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Grays Athletic 2 Hitchin Town 0

Saturday, September 13 2003

Forget the notion that muddy pitches and the long-ball tactics of Grays- the normal complaints about a trip to the Essex town - upset the Canaries on Saturday, for they were beaten by a better side playing incisive football.

Full-timers Grays played with a swagger not seen from a side donning their colours for many a day, and their forwards, Freddie Eastwood and Leroy Griffiths, kept the Hitchin defence occupied for 90 minutes.

Hitchin fans hoped for the sort of battling performance that their side put on at Kettering four days earlier, but they didn’t get it. The Canaries were never in this game and their best chance of scoring was a cross that bounced off the top of the crossbar.

But still the game might have had a different outcome had Carl Drew connected with a Dean Brennan free kick and Adam Parker’s glancing header been a yard to the left. It was not until the 41st minute that Grays took the lead when a cross by Griffiths fell to Martin Carthy at the far post and he had the simple task of stabbing the ball into an empty net.

Four minutes later, Grays extended their lead, and here’s where Hitchin, with some justification, can feel that the gods just weren’t on their side. This time Griffiths, resplendent in white boots, perhaps a legacy from his QPR days, was the scorer, hooking the ball home from close range after James Robinson appeared to lose Tony Lock’s cross in the Thames-side sunshine. Robbie O’Keefe and his bench appealed for a foul and some referees may have been more generous. Not the flamboyant and coiffured Mr Culot, though.

Having been dealt two major blows at the wrong time, Hitchin tried to get back in the game, but the pace of the Grays frontmen was always unsettling. Carl Williams sent a cross against the woodwork and Matt Nolan could have done better with the rebound, but Hitchin were restricted to half-chances.

It could have been worse, too, but Robinson pulled off a spectacular save from Eastwood’s free kick.

Hitchin: Robinson, Bone, Rydeheard, Frater, Ayres, Osborn, Williams, Brennan, Drew (Mills 60), Parker, Nolan (Scott 70)

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