Grays Athletic 3 Harriers 2
Venue: The Recreation Ground
away fans: 50+
Harriers fail once more at Grays
The Harriers history of bad results at Grays continued today with yet another defeat. What made it all the worse though was the fact that we thought we had improved in recent weeks - enough to inflict a defeat on struggling Grays. We could also have jumped up the table to the edge of the play-offs but instead we dropped down from Tuesday nights 10th to 14th place.
We kept to the same line-up that beat Torquay on Thursday and that included Andy Ferrell after he received collateral damage to his face and had to go off to have some stitches. Also included in the side was Russ Penn who is expected to sign on loan for Peterborough after being watched by Darren Ferguson on Thursday and Barry Fry today.
We started the game with a flourish but having to play long ball thanks to the packed Grays defence. Half chances fell to Justin Richards, Russ Penn and Matt Barnes-Homer without the conversion but the first real chance fell to Grays Stuart Thurgood when his thirty yard effort flew narrowly over the bar.
In the 15th minute Adam Bartlett was called into action to make a stunning save. Sam Sloma delivered a good cross from the left and Danny Kedwell rushed into the area to head the ball goalwards but the England C keeper managed to reach back and tip the ball over.
Slowly Grays start to get on top and it was the Harriers who were forced to defend deeper and deeper. While trying to keep the Grays forwards out Lee Baker picked up his first booking of the season for a challenge on Charlie Ide after being warned by the referee minutes earlier.
After impressing in previous games Martin Brittain was having a harder time today and it appeared that the Grays management had been doing their homework on him. He was barely getting a look in or a chance to put one of his killer crosses over. He managed to get one in for Brian Smikle to get onto but his shot went out for a corner
Justin Richards was also getting a hard time from the Grays defenders. The aging Fabian Wilnis, signed by Grays from Ipswich in August, should have been given a yellow card after bundling Justin over when the Harriers striker was heading for goal but the referee let him off without even a talking to even though we had a free kick awarded for it.
Minutes later the Grays captain, Jamie Stuart, dished out the same treatment to our leading scorer but this time the referee acted accordingly and booked Stuart.
The end finished without any further action from either side apart from a half chance that fell for Ide on the stroke of half time.
HT: 0 - 0
During half time Mark Yates must have addressed the problem of his forwards not being able to break through the Grays defence. We came out looking for a way to get forward more and for the first time in the game Martin Brittain managed to get a cross in for Russ Penn to latch onto but Stuart got there first and left Penn sprawling in his wake.
Russ was fouled again in the 50th minute by Thurgood thirty five yards out from goal. Brittain took the free kick but he could only curl it high and wide of the right hand post.
Against the run of play Grays opened the scoring in the 53rd minute. Ishmael Welsh crossed the ball over the heads of our defenders to Danny Kedwell who then headed it back into the area for Thurgood to fire in a volley to the bottom right corner of Bartletts' net.
We could have pulled a goal back just a minute later when Brittains' cross fell to Penn on the edge of the area but his low shot was pushed away by the Grays keeper, Ross Flitney, only for the rebound to hit Wilnis and back into the keepers grateful arms.
The Harriers were now starting to apply more pressure and following a shot from Lee Baker that Flitney managed to save we finally pulled the goal back. We were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area and in the wall was Richards waiting to receive the ball, turn and fire in one swift move to put the ball into the back of the net.
Richards should have put us in front a minute later when he controlled Brittains' cross but then went and ruined it all by shooting way over when it was easier to score. He almost got on the end of a Brian Smikle cross too but was just inches away.
Smikle had a chance of his own two minutes later but after being put under pressure by two Grays defenders he panicked and put his shot over the bar.
The only problem of going looking for a goal is that it leaves you exposed to the counter attack and that's just what happened when Grays scored their second goal of the day. Russ Penn gave the ball away on the edge of our area to Thurgood who then laid it off for Sam Sloma to skip past our static defenders and rifle the ball into the net.
It took just a few minutes for the home side to increase their lead further when two substitutes, who had come on earlier, combined on the left. Jamie Taylor slipped the ball in for Barry Cogan to shoot past Adam Bartlett and caused the Harriers fans to think that there might be another 5-1 drubbing coming up.
Mark Yates had now seen enough and started to make substitutions of his own by taking off the marked out Brittain and bringing Darryl Knights on in his place.
With renewed energy we went looking for a way back into the game and a cross from Andy Ferrell was headed narrowly over the bar by Keith Lowe. Following that Darryl Knights played Penn in but his shot hit Mark Creighton and bounced away to safety.
Richards missed another chance to score in the 80th minute when a shot from Knights was pushed away by Flitney and dropped just right for the number eleven but he then shot wildly over the bar again with an open goal at his mercy.
With time now running out and a defeat looking guaranteed we finally managed to pull a goal back to make the scoreline look a little more respectable. From a corner Matt Barnes-Homer bundled the ball into the back of the net but it was all too late and the Harriers' poor record against Grays continued for another season