West header secures important win for Blues
Jack West scores the only goal of the game to earn Grays an important win at Brentwood Town in a pivotal night in the race for the title
Grays went into the midweek game away at Brentwood knowing it would be a hard match with the home side losing only once at home in the league all season.
The game was tight and tense with neither side wanting to crack first, Grays knowing a win would keep them in the hunt for the title and Brentwood knowing a win would get them closer to a play-off spot with lots of games still in hand.
The game was reduced to one effort a side in the first twenty minutes with Brentwood coming close in the 18th minute as a cross from the left was cleared to the edge of the area where Abs Thompson fired towards goal but the ball went narrowly passed the left hand post.
A minute later Grays replied with an effort of their own as a long ball up the middle found Jeff Hammond through on goal but he couldn’t get any power of his header from the edge of the area and Richard Wray claimed easily.
Jeff Hammond’s movement was causing the Brentwood defence lots of problems as they struggled to follow him around the pitch.
In the 29th minute, Jeff Hammond done well done the left wing to create space and fire across the face of goal. The ball beat both defender and keeper, but unfortunately also beat the outstreached leg of Jack West at the back post.
In the 40th minute, Jeff Hammond popped up on the right wing and his floated cross was into the path of Danny Bunce he missed his header from twelve yards.
Grays finally made the breakthrough in the 43rd minute with a fine flowing move. The ball was played into Jack West just outside the area. He laid the ball off to Danny Bunce on the left wing. His through ball found Jeff Hammond, again appearing on the left wing. He drove into the area and fired towards goal. Richard Wray could only parry the shot in the area and Jack West was the right man in the right place to nod home the rebound.
Brentwood tried hard to get back in the game second half but the toll of playing three games a week started to visibly take affect which allowed Grays more space to attack on the counter.
In the 64th minute Grays forced a corner and the in-swinger from Joao Carlos found Jack West at the back post but his shot went wide of the post from close range.
Three minutes later, Grays countered with Jack West driving towards goal. He had Danny Bunce on the left and Jeff Hammond on the right both well placed, but with confidence high he took the shot on himself, firing wide of the left hand post.
In the 71st minute another counter saw the ball fed to Jeff Hammond in space on the left hand corner of the area but his low shot towards the near post was comfortably saved by Richard Wray.
Jeff Hammond made way for Jared Small with five minutes remaining having put in an excellent performance, causing the Brentwood defence problems all night.
Deep into injury time Grays had enough chance to extend their lead as Danny Bunce fired towards goal from the edge of the area. The shot was well saved by Richard Wray and parried away where Jack West reacted quickest to pounce of the loose ball, but his shot from a narrow angle hit the side netting.
Grays held on for the win and another clean sheet, their seventh in eight games, and with Maldon & Tiptree slipping up with a 2-1 defeat at AFC Sudbury their lead at the top was again reduced with Grays 10 points behind with 3 games at hand.
Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Lee Flynn, Danny Bunce, Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Jeff Hammond (Jared Small 86), Jack West
Unused Subs: Dave East, Luke Marshall, Daniel Subuola, Joe Sweeney