GAFC 2-1 Norwich United
Grays secured their place in the second qualifying round of The FA Cup with a 2-1 home win against Norwich United on Saturday.
Both teams started the game slowly in hot and humid conditions with the first ten minutes of the game passing by without much incident.
In the 10th minute an innocuous collision between Grays defender David East and Norwich attacker Nathan Howard saw both players end up on the floor. It was immediately apparent that Howard was badly injured and the game was stopped.
Both teams took shelter in the shade whilst an ambulance was called for the injured player. After fifty minutes the ambulance took Howard to a local hospital and the game was able to continue with 35 minutes of injury time.
Grays were much better after the restart and took the lead in the 16th minute (or 6th minute of injury time) as Luke Marshall attacked down the right wing to the by-line before squaring the ball to Joe Sweeney 12 yards from goal. His shot was heading towards goal before taking a big deflection to leave the Norwich goalkeeper stranded as the ball flew into the opposite corner.
Grays seemed content to maintain their lead for the remainder of the half as they played possession football, making the Norwich United team chase the ball on the massive Rush Green pitch on a hot day.
The only other incident in the first half was Norwich’s Nathan Fox being booked for a mistimed tackle on Marshall in the 38th minute.
The second half began with Grays determined to get the cushion of a second goal.
A Craig Pope header from a corner in the 48th minute went narrowly over before Sweeney set up Jack West in the 50th minute only to see his shot go narrowly wide.
Norwich almost levelled in the 52nd minute as Junior Baker was caught out by a long ball and a snap shot by the Norwich forward cannoned back off the foot of the post.
Grays responded with two substitutions as Marshall and West were replaced by Jake Hall and James Bunn.
It was again Norwich who almost scored though as Baker was again caught in possession following a long ball over the top but George Kamurasi in the Grays goal was off his line quickly to push the ball away before the striker could get a shot on goal.
Grays did finally get their second goal in the 63rd minute as great work by Joe Sweeney on the right wing saw him cut inside a play a perfect pass through the middle to Joao Carlos. He ran in on goal and fired low into the bottom right hand corner to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
Grays continued to produce shooting chances but failed to take the opportunities as Hall, Sweeney and Bunn all missed chances they should have taken.
In the 77th minute Leon Lalite was replaced by Jamie Richards for his Grays Athletic debut.
A minute later James Bunn found himself clean through on goal again but his shot from the edge of the area went harmlessly over the bar.
Norwich United ensured a tense finish to the game as they pulled a goal back in the 86th minute. The ball broke to Nathan Fox on the edge of the Grays area and his first time shot flew into the top corner leaving Kamurasi with no chance in the Grays goal.
Grays were almost made to pay for all the missed chances in injury time as a scramble in the Grays area saw a shot from the left hand side flash just past the right hand post for a goal kick.
The referee blew up for full time and Grays progress to the next round of The FA Cup.
Grays Athletic: George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Lee Flynn, Junior Baker, David East, Luke Marshall (Jake Hall 53), Joao Carlos, Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite (Jamie Richards 77), Joe Sweeney, Jack West (James Bunn 58)