Bognor Regis Town v Cray Wanderers – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 12th March – Match Report
Bognor Regis Town 2
Cray Wanderers 3
Cray Wanderers ended a five game league run without a win with a gutsy and important victory at Bognor Regis Town in the Wands bid to avoid relegation from the Isthmian Premier. With the three teams below Cray in the table all winning the victory was all that more important.
In a game played at a quick pace, Cray got off to a flying start when Sam Wood headed in his first goal since returning to the club in January after just 50 seconds. Wood then became provider with a fine ball from midfield through to Chris Dickson who strode forward, went round keeper Amadou Tangara and stroked the ball into the net after 20 minutes. Bognor Regis though showed their quality in the second half and two goals from Dan Gifford who scored the winner at Hayes Lane when the sides met in January tied the game at 2-2 by the 68th minute. A minute later though Joe Wright’s ball found Dickson who scored his second of the game with a classy lobbed finish. Despite some late pressure from Bognor including a header against the bar from Nathan Odokonyero, Cray held on for the three points.
On a bright and sunny afternoon Cray in 19th place in the league were looking to bounce back from the home defeat to Haringey Borough on Wednesday night and from the side which started that game into the team came Tom Hanfrey and Luca Albon in place of Denzel Williams and Narcis-Florin Filip. Bognor were 11th coming into the game and from the side which drew 0-0 at Corinthian Casuals on Tuesday there was one change to the starting lineup with Calvin Davies coming in for Ethan Robb.
In recent away games Cray have got off to a fast start and after just 50 seconds gone the Wands took the lead when the ball was worked down the left for Kasim Aidoo who played a ball across where Chris Dickson flicked the ball towards the far post where Sam Wood was on hand to head the ball into the net for his first Wands goal since April 2005.
Bognor responded with some good pressure of their own and came close to levelling in the 3rd minute when from a corner down the right, Charlie Bell’s ball in was met by a free header from Craig Robson but Joe Wright flung himself to make a fine stop pushing the ball out. Then another corner was headed off target by Robson and then a cross from Harvey Whyte down the right was flicked away well by Wright. At the other end, Freddy Barton broke into the area down the right but his shot was blocked.
There was a blow for Cray in the 13th minute when Jamie Yila went off with an injury to be replaced by Narcis-Florin Filip. Still Bognor threatened and Sam Dowridge down the left made a run forward and his shot was pushed out well by Wright.
Cray though were looking dangerous going forward and in the 20th minute extended their lead when Wood played a great ball from midfield through to Dickson who ran towards goal, rounded Amadou Tangara and rolled the ball into the net into the bottom left corner.
The Wands were just starting to take the sting out of the game with Bognor having most of the play and the Rocks came nearest to scoring in the half when Odonkyonero made a run down the left and his well hit shot was well held by the excellent Joe Wright.
Cray almost grabbed a third goal in the 41st minute when Luca Albon found Anthony Cook down the left who cut inside and drove a shot wide of the left post but at half time it had been a professional performance from Cray to lead 2-0 at the break.
A concerted response from Bognor was expected at the start of the second half and Bognor brought on Jake Flannigan at half time for Bell who certainly carried the fight down the right for the Rocks.
Cray though were perhaps defending a bit deep and couldn’t really get anything going going forward aside from a ball through to Dickson from Barton but the ball went through to Tangara.
Bognor were pressurising with corners but were being kept at bay until the 59th minute when they pulled a goal back when a corner down the right eventually came to Whyte whose ball to the far post was pulled back by Danny Howick to Dan Gifford who turned inside the box and fired low into the net.
Cray had a chance to restore the two goal advantage with a free kick in a central position 25 yards from goal but Wood’s shot curled over the top.
In the 68th minute Bognor drew level when good play by Odonkoynero who found Gifford down the left of the area who finished well tucking home his shot into the bottom right corner and the course of the game had changed.
Cray though showed their character a minute later when Wright’s ball forward bounced into the path of Dickson down the left of the area and as Tangara came out, deftly lobbed the ball over the keeper and dropped confidently into the net for his second of the game and his 10th goal of the season.
Cameron Brodie looked to have picked up a knock and was replaced by Jacob Munting for the last twenty minutes. Bognor looked to level once again and from a free kick in a decent position Joe Cook blazed a shot over the bar.
In the 79th minute Bognor came close to scoring when a Flannigan cross into the area was headed goalwards by Odokonyero but came back off the crossbar and over the top.
Cray were defending stoutly against Bognor’s attack and getting blocks and challenges in from the likes of Barton, Nazir Bakrin and Tom Hanfrey but Bognor did go close when Whyte found Odonkonyero with space but his shot from the right of the area which was well saved again by Wright. Then Wright made another important blocked save to deny Flannigan’s inswinging cross-shot.
The last real opening for the home side came in three minutes of added on time when from a corner down the left the ball into the box just missed the onrushing Cook and went behind for a goal kick.
Cray were able to see out the remaining seconds for a big win and help boost their survival hopes ahead of back to back home games with Bowers & Pitsea and Kingstonian to follow. Cray had had to dig deep and although didn’t have much of the ball at times attacked to good effect, defended well under pressure and Wright looks to be an exceptional and calm goalkeeper and made key stops during the game. Sam Wood had a great game in midfield with a goal and an assist and Chris Dickson was sharp up front and there were some mature performances from some very young Wands players against a good side. The only downside was the injuries to Yila and Brodie and hopefully not too serious. With seven games of the season to go Cray will need to continue to produce more performances like this over the coming weeks to ensure Isthmian Premier football again next season.
Bognor Regis Town: Amadou Tangara, Dann Howick (Harrison Brook, 72), Joe Dandy, Calvin Davies, Joe Cook, Craig Robson, Harvey Whyte (Capt.), Charlie Bell (Jake Flannigan, H/T), Nathan Odonkyonero, Dan Gifford, Sam Dowridge: Subs: Ethan Robb, Jack Wyatt
Scorer: Gifford 59, 68
Booked: Bell, Dandy, Whyte
Cray Wanderers: Joe Wright, Freddy Barton, Nazir Bakrin, Tom Hanfrey, Kasim Aidoo,
Cameron Brodie (Jacob Munting 70), Luca Albon, Sam Wood, Anthony Cook (Capt.), Jamie Yila (Narcis-Florin Filip, 13, Soul Kader, 82): Subs: Richie Danquah, Denzel Williams
Scorers: Wood 1 min, Dickson 20, 69
Referee: Robert Ablitt
Assistants: Jacob Wright, Robert Walczack