RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
GRAYS ATHLETIC – 3 [Abraham 24. Fiddes 29. Cooper 43]
SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Haworth 37. Palmer 66. Murray 74]
Let me tell you, a trip to Grays is not one of the favoured awaydays of the Sutton faithful.
No offence and all that, but as I’ve said before, it’s probably the most aptly named place I’ve ever been to. How the drunkards rejoiced when we discovered our planned trip to Paris for an England International clashed with the visit to Grays last season. Even Chalmers was dead chuffed he missed it and he was laid up in hospital having missed out on Paris too!
And we always seem to get lost on their bastard one-way system despite the fact we’ve been there loads of times in the last 10 years.
Our usual lack of enthusiasm for this trip is compounded by it’s unusual midweek slot, the fact that the home side have made a cracking start, the fact we haven’t made a cracking start AND the guards on the rail line serving Grays have been rucking up over the colour of the buttons on their uniforms or something. Oh and it’s in Essex. A bundle of laughs is not guaranteed.
Chalmers decided that risking the trains was just asking to get stranded somewhere in the arse end of our favourite county at half 11 at night and so made the brave descision to risk the M25 instead. Any chance of a lift mate?
Collected outside Wallington station at about 6, we head off round the motorway. To our surprise we make much better time than anticipated, rolling up at Grays Athletic FC for 7pm (Naturally having done the customary curcuit of the poxy one-way system as mentioned above). This gives us (well me as Chalmers is driving!) a full 45 minutes to partake in the one redeeming feature of the place. It’s beer! Grays bar is the only Ryman clubhouse to get an entry in the good beer guide.
Pints swallowed we head off in search of burgers. A huge double bastard of a thing (with cheese) is purchased and scoffed. Nice.
Eh? The football?? Oh do we have to??
The U’s have again been shuffled slightly with Damian Panter getting a start out on the right meaning Ryan Palmer returns to centre-back and the recently less than impressive Arkwright lands on the bench.
Things start brightly for Sutton as just a minute of so in, Haworth nips onto a through ball behind the home defence and shoot across the face of goal. Grays hit back with fast paced attacks down both our flanks with their No11 and No9 looking particularly dangerous.
Sutton continue to have the better of the early exchanges, with Haworth and Jon Palmer both shooting over when well placed. The U’s almost take the lead after around 15 minutes when a ball in from the right picks out Jon Palmer who hits it first time on the volley from around 25 yards. The ball catches a slight deflection off a defender on it’s way towards the top far corner and it crashes back off the underside of the crossbar.
From this moment on, Grays come back into proceedings more and start to really cause our dodgy defence some problems.
Around 25 minutes in a quick attack down our right flank and the ball is knocked into the edge of the box where it bobbles around before No11 gets his boot on it, nicks it behind the static U’s back line and a team-mate nips in, dummies Martini and walks the ball into the net. Easy peasy.
A couple of minutes after and an exact carbon copy results in a second goal for the home team. A little through ball picks out a runner no one has noticed let alone picked up and Martini is sent sprawling again as the ball is waltzed into the U’s goal. This is going very very wrong.
The U’s try to pick themselves up and with their next meaningful attack a cross from the right hand side picks out Rob Haworth in space between 2 defenders and he powers a header past the ‘keeper to drag our winless carcasses back into the game.
The 2 sides then trade half chances until another awful piece of defending with a couple of minutes to go until the break restores Grays 2 goal advantage. Cooper collects the ball out on the Sutton left touchline, skips past 1 lunging challenge and goes for goal. Another desultory challenge arrives just oustside the 6 yard box before he clips the ball past Chuck at his near post.
For the second half, we’re joined by some Southend fans who’ve popped over to see the Grays ‘keeper ‘Mel’ as he’s on loan from the 3rd division club. Much banter about our teams being crap follows and we swop horror stories about having matches ruined by a certain referee, Joe Ross.
The U’s first chance comes from a free-kick after Akumouah’s storming 30-odd yard run is cynically halted on the edge of the box by the Grays No4. Jon Palmers fiercely struck effort is well held by Southend’s ‘Mel’. Grays mount attacks of their own, but the majority of their efforts are directed straight at Martini.
Brooker limps off and is replaced with Richard Taylor. A couple of minutes after coming on he gets an opportunity to show off his party piece. “Watch this” we tell the Southend lads as Mr Taylor winds up one of those huge throws of his. Sadly after the big build up it only reaches the near post. “C’mon Rich! You can do better than that” I holler before assuring the Shrimpers that he was ‘just getting warmed up’. His second effort doesn’t disappoint!!
It soars over the head of the defender at the near post, bounces in front of a static ‘Mel’ and Jon Palmer tucks the ball away at the back post. 3-2 and we’re back in it again.
Grays continue to search for another goal but between Martini and his defence, the U’s hold out with only a couple of worrying moments. Then entering the last quarter of an hour, Jay Murray races onto a ball over the top of the Grays defence, holds off the defender and chips the ball towards goal. The ‘keeper gets a touch but can’t prevent the ball from looping up and under the bar in to the net. Woo Hoo!!! An equaliser!!!!!!!!
The goal really fires the U’s and they go looking for a winner. With around 5 minutes to play Mison goes past a defender and into the open space of the 18 yard box. With plenty of time, he steadies himself and curls an effort past the ‘keeper only to see it thump back off the crossbar. With no-one following in, the danger is cleared.
It’s an important point as we also discover Bedford have beaten Hendon, leaving us the only side in the Premier without a win so far. Let’s hope it comes soon. But for once, we showed a bit of bottle and looked like we were up for the game. Makes a nice change.
Full time and we adjourn to the bar. Supping a pint whilst watching CNN’s footage of events in New York. It kind of puts everything into perspective really.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Paul Honey. Fantastic work rate, didn’t stop running all night.
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. A decent game of footy and we didn’t lose!
TEAM : Martini, Brooker, R Palmer, Mison, Boothe, Honey, Panter, J Palmer, Akumouah, Haworth, Murray SUBS : Arkwright, Taylor