STEVE Tilson likes a thriller and the Heybridge Swifts manager was delighted as his high-flying side took a firm grip on fourth place in the Isthmian North Division with an emphatic 3-1 win at Grays, writes JON LONGMAN.

Two goals delivered by stand-in striker Jack Adlington-Pile extended injury-hit Swifts unbeaten run to nine games, with 19 of their 37 points coming on the road.

Tilson said: “I’m over the moon with those three points. It was a fantastic win away from home.

“Darren [Manning] has brought in three or four decent players so we knew it was going to be a tough game on a difficult [Tilbury] pitch.

“But the lads gave everything today, especially in the second half when we retained the ball much better.

“I think we earned our win, despite a couple of defensive mistakes on their part, by harrying them and chasing balls down.

“I thought the back five, the two holding midfield players and Jack playing up front were just fantastic.”

Tilson is worried that the injury-hit Swifts squad is under strength and their play-off position could be jeopardised by having so few players in reserve.

The Swifts boss admitted: “It is difficult at the moment. When you look at our bench today, we had just two right backs [Rob Bagnall and Billy Willis] and striker Kieran Jones [plus keeper Joe Whitney].

“It is not ideal situation and, obviously, Lee Noble was suspended today, but Jack is playing with a knee injury and I had to bring off Sam Park because he is still struggling a bit.

“Quba [Gordon] is playing with an injury but fair play to the boys who are giving everything they have got and they keep grinding out the results.

“It is masking the situation because I probably need to bring in a couple of players.”

The Swifts plundered victory thanks to succession of defensive errors by their generous hosts, opening the scoring after just four minutes with Jack Adlington-Pile springing the offside trap.

The striker latched onto a long punt upfield and smashed the ball past former Swifts keeper Danny Sambridge with the aid of a deflection as the Grays defenders waited for an offside flag that was never raised.

Moments before the break, the Swifts themselves dropped a defensive clanger and Kian Connolly struck the equaliser from the penalty spot after Alejandro Machado had been fouled.

However, Sam Bantick restored the Swifts advantage in the 63rd minute, punishing another defensive error as they extended their unbeaten run to nine games.

Worse followed for Grays nine minutes later as Sambridge delivered a late Christmas present to his former employers, pushing the ball straight to the feet of Adlington-Pile for his second goal of the afternoon to confirm a sixth away win of the campaign.

Swifts twice-postponed midweek game at Wroxham last Tuesday, ruled out because of a waterlogged pitch, has been rearranged for February 13.

First, Tilson could have another thriller on Saturday as third-placed Bowers & Pitsea will come visiting, aiming to get promoted back to the Premier Division at the first attempt.