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Grays Athletic 2-0 Kingstonian

When Conference teams were regular visitors to Kingsmeadow, "Grays away" was always something to be remembered with fondness, but also with a wipe of the brow. "Well at least we're not playing Grays away" was a common expression uttered on various trips oop North. Still, after this seasons' innumerable visits to Essex, the majority of Kingstonian fans know their way around the bottom of the M25 like the back of their hand. There are, of course, the exceptions - but that's another story.

K's started poorly against the league's fourth placed team. By conceding a soft goal. But three minutes had elapsed when Nathan Thomas crossed from the left and Leon Hunter volleyed home from the right side of the area. The majority of visiting supporters failed to notice though - there were far more important things to worry about on this "the first match since the merger-declaration".

Look at the cheap-skates on their balcony

The team were, one presumes, paying attention, yet many of them seemed somewhat pre-occupied when Thomas scored - and that not the last such occasion on this afternoon.

Kingstonian didn't quite manage to conjure up a shot during the first half - which, if nothing else, should make this report rather more concise than normal. It has to be said that Grays looked impressive going forward, and had no problem dealing with any whiff of a threat posed at the other end.

Billy Mead got booked, Sean Thurgood limped off to be replaced by Leon White and Lance Key made a good save with his right-foot from Mervin Abraham all in quick succession. Thomas should have doubled the score just before the break when Alex Fiddes crossed from the left. The defence was nowhere near the striker, but luckily for K's, his shot was nowhere near the goal.

Don't call him White - no, wait, DO call him White

The half-time break allowed even more "where exactly is Farnborough anyway?" such conversations, and for several watching in the bar to propose a merger between the English, Irish and Scottish RFUs. It wasn't the most passionate of games see?

The second half actually started slightly promisingly. Max Hustwick and Leon White looked to have worked out who would mark whom, and the front players got very very close to Grays' area on at least one occasion.

Nathan Thomas was progressively getting closer and closer to a goal at the other end though. Early on in the half he sent a shot wide of Key's left-hand post when Hunter was far better placed, and not long afterwards he managed to get a foot to White's clearance - diverting the ball goalwards before Key's intervention.

He 'is no good at going forward'

Hustwick and White had clearly realised that Thomas was the main worry - hence the reason they both stood still to allow the other defender to chase him when played through by David Rainford. Thomas thus had a clear run on goal - that is until Hustwick charged back and hauled him down just outside the area. A red card was the only colour ever going to be shown to the young defender, meaning that K's had to play out the remaining twenty-five minutes with ten men.

The match threatened to turn ugly in the minutes just after the sending off - with Rainford picking up a caution for a particularly ugly challenge on James Pinnock - with the K's midfielder lucky to escape the same punishment after reacting "aggressively" to the challenge.

Still, the life went out of the game again when Grays got their deserved second. Andy Sussex played a long ball through the re-organised K's defence for Thomas to run onto, Bashiru "make-shift-centre-half" Alimi gave chase, but Thomas turned the ball past Key before Alimi could get near him.

What?  Well of course he can do that ref

K's could - and perhaps should - have been awarded a penalty with ten minutes remaining, but that would have just made the game exciting again, and this really wasn't the day for it. Substitute Craig Rocastle crossed from the left for Greg Ball to challenge Glen Southgate. The hands of the defender certainly made contact with Ball's back, but the referee decided that the over-emphasis of the jump forward by the forward negated the maliciousness of the challenge. No penalty.

Late on, a header from Alex Fiddes struck the top of the bar after a cross from the left, and K's finally got in a shot. David Sadler cut in from the left only for his effort to be harmlessly deflected into the arms of goalkeeper Mel Capleton. Lance Key was called upon to make a couple of his own interventions to keep the score at two, but when the whistle went the result was most certainly a fair one.

This K's team might well have a promising future ahead of it, but were you to make that statement in the Recreation Ground, Grays on Saturday you would most probably have been met with howls of laughter. Grays won't win the league, but they're an accomplished side who could - and perhaps should - have scored a few more goals. K's? Well their time is still to come.

Sat 2nd Mar 2002
Recreation Ground
Isthmian League Premier
Grays Athletic2
1Lance Key
2Billy MeadCautioned
3Mark Jones
4Sean Thurgood14
5Max HustwickSent Off
6Bashiru Alimi
7James Pinnock12
8Dave Clarke
9Greg Ball
10David Sadler
11Danny Bolt15
12Liam Collins7
14Leon White4
15Craig Rocastle11
Man of the Match
Lance Key
Lance Key
Match Report By
Gary Ekins