REPORTS FROM THE NATIONALS
Sambrook sent off as Grays bow out
By Ron Gubba
Mansfield (2) 3 Grays Athletic (0) 0
Grays Athletic's bold assault on the FA Cup came to grief at Field Mill last night when the Conference leaders were eliminated by League Two Mansfield.
Appearing in the second round of the competition for the first time in their 115-year history, Grays gave a splendid account of themselves but saw their hopes of progressing further effectively dashed in the first 14 minutes.
Leading scorer Richie Barker headed Mansfield in front in the 12th minute, after Adam Rundle's mis-hit shot. Two minutes later Grays were reduced to 10 men when Andy Sambrook was sent off for a wild challenge on Rundle. It was the seventh red card referee Trevor Kettle had shown in 20 matches, along with 87 yellows.
Grays initially coped well with the handicap and in the 24th minute John Martin struck the foot of a post with a 25-yard drive after Stuart Thurgood had touched on a free-kick.
As well as the 10 men were playing, however, they fell further behind five minutes before half-time through Barker's twice-taken penalty after Thurgood had pushed over Adam Burchal. It was Barker's 13th goal of the season, and ninth in his last seven appearances.
Grays' task was rendered virtually impossible 14 minutes of time, when Burchal headed Mansfield's third from Rundle's corner.
Mansfield (4-4-2): Pressman; Buxton, Hjelde, John-Baptiste, Jerryman; Burchal, Coke, Dawson, Rundle; Barker, Russell.
Subs: Peers, Day, McLachlan, White (g), Littlejohn. Booked: Russell, Dawson.
Grays (4-4-2): Bayes; Sambrook, Matthews, Angus, Nutter (Poole 75); Oli, Thurgood, Martin, Kightly (Hooper h-t); Slabber, McLean.
Subs: Eyre (g), Olayinka, Koo-Boothe.
Booked: Thurgood, Angus.
Sent off: Sambrook.
Referee: T Kettle (Rutland).
Red card drains colour from Grays
The Guardian, Saturday December 3, 2005
Ian Edwards at Field Mill
Grays Athletic's bold attempt to reach the heady heights of the third round for the first time in their 115-year history came to grief at Field Mill last night and it will be very hard to persuade their manager Mark Stimson that the referee was not the villain of the piece.
Trevor Kettle is fast gaining notoriety in the lower leagues as a serial whistle-blowers and he did little to lower his profile last night. He took his col-lection of red cards to seven in 20 games with the impetuous dismissal of the Grays defender Andy Sambrook and he has also amassed 87 bookings. His intervention put Mansfield on the way to a comfortable victory thanks to two goals from Richie Barker and a late header Adam Birchall on his 23rd birthday.
Grays's first venture this far into the competition to face a side a mere five places above them in the pyramid, after winning 17 of their opening 18 games to sit proudly atop the Conference, should have not held any fears for "the Chelsea of non-league".
However, what should have been another adventure and the prospect of a third-round tie to further swell the impressive bank balance of the upwardly mobile Essex boys was given a decidedly sour taste by Kettle, who will not be figuring on Mark Stimson's Christmas card list.
Kettle made two key decisions that ended dreams of a meeting with the real Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next month. Andy Sambrook was shown a straight red card for a high challenge on Adam Rundle, a decision that even appeared to surprise Mansfield's manager Peter Shirtliff.
The Rutland referee's decision to award Barker the chance to score from a twice-taken penalty and double Mansfield's lead, for Stuart Thurgood's alleged foul on Adam Birchall, seemed even harsher after Barker had established an early advantage with a powerful header from Rundle's mis-hit shot after 12 minutes with his eighth goal in seven appearances.
Grays' desperation to reduce the arrears and the increasing commitment of men forward left them vulnerable to conceding further goals. Barker could have completed a hat-trick, but the striker shot wide of an empty net after Ashley Bayes's poor clearance when the goalkeeper was well outside his own area.
Birchall did not repeat the error as he discovered the perfect way to celebrate his birthday 15 minutes from time to pile cruelty on injustice for Stimson and his players. The Mansfield midfielder is not the biggest presence in the penalty area, but he was allowed total freedom to connect with Rundle's corner.
Grays Ath 9
Grays Ath 4
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