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20.12.2008 @ 15:00 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 502
Grays Athletic 2 - 1 Barrow
Referee: R Martin Conference National-Match

Barry Cogan (41)
Barry Cogan (56)
Jason Walker (26)
Starting Line-ups
David Button
Damien Batt
Jamie Stuart
Jon Ashton
Fabian Wilnis
Luke Hickie
Ishmael Welsh
Barry Cogan
Stuart Thurgood
Jamie Slabber
Scott Forrester
Alan Martin
Mike Pearson
Paul Jones
Steve McNulty
Carlos Logan
Matt Henny
Luke Joyce
Mark Boyd
Paul Brown
Paul Tait
Jason Walker
Steve Arnold
Rob Gier
Gavin Dayes
Sam Sloma
Dean McDonald
Natt Kerr
Andrew Bond
Nick Rogan
Lee Hunt
David Brown
Sam Sloma -> Jamie Slabber (83)
Andrew Bond -> Luke Joyce (61)
Natt Kerr -> Matt Henny (61)
Lee Hunt -> Paul Tait (71)
Yellow cards
Scott Forrester (36)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
A Barry Cogan double strike gave Grays a valuable three points at the New Rec as they continue their journey to safety.

Of huge significance was the fact that this was the first time that Grays had recovered from a goal down.

The first 30 minutes were all Barrow as fleet footed twin strikers Jason Walker and Paul Tait gave Grays a torrid time. Their pace, which has been the source of their great FA Cup run, would have troubled any defence.

Paul Brown struck twice around 15 minutes but both were easily saved by David Button while at the other end Scott Forrester broke free and Paul Jones produced a perfectly timed tackle to intercept.

In the 20th minute, Matt Henney should have done better when he did likewise but again the ball flashed across the area.

The deadlock was broken in the 26th minute when Jason Walker got round the back of the Grays defence, rounded David Button and slotted the ball away.

Grays have failed to come back from 1-0 down and with the midfield pairing of Stuart Thurgood and Luke Hickie appearing anonymous, things were looking grim.

But as the half hour passed, wingers Barry Cogan and Ishmael Welsh started to swing the momentum with a series of rampaging runs that culminated in the 41st minute when Welsh crossed to Cogan who scrambled the ball home.

Grays took off where they left off in the second half as the confidence oozed out of the Blues. Striker Scott Forrester chased down everything as Jamie Slabber used his experience and class.

The Blues took the lead in the 55th minute when man of the match Barry Cogan latched onto a perfect Hickie through-ball, selected his spot and from just inside the area and curled the ball past Alan Martin.

Grays play now belied a team in the relegation zone and ran Barrow ragged forcing a series of fine saves from Alan Martin.

Grays own defence was immense with Damian Batt and veteran Fabian Wilnis producing vital interceptions.

Barrow tried to come back and as Grays lay deep both Walker and Paul Brown again went close without really troubling the keeper. Even the chances in the depth of injury-time flattered to deceive and a grateful Grays climbed nearer to safety.

Match Analysis:

Between 3.30pm and 4.50pm on Saturday December 20th you saw everything you would wish for in a game of football at the New Recreation Ground in Grays.

Barry Cogan’s double strike illustrated that a genuine recovery is in place. They won ugly in York and eked out a draw in Stevenage but here, facing a goal deficit they battled back for the first time this season in what will be a highly significant result.

With Woking, Northwich and Lewes looking bolt-on certainties for relegation, Salisbury in freefall and others such as Mansfield and Forest Green all at sea, Grays should feel confident that they can navigate these choppy waters.

Once again, the defence were immense. Ashton imperturbable and Stuart courageous. Fabian Wilnis at times gave masterclasses in timing and judgement while young Damian Batt is clearly learning a great deal from his peers. On many occasions Barrow couldn’t pierce the ten men behind the ball.

Cogan’s reappearance on the right flank was vital. He is a player of immense skill who took Barrow apart. They thought they had enough problems with a surging Ishmael Welsh but they were suffering a double whammy.

Jamie Slabber had a very influential game and proved (today) a lot of doubters wrong. When you see talent you desperately want to see it fulfilled.

It was so disappointing last year to see teenage prodigy Charlie Hearn fritter his career away and so it is with Jamie. He just has to grind these performances out. Today he produced a number of deft through-balls and vital flick on’s for Scott Forrester which should act as a springboard.

Scott himself was transformed in the second half from a headless chicken to a dynamic striker with flicks, bicycle kicks and rasping shots. That being said, he doesn’t look like scoring.


This might seem the 'bah-humbug' moment at this time of year, but it couldn’t be ignored that, irrespective of the result, Stuart Thurgood once again had a poor game. The perception is that he is not to be dropped. Some players seem to only have to make the odd mistake and they are consigned to the wilderness (Kenny Davis).

Sam Sloma has been player of the year so far. He was one of the few who played well at Hayes (along with Davis and yet both were subbed).

He clearly didn’t take to being dropped as he spent half time chatting to friends and was visibly detached all game. It may have been a technical switch but the game cried out for him to play where the hugely ineffective Luke Hickie was.

Granted, Hickie produced a fabulous through-ball for the second goal and came alive from that point, but better teams than Barrow are going to walk through that pairing.

The platform for the Ebbsfleet and Histon game has been established. It is set for a fascinating series of games.

Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report