Bostik League South-East – 15/9/18
Ashford United 1
Cray Wanderers 3
Power 10, 87, Leader 39
Cray Wanderers moved to the top of the Bostik South-East table after a fifth straight win to begin the season at Ashford United. This is the best ever start to an Isthmian League season for Cray and they remain the only side with a 100% unbeaten record.
The game was a high quality affair between two good sides but Michael Power continued his fine start to the season with a 10th minute opener and Jay Leader headed in six minutes before the break to give Cray a 2-0 lead at the break.
Ashford though fought back well in the second half and reduced the arrears in the 52nd minute with Stefan Cox’s smart finish, the first goal Cray had conceded in the league this season. Cray withstood some steady Ashford pressure but Cox who had been a threat all afternoon was sent off five minutes from time for an off the ball incident. This helped ease the pressure and two minutes later Cray wrapped up the points with Power scoring his eighth goal of the season heading in from Barney Williams’ cross.
Cray were looking to bounce back from the rather unlucky defeat to Met Police in the FA Cup last weekend and there was one change to the starting lineup with Aaron Rhule coming in for Malik Solebo.
The prospect was there from the off for an end to end game with Cray starting well with a couple of Rhule left wing crosses into the box which were cleared while for Ashford, Cox worked his way into the area down the right and went down in the area but there didn’t appear to be a foul.
In the tenth minute and after a steady spell of possession Cray went ahead with a classy goal as Jay Leader took the ball forward from the back and found Bradley Pritchard who played a disguised pass through to Michael Power down the left and from the edge of the area gently lofted the ball over the advancing Sam Mott with deadeye accuracy.
The game continued at a quick pace and from a right wing corner the ball came to Junior Dadson whose shot was deflected behind for another corner. Then for Ashford from a right wing corner, Sam Corne’s cross was headed towards goal by ex-Wands skipper Lea Dawson and was deflected over for another corner which was cleared away by Archie Johnson. For Cray another Pritchard corner was flicked wide by Leader.
In the 23rd minute, a free kick out on the right from Pritchard was played into the area and nodded back to Power who volleyed over the bar while for Ashford Corne worked his way into the box but was denied by a good block from Sean Roberts for a corner.
Cray came close to scoring a second in the 34th minute when Dadson was unlucky when he cut in from the right and arrowed a shot towards goal which hit the head of Antonio Simeone and was goalbound but for a terrific one handed save from Mott pushing the ball away.
A minute later Dadson was unlucky again after a superb piece of play taking on Tom Carlse down the right and from the edge of the area arched a fine shot towards goal which came off the left post and away from goal.
Cray were playing extremely well at this point and won three corners in a row down the right. From the first, Leader saw an effort deflected behind and from the second Leader’s flick on was headed behind by Dawson. From the third corner in the 39th minute Cray scored a deserved second when Pritchard’s ball to the back of the area was headed on by Tom Phipp and Nelson reacted quicker to the ball than Mott to head the ball on to Leader who from five yards nodded the ball in to cap a very clever set-play.
Before half time Lanre Azeez volleyed wide for Ashford but Cray went in at the break with a two goal cushion.
Half Time: 0-2
Cray would have expected an Ashford response at the start of the second half and there was more zip in their play and Cray were penned back for a spell.
In the 52nd minute the Nuts n Bolts pulled a goal back when Carlse’s fine ball from the left out to the right was latched onto by Cox who cut into the box and drove a near post shot past Nick Blue whose goal was breeched in the league for the first time.
Ashford were now back in the game and almost got back on terms when again the ball was worked down the right this time to Corne who turned and hit a low shot which was held by Blue.
Cray were not able to attack in quite the way they did first half but Rhule did get away down the left and put over a good cross which skimmed off the head of Dadson and across goal.
Ashford had a lot more of the ball but the Wands defence did very well to combat the threat of Cox and Azeez in particular and the midfield was excellent during this spell breaking up attacks. Cray had an opportunity from a free kick out on the left but Pritchard’s ball across sailed wide.
Ashford best opportunity came when Azeez down the right found space to cut into the area and from close to the byline hit a shot to the near post which was blocked by the legs of Blue. Then Cox saw a shot blocked by the excellent Leader.
The game was beginning to get rather bitty which suited Cray and with five minutes to go and the match still in the balance, Ashford were reduced to ten men after what seemed an innocuous incident involving Leader, Cox was given a straight red card possibly for ungentlemanly or violent conduct.
Two minutes later Cray broke away to seal the game with another high quality goal. Starting down the right, Ben Mundele made his way forward towards the byline and played the ball to Barney Williams who put over a first time cross which was met emphatically by Power who from the edge of the six yard box planted a header wide of Mott to make it 3-1 and seal a very big win for Cray.
No doubting that this was the biggest win so far against a very good side who will beat a lot of teams at home this season so to play so well is great testament to Tony Russell’s team who moved to the top of the table as the other three teams with unbeaten records, Hastings, Whytleafe and VCD all lost. There were some fine performances throughout the team, with Power devastating as usual in front of goal and Dadson continued his fine form of late. The defence were outstanding with Nelson and Leader very strong whilst Phipp, Roberts and Pritchard had good games as did Archie Johnson.
Cray have a week break before a double header of home games starting next Saturday in a top of the table clash against an excellent Hythe Town side which promises to be the game of the day.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams (Capt.), Archie Johnson, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Bradley Pritchard, Sean Roberts, Tom Phipp, Michael Power, Aaron Rhule (Malik Solebo, 90), Junior Dadson (Ben Mundele, 69): Subs: Freddie Parker, Zak Henry, Marcus Evans
Ashford: Sam Mott, Siao Blackwood, Tom Carlse, Jordan Johnson, Antonio Simeone, Josh Wisson, Sam Corne, Lea Dawson (Capt.), Harry Ottaway, Lanre Azeez (Ambrose Gnahore, 75), Stefan Cox: Subs: Fidan Fejzi, Brandon Williams, Ollie Rowe, Matt Day
Sent Off: Cox 85
Referee: Lee Dyson
Assistants: Danial Fryar, Jamie Eacott