DESPITE a brave effort and leading twice, Grays Athletic were beaten in tonight’s (Tuesday, 25 April) Isthmian North play-off semi-final at the Mel Group Stadium in front of a crowd of 670.
It was tough for Grays who played much of the second half against a side that finished 19 points ahead of them with ten men after Macauley Joynes was sent off.
The visitors made a great start when Sam Bantick added another to his prolific tally of goals on 14 muinutes but the Yellows drew level on 34 minutes through Reggie Lambe.
It took Grays just two minutes to restore the lead when a corner wasn’t cleared and it was played back into the box where Lewis Clark volleyed home.
The game turned eight minutes into the second half when the referee adjudged Joynes stopped Joshua Stokes’ goalbound shot with his hand on the line.
Despite Grays’ protested that it was ball to hand in a natural position Joynes was dismissed by the referee.
After the match Sudbury boss Rick Andrews said in his view it should have been neither a penalty nor a red card.
However his side didn’t ignore a gift and Nnamdi Nwanchuku, with 48 goals to his name this season going into the game, made no mistake from the spot.
The ten men held on until the 71st minute when Reece Harris scored from a free kick, delivered low into the bottom corner, the first of the season for the former East Thurrock United and Thurrock player.
Grays battled gamely but it was too big a task and now it’s Sudbury who will play host to Heybridge Swifts at the weekend.
Swifts turned the tables on third-placed Lowestoft to win 2-0 at Crown Meadow with goals from Sam Park and Rob Harvey.
Tomorrow night it’s Aveley’s turn in the play-off spotlight when they travel to Canvey Island in the Isthmian Premier play-off.
Hornchurch play host to Cray Wanderers in the other semi-final