It MAY have been a long journey, but it was worth every mile just to see the Moatmen turn on their best display so far this season at Scarborough Athletic – topped off by a goal from Rob Spencer which sealed Gresley’s first points of the season and a fully deserved win on the east coast.
All across the pitch, from front to back, each and every member of the Gresley squad excelled, and it paid dividends as the Moatmen were hardly stretched with goalkeeper Ross Etheridge enjoying his easiest game in a Gresley shirt.
Scarborough are fancied by many to lift this season’s title – or at the very least claim a spot in the play-offs – come the end of April, but they struggled to contain a determined Gresley outfit who worked hard right from the kick-off through to the final whistle.
The home side did enjoy spells of pressure, playing some good passing football, but their attacks either fizzled out due to some dogged defending, or the eventual shot flew well wide of the target.
Gresley were missing several players. Marc Goodfellow (thigh), Jordan Nadat (back), Matt Roome (mouth) and Danny Holmes and Gary Hateley (work commitments) all missed out.
New Zealander Hayden Johns made his debut after resolving his visa issues and recent signing Michael Fitzhugh also made his first appearance, coming on to replace John Guy in the second half.
Gresley started brightly with Lucas Harrison and Guy combining well on the left leading to a cross, which Dean Oliver headed straight at Latics keeper Jason White.
There was not much goalmouth action at either end in the first half, with little to note as the two sides side largely cancelled each other out.
However, it was Gresley who created the better chances with Harrison and Marc Strzyzewski going close, while Bryan Hughes fired over for the home side.
Just before the interval Gresley had to make a change when the hard working Oliver pulled up with a slight hamstring pull, to be replaced by Royce Turville.
The second half started with Guy sending over a cross and Eric Graves heading over at the far post.
But it was the home side who had the best chance of the second period to grab the lead.
A superb through-ball from Ryan Blott looked to have split the Gresley defence, but a rare save from the under-worked Etheridge was enough to block the shot when it came in.
Scarborough then had a spell of pressure but the Gresley defence dealt with it comfortably, and it was the visitors who took the lead on 73 minutes.
Substitute Turville threaded a great ball through for Spencer, and he coolly finished the move by slipping the ball past the onrushing White to the cheers of the vocal Gresley travelling contingent.
It was no more than Gresley deserved for their determined and hard-working display, and minutes later they went close to doubling their advantage.
This time it was Graves who put the ball through for Spencer but his effort flew just over the bar.
The final two or three minutes of the game seemed to take an age to run down, but the referee’s whistle brought to an end an enthralling if not spectacular game, with the three points heading back down the motorway to Derbyshire.