Town boss Gray lays it on the line for his Wembley hopefuls

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Morpeth Town boss Nicky Gray pulled no punches with his playing staff following their 3-2 defeat in the local derby against Ashington at Craik Park at the weekend.

In a little over a weeks time, the Highwaymen will be setting off for Wembley where they will meet Hereford in the FA Vase final on Sunday May 22.

But a seething Gray said after Saturday’s contest: “I can understand players minds being on Wembley - but not enough of them are playing for a shirt in the final.

“I’ve got a squad of 19 I can pick from and I’m thinking of three or four who have probably cemented their place at Wembley. As for the rest of them, I haven’t got a problem with who I leave out if I’m honest and I have told them so.

“I can understand a reason to pull out of a 50-50 or 60-40 tackle but I don’t accept anything less than 100 per cent effort.

“Yes we have played a lot of games but we have rotated the squad with five or six changes and I’m very disappointed with the group since we got through to the final of the Vase.

“It’s great to get to the final – it’s a great opportunity - and I think we can do it. People have said “I hope you go on and win it”– but if we continue with the same mentality which we currently have, we won’t. And the way we are going at the moment, we will have a real struggle to put up a fight at Wembley - and that’s not being harsh.”

He continued: “I’ll praise and back my players up to the hilt but I’ll also give them a kick up the backside if necessary.

“Some players are not doing their jobs properly. We have been going on about this since March and it’s not good enough or acceptable.

“The one positive to emerge after today’s game with Ashington is the fact that no one will be suspended for the final. For the last six games we knew we couldn’t afford for anyone to get a red card and this has been difficult. The last thing I want is to go to Wembley and if we lose for people to say “at least you got there” – I won’t accept that.”

Reflecting on the defeat by Ashington, Gray said: “We scored a very good goal – then gave away a poor one and it was pretty even steven up until half time.

“Second half I thought we came out well but gave away another poor second goal then got back in the game again before giving away the third goal. If you give away poor goals, don’t take your opportunities and don’t make the right decisions in the final third, you have got little chance of winning games.”