Sunday, 30 September 2012

Grays, a Hat and Me

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 29 September 2012 at Rush Green Stadium
Grays Athletic 1 Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1
FA Trophy First Qualifying Round.  Both sides play at step 4 - Grays in the Isthmian League Div One North and Ashford Town in the Southern League Div One Central.
This is the second Grays home game I have seen – the last was in September 2006 at the Recreation Ground.  It was one of my early Conference games as I moved beyond the 92 and into the non-league world.  The Rec lease ended in 2009/10 and Grays dropped to step 4, groundsharing at East Thurrock for two years.  The arrangement at Rush Green Stadium, in partnership with West Ham, is seen as a temporary home.  It becomes number 483 on my lifetime list, and I am here because it is the shortest journey of the 24 Trophy ties at “unvisited” grounds today.  The Yappmobile is in need of a service and I need to keep the mileage down this week!
Pre-match preparation
Thanks to the excellent article on the Grays website I have established that neither side has had a 0-0 draw for months.  Both sides were tonked out of the FA Cup last weekend.  Grays beat Aylesbury and Ashford beat Walton Casuals in the preliminary round and it is the first time that the clubs have met in any competition.  Grays have won this trophy twice, winning finals at Villa Park and Upton Park against Hucknall Town (2005) and Woking (2006) respectively.
This match in one sentence
An interesting game because the outcome was always in doubt rather than due to the quality of the play, and probably a fair result even though it messes up a Shaded by Grays title opportunity.
So what?
A replay on Tuesday.
The drama unfolds
Drama may be a bit of an overstatement here in its popular meaning anyway.  If this were a stage play, we might be in the "Waiting for Godot" territory. Interesting and strangely compelling for the purists, yet not as exciting as the more downmarket stuff.  Only 122 turned up to see it.

The Rush Green Stadium has a very good playing surface maintained by the Premier League partners.  I was chatting pre-match to a couple of Grays supporters who have followed the club for over 60 years, and they explained that Grays were handing a debut to a loaned West Ham keeper, Jake Larkins.  Ashford made the better start though, and on a couple of occasions Junior Baker needed to be strong and alert in central defence.  It could be said that this goal was against the run of play.  Grays are in blue.  1-0

The scorer is Danny Bunce, and there were 21 mins on the watch.  Here is a more general scene-setter clip after the goal.  It was now very even overall, with Grays playing with more confidence after their goal.

Ashford had their first real chance to equalise just before half-time.  Alex Duffy reached the byline and from the resulting corner a clearance off the line pinged to  Bairoh Conteh but the defender's first-time shot went high.  1-0 at half-time

I started the second half with an anticlockwise (from above) circuit of the ground and so here are two clips from other standpoints.

After 63 minutes Jack West headed the ball on to Joao Carlos whose shot rolled just wide.  It could so easily have been 2-0, but on 70 minutes an equaliser came at the other end.  Mark Bitmead's first time finish was beyond the reach of Larkins.  The ball had fallen nicely for him after a long throw from the right.  1-1

Grays were unlucky when a long range dipping volley by Bunce resulted in a corner.  From that corner, Baker came running in for a perfectly timed and unchallenged header.  I took several short clips in the last few minutes as both sides looked for a winner.  By this time I was back in the shelter of the main stand - it was colder than it looks!  The trademark green woolly hat will soon be needed this season, I fear.  Today it remained in the rucksack (yes, I know) but it was close.

However, nothing doing on the goals front, so a draw and a replay it is.  Final score 1-1

Good game at the back for Junior Baker apart from this near-comedy-og moment
The programme

(and a very good one it is too, by the way)
Something random
The last time I saw Jack West play (for Tilbury) I bumped into his dad at the tea bar ...

Hopping for Moorfields Update
Two goals added to the tally, but nothing else of particular interest to the sponsors.  Please join in if you haven't done so already.  Previous posts explain all.  Look for the Hopping for Moorfields tag in the cloud on the right.
What Next?
Not a clue, though I am up in the North West for other reasons next Saturday.  I may try to sneak off to a match for a few hours during the afternoon.  Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for my hot flashes.

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