Grays Athletic v Woking

Brian Caffarey
12:00am, Tue 14th Aug 2007
7.45pm on Wednesday 15 August 2007

There will be a lot of reunions ? happy and otherwise ? when the Cards travel to the Recreation Ground on Wednesday evening for their first away game of the season. Frank Gray and Gerry Murphy, of course, had a brief spell in charge there last year, and Adam Green was there too, whilst the Grays? squad includes former Kingfield favourites Craig McAllister and Karl Murray. Grays, like Woking, have seen a large turnover of players this summer, with a similar emphasis on youth, but the team has a solid core of seasoned Conference performers, so the Cards can expect a stiff test on their first trip.


The Cards can be very satisfied with their opening day performance against a strong Rushden and Diamonds side, who must have fancied their chances of coming away with all three points. As expected, defensively we looked very sound, with some tremendous tackling and covering from Tom Hutchinson, Paul Lorraine and Jay Gasson in particular, whilst Nick Gindre pulled off some fine saves and was quickly off his line throughout. In midfield Bradley Quamina is beginning to show why Frank was so keen to sign him: his work rate is superb and he provides an important defensive shield. Matt Gray had a quiet-ish first half but came into the game more in the second half, with some surging runs and two excellent goal attempts in the last ten minutes. Matt Pattison played deep ? or was forced to play deep ? in the first half, and certainly got in some important tackles and blocks in front of our area at a point in the game when Rushden were creating most of the pressure, but we could do with him getting forward more to support the front two. Giuseppe Sole had a decent game ? he is much less of a peripheral figure than he sometimes was last season when he was stuck out wide ? but he hasn?t yet got his shooting boots on. The revelation was Marvin Morgan, whose debut at Kingfield won?t be forgotten quickly by those who were lucky enough to see his fantastic solo goal. He looks ungainly and awkward but his angular frame has great power. He doesn?t always look as though he knows what he is going to do with the ball but, given half a chance, he will run at defenders and seems able by and large to take the ball with him (unlike a few forwards we?ve known at Kingfield!). And, given sight of goal, he is not slow to let fly. He is not a target man in the Craig McAllister sense, so we need to get the ball to him on the ground, facing the opposition, rather than humping it up to him high with defenders at his back. A slight disappointment for some fans was not to see Goma Lambu or David Shin coming on to run at a tiring defence but I guess Frank was loath to disrupt the pattern of play when the team was doing so well.


Grays had an even closer shave with relegation last season than we did ? which came as something of a shock given that, the previous year, they had made the play-offs. But there was much turmoil at the Rec, with no fewer than four managers in charge during the season. Justin Edinburgh announced, when survival had been assured on the final day, that the team ?needed a good shake-up? and promptly released a substantial list of players, including ex-Card Ashley Bayes, who has since joined Crawley Town.

Edinburgh has been busy bringing in replacements this summer ? no fewer than 13 new faces have walked in the door of the Rec ? and whilst, echoing Frank Gray, he says that he has a ?young and hungry squad of players?, many have experience at this level or above. Apart from McAllister and Murray (sent off for ?stamping? in the Blues? friendly against Spurs), new faces include Jon Ashton, a central defender signed from Rushden and Diamonds, Ernie Cooksey, a midfielder signed from Boston and with League experience at Oldham and Rochdale too, and Ross Flitney, a keeper signed from Barnet who started his career at Arsenal. Edinburgh has also dipped into the former Conference South to acquire two of its star performers: Danny Kedwell, who scored 23 goals last season for Welling, and who scored an excellent strike against us in the FA Cup at Kingfield, and Ben Watson, the Bognor Regis forward whose name was linked with us last season. Other recruits include highly-rated midfielder Jamie Day from Welling; 19 year-old Southend striker, James Lawson; 19 year-old Bournemouth central defender Jack Haverson; Mark Marshall, a winger formerly with Carshalton Athletic; Danny Knowles, a keeper originally with Gillingham and who had a loan spell at Welling last season; and Charley Hearn, a 23 year-old midfielder signed from Fisher Athletic. Edinburgh has also given contracts to four youth team graduates.

Although there have been lots of comings and goings, Grays can still call on a talented core of players from last season, notably Stuart Thurgood ? who, the season before last, was surely the best midfielder in the Conference ? strikers Dennis Oli and the pacy Aaron O?Connor and defenders Andy Sambrook and Cameron Mawer. On paper, it looks a strong squad and a number of commentators are tipping the Blues as ?dark horses? for promotion this season. The crucial question is how well will they all gel and how long will it take?


Grays? first game was the televised encounter away at much-fancied Torquay United on Sunday. The Blues came away with a 0-0 draw and looked the better side for much of the game. Karl Murray was in the starting line-up. Craig McAllister came on as a late substitute for Danny Kedwell.


The two teams played out two thrilling 2-2 draws in the league encounters in Grays? first season in the Conference. There?s no need to remind Woking fans what happened in the FA Trophy Final at the end of that campaign! Last August we were thrashed 3-0 at Grays, with a certain Frank Gray in the Grays dugout: a performance which produced some early calls for Glenn Cockerill?s departure. (If I remember rightly too, Frank was not very complimentary about our style of play!) In the return fixture in April, with Neil Smith and Graham Baker in temporary charge, the Cards won a tense relegation battle 1-0 thanks to a Tom Hutchinson toe-poke and much desperate defending in the second half.


The Recreation Ground, Bridge Road,
Grays, Essex, RM17 6BZ
Clubhouse: (01375) 377753
General enquiries: (01375) 391649


by coach ? why not take it easy and go on the Supporters? Club coach? It leaves Kingfield at 5pm and the cost is ?10 for members and ?14 for non-members. Ring the Club Shop (01483 772470) to book a place.

by car ? from Junction 30 of the M25, take the A13 towards Southend. At the Grays exit follow the signs to the town centre. On entering the one-way system, keep left, then continue up the hill for about 1/2 mile. Turn right into Bridge Road. The ground is on your right. The AA estimates the journey time at about an hour and a quarter.
Parking within the ground is very limited, but there is a small, free public car park opposite the main entrance. There is also a large multi-storey car park just six minutes away, near the station.

by train ? there is a good service to Grays from Liverpool Street but it might be best to take the Jubilee Line from Waterloo to West Ham and pick the train up there. There are services at 18.21, 18.34 and 18.59 from West Ham, arriving at Grays at 18.48, 19.05 and 19.26 respectively. The ground is about seven minutes' walk from the station.
After coming out of Grays station, turn right; after about 800 yards turn right again into Clarence Road. You can enter the ground via Bradbourne Road on your right. Alternatively, for access to the bar, keep going along Clarence Road, turn right into Bridge Road, and the main entrance is on your right.

Apparently, away fans are allotted both covered and uncovered areas at the Recreation Ground this season. The Bricklayers? Arms, opposite the main entrance to the ground, is recommended, as is The White Hart, situated off Argent Street, about five minutes from the ground.

Come on, you Cards!

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