Ryman Division One North

Saturday 13 October - 3pm KO

IT’S MORE than 26-years since Grays Athletic beat Tilbury at Chadfields but that’s a run Blues are ready to bring to an end, according to skipper Lee Flynn.

On Saturday, Ryman North table-toppers Tilbury host Grays in what is set to be a fiery encounter on Non-League Day.

Paul Vaughan’s men have made a great start to the league campaign, going unbeaten in their opening nine league games. You have to go back to March for Tilbury’s most recent league defeat when they were beaten 3-1 by AFC Sudbury.

But since then, they’ve gone 15 games unbeaten in the league, losing just two of their last 22 league games. In addition, they have won their last three games on the bounce.

Skipper Gary Henty is delighted with his side’s start as they bid to emulate last season’s play-off semi-final disappointment by earning promotion to the Ryman Premier League.

“We’ve had a great start. To be unbeaten after nine games is fantastic.

“After last season when we did really well and then lost four or five main players, the lads who have come in have done well.

“Our home form has continued from last season, too. It could be that teams don’t like coming to “Fortress Chadfields”, but we know we can beat anyone on our day and enjoy playing at home.

“Morale’s massively high. Our main attribute is team spirit, it’s a massive factor for us and all the boys love playing under Paul and Dave [Ross, assistant manager].”

After their great start to the season, attention now turns to the game against Grays where a historic and tempestuous rivalry will be rekindled.

“Tilbury v Grays games are always good games and big games for the club.

“We know they’ll be up there at the end of the season. They’ve got a good squad and have quality throughout. If we’re not on our game, we won’t get the result we want.

“It will be difficult, but we’re at home and sometimes little things go your way when you’re at home.”

In contrast to Dockers, who stumbled out of the FA Cup in the first qualifying round and the FA Trophy in the preliminary round, Blues start to the league campaign has been somewhat interrupted by decent cup runs.

While their most disappointing result of the season – a 5-0 defeat at home to Maidstone United – saw them dumped out of the FA Cup, Blues remain in the FA Trophy and skipper Flynn believes those runs have impacted on their league form.

“To be fair, we haven’t really had a chance to get going. Our game the other night was our eighth league game but we’ve actually played around 20 games.

“While the cup runs are great, what we want is a run of league games. But it’s not been a bad start.”

Hakan Heyrettin's Blues lie fourth in the Ryman North league having won eight of their first four. They have played some scintillating football at times, such as when they tore Heybridge Swifts to shreds in September. But Blues have also scrapped to several draws and suffered defeat away to Sudbury in their fourth league game.

“We’ve had a couple of bad results, where individual mistakes have cost us. Going forward we’re creating loads of chances, but we’re slipping up at the back and seem to be punished every time.”

So what better way to kick-start the league season than to beat Thurrock rivals Tilbury on their own patch.

“You get these typical derbies derbies where it’s going to a right ding-dong. They’re top of the league so they’re the side to beat.

“But all the players are up for it. We had a good result against Cheshunt on Tuesday night and put in a good performance there.

“Tilbury’s a difficult place to go, but hopefully we can get a result.”

Grays last beat Tilbury in August 2010, with Dockers coming out on top in every fixture between the two since.

When the two sides met just over a year ago, Tilbury inflicted upon Grays their first defeat of the season at Rookery Hill.

Should Grays exact revenge on Saturday, they will have reciprocated the pain of a first league defeat on their hosts.

Last time the two sides met in January, a late Steve Good strike sealed a narrow 2-1 win for Dockers.

Vaughan has a full squad to choose from for the game, following some early season injury concerns. Dockers new signing Joel Barnett, who bagged a brace in Tilbury’s 4-1 win over Redbridge on Tuesday night, taking his ratio to four goals in three games, is likely to be partnered up front with top scorer Daniel Francis.

While Junior Baker will look forward to lining up against his former club, fresh from heading home Blues’ winner on Tuesday night. He makes his 100th appearance for Grays.

Joe Sweeney is still a doubt for Blues, with Jack West likely to lead the line.

There will be live updates of the game on the Thurrock Gazette website from 2.30pm onwards