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Grays Athletic 1-0 Kingstonian

Kingstonian travelled to Grays Athletic's Recreation Ground looking to inflict the first defeat on the Essex side since mid-October in this Ryman Premier Division fixture writes Gary Ekins.

They did so with Grant Payne and Stafford Browne re-united up-front, and with influential midfielder Craig Lewington returning from injury.

In a scrappy opening, chances were few and far between, with much of the action centred around the middle of the field. The poor state of the pitch helped neither side, with the result that passes went astray and neither goalkeeper was tested.

The first real chance of the match fell to the home side on fifteen minutes, but Kingstonian's Lance Key stood firm to turn Wesley Daly's shot aside after the midfielder was played in by the lively Freddy Eastwood. The Grays' keeper - Mel Capleton - produced his own stop not a minute later when Browne headed goalwards from a Liam Collins cross.

Some good covering from Steve Robinson stopped Browne capitalising on hesitation from the Grays' defence after good play from K's Grant Payne, and Capleton was called upon once more when Bashiru Alimi's shot from the edge of the area was deflected upwards.

The visitors didn't have it all their own way though. Indeed it was the home side who finished the half the stronger, and could well have taken the lead on more than one occasion. Leroy Griffiths wasted a good opportunity, shooting wide when well placed; Lee Williams' shot was deflected wide; and Max Hustwick had to make a last ditch tackle when Eastwood looked to be running through for a shot at goal.

The half-time interval saw the introduction of Chris Bangura for K's, and he made an immediate impact. Collins - having another good game on the right-wing - beat his man and sent in a cross towards Browne. He touched on for Bangura at the near post, whose shot from six yards out beat the goalkeeper only to strike Robinson's knee and bounce wide.

Ex-Grays striker Browne was determined not to be out-shone, and he produced the best moment of the match on the hour. A throw from Scott Smith reached Browne some forty-five yards from goal, and with his right foot he attempted an audacious lob. Capleton back-pedalled for all he was worth and somehow managed to tip the ball onto the top of the cross bar and over.

Browne then shot over after more good play from Collins, and defender Matt Elverson shaved the top of the bar when he met an Anthony Savage free-kick.

The match changed completely on 72 minutes. Until that time Kingstonian had completely bossed the second half and deserved to lead, but a debatable decision from referee Mr M O'Keefe gave the home side a chance which they didn't turn down.

A ball in from the right landed just inside the Kingstonian penalty area, where Stephen Broad and Eastwood challenged. The ball first struck Eastwood on the hand, before he tried to flick the ball up and over Broad. The ball again struck a hand, the referee blew and pointed to the spot. Broad's protestations led only to a yellow card, and Eastwood showed his composure by easily beating Key low to his left to give his side the lead.

This really took the wind out of Kingstonian's sails, and in truth they never looked likely to pull the goal back. The match did threaten to boil over in the last ten minutes when an altercation between Youds and Bangura saw the Grays defender cautioned for what looked to be an elbow to the striker's head. The Kingstonian management team was upset at the decision to show only a yellow card, but this incident had little impact on the final result.

For all the doom and gloom that has surrounded this K's side in recent weeks, this performance showed that the players certainly haven't given up. If they can produce this amount of fight and spirit in the coming weeks there is no doubt that a place in the top half of the table can be achieved.

Sat 17th Jan 2004
Recreation Ground
Isthmian League Premier
Grays Athletic1
1Lance Key
2Stephen BroadCautioned
3Scott Smith
4Matt ElversonCautioned
5Max Hustwick
6Liam Collins
7Craig Lewington17
8Liam Garman16
9Stafford Browne
10Grant Payne15
11Bashiru Alimi
12Jermaine Hinds
14Scott Steele
15Chris Bangura10
16Anthony Savage8
17Martyn Williams7
Match Report By
Gary Ekins