Cray Wanderers brought their pre-season programme to an end with an impressive performance and victory at Bostik Premier Merstham. This followed on from Thursday’s night fine display at home to Dorking Wanderers despite the narrow defeat and so ended their five weeks of preparation for the new season against higher ranked opponents.
As with most of the pre-season games the game took place on at times a very wet Moatside with occasional rumbles of thunder and claps of lightning added for good measure along with sunny spells.
It was the home side who struck first after three minutes with Ryan Hall scoring before Cray stormed back in the rest of the half and played some very fine attacking football and two well taken Luke Medley goals put Cray in front by the 35th minute and then five minutes later, Mitchell Nelson fired home from Karl Dent’s right wing corner.
In the second half, Cray had a fair element of control in thankfully drier conditions and scored an excellent fourth in the 70th minute when Jay Leader powered home a header from another Dent corner.
The home side though showed their qualities by pulling two goals back in the final 15 minutes both scored by substitute Dan Bennett but Cray managed to hold on.
Cray began the game with a couple of changes from Thursday and started with former Welling United midfielder Sam Corne who impressed throughout with his performance. Brandon Scott who was in devastating form in the first half hour against Dorking Wanderers continued his form here with some great forward running and Luke Medley looked at his sharpest in front of goal. Karl Dent had a cracking game too and has looked in excellent form throughout pre-season.
Cray started the game on the front foot on a fine playing surface but it was the home side who scored with their first attack when Alex Addai who had a very good first half burst down the right and cut the ball into the box which was meet by Ryan Hall who turned to fire home from ten yards.
Addai continued to look a threat but Cray came back into it and Medley saw a shot palmed out by the keeper and Karl Dent following up shot over, then Warren Whitely fired well wide. Cray came close again when Dent who had a fantastic game made a good run forward down the left of the area and shot into the side net.
In the 14th minute Cray levelled with a very well worked goal starting from their own half where the ball came to Scott just over the halfway line who jinked past a couple of defenders and played a superb pass through to Medley down the right who with time hit a shot at keeper Chris Haigh’s near post which gave him no chance.
A dangerous cross from Addai was put behind by Barney Williams for a corner whilst at the other end he drove in a shot which Haigh did well to push out.
As the half wore on Cray were playing some great football and were unlucky not to score when Scott hit a shot from the edge of the area which was palmed out and as Medley was looking to follow up was denied by Tutu Henriques. From the left wing corner, Mitchell Nelson headed wide. Merstham then came into it and Ryan Hall was denied by a fine block by Nelson.
Ten minutes before half time, Cray took the lead with another well worked goal this time down the left where Whitely set up Medley with a fine through ball and with a crisp shot fired past the keeper from ten yards.
Five minutes later, Cray scored a third when they won a corner down the right and from Dent’s fine kick to the far post the ball came to Nelson who hit a first time shot which deceived Haigh and nestled in the back of the net.
Before half time, Merstham almost pulled a goal back but Tom Kavanagh was denied by a fine save by Nick Blue who pushed the ball past the right post for a corner.
The second half was perhaps less exciting than the first but Cray did have an element of control of the match for the first twenty five minutes.
Dent continued where he left off in the first half with some fine running and midfield play and burst forward and hit a shot from 20 yards which Haigh did well to push behind for a corner. From a free kick 25 yards out, Medley perhaps eying up a hat-trick hit a shot well over the bar.
Cray gave themselves an element of comfort when with twenty minutes to go with a fourth goal. Again a pinpoint accurate kick from Dent found Jay Leader on the edge of area who powered in a super header which came back off the right post and into the net.
Corne then fired over the bar before with fifteen minutes to go maybe with two games in close succession having an effect, Merstham got back into the game and lively substitute Dan Bennett stole in to score from close range to make it 4-2.
Things got even more interesting when with five minutes left Bennett scored again with another clever finish but Cray had done enough to win this game and can be pleased with their afternoon’s work particularly after conceding so early.
Tony Russell was very pleased with the way Cray played and stated afterwards you wouldn’t have noticed there was a division difference between the sides. He also highlighted Joe Vines influence in regard to Cray’s growing threat from corner kicks and set pieces with two goals today and others in pre-season games at Fisher and Bearsted. The first 75 minutes in particular were very pleasing and during every pre-season there is always one game where you reach the heights you are looking for and certainly of all the friendlies this was the most impressive display. Cray are also on the look out for some extra forward players as Danny Haynes and Michael Power will not be available and James Duckworth has retired.
Now Cray can prepare with a week spare for next Saturday and the Bostik South opener with Thamesmead in good heart.
Team: Nick Blue, Barney Williams, Timi Osidobu, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Sam Corne, Dean Carpenter, Karl Dent, Luke Medley, Warren Whitley, Brandon Scott: Subs on, Freddie Parker, Michael Power, Ken Charles
Merstham: Chris Haigh, Simon Cooper, Ben Harrison, Stephen Hamilton-Forbes, Tutu Henriques, Jake Hutchings, Alex Addai, Tom Kavanagh, Sahr Kabba, Ryan Hall, Reece Hall: Subs: Max Oldham, Ibrihim Fofana, Dan Bennett, Michael Abnett.