Ryman Div One North
Great Wakering Rovers 0 v 1 Grays Athletic
IT WAS cold, it was bitter, it was hardly champagne football but it was three vital points as Grays Athletic continued their pursuit of promotion.
Wakering should have scored in the first minute when a free kick just outside the area found the diminutive Billy Johnson. He had a free header but debutant keeper Tony Tucker made a wonderful save low and to his right.
The pitch was in fine condition and Grays looked very sprightly, then they always do early on.
In the 10th minute, Grays had a fair shout for a penalty when a Kenny Beaney shot “struck the arm” of the Wakering defender but the referee Mr Bentley waved play on.
It was all Grays as the ball peppered the area without creating any great chances.
In the 21st minute, Joao Carlos had a great chance as an attempted clearance bounced off him but his shot from close range was shanked.
But slowly, the unforced errors started to appear from the defenders although Junior Baker made some timely interceptions.
Grays were battling, clearly aware of Hakan’s last post match speech however there was a lack of agility and anticipation up front.
David Cowley had a great chance in the 39th minute when the keeper spilled the ball but he hesitated fatally and Wakering smothered his shot.
The prodigal Danny Bunce earned a corner after a great driving run into the heart of the Rovers defence.
Once again, whatever Hakan said at half time when in the 49th minute Kenny Beaney turned on a sixpence three yards out to slam the ball home.
The rest of the match was a turgid affair. Anthony Ryan and Leon McKenzie kept working up front but never showed any form of partnership and that has to be of a growing concern at Grays. If they had plumped on a front two and stuck with them, they may well have been on top of the league.
Tony Tucker made another fine save from Wakering defender Luca Frankis. Players such as Joao Carlos never gave up and Junior Baker made a couple of fine interceptions.
The game became somewhat ill-tempered and Grays were fairly fractious but sometimes you go away, play badly, get three points, then that can be a great fillip. Now to Cheshunt where Grays need to produce a better performance than the one that saw them held earlier this season.
Grays Ath: Tucker T, Pope C, Cooper G, Baker J, Bunce D, Cowley D, Agombar H, Beaney K, Carlos J, McKenzie L, Ryan A.
Subs: Dennis L, Muguo S, Sweeney J, Olima P, Thomas B
As we said in our report, Grays are still in the mix, still competitive and there is a long way to go. However, there does seem to be a dip in Gray’s performances. Is one of the reasons, the number of players that Grays have used up front? It certainly raised questions and eyebrows when, on Boxing Day, Grays not only had two strikers on the pitch but also four on the bench!
So, we had a look at the league line-ups and this is what we discovered.
There have been ten different combinations: Sweeney/Small is the most popular (5), followed by Sigere/Dennis (4) and then equal on three are Sweeney/Ryan and Sweeney/Dennis.
There were five combinations in the first ten games but then there has been a startling ten in the last twelve games.
Naturally one has to factor in injuries, suspensions and the odd “without a trace” (Joe Dixon) but nevertheless, it could be asserted that as much as it could be said that Needham Market’s “achilles heel” has been their dependance on one striker (Sam Newsom) so it could also be viewed that Grays “decline” has been the fact that their use of eight strikers and ten combinations.
Times combinations have played