CONCORD RANGERS 0, GRAYS ATHLETIC 2
HAKAN Heyrettin hailed his players “heroes” after they booked their place in the final of the Essex Senior Cup.
An impressive performance in the first half followed by a display of dogged determination in the second, meant Grays Athletic beat Ryman Premier side Concord Rangers at Aspect Arena.
Brian Moses scored his first senior goal to give Blues the lead after half an hour before Danny Bunce, Blues’ quarter-final goal hero, sealed the win in the 90th minute after Grays had endured and survived wave after wave of Concord attack.
After the game, Heyrettin, who celebrated his birthday on Monday said: “I’ve had a rough, rough time in the last six months, personally, but that’s the best birthday present I could have had.”
In a thrilling but scrappy encounter Blues showed a little more composure on the ball and worked that bit harder than their Ryman Premier League opponents to win fifty-fifty balls.
The visitor’s endeavour and efficiency paid off when 17-year-old Moses gave them the lead in the 32nd minute.
Epitomising the luck of a gritty cup-tie underdog, the towering forward gathered the ball from a Lee Flynn throw. To the left of the goal and from an acute angle, he kneed the ball goal ward, only to see it loop over Tom Lovelock and into the net.
It was Moses’ first senior goal for Grays and ensured Heyrettin’s men went in a goal up at the break.
The second half was hit by a lengthy delay following what appeared to be a serious injury to Concord skipper James White. The injury was not as bad as first feared though, with White sat upright when stretchered off.
Following the stoppage, the game became a backs-against-the-wall job for Blues. Junior Baker, Ryan Kirby, Craig Pope and Lamar Johnson denied Concord on a number of occasions, with Beachboys themselves wasteful as they sought the equaliser.
Grays defensive heroics ensured they kept their fourth clean sheet in a row, against a Concord side who have scored 15 goals in their last five games.
In stoppage time the ball landed at the feet of Bunce, who showed immense composure from eight yards to lash home past Lovelock, after Moses had held the ball in the corner.
Jubilant celebrations with fans behind the goal ensued as Blues secured their place in the final of a competition they have won eight times before, but not for 18 years.
“I think tonight we proved to people that we can compete with teams in this division. We had determination, desire, we stood up to them and played a good game of football,” Heyrettin said. “Tactically we got it right.
“You expect any team in the Ryman Premier to play a team in a lower division and for the last 20 minutes to get at you and they did that.
“We had some big heroes out there tonight, Craig Pope was immense for me and Leon Lalite again. They were all outstanding and tonight we’ve showed that we can compete with the best.
“I played Jared Small purely because of his pace and his agility and ability to get at people and close them down and it worked. Brian [Moses] came from deep and he scored. He was awesome for us.
“We’re in the final because we deserve to be there. We go there [to the final] and enjoy the day.”
Grays will now have to wait to find out who they face in the final. Either Waltham Abbey or Southend, who are yet to play their quarter final, will play Hornchurch in the other semi-final.
Concord Rangers: Lovelock; Osifuwa, Glozier, Cowley, Fry, Easterford, Spendlove, White, Hallett, Elmes, Harris.
Grays Athletic: Johnson; Pope, Flynn, Baker, Kirby; Bunce, Beaney, Small, Carlos, Lalite, Moses.
Gazette MoM: Brian Moses