GRAYS ATHLETIC produced their best performance of the season to hold the league leaders 1-1 in an exciting game at Summers Lane.
For those who had endured underwhelming performances at Ware and Enfield to name just two, this was Julian Dick’s Grays realising its potential for the first time.
Three shots in the first two minutes by Wingate declared their intent to play an attacking game.
Grays settled down and on a perfect surface looked far more comfortable playing a neat passing game.
In the 6th minute, Simon Thomas broke free on the right, crossed from the by-line to Emile Aiken whose scuffed shot was parried away by Wingate.
Wingate’s Leon Smith broke free in the 7th minute, the ball beat Steven Northwood but Junior Baker did well to clear off the line.
Wingate’s problem was that they didn’t press Grays. They appeared as if they were playing 4-5-1 and let Grays dominate the game.
The height of Aiken and Thomas was a problem for Wingate and it was John Docker who looked like he could dictate the game.
Infact Docker was immense. His skill, his touch, his vision was superb. if he can get back and maintain full fitness he can transform this Grays team.
Grays had a great chance in the 16th minute as Jason Fontaine dinked a ball over but Dean Pennant could not control the ball.
Bunce should have done better with a maruading run but Grays were bossing the league leaders who apart from Leon Smith looked toothless.
Having said that Wingate had a free header on the half hour that missed the target when they should have scored.
Docker had a close range shot well saved by Wingate. Grays seemed to lack a killer instinct up front. as Docker’s through balls cried out for Alex Osbourn.
But in the 33rd minute and against the run of play, Leon Smith latched onto a through ball, slid the ball past Northwood and put Wingate in front.
Grays were not behind for long and it was John Docker who was key as from the edge of the area he struck a sweet shot from outside the area, the keeper could only parry and Emil Aiken hammered home from close range.
Wingate looked a lot more purposeful as they restarted but Grays plugged away with Emil Aiken putting in a real shift. His run and shot from 30 yards showed how his confidence was increasing.
Grays kept the pressure on showing a great work ethic without truly threatening. Grays earned a free kick on the edge of the area but once again the shot, this time from Reynold’s was way off target.
Grays retained a great deal of possession without carving out any real chances. Wingate had a free kick in an ideal position in the 70th minute but it floated harmlessly over the bar.
Ishmael Welsh came on and immediately slotted into his best role of getting down to the deadball line. In the 75th minute he sent a sublime ball across the area that just evaded the Grays strikers.
Remarkably, the league leaders started to play for the draw as wave upon wave of Grays attacks rained down. Alex Osbourn came down with ten minutes to go. Just after this Grays produced a move involving neat interlinking play down the left hand side that showed the potential in this squad.
Osbourn and Welsh produced great link play in the 87th minute. A minute later, Grays earned a free kick. Docker sent it over and the Wingate keeper did well to parry away for a corner. Welsh mazy run in injury time earned another free kick which Grays couldn’t convert but as the final whistle blew, Grays went away knowing that this could, just could, be the re-birth of Grays Athletic as a footballing force.
Grays Athletic: Northwood S, Thomas B, Aiken E (Osborn A 75), Baker J, Samuel M (Harvey T 49), Reynolds D, Docker J, Pennant D, Thomas S, Bunce D, Fontaine J (Welsh I 70)
Subs not used: Small J ,Brown R