THE SCEPTICS will say that Grays Athletic have played two of the also-rans so far this season. Waltham Forest and Ware are unlikely to trouble the leaders this year and so the first real test of the year will be at Heybridge tomorrow (Saturday).
In many ways it was a little victory and a significant moment for Grays fans to be able to sing: “we are top of the league” in Ilford on Wednesday. When was the last time they could say that (indeed, Glyn, Chris, when was the last time?) but now comes the first challenge.
The first challenge is to put things in perspective. Grays are not going to win every game. There will be losses and this could be one of them. There were moments of vulnerability on Wednesday. Hakan will need to be patient with his wingers: Dave Cowley was quiet and Joao Carlos tends to run into defenders, lose the ball and leave the left back very vulnerable. He may get away with that (just) against Ware but Heybridge will exploit that. Having said that, on a lovely pitch, the two of them should be very dangerous.
There seems to be a gathering crisis up front with both Jean-Michel Sigere and Louis Dennis injured. It leaves a lot of responsibility on Joe Sweeney and Jared Small and frankly no plan B.
Grays went to Heybridge last year and were tactically naive. This is a match where the two banks of four need to operate as a unit. If they don’t then that is where the match may be won and lost.
Wednesday illustrated how important a player such as Kenny Beaney will be this year and keeping him injury free. The defence will also need to keep their discipline. We can sense a red card coming and it would be a shame if that was the difference between Grays and Heybridge.
Hakan and Hassan have developed a strong sense of discipline in the squad and this will be the first real test of that. It will definitely be a sixteen man game and the use of Danny Bunce, Eljay Worral and any other sub will be vital.