BISHOP’S STORTFORD v CRAY WANDERERS – MATCH PREVIEW, SAT. 23rd APRIL, 3pm
Pics: Jon Hilliger/www.hilligerpix.com
After two seasons of incompletion the Isthmian Premier Division season comes to an end on Saturday, 23rd April and Cray Wanderers finish the campaign with a trip to 2nd placed Bishop’s Stortford, KO 3pm.
After a difficult spell of four straight defeats the Wands picked up four points from the two Easter games and scored seven goals and moved on to 36 points and up to 19th place after Wednesday night’s 4-1 win against East Thurrock United.
Going into the final games, Leatherhead are 22nd and Merstham 21st on 33 points but Cray have a superior goal difference to both teams. The teams to watch out for on Saturday are East Thurrock United who have 35 points and also in inferior goal difference to Cray who are at home to Horsham. As one of the four teams which finish third bottom of the four Step 3 leagues, Kings Langley in the Southern Premier South have 34 points, two behind Cray and they visit Salisbury in their final league match. So Cray could at least need a draw if not a win and hope results go the Wands way in the final matches.
Cray needed great reserves of character on Wednesday in a relegation six pointer with East Thurrock United and after a nervy start scored two goals in five minutes through Chris Dickson and Soul Kader just before the half hour. Dickson scored a third in the 60th minute before East Thurrock pulled a goal back but the points were sealed with a classy Sam Wood finish four minutes from time.
Neil Smith’s side were unchanged over the two Easter games and the confidence gained from the gutsy draw at Enfield Town on Good Friday was carried over into Wednesday night’s game and Cray were deserved winners in the end.
Cray will need to show even greater steel on Saturday as Bishop’s Stortford have been one of the teams of the season in the Isthmian Premier and lie 2nd in the table on 84 points and need one point to guarantee home advantage throughout the playoffs. The Blues had gone 17 games without defeat until Easter Monday when Cheshunt secured a playoff place with a 1-0 home win which was the first goal Bishop’s Stortford had conceded since February 5th.
The two sides met at Hayes Lane on 11th December and a first half Anthony Church goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Steve Smith’s side.
Bishop’s Stortford’s home form has been impressive losing just once and that was their first game against Kingstonian in August. As well as a win against Champions Worthing they have also beaten the other sides in the playoffs, Hornchurch, Enfield Town and Cheshunt. They have beaten Hornchurch (1-0), Margate (1-0), Enfield Town (2-1), Wingate & Finchley (3-1), Cheshunt (3-1), Brightlingsea Regent (5-0), East Thurrock United (4-1), Bognor Regis Town (3-1), Merstham (6-0), Worthing (3-0), Folkestone Invicta (3-0), Potters Bar Town (3-0). They drew with Bowers & PItsea (2-2), Haringey Borough (1-1), Lewes (1-1), Carshalton Athletic (1-1), Corinthian Casuals (3-3) and Horsham (0-0) and were beaten by Kingstonian (2-5). Away from home Bishop’s Stortford won at Brightlingsea Regent, East Thurrock United, Corinthian Casuals, Cray Wanderers, Bowers & Pitsea, Potters Bar Town, Enfield Town, Haringey Borough, Lewes and Wingate & Finchley and drew at Bognor Regis Town, Horsham, Merstham, Folkestone Invicta, Leatherhead and Margate to make up their 84 points with the only defeats at Carshalton Athletic, Worthing, Hornchurch and Cheshunt. Top scorer is Frankie Merrifield with 21 goals.
Cray will be looking for a repeat performance from their only previous visit to Bishop’s Stortford in September 2019 when Cray won 5-1 with Joe Taylor (2), Tom Murphy (2) and Karl Dent scoring.
This promises to be a dramatic final day of the season much in keeping with the Wands season but it will be exciting and after Wednesday night when defeat would have made survival much harder Cray have given themselves a chance to stay up.
DIRECTIONS TO BISHOP’S STORTFORD FC
Prokit UK Stadium
HERTFORDSHIRE CM23 5RG
Admission Prices: Adult: £12, Concessions at £8.00, Students (ID Required) at £6.00, Under 16’s at £1 and all children Under 12’s admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
From St Mary Cray it should take an hour depending on midweek traffic to get to Bishop’s Stortford and around 42 miles.
Head for the Blackwall Tunnel and once through the tunnel continue to follow the A12 for 6.9 miles and then take the A406 (N) Exit towards M25 (West)/M11/Loughton for 0.3 miles then merge onto N Circular Rd/A406. After 0.2 miles take the left two lanes to take the M11 slip road to Cambridge/Stansted Airport. Continue on to the M11 for 20.6 miles and then leave the M11 at Junction 8 for the Birchanger Green services exit. Take the A120 towards Bishop’s Stortford and at the next roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A1250, again heading towards Bishop’s Stortford. Take the next right into Woodside. The ground is at the bottom of this road. There is a car park at the ground which costs £2, although make sure you arrive early as it quickly fills up.
Bishop’s Stortford Railway Station is located just under three quarters of a mile away. It is served by trains from London Liverpool Street. It takes around 20 minutes to walk to the stadium from the station.
As you come out of the station turn right and proceed up the station approach road in front of you. As you near the top of the road bear right and cross the bridge over the railway line. Continue to the end of this road and turn left onto the London Road. Walk up to the crossroads with traffic lights (there is the Cock Inn on one corner) and turn right onto Dunmow Road (signposted A1250 Colchester). Stay on this road for around half a mile and you will reach the stadium entrance on your left.
There are plenty of trains running to Bishop’s Stortford in the evenings at 10, 28, 40 & 58 minutes past the hour. After the game trains leave to head back to London Liverpool Street at 23, 33, 52 and 59 minutes past the hour
There is a Social Club at ground, which welcomes visiting fans. It has a selection of drinks, including real ale.
There is a taxi rank at Bishop’s Stortford rail station and ‘Associated Taxis’ number is 01279 655666.
Behind the main stand with direct access from the ground (town end near the food outlet). Clubhouse open to all. WC facilities. Seating and Tables. Beers available include Carlsberg, San Miguel, Becks Vier, Aspalls, Greene king IPA , Guinness, guest hand pull in the Eddie Bentley Suite and Old Speckled Hen in the Mitre Suite as well as a selection of bottled beers. Excellent range of spirits and other bottled alcoholic drinks. Soft drinks and mixers always available along with crisps, and nuts. The bar is open at least 2 hours before each game, half time and after the game. The players also use this bar for post match drinks and food.
Situated in the ground paddock at the Town End, serving individual sized (plastic) bottles of Carlsberg lager and crisps. The reasonable consumption of alcohol (from plastic glasses or plastic bottles) that has been bought on the premises only, is permitted at Woodside Park in all areas of the ground including during the match (unless other arrangements have to be made for certain fixtures).
If you arrive in good time to sightsee and drink the Cock Inn on Stansted Road before you get to Dunmow Road and the ground might be worth a stop. Otherwise there is choice in the town with the Castle, The Three Tuns near the station or the Port Jackson by the river Stort.
If you are in the mood for Fish & chips near the station is Bishops Fish & Chips but close to the junction 8 turnoff you need to get to Dunmow Road is the Harry Ramsden’s chip shop chain and there is also Tommy Tuckers a little bit further away. For Indian food there are the Ruby’s Indian Restaurant, Zara and Shadhona amongst others but might be a night to sample the wares at the ground.
This is the first time that Cray Wanderers have ever played at Bishop’s Stortford on a Saturday and should be a great occasion. The market town lies in Hertfordshire just on the Essex border and the river Stort runs through the town. Being close to the M11 and Stansted Airport gives the town commuter status. It was also in the 18th century a vital coach stop between London and Cambridge.
A ruined castle, Waytemore Castle lies in Bishop’s Stortford and also there is St. Michael’s Norman church with its distinctive belfry and spire which can dominate the skyline. Better that we play on a Saturday to get more of a feel and day to see the town but the ground itself is a good one and seems to treat home and visiting fans with a welcoming air.