Saturday 12th August 2006

Grays Athletic 1 Stafford Rangers 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1049

Stafford Rangers marked their return to the Nationwide Conference with a hard-earned draw away at Grays Athletic.

Both goals came in the opening eight minutes with Neil Grayson, from the penalty spot, cancelling out an earlier strike from Michael Kightly.

Manager Phil Robinson started with two of his summer signings. Guy Madjo made his debut alongside Grayson and Ged Murphy, who made one appearance for Boro during the 1999/2000 season, played in midfield. On-loan Richie Sutton slotted in to the right-back spot he occupied at the end of last season. Liam Murray deputised for the injured Craig McAughtrie at centre-back.

Rangers survived an early scare from Grays’ first corner. The ball fell to Jay Smith who saw an effort cleared off the line by Kevin Street.

Grays took teh lead in the 6th minute. Good work by Lee Boylan set up Glenn Poole on the left who saw an angled shot saved by the diving Dean Williams. The keeper could only push the ball into the path of Kightly who turned it into the net under pressure from the challenging Nathan Talbott.

However, within a minute of Grays taking the lead, Murphy was brought down inside the area and Grayson confidently converted the resulting penalty.

Once things settled down after the action-packing opening, Stafford proved more than a match for the side that finished third last season and retained the FA Trophy. On 15 minutes, Madjo looked to take advantage of a mix-up on the edge of the home area. He got in a dipping lob that was inches too high.

Rangers went close again on the half-hour mark. Murphy got on the end of a knockdown by Robin Gibson but Ashley Bayes pulled off a point-blank reaction save.

Grays remained a threat and Dean Williams leapt up to his right to turn round a 30-yard drive by Poole that looked destined for the top-left corner of the net.

Both sides created chances to take the lead at the start of the second half. For Boro, Grayson volleyed over a cross from Gibson and Street was too high with a rising shot.

Aaron McLean really should have put his side in front on 56 minutes but he headed over from no more than 10 yards out.

Lee Downes went close for Stafford with a blocked shot after the persistent Madjo took advantage of a mistake on the left.

As full-time approached, Stafford survived a scare on 87 minutes. Williams pulled off another great save to keep out a shot from Kightly and, in the scramble that followed in front of goal, John Martin had a follow-up effort blocked. Conceding a late goal would have been cruel luck on Rangers so thankfully the ball was cleared and so kept out of the net.

In injury time, Madjo latched on to a ball down the middle with a half-chance of nicking the win. But he was thwarted by excellent defending by two Grays players and couldn’t to get in a shot.

Grays Athletic (4-4-2): Ashley Bayes; Andrew Sambrook, Jamie Stuart, Jay Smith, Adam Green; Michael Kightly, John Martin, Ashley Nicholls, Glenn Poole; Lee Boylan (Dennis Oli, 71), Aaron McLean. Unused subs: Tom Williamson, Nathan Moulds, Jamie Slabber, Danny Knowles.

Stafford Rangers: Williams; Sutton, Daniel, Murray, Talbott; R. Gibson, Murphy (Lovatt, 86), Street; Grayson, Madjo. Unused subs: Edwards, Quailey, Olaoye, Alcock.

Referee: S. Cook (Sheffield).

1-0 Kightly (6)
1-1 Grayson (8 pen)