IF A stranger had walked into this game, it is more than likely that they would have thought that this game was between two play off contenders. In many ways that acts a huge compliment to Grays as they infact languish fifth from bottom of the league. Unfortunately, it also begs a question of what on earth they have been doing for five months prior to the run that started against Wingate and Finchley.
Since that game, Grays have looked like a different team, playing with a rhythm and confidence that had been missing. The settled side has been a huge factor. Bradley Thomas has an assurance about him, Eljay Worrell is a very solid right back and Junior Baker is a leader among men. Having said all that, Grays gifted two goals last night; one in the 15th minute as keeper Stephen Northwood kicked the ball straight out to Needham’s James Evans, who swept down the right, crossed to Sam Newsom who tucked the ball away for the first goal of the evening.
Grays simply weren’t in it and their were hints of floodgates but then came along John Docker, who in the 37th minute, from thirty yards out, rifled the ball over the Suffolk keeper, Danny Gay.
Grays continued to play expressive football in the second half and proved that they can play that type of football on the East Thurrock quagmire. Grays took the lead as Simon Thomas latched onto a through ball, left the defenders standing and hammered the ball past the keeper and into the net. Fair play to Thomas who had fluffed a similar chance just minutes before.
But Needham are a well organised, fit and focussed team with ex-internationals such as Kevin Horlock in their team. The equaliser came in the form of a penalty, a harsh one at that but you had the feeling that Needham’s forays into the Grays goalmouth would lead to something. Grays would have preferred if the ref hadn’t helped them with that.
The winner came after a move on the left from Grays left Bunce and Demetriou stranded upfield. Needham took their chance to advance into the Grays box to score the winner and put them just five points behind East Thurrock with three games in hand.
The optimists will say that Grays are only thirteen points behind the play-offs. Look at Aveley’s run last year when they went from third form bottom in February to third from top by April. If Grays can keep this team, play with the gusto and commitment they have shown since Wingate, then momentum may make for a fascinating run in between now and the next twenty one games.