Grays go clear at top with 3-1 win at Wingate & Finchley
Grays maintained their 100% start to the season with a 3-1 victory over Wingate & Finchley on Tuesday evening.
Both teams struggled to find their footing at the start of the game, with players slipping on the heavily water, but immaculate pitch at The Harry Abrahams Stadium.
The home side had the first real opportunity of the game in the 14th minute as a close range header from their third corner of the game was fired towards goal, but George Kamurasi (a late replacement for Lamar Johnson who dislocated a finger in the warm up) reacted well to put out a hand and prevent the ball from crossing the line.
With some hard hitting and heavy tackling taking place in midfield, neither side created any real chances in the first half an hour.
Grays first effort on goal produced the opening goal of the game in the 33rd minute as Jared Small turned his defender on the right wing following a quick throw by Craig Pope, before getting to the byline and firing a low cross across the six yard box, where Joao Carlos had followed in to drive his shot home at the back post.
Wingate & Finchley were almost level within a minute as a deep cross from the left towards the back post was headed back across goal by Leon Smith and only a full stretch diving save by George Kamurasi prevented the ball from finding the bottom corner.
With halftime approaching, Wingate won a corner from the right which was fired across the face of goal. Another header towards goal looked to be heading in, only for a Grays defending to react quickly and clear the ball off the line to ensure the away side went into the break with a lead.
The home side started the second half well and came close to equalising in the 52nd minute as Hector Mackie collected the ball in his own half, going on a mazy run which ended with a low drive from the edge of the Grays area, the shot going narrowly passed the far post.
Grays looked to have weathered the storm as they got to the hour mark and created their first chance of the half as Aaron Ramos-Gonzalez found space on the edge of the Wingate box to fire towards goal. Bobby Smith parried the ball away before the rebound was cleared to safety.
In the 63rd minute, a fine passing move involving Lee Flynn, Joao Carlos and Kenny Beaney cut open the Wingate defence, with Kenny Beaney firing a volleyed cross into the area, where Jack West rose highest but his header was narrowly wide of the goal.
Grays were made to pay for not taking the chances offered to them as they were pegged back in the 66th minute. A corner from the right was delivered into the area where Leon Smith was left unmarked to head into the corner of the net.
Many sides playing away from home letting a lead slip who cave in and fall to defeat, but Grays are made of stern stuff and came back at Wingate.
With the game heading into the final ten minutes, it was clear that a decisive goal was coming in the game, but to which side no-one could be certain.
In the 82nd minute, Grays retook the lead from a corner of their own which was played into the area by Kenny Beaney and Junior Baker rose highest to drill his header into the back of the net.
Wingate tried to come back again and a deep free kick from the left evaded everyone in the area, but George Kamurasi watched the ball closely to push away to safety and clear the danger.
With the game entering the final minute and Wingate pushing more players forward, a counter by Grays always looked likely and in the 90th minute the home side was eventually caught short.
A through ball found its way to Usama Hamdan who drove into the Wingate area. With defenders desperately trying to close him down, he found space to deliver a ball back to the edge of the area where Joao Carlos arrived to rifle to ball home and register his fourth goal in as many games at the start of the season.
A goalless draw for Kingstonian at Harrow Borough means Grays now stand alone at the top of the Ryman Premier League with four wins from the opening four games.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Joe Nightingill, Lee Flynn, Aaron Ramos-Gonzalez (Chuck Duru 88), Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Jared Small (Usama Hamdan 76), Jack West
Unused Subs: Phil Anderson, Alex Cruickshank, Jay Knight