A LATE Alex Stephenson equaliser denied Grays Athletic all three points in an entertaining local derby with Aveley.

Richard Halle's early free kick looked as though it would be enough for Grays to take all three points, but Stephenson levelled matters late on to claim a point for the Millers.

Grays took the lead inside eight minutes with what was the first shot of the encounter.

Adeyinka Cole was fouled 30 yards from goal and Halle curled the free kick into the top corner of the net, giving Millers goalkeeper Rhys Madden no chance.

Grays nearly doubled their advantage on the half hour mark as Jamie Slabber was found by Kieran Bishop’s pull-back.

But after working an extra yard for himself, the striker – who returned to the club in the summer – sent his strike over the crossbar.

Cole then came close to finding Bishop with a dangerous pass across the face of goal, following a burst into the home side’s penalty area, but the striker was unable to reach the pass.

Joao Carlos should have given Grays a two-goal cushion going into half-time, but a last ditch tackle deflected the winger’s effort inches wide.

Robbie Rees’ attempted cross nearly caught out Grays goalkeeper Joe Simmonds but ended up on the roof of the net just seconds after the restart, as Aveley looked to get back into the game.

Alex Teniola then saw a goalbound strike, from a Myles Keizer-Burrows cross, blocked.

Freddie Gard tried his luck from long range but his strike went wide of the target just before the hour mark.

Cole forced Madden into a good save moments later, before the shot-stopper was forced into another stop as a goalmouth scramble ensued.

Aveley had made a better start to the second half, and Rees’ goalbound free kick was deflected wide before Connor Witherspoon’s volley – from the resulting corner – was well blocked to stop the Millers notching an equaliser.

It looked as though Grays were going to return to winning ways, but Stephenson bundled home from close range in the dying moments.

As a result, the Millers were able to claim a share of the spoils.

Aveley: Madden, Malton, Stephenson, Witherspoon, Keizer-Burrows, Dafter, Watson (Marah 72'), Berkane (Doyle 67’), Teniola, F. Gard (Bradford 89'), Rees

Grays Athletic: Simmonds, Mahal, Folkes, Halle, Bruce, Muguo, Cogan (Zialor 60’), Cole, Bishop, Slabber (Sach 46’), Carlos (Brown 86')