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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Grays turn style into substance
By Owen Phillips
BBC Sport at Upton Park

Stuart Thurgood with the FA Trophy
Grays Captain Stuart Thurgood lifts the Trophy for the second time in a year
Grays retained the FA Trophy in a style befitting Upton Park on Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after Alan Pardew's West Ham came within a whisker of bringing home the FA Cup to east London, Grays gave an equally impressive display in easing past Woking 2-0 - only this time they took the silverware as well as the plaudits.

Given the freedom to play a no-fear brand of attacking football by manager Mark Stimson, Grays tore into Woking before the interval and should have been out of sight by the time the first period entered its final five minutes.

Instead, despite having completely dominated the game, the score was 0-0 until the 41st minute.

Then a cool, dinked finish from the dangerous Dennis Oli after a rapid breakaway and Glenn Poole's header into an empty net after another free-flowing move on the stroke of half-time gave the scoreline a more accurate feel.

The second goal sparked scenes of wild celebration from the 8,000 or so Grays fans in The Bobby Moore and DR Martens stands.

But nothing could match the joy shown by Grays kit man Tony Gay, who launched into a baffling but thoroughly entertaining breakdancing/bodypopping routine.

He clearly knew, as did the majority of the 13,997 crowd, that the game was as good as over.

The Surrey boys were a different proposition after the turnaround but the damage had been done.

Over the 90 minutes we probaby just had a little bit too much movement for Woking
Mark Stimson

Grays, marshalled brilliantly by captain Stuart Thurgood, continued to fashion chances at will and were quite happy to leave themselves exposed at the back - such is boss Stimson's confidence in his side's attacking abilities.

"Over the 90 minutes we probaby just had a little bit too much movement for Woking," Stimson reflected. "And I always fancy us to score more than the opposition - if they get three we will get four."

That refreshing approach ensured it was one of the best Trophy finals in years - particularly after the break when Woking suddenly decided to join in.

Grays continued to pass and move and pour men forward and Woking started to battle and fight and make the most of their opposition's brave approach to fashion some great openings of their own.

Top scorer Justin Richards, who is out of contract in the summer and likely to move north for family reasons, was twice denied by superb saves from the excellent Grays keeper Ashley Bayes, one of which was a truly breathtaking one-handed stop.

At the other end only some wayward finishing prevented the Essex boys from adding to their goal tally.

The hugely impressive strike duo of Aaron McLean and Oli missed at least half-a-dozen chances; John Martin headed inexplicably wide from two yards and Michael Kightly, Thurgood and Poole all had opportunities.

Woking manager Glenn Cockerill
Cards boss Cockerill admitted the better team won

Even the staunchest of Woking fans could have no argument about the outcome.

Cards boss Glenn Cockerill was left to rue his side's abysmal first-half display and he said: "We didn't turn up before the break. Even as poor as we were in the first half, I would have liked to have seen some organisation to get us to half-time and have a chat.

"But they were deservedly 2-0 up. Grays kept the ball better than we did and looked a yard sharper. We gave it a go in the second half but the best team won."

The fleet-footed Kightly may have won the man-of-the-match award - and was hugely impressive in doing so - but captain Thurgood gave a lung-busting performance in the centre of the park.

He may not have crashed in two stunning half-volleys a la Steven Gerrard but his contribution to Grays' Trophy triumph was equally as impressive as the Liverpool midfielder's had been to the Merseyside club's FA Cup success.

Thurgood completely dominated the game from first to last minute. He demanded the ball throughout, used it wisely and could easily have ended up with a couple of wonder goals of his own.

As it was he did more than enough to ensure his side made up for the disappointment of losing in the Conference play-offs to Halifax in midweek.

A sublime piece of skill towards the end led to him making space for himself with an outrageous stepover and he curled a wonderful shot past a bemused keeper and on to the inside of the far post.

"If that had gone in it would not have been bettered in the Champions League final on Wednesday," said Stimson, who acknowledged he may have trouble keeping hold off the likes of Kightly and Thurgood in the close season. "It was like something out of the Ronaldinho locker."

Grays goalkeeper Ashley Bayes
A "buzzing" Bayes led the post-match celebrations

But the missed chances did not matter and, with the Trophy almost in the bag, Grays substitute keeper Nicky Eyre was determined to become involved.

To his credit, he made a fine fist of the cheerleading duties, geeing the crowd into a near frenzy as they got ready to party.

It was only when the cup was won that Bayes proved he is the rightful number one off the pitch too.

Stimson said Bayes was still "buzzing on the ceiling" a full hour after the game and you could well believe it after witnessing the way he greeted the final whistle.

His energetic dancing and furious arm-waving were not up there with the kit man's jig of delight but certainly ran him a close second.

SEE ALSO
Grays beat Cards to retain Trophy
14 May 06 |  Non League
Grays Ath 1-1 Hucknall Town (aet)
22 May 05 |  Non League


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