RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
GRAYS ATHLETIC – 0
SUTTON UNITED – 0
Hang on hang on. Lets just take a second here so I can get this straight. We’ve played 2 games so far, got 4 points AND kept 2 clean sheets??
Really?? Fuck me!
If anyone can come up with a credible explanation for this that does not involve copious amounts of illegal substances or alien abduction, I’d love to hear ‘em.
Going into last night’s visit to not-so-sunny Grays, we were expecting a bit of a hard ride. The Essex boys have displayed a lot of ambition for this season and in turn have flashed their wad, allowing them to sign several rather good players. A lot of pundits (including us!) thought these boys would be amongst the front runners for this season, but unlike us, they slipped up on the opening day with a 1-1 draw at Braintree.
Still, this did little to allay fears of a bit of a battering.
Bob and I manage to locate each other at a packed Fenchurch Street, containing what seems like half the inhabitants of Essex and we head for the train to Grays. It’s running late of course. Marvellous. No Chalmers tonight as he’s at the quacks and doesn’t know when he’ll be out. Aha! The first Chalmers excuse of the season!!
We pass the journey by by chuckling at K’s latest misfortunes and the Scummers somewhat unfortunate opening day defeat. Eventually rolling into Grays, we amble down towards the ground through some roadworks (are they always digging this place up??) and hit the bar for a pint.
Later, with a burger in hand, the U’s run out with the same side in pace as Saturday. Strangely, Matt Gray is once more absent with the usually ineffective Fowler up front. The match starts with a bang as Corbett is fouled within about 2 seconds of the whistle going for kick off!
The U’s go for it early on and within the first couple of minutes, a cross from the left has the Grays defence off guard, but Watson is offside at the far post before he can make the opportunity count. Grays hit back with a sustained period of pressure and one neat move down the left works a shooting opportunity for Stafford Browne, but his strike from around 7 yards is brilliantly beaten out by Dunn.
Further pressure follows and on no fewer than 3 occassions, a cross or corner from the left finds a Grays player, but the header is always clear of the crossbar. One of their big summer signings, Jason Broome misses a good chance with around 30 minutes played. A quick break from a Sutton set peice leaves the defence struggling and a pass finds Broome on the overlap down the right, but his first time effort just clears Tommys bar. But for every opening the home team create, the U’s resolute defence breaks up a dozen more, with Palmer and Hodges both having stormers at the back.
Sutton then find their feet again and in the space of 10 minutes, have 3 good chances themselves. First a Danny Bolt corner from the right is challenged for by Watson and a defender. The ball drops loose just inside the area and Danny Hodges rifles a shot just wide of the near post with the ‘keeper unsighted. Soon afterwards some patient build up on the right and Bolt swings a ball into the box. Fowler just loses his marker and stoops very low to flick a header back towards the far post, but an excellent full length one handed stop by Capleton saves Grays.
Within a couple of minutes, another Bolt corner flies in and Watson reacts first, heading goalwards from no more than 4-5 yards, but again Capleton is in the way, pulling off a fantastic one handed reaction stop that even has us applauding. The bastard.
So, despite the best efforts of both sides, the first half remains goalless and we adjourn to the bar, slightly pleased with our lads very competitive display.
The second 45 see’s Grays once again trying to appease the high expectations of their fans by attacking the U’s goal from the off, but again they hit the Palmer/Hodges ‘wall’ and most attacks flounder or are reduced to long range efforts.
Sutton keep working, but our direct approach is well suited to Grays big backline and they simply gobble up the high balls, most of which are aimed at the largely anonymous Matt Fowler. The one good chance we do get, again comes from the left foot of Danny Bolt. He puts a cross in from the right, straight to Matt Fowler’s feet, just outside the 6 yard box. For once, the young No9, with his back to goal, holds off the defender and lays the ball into the path of the arriving Mark Watson, but he doesn’t quite catch hold of the ball properly and Capleton manages to smother the ball on the line at his near post.
Grays then have the majority of the possession, but once again their finishing lets down some rather good build ups. On some 3 occasions, the ball is worked through only for the strikers to fire wide of the mark from inside the area.
Our last real opportunity comes with around 10 minutes to play. Mark Watson chases down a forward ball, barrelling past a defender, who rather clumsily tries to take him out. But Watso keeps going and on the edge of the box, another somewhat clumsy challenge sends him stumbling before he’s finally knocked into the turf well inside the box. Unfortunately, the ref has blown for the foul on the edge of the box. Oh well, it’s still Bolty territory!
And now we come to another of my major moans about Ryman Reffe-bloody-rees. The inability to actually get a fucking defensive wall back the full 10 yards. Not 6. Or 8. But TEN. Christ, how hard is it??? What really gets on my tits though is when they pace the bastard distance out and then having stood there for 5 minutes trying to get the wall to where he wants them, he gives up and buggers off, leaving them nowhere near the full 10 yards back.
If they won’t get back far enough, just book them you twats! Thats what that funny little book and the pretty coloured cards in your top pocket are for you morons. Jesus wept.
Just to really wind me up, he fails to get the wall all the way back for what is an indirect free-kick. Meaning, the guy on the end of the wall is on top of Bolty before he’s even had time to pull his left foot back for a shot! Completely pointless. We may as well kick it into touch.
The final say in the match goes to our lovely hosts, when with a late corner, the ball is crossed to Dunn’s left hand post where a Grays player awaits. With the goal at his mercy and about 5 yards out, he’s stunned to see his shot saved by Dunn’s legs right on the line.
And so we sneak a point.
All in all a bloody good battling performance from the lads with Hodges and Palmer particularly outstanding. Hopefully, we’ll be able to field someone other than Fowler up front and give him the break in the reserves he so badly needs.
We amble back to the station, but with a good 30 minute wait for the train, we join a fellow U’s fan for a quick pint in the Theobald Arms a short walk away.
Mmmmm, tastes good.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Danny Hodges. Again! Forming a good partnership with Palmer.
ENTERTAINMENT -6. Plenty of pace about the game and not a bad 90 minutes worth
TEAM : Dunn, Hodges, Palmer, Hollands, Beale, Gonsalves, Honey, Corbett, Bolt, Watson, Fowler.
SUBS : Bailey, Hanlan, Shannon