Slabber boxes clever for Grays in derby success

First published in News

Ebbsfleet United 0, Grays Athletic 1
JAMIE Slabber’s 78th minute header lifted Grays out of the Blue Square Premier relegation zone as the Blues beat Ebbsfleet 1-0 in the Boxing Day derby.

From the outset Wayne Burnett’s team played in a disciplined fashion, something which has started to be his trademark.

The defensive four once again had a strong showing but were ably assisted by keeper Steve Arnold who made a string of fine saves.

Early chances for Grays came through the wing work of Ishmael Welsh. In the eighth minute he wriggled past the Ebbsfleet defence to cross to Scott Forrester but he miscued his shot.

Ebbsfleet were a pale shadow of the team that hammered Grays on New Year's Day but a fine shot by Stacy Long in the 17th minute was a reminder that they could be dangerous.

Two fine defensive tackles by Luke Hickie and Damian Batt in the 17th and 20th minute illustrated the new found steel in the Blues defence that has seen their league form transformed.

The second half began with Grays raising their game and tempo. Welsh had switched to the right and was bringing Wes Thomas and Luke Hickie into the game.

Hickie had a fine chance on the hour when he burst clear from midfield but his weak shot failed to trouble the Ebbsfleet goal.

Grays interlinking play impressed and deserved a goal. In the 77th minute, Welsh passed to Wes Thomas on the right. He got to the deadball line before producing a perfect pass to sub Jamie Slabber who rose to head it past the keeper and claim the three points.

Ebbsfleet suddenly woke up and produced a pulsating final ten minutes but the Grays defence backed by a number of fine saves from Arnold, in particular a fingertip save from Fleet sub Ibe, secured three points and a vital step up the table.

After the game, coach Gary Phillips said: “We are working hard for each other. The work rate and the shape is good. It has been a good christmas so far and we look forward to Sunday.”

Ebbsfleet United: Cronin, Slatter, Pooley, Smith, Opinel, Purcell, Hand, Murray, Long, Gash, Moore. subs: Mott, Hawkins, Barrett, Shakes, Ibe.

Grays Athletic: Arnold, Batt, Stuart, Ashton, Wilnis, McKenzie, Thurgood, Hickie, Welsh, Forrester, Thomas. Subs: Overland, Dayes, Sloma, Bailey, Slabber.

Before the game Grays announced the signing of goalkeeper, Simon Overland, on non contract terms.

Overland is an ex Millwall trainee who was with Grays Athletic in 2004 before he joined Dagenam & Redbridge at the start of the 2004/05 season.

Overland enjoyed a sucessful loan period with Maldon Town, playing a big part in the side which gained promotion to the Ryman Premier. In the play-offs, Simon made a trio of penalty saves.

He signed for Fisher Athletic at the start of the 2007/08 season.

Blue Square Premier, up to and inc Fri, Dec 26

  P W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Burton Albion 25 17 4 4 48 29 +19 55
2 Torquay United 24 13 6 5 39 24 +15 45
3 Histon 23 13 6 4 37 24 +13 45
4 Kidderminster Harriers 24 13 4 7 37 26 +11 43
5 Crawley Town 24 12 6 6 41 24 +17 42
6 Cambridge United 25 11 9 5 31 22 +9 42
7 Wrexham 22 12 4 6 41 24 +17 40
8 Rushden & Diamonds 25 10 7 8 33 24 +9 37
9 Kettering Town 22 10 6 6 28 21 +7 36
10 Stevenage Borough 25 10 6 9 37 38 -1 36
11 Weymouth 26 8 8 10 33 37 -4 32
12 Altrincham 24 9 5 10 24 35 -11 32
13 Ebbsfleet United 25 8 6 11 29 29 0 30
14 Oxford United 24 8 6 10 31 35 -4 30
15 Eastbourne Borough 24 9 3 12 31 43 -12 30
16 York City 25 6 11 8 30 31 -1 29
17 Salisbury City 24 8 4 12 27 36 -9 28
18 Mansfield Town (-4) 24 9 4 11 34 34 0 27
19 Barrow 23 7 6 10 31 37 -6 27
20 Grays Athletic 23 7 4 12 19 28 -9 25
21 Woking 24 5 9 10 19 25 -6 24
22 Forest Green Rovers 23 6 5 12 28 40 -12 23
23 Lewes 24 4 5 15 18 45 -27 17
24 Northwich Victoria 24 3 6 15 27 42 -15 15

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