A 90th-MINUTE penalty by Adam Vyse rescued a point for Witham Town in dramatic fashion against promotion-chasing Grays Athletic at the Simarco Stadium, writes JIM PURTILL.

The 1-1 draw was greeted like a victory among the Witham faithful, as the home side’s late rally had appeared to be in vain.

In their first match under interim manager Chris Taylor, Witham made a very energetic start and nearly scored in the third minute when a header from Luke Ige was clawed away by Danny Sambridge in the Grays goal.

Another header from Ige was cleared off the goalline by Ryan Sammons shortly afterwards.

Grays' form has faltered lately but they remain one of the division's most dangerous sides.

They were initially stretched by Witham's positive start, but in the eighth minute Anointed Chukwu just failed to connect with a cross from the right by Aron Gordon.

A shot from Gordon hit the bar with Rhys Madden beaten as Gray settled into the game and began to find a semblance of rhythm.

This was not Grays Athletic at their best but they worked well in midfield to gain territorial advantage, with Lewis Clark involved in most of their best moves.

Witham lacked the creativity of the injured A’maree Robinson-Jones but the aggressive Suaibo Balde was proving effective in the attack and Callum Matthews provided impressive support play.

Rhys Madden saved well in turning a Clark shot around the post.

Witham's two previous matches had been calamitous defeats against Canvey Island and Maldon & Tiptree in which they conceded nine goals without reply.

This was a return to the good defensive performances of the earlier part of the season.

Despite the absence of Rokas Janilioins Witham looked solid at the back with Kye Jude forming a good defensive partnership with Billy Willis.

The mercurial Luke Ige was in impressive form at right back and his speed and attacking zest on the right wing served to relieve defensive pressure and offered Witham an important offensive option.

In the 49th-minute Grays were offered an excellent chance to take the lead when a penalty was awarded.

The kick was taken by the prolific David Knight who has scored eight times this season, but his penalty was a poor effort that went wide of the left post.

Witham’s relief was short-lived as Joe Paxman scored two minutes later with a shot from the left.

In previous matches this season Witham had only earned two points after conceding the first goal and it was clearly going to be a challenge to recover.

The goal breathed new life into the visitors and they had their best spell of the match.

Mitch Hahn, Chukwu and Gordon went close and it was s struggle for the home side to gain enough possession.

To Witham’s credit they defended stoutly and kept themselves in the game.

They gradually fought their way back in contention and an excellent run by Balde in the 74th minute resulted in a pass that looked certain to end in a goal by Vyse.

Sambridge just beat the striker to the ball and diverted it for a corner. A header by Vyse went just wide as the home side rallied in the final minutes.

Vyse finally equalised with his first penalty and goal for the club and Witham shared the points.

Witham will be looking to have a good finish to 2021 with eight matches to play in just over five weeks.

Half of these games will be against sides who occupy lowly positions in the league table and these six-pointers can have a big influence on final league placings.

A Velocity Trophy tie at Felixstowe on Tuesday will be followed by a return to the league at Aveley on Saturday.