Boro beat Grays 1-0
Stevenage Boro 1 Grays Athletic 0 It was another cold day in November and Mark Stimson s team won by a single goal in a Conference fixture between Boro and the men from Essex. Twelve months on from Grays taking the points at Broadhall Way, their former bo
Stevenage Boro 1 Grays Athletic 0
It was another cold day in November and Mark Stimson's team won by a single goal in a Conference fixture between Boro and the men from Essex.
Twelve months on from Grays taking the points at Broadhall Way, their former boss has switched allegiance to Boro and was facing his old side for the first time.
There was a different outcome this time as Boro featured just three players who played in the corresponding game last season - Alan Julian, Jon Nurse and George Boyd.
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The rebuilding process since the departure of Graham Westley saw a new addition, teenage midfielder Brad Johnson making his debut on an initial month's loan from League One Northampton.
Boro otherwise had a familiar look about them with left-back John Nutter facing his previous club and former Boro striker Justin Richards (on a month's loan from Peterborough) in Grays colours.
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Richards - like all of the other forward players on view - generally had a quiet afternoon as defences dominated.
A tight opening half hour produced little in the way of clear opportunities.
This all changed with a succession of free-kicks on the edge of the Grays penalty area.
The first arrived as Jay Smith was cautioned for chopping down a free-flowing George Boyd. An Adam Miller shot took a big deflection and Jamie Stuart was grateful to hack it clear from near his own line.
From another set piece almost immediately, Ronnie Henry could not make a telling touch as Boyd's free-kick was half blocked.
Boyd was in the thick of the action at this stage and was denied by goalkeeper Ashley Bayes when the opening goal seemed likely after Nurse robbed Jim Sangare of possession.
Another Boro free-kick did finally reap dividends five minutes before the break with Sangare booked on this occasion.
New boy Johnson's initial shot was blocked by the wall but Miller pounced on the loose ball and fired low into the corner.
It could have been two for Boro and two for Miller within a couple of minutes as Johnson played him in and his left-footed shot was inches from creeping in.
Boro had largely monopolised goalscoring chances in the half but it was a different story after the break.
The home side played on the break as Grays searched for an equaliser.
Glenn Poole supplied the early threat, a long range effort which deflected just past the post followed by the same man forcing Julian into his first serious action of the afternoon as he spectacularly pushed the ball over the top.
Four Boro players - Santos Gaia, Nurse, Miller and Julian (for a spat with Poole in added time) - were booked in the last half hour as Boro hung on grimly.
It was not until 15 minutes to go that Boyd had Boro's first effort of the half when he forced Bayes to push his shot behind.
Grays were also struggling to get a clear sight of Julian's goal, Stuart heading wide from a Poole free-kick and Stuart Thurgood (another player to be cautioned during the half) sending a real piledriver just wide.
Four and a half extra minutes added to the tension but Boro held on for the three points.
And as many supporters would freely admit, they would prefer one-nil to the Boro than a 4-3 defeat any day, especially in a game with some added spice.
Stimson said: "Grays are strong down the middle so we decided to change our system to nullify this.
"Our back four were tested because they were playing against good players.
"It's good to beat sides above us in the table and I don't think Grays will be far away at the end of the season.