Bowers & Pitsea vs Cray Wanderers – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 4th March

Main pics:  Ozay Booth

Bowers & Pitsea                          1

Vale-Aviero 3 mins

Cray Wanderers                         2

Derry 18, Ijaha 90+1

Cray Wanderers returned to winning ways after three games without a victory or a goal after a dramatic stoppage time winner from David Ijaha secured a come from behind win for Neil Smith’s side against Bowers & Pitsea.

Both teams needed the three points for differing reasons with Cray starting in 10th place but still in with a shout of the playoff places while Bowers & Pitsea had lost six league games in a row and started 19th in the table and in the bottom four.  Bowers & Pitsea caught Cray cold early on and took the lead in the 3rd minute when Brandon Vale-Aviero was on hand to score from close range when he reacted quickest to a flick on.

Cray got back on terms in the 18th minute when Tom Derry converted Dan Bassett’s cross for his 11th goal of the season. The Wands dominated the first half and Bassett shot wide and Yahaya Bamba hit the crossbar, while Nyren Clunis saw an effort tipped over well by Joseph Osaghae.  The second half saw Cray again dominate possession but was a more even game and David Ijaha saw a header headed off the line by Dexter Peter and Clunis’s shot looked to have taken a touch from Osaghae over but no corner was given. 

In the end Cray had to wait until stoppage time to claim a merited winner when from a Sam Wood right wing corner into a crowded penalty box Dan Bassett got a touch towards goal with Ijaha at the far post nudging the ball goalwards and despite a clearance was adjudged rightly to have gone over the line for a goal.

Despite winning only one of the five games played in February Cray are still very much in the playoff race but with matches against all of the bottom five to come before the end of the season those games will prove not to be easy as the Wands can testify from last season.  From the side which lost at home to Hornchurch last Saturday into the team came Jalen Jones, Sam Wood, Tom Derry and the returning Harrison Sodje on loan from Leyton Orient in place of Matt Weaire, David Ijaha, Dajon Golding and Bailey Akehurst whose loan spell from Gillingham has come to an end.  On the bench for Cray was a recent loan signing, Jaheim Whyte on dual registration with Hampton & Richmond FC.

For Bowers & Pitsea, James Collins also made three changes from last Saturday’s 0-1 defeat to Kingstonian with Chevron McLean, former Wand Billy Crook and Montrell Deslandes starting in place of Julian Gibson, Harrison Carnegie and Mobloaji Dawodu.

With the stakes high on a fairly cold afternoon it was Bowers & Pitsea who started quickly and down the left Deslandes’ flick on found Brandon Vale-Aviero who had time to shoot and give the Essex side the lead.

The early goal gave Cray plenty of time to get back into things and after a shaky start began to put things together and down the right the ball came to Tom Derry who set up Dan Bassett who shot just wide.  There was a blow for Cray in the 16th minute when Jephte Tanga picked up a knock and was replaced by Anthony Cook.

In the 18th minute Cray drew level with Bassett this time the provider down the right and his ball across came to Derry who from around 14 yards rifled home a fine shot and into the net to break the Wands goalless run.

Cray now had the bit between their teeth and again Derry set up Bassett for a shot just wide from the left of the area.  Then down the right, Sam Wood’s ball to the near post was met by the head of Derry but just off target.

The Wands had to make a second change of the first half when David Ijaha came on for Sam Skeffington and a couple of minutes almost went ahead when Yahaya Bamba who had a lively game throughout let fly from 20 yards and was unlucky to see his shot hit the crossbar and go over.

Before half time, Nyren Clunis came close with from the left edge of the area which was well pushed over by Joseph Osaghae for a corner.  Then shortly after a fine passing move ended with Clunis’s cross from the right to the far post for Harrison Sodje who shot agonisingly across goal and went wide.

Finally, Bamba down the right fired in a shot to the near post which hit the side netting but at the break the scores were level.

HT:  1-1

The second half was a more scrappier affair but Cray again looked the more likely early on to score and down the right, Sam Wood’s corner found Bamba’s whose cross into the area saw Freddie Carter flick the ball away from Osaghae and at the far post Ijaha’s header was headed off the line and over by Dexter Peter for a corner.

Bowers & Pitsea looked to threaten and down the left, Billy Crook came close with a shot which was deflected behind for a corner.

Cray were unfortunate when Clunis’ hit a fizzing shot from just outside the area down the right and looked to have taken a touch from Osaghae over but no corner kick was awarded.

The Wands final substitution in the 74th minute saw Dajon Golding come on for the influential Clunis and Bowers almost went back in front when following the award of a free kick just outside the area for a foul by Carter on Deslandes, Vale-Aviero curled his shot over the bar.

Cray going into the final few minutes were still playing well and certainly not settling for a point and Wood down the right put over a cross into the box towards the far post for Ijaha was blocked inside the six yard box.

Going into the final minute there was a half opening for Bowers & Pitsea when Mobolaji Dawodu’s half volley was deflected through to Shaun Rowley in the Wands goal.

There was still time for late drama as Bamba who worked tirelessly all game won a corner and a brief stoppage for treatment for Ryan Huckle, the right wing corner from Wood into a congested six yard box seemed to miss Carter and Jalen Jones but flicked off Ijaha and over the line despite Dylan Thistleton’s clearance for his first Cray Wanderers goal.

The Wands managed to see out the remaining minutes and claim the three points which although Cray may still be outsiders for the playoffs in 9th place are at least in with a shout with eight matches to play. Cray have 54 points, four behind 5th placed Canvey Island who have played two matches less but still bunched with Folkestone Invicta, Hastings United, Carshalton Athletic, Horsham, Lewes and Billericay Town looking to keep up the pressure.  Bowers & Pitsea battled hard and were resolute for much of the game but are now nine points behind Kingstonian and may need to start picking up points soon to climb away from trouble but showed they will have the stomach for a fight.

Cray now move on to the last eight games with a bit more of a spring in their step and face an out of form Potters Bar Town at Hayes Lane on Saturday looking to maintain their promotion challenge.

Bowers & Pitsea: Joseph Osaghae, Dylan Thistleton, Chevron McLean, Dexter Peter, TQ Addy, Billy Crook (Oscar Shelvey, 67), Brandon Vale-Aviero, Marcus Sablier (Harrison Carnegie, 67), Ryan Huckle, Valckx Fernandez, Montrell Deslandes (Mobolaji (Bola) Dawodu, 85):  Subs:  Jeremie Milambo, Funsho Sinai

Booked: Sablier 64

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga (Anthony Cook, 16), Jalen Jones, Freddie Carter, Harrison Sodje, Sam Skeffington (David Ijaha, 32), Sam Wood, Yahaya Bamba, Nyren Clunis (Dajon Golding, 74), Dan Bassett, Tom Derry:  Subs:  Matthew Weaire, Jaheim Whyte

Booked: Carter 76


Referee: Oliver Morris-Sanders

Assistants: Michael Iddeneden-Smith, Gary Baker

Att: 135