AN inability to retain possession, cost Grays Athletic dear as they were dumped out of the FA Trophy, 1-0 by Cirencester Town at Rookery Hill last night (Tuesday).
Grays had started brightly as they pinged the ball around the pitch as their ambitious 4-3-3 formation looked to win the tie.
In the 2nd minute a flat, low free kick almost tricked the Town defence but they were able to shepherd the ball away.
In the 13th minute, a busy Dean Pennant put the ball through to Alex Osbourn but the keeper was able to come out and save in time.
But the pattern of Grays game was soon set as they simply couldn’t retain possession with Tom Harvey particularly guilty.
It was a shame as the Thomas-Osbourn axis up front looked positive but Emil Aiken looked something of a spare part and Grays may have been better served with an extra midfielder.
Dean Pennant continued to work hard and in the 28th minute put another slide rule ball through to Simon Thomas but as is his trademark, he let the ball get under him and the momentum was lost.
Cirencester broke the deadlock in the 31st minute. Junior Baker was harshly adjudged to have fouled just outside the box. Jamie Reid floated over the free kick and striker Jody Bevan rose above the Grays defence to head Cirencester into the lead.
It was this point that the referee Chris O’Donnell started to make his presence felt and like his namesake he seemed intent on “robin” Grays of victory as time after time he made a series of baffling decisions.
Grays started the second half well with half chances from Osbourn and Thomas but that was the flavour of the whole second half. There was some neat construction play by Grays, especially down the left but there was simply no player in the middle of the park that could put his foot on the ball and rise above the mediocrity.
With Julian Dicks away, Kenny Brown rang the changes. John Docker and Bradley Hudson-Odoi came on. Odoi looked forceful but simply didn’t have enough time or direction to make a real impression.
Simon Thomas put a super cross in for Alex Osbourn but Mr O’Donnell blew up for a free kick.
The last ten minutes were exciting but Cirencester seemed to have it under control. Grays huffed and puffed and once again looked like a side of individuals who should be playing in at least two leagues above them but instead face a long winter battle in the hinterland of the Ryman Div One North.