Grays Ath 3 v 2 Leiston
GRAYS ATH made it six points out of six with a cavalier, never-say-die 3-2 victory against a much-fancied Leiston at the Mill Field.
It was interesting to note that Bognor fans saw Grays as a street-wise team but in the early stages of this game, Leiston were shrugging Grays off the ball.
The early stages illustrated why Leon Lalite is so important to the team as he is the teams lynchpin, controlling and directing the game.
In the 6th minute, Ramos-Gonzalez produced a shot from thirty yards that dipped and gave the keeper Phillips a little bit of trouble.
But Leiston had a number of big units and looked like they could impose themselves on Grays.
In the 10th minute, Lee Flynn won a free kick, which Lalite floated over but it came to nothing.
The opening goal was beautifully constructed. Alex Cruickshank showed balance and grace in midfield, skipped past one player before threading it through to Jeff Hammond on the right. He went round the keeper and slotted it into the net.
The lead didn’t last long and with the minimum of effort, Leiston equalised as they pinged the ball in the Grays area and Joe Jefford was able to side foot the ball home from close range.
The goal seemed to shake Grays. They lost shape, were losing their markers and losing possession.
In the 25th minute, Ryan Crisp broke through but his shot was well saved by George Kamarusi however, the cracks were beginning to show.
Scorer Jeff Hammond limped out after 30 minutes following a clumsy tackle from Adam Tann, for which Tann received a yellow card.
Craig Pope was in belligerent mood and deserved a yellow card for a poor tackle on Kye Ruel.
However, just when you thought Grays Ath were being over-run: In the 41st minute, Leon Lalite produced a wonderful dipping shot that went over the keeper and in.
The second half started steadily but the imposing Leiston soon got into their stride. It was fair play to the Blues defence that they were just about keeping them at bay.
Leiston won a number of corners but it was three that was the magic number in the 54th minute, when a Joe Jefford corner went straight in.
Saving a point was going to be a challenge for Grays Ath. George Kamarusi produced a fine save at the base of his post from a great header from Joe Francis.
The more the game went on, the more you felt Grays were missing the injured Kenny Beaney.
Aaron Ramos-Gonzalez was a long way from the finished article but he was getting in positions. In the 78th minute, he found himself free in the box but blasted the ball way over the bar.
Leiston were finishing stronger. In the 83rd minute, sub Liam Barrett broke free, rounded the keeper but his ball trickled meekly across the area.
But this may be a Grays Ath team that you should never write off and perhaps there is a “One more than you” philosophy here. In the 86th minute, Joao Carlos took up the ball on the left hand side. He threaded his way into the area, dummied the keeper, went to his left and slotted the ball home.
A lot of people may under-estimate Grays Ath this season and that may be just how they like it. It was a great endeavour by the Blues. Players such as Joao Carlos worked harder than they had in a long time.
Grays Ath return to the Mill Field on Saturday against Enfield Town.
Grays Athletic v Leiston
Kamarusi G, Pope C, Nightingill J, Flynn L, Baker J, Carlos J, Hammond J, West J, Lalite L,Cruikshank A, Ramos-Gonzalez A
Subs not used: Anderson P, Moses B, Kirby R, East D, Hamdan U
Phillips S, Saker B, Ruel K, Jefford J, Tann A, Hammond L, Boardley S, Heath G, Crisp R (Barrett L 70), Ottley-Gooch L (Henry R 72), Francis J
Subs not used: , Webster M, Dugdale C, Cole J