grays had ample chances to put the game beyond doubt but spurned them all.
To their credit the 314 fans saw a midfield that never stopped running and a defence that continued to put everything behind the ball to ensure that Grays won through to Monday’s draw for the FA Cup’s Second Qualifying Round.
Grays Ath: N Wilson, J Ingram, D Bunce, J Baker, D Reynolds, T Harvey, J Small, J Fontaine, M Samuel, S Demetriou, S Thomas.
Subs: E Worrell, G Kendall, Emiel Aiken, C Barry, R Brown.