Bostik League South – 2/12/17
Carshalton Athletic 1
Cray Wanderers 1
Power 45+2 pen
Cray Wanderers remain in fourth place in fourth place in the Bostik South after picking up a point from an entertaining contest with third placed Carshalton Athletic at Colston Avenue.
The Wands had the better of the first half and Michael Power saw a 23rd minute penalty saved well by home keeper Alex Kozakis. However, Cray were awarded a second penalty kick a couple of minutes into stoppage time and this time, Power made no mistake from the spot to give Cray a 1-0 lead at the break.
Carshalton though were unbeaten throughout November and fought back strongly in the second half and levelled six minutes after the break through Danny Dudley’s close range effort. Both sides had opportunities to win the game with Mickel Miller firing over the top for the Robins and Jordan Cheadle’s free kick brought a tremendous save from Nick Blue. For Cray, Mitchell Nelson saw a header cleared off the line and Power fired just over the bar towards the end but the game ended in a draw.
Cray came into the game unbeaten in 12 league games and had scored twelve in the last two matches and named an unchanged side from Wednesday night’s 5-1 win against Ramsgate.
Carshalton had been beaten at home just once and had won their last five league games but it was Cray that looked the more assured in the early stages, taking the game to their hosts with some patient passing moves and with Aaron Rhule looking lively out on the left. The first opening of the game fell to Rhule who after being set up by the impressive Zak Henry hit a strike from just outside the area which Alex Kozakis got down to save.
For Carshalton, Raheem Sterling-Parker put a ball into the box from the left which was cleared by Jay Leader for a corner. From the corner, Miller’s cross came to Cheadle whose drive was blocked.
Cray came close when a ball was played out from the right out to Rhule down the left who turned past Bobby Price and put a ball into the near post where Michael Frieter knocked the ball out to Lea Dawson who shot over the bar from twenty yards. Then Dawson found Brandon Scott down the right who put a ball across which Danny Dudley had to clear away.
In the 23rd minute came the first real talking point of the game when Dawson played a pass to Rhule who burst into the box past Paris Hamilton-Downes and was then nudged in the back by Price and went down and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Power to take the penalty but full marks to Kozakis who guessed right and made a good save to push the ball past the post for a corner.
The Wands continued to play well and Frieter’s ball into the area was cleared out as far as Power who volleyed over. Then Scott won a corner down the right and Frieter’s ball was headed towards goal by Dawson but lacked sufficient power and went through to Kozakis.
Five minutes before half time Carshalton who had seen attempts to get forward thwarted by some fine Cray defending came close when Jordan Cheadle from a free kick out on the right put a good ball into the area and Hamilton-Downes seemed to get the final touch to the ball and put the ball over the bar. Then another Cheadle free kick was put behind by Barney Williams for a corner.
Before half time, good work by Power down the right close to the corner flag sent over a cross which was deflected towards to the far post and Kozakis did well to get his fingers to the ball just to tip the ball away from goal.
Cray had dominated the half but didn’t have anything to show for it until the second minute of injury time when the Wands were awarded a second penalty. Nelson’s ball forward found Power who played a fine ball through to Frieter who was clipped over by Hamilton-Downes for possibly a more clear cut penalty than the first one. The only debate was whether Hamilton-Downes was the last man but the referee just booked the full back. Power showed great character to take a second penalty and this time made no mistake from the spot to give Cray the lead they deserved at the break.
Half Time: 0-1
The home side had to change strategy for the second half and they came out much more on the front foot penned Cray back for the first ten minutes of the half.
Miller who had been Carshalton’s main attacking threat first half saw a shot deflected behind for a corner. From the corner in the 51st minute, Carshalton levelled. Miller put over the corner towards the back post which was headed out by a Cray defender as far as Sterling-Parker whose ball into the box was glanced into the net by Danny Dudley from a couple of yards out to make it all square once again.
Cray though went back up the other end and almost re-took the lead. They won a corner down the right and Frieter’s superb cross to the back post was met powerfully by the head of Nelson who looked certain to score but for a tremendous clearance off the line by Hamilton-Downes and following up Dawson headed into the arms of Kozakis.
The game now went from end to end and Carshalton had their best spell of the game, Miller who was becoming more and more influential broke away down the left and put over a cross which fell to Peter Adeniyi up from the back but his shot was gathered by Blue.
Cray threatened when Scott down the left shot to the near post but the ball came back off Power and behind for a goal kick. Then Rhule put over a excellent cross into the penalty box but Power headed over the bar.
The Wands almost got caught out with a swift breakaway when Adeniyi played a tremendous ball over the top to Miller down the right who charged towards goal but surprisingly shot over the bar.
Then Cray were indebted to the excellence of Nick Blue, not for the first time this season. Carshalton were awarded a free kick on the left edge of the penalty area and Cheadle curled a great shot round the wall and Blue made a great athletic one handed save to push the ball over the bar for a corner. This was followed by an effort from Ricky Korboa which went wide. Then from another free kick this time on the right, Cheadle blazed well wide.
Both sides had put so much into the game but the pace just seemed to go out of the game in the last ten minutes but it was Cray who came closest to snatching a winner.
Firstly, Frieter made a strong run from out on the right and from 30 yards shot straight to Kozakis.
Then in the 88th minute almost came what would have been a spectacular goal when Henry played the ball out to Power where seemingly there was no danger 30 yards from goal but won a chase with Kalvin Morath-Gibbs and instinctively on the turn hit a great dipping shot which narrowly cleared the crossbar. If that had gone it would have been a goal of the season contender even withstanding some fine strikes he already has this season.
In the end the game finished in a draw which on the balance of the second half certainly was the right result as Carshalton are a very good side with a lot of pace and verve but Cray can look back on an excellent first half performance and certainly stifled Carshalton. Many of the Cray supporters present would have been happy with a draw at the start of the game in what was a very tough start to December.
There were some good performances with the always reliable Nelson and Leader outstanding whilst Rhule especially in the first half was in great form. For me though, the man of the match was Zak Henry who was excellent in midfield breaking up play and also featured in a lot of Cray’s good work in attack.
The Wands remained fourth on 38 points, three points behind Carshalton but with two games in hand. There was no real damage done as Corinthian Casuals in second place lost at home to Chipstead whilst leaders Lewes were held at Greenwich Borough.
Cray now have a free midweek before taking on Hythe Town on Saturday at Hayes Lane in what will be another difficult game.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Lea Dawson, Zak Henry, Michael Frieter, Michael Power, Aaron Rhule (Ralique Lawrence, 87), Brandon Scott (Jerome Federico, 80): Subs: Freddie Parker, Dean Carpenter, Marcus Evans
Carshalton: Alexandros Kozakis, Bobby Price (Capt.) Paris Hamilton-Downes, Peter Adeniyi, Danny Dudley, Kalvin Morath-Gibbs, Ricky Korboa, Michael Aziaya, Jordan Cheadle, Raheem Sterling-Parker, Mickel Miller: Subs: Mekhail McLaughlin, Ryan Healy, Joshua Phillips, Ross Elsom, Reece Cave
Booked: Price, Hamilton-Downes
Referee: Shelby Elson
Assistant Referees: Michael Taylor, Alexander Mathieson