Grays Athletic 2 Harriers 2
Venue: Recreation Ground
away fans: 156
Last minute lapse costs three points
The last time that Conference new boys Grays lost at home was almost a year ago when they lost 1 - 0 to Basingstoke on September 18th 2004. Today we almost repeated Basingstokes feat when, with just seconds to go to normal full time, we were leading with two goals from Iyseden Christie. That was until the referee added on another five minutes of extra time for reasons known only to himself.
That five minutes, plucked from thin air, led to a seige on John Danby's goal that led, in some way, to him in-explicitly dropping a simple corner and seeing it roll into the empty net. In fact it wasn't the first goal that had rolled into an empty net for Grays because their first was the result of another defensive mix up that left Danby in no-mans land and Hooper free to roll the ball home with no one around to stop it.
Stuart Watkiss decided to go with a line-up change for the first time this season. In came Wayne Graves for his first start in place of Simon Russell and Gareth Sheldon in place of Simon Heslop, who wasn't 100% fit anyway. Michael Blackwood was rested to give his hamstring more time to heal properly after being forced back too soon against Canvey last Friday.
The game kicked off at a high pace and continued that way for most of the half with the first shot of the game coming from on loan Taiwo Atieno. His shot from the edge of the penalty area went just wide though.
Both sides continued to test each others keepers throughout with shots for Grays from Thurgood and Martin and a couple more for us from Tai. It was a miracle that they went in at the break with nothing on the scoresheet.
HT: 0 - 0
Within five minutes of the teams re-emergence from the tunnel we had taken the lead with a typical Christie goal. A quick break and a cross from Gareth Sheldon into the box and there was Tai waiting to connect and nod it onto the waiting Christie to hit it first time past the Grays keeper, Bayes.
It was a short lived lead though because it only took Grays another five minutes to draw level through a defensive error. A quick through ball caught Wayne Hatswell napping and Tony Battersby pounced on it but in the process Hats claimed that he was fouled and stood waiting for the whistle. The ball was laid into the path of Hooper who took it round Danby, who was waiting for the offside whistle, to push the ball home.
We battled hard to get back into the lead and also withstand an onslaught from Grays. Thankfully the lead was regained by the on fire Christie with his third goal in two games. A low drive from the centre of the goalmouth and again the assist came from Atieno. They seem to be forging an understanding between each other that will surely reap more goals in the future.
After the goal Watkiss made some tactical changes with Russell coming on for Graves and Steve Burton for Sheldon.
In the seventy fifth minute we had the ball in the net again but that one just resulted in a booking for Atieno. He'd had a shot at goal but it missed the target and bounced back into play off the advertising hoardings and straight back at him so Tai instinctively knocked the ball into the net. The petty ref booked him for it!
With time running out the Reds looked to be on their way to a fantastic victory but they hadn't considered the fact that the ref was also a magician and could conjure extra time out of nothing. He'd found an extra five minutes from somewhere and it was in that extra time that Grays equalised.
They had forced a corner and it was taken by Brayley, on as a sub earlier in the game. He sent the ball over and with no one near him Danby caught the ball but then, for reasons known only to himself, dropped it into the back of the net.
If we had won this game we could have risen up to third place in the table. Instead we dropped down to eighth place and must now win our next two games, both at home, to keep in touch with the leaders.