GAFC 1 - 1 Ashford Town (Middx)
Grays Athletic and Ashford Town will replay on Tuesday evening to determine who progresses in the FA Trophy following a 1-1 draw at Rush Green on Saturday.
Grays gave a debut start to Jake Larkins in goal, on loan from West Ham, and replaced James Bunn and Lee Flynn with Jack West and Joe Sweeney, reverting back to a 4-4-2 formation and moving Danny Dunce to the left back position.
Both teams started the game slowly with no clear cut chances being created in the first twenty minutes.
It took until the 21st minute for the first shot on target which saw Grays take the lead. A foul twenty yards from goal gave Danny Bunce the chance to line up a free kick which was fired low and hard towards the far corner of the goal. The ball went through a crowd of players and somehow found its way into the bottom corner, evading the dive by Ashford Town keeper, Paul McCarthy.
Grays almost doubled their lead on 34 minutes as a ball over the top of the Ashford defence was flicked on by Jack West into the path of Joao Carlos. His shot was tame and half saved by McCarthy and as the ball rolled slowly towards the goal line a defender managed to get back in time to clear off the line.
Ashford first real chance came just two minutes before half time as a corner was swung across from the left hand side. Following a goal mouth scramble, the ball fell to Bairoh Conteh in the middle of goal five yards out but his shot snap went horribly over the bar.
The second half started much the same as the first with little being created by either side.
The only action of note in the first fifteen minutes was a yellow card for Craig Pope who threw the ball away following a free kick being awarded to Ashford Town.
Grays had another chance to extend their lead in the 64th minute as another long ball up field from Ryan Kirby was again flicked on by West into the path of Carlos. His attacking run took him into the area but the shoot went narrowly past the far post.
A minute later Grays replaced Joe Sweeney with Luke Marshall as they changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 with Jack West the lone man up front.
Ashford drew level in the 71st minute with their first shot of the second half. A long throw from the right was not cleared and the ball fell to Mark Bitmead twelve yards out. His controlled lob was played into the far corner of the net, leaving Larkins no chance in the Grays goal.
With ten minutes of the game remaining, both teams tried to push for a winning goal as the possibility of a replay drew nearer.
In the 81st minute Luke Marshall, still looking for his first goal for the club, unleashed a strike from the edge of the area that looked to be heading for the corner only for McCarthy to make a good diving save to ensure the score remained level.
On 85 minutes, Ashford nearly took an unlikely lead as a corner from the left was swung into the six yard area and Junior Baker mis-timed his header away to knock the ball towards his own goal. Only a good reaction save by Larkins with his knee ensured the home side did not fall behind.
Grays made two late substitutions replacing Jake Hall and Jack West with Tyrone Scarlett and James Bunn.
The final action of the game almost saw Grays reduced to ten men as Junior Baker mis-controlled the ball on the edge of his own area and then lunged in with a diving tackle to try and regain possession. Fortunately for the home side the referee deemed this to be a yellow card offence only.
Neither side could find the decisive third goal so a replay is required on Tuesday evening to determine who goes through to play either Bury Town or Whitehawk in the next round.
Grays Athletic: Jake Larkins, Craig Pope, Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Danny Bunce, Jake Hall (Tyrone Scarlett 86), Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Joe Sweeney (Luke Marshall 65), Jack West (James Bunn 90)
Unused Subs: Lee Flynn, David East