Harriers 0 Grays Athletic 1 FA Trophy 2
away fans: 74
Harriers out of Trophy
A disappointing defeat to the the cup holders brought home to the watching Harriers fans that the away win at Woking last week was a bit of a fluke and that new manager Mark Yates has a long way to go before he gets this team performing as a football club should.
Maybe it was the excessive pre match warm up that got them looking tired out in the first place but after trooping back into the dressing room looking knackered they emerged for the first half looking out on their feet. Second to the ball every time and non accurate passing littered every move and compared to the slick interplay and deceptively quick, darting runs of Aaron McLean we looked a world apart in footballing terms.
McLean was Grays' best player by far and he was giving Wayne Graves a torrid time for his first game in ages and went close to scoring on more than one occasion in the opening few minutes. Eventually Wayne settled down and got the measure of him but there was still times when he could have played the ball away from him better without hoofing it up field with no one near it.
Our only chance of the poor first half fell to Gareth Sheldon but his free kick from the edge of the area failed to trouble the Grays keeper. Neither did the only other clear cut chance for Grays when Stuart Thurgood sent a shot well wide from a Battersby pass.
HT: 0 - 0
We came out for the second period looking much stronger and up for it. The passing that had been wayward in the first half was now looking more accurate and we were starting to find positions to run into and onto passes. Marc Pugh was the main instigator of most of these moves and played in Christie on numerous occasions but Issey failed to make the best of them on a bobbly pitch.
With the game wanting a bit of a boot up the bum Grays bought on Jamie Slabber to try and force something from the game. He was soon in action and forced John Danby into a decent save.
It wasn't until Simon Russell came on for Michael Blackwood that we started to apply some real pressure ourselves and with his first touch of the ball he should have scored after Sheldon slipped the ball through to him. His shot was straight at the keeper though and was saved easily as was Lee Thompsons similar attempt minutes after he came on for Marc Pugh later.
Then in injury time Grays did what they do in 90% of their games. With the game heading for a replay back in Estuary Land McLean again came near to breaking Harriers hearts when his shot came back off the bar to be cleared but only as far as Andy Sambrook who played the ball back into the area for McLean to head it past John Danby.
This was a game we never looked like getting anything from and with the play-offs now out of reach we could have done with a good cup run to get some confidence back into the side. Mark Yates job now will be to get his troops back off the floor and at the same time bring in some quality signings with a striker and midfield general at the top of his list.
The other thing he must do is play Simon Russell from the start in the next game