Cray Wanderers vs. Hornchurch – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 25th February – Match Report

Cray Wanderers                                   0

Hornchurch                                          2

Yusuff 31, Dickson 65

Cray Wanderers playoff hopes took a knock as title contenders Hornchurch made it three games without a win to move the Wands down to 9th, four points outside the playoff places with a professional victory at Hayes Lane.

Cray for the first half hour played exceptionally well and were on the front foot and were particularly unfortunate when Dajon Golding cracked a shot against the top of the crossbar from outside the area and were threatening down the left and right.  Hornchurch though are a confident side and went in front just after the half hour when Ade Yusuff scored his fourth goal in six games for Hornchurch after Ellis Brown saw his shot pushed out by Shaun Rowley. 

The Urchins had a chance to go two nil up just before half time when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Jephte Tanga on Chris Dickson but Sam Higgins spot kick was well saved by Rowley.   However, in the second half Hornchurch played very well for the first twenty minutes and Higgins saw a shot saved by Rowley before in the 65th minute became provider with a fine pass through to Dickson and the former Wands finished coolly down the left of the penalty area.  Mark Stimson’s side were able to see out the last twenty five minutes and move one point behind Bishop’s Stortford and Aveley at the top of the table.

The Wands without a goal in the last two games were looking to get back to winning ways after losing at Hastings United last Saturday and there were a few changes to the starting lineup with Neil Smith looking to utilise and freshen the team.  Into the side came Matt Weaire, Nyren Clunis, David Ijaha and Dajon Golding for Jalen Jones, Sam Wood, Anthony Cook and Tom Derry.   Hornchurch were 3rd in the table and had won four of the last five matches as well as being the league’s top scorers. There was one change to the side which beat Bognor Regis Town on Tuesday night with Chris Dickson coming in for Charlie Stimson.

On a fresh but bright afternoon and with a number of Cray Wanderers Youth teams in attendance, it was the Wands who started the match on the front foot and came close in the third minute when Dan Bassett combined with Nyren Clunis down the right and he pulled the ball across to Dajon Golding who whistled a shot off target from just outside the area.  Then Clunis was found by Sam Skeffington down the left of the area and his effort was blocked. 

Cray came closest yet in the 16th minute when hesitation at the back from Hornchurch led to keeper Joe Wright’s clearance falling to Golding who from around 25 yards sent the ball towards goal and was unlucky to see his first time effort come back off the crossbar.

Hornchurch though are a patient side and three minutes later came close when the evergreen Dickson who this time last season was part of the Wands battle against relegation hitting a shot from the edge of the area which Shaun Rowley did well to push away and following up Ade Yusuff couldn’t get purchase on his shot and was gathered by Rowley.

Cray continued to threaten and from a free kick down the right, Bailey Akehurst sent the ball towards the far post which Wright had to scuttle behind for a corner. From the corner, the ball came to Yahaya Bamba who fired over the top.  For Hornchurch, Dickson found space in the box but was denied by a fine tackle by Jephte Tanga.

The game was developing into a terrific contest played at a steady pace and Dickson once again showed his qualities by hitting a shot from inside the area which Rowley got down to save. At the other end, from a left wing corner, Clunis set up Skeffington for a shot over the bar.

In the 31st minute, Hornchurch opened the scoring when a ball was played through to Ellis Brown down the right of the area whose shot was pushed out well by Rowley but following up Yusuff was on hand to hit a crisp finish from 12 yards into the net.

This gave the visitors the impetus they needed to control the game and the goal took the sting out of the Wands for the remainder of the half.

It could have got worse for Cray in the last minute of the half when Dickson evaded Tanga in the area and was adjudged to have been fouled and a spot kick was awarded.  From the penalty, the league’s top scorer Sam Higgins’ strike was well saved by Rowley to the left and pushed the ball away.

H/T:  0-1

Half time possibly came at the right time for Cray as Hornchurch were beginning to exert their authority and just after the break the Wands came close from a half chance when Akehurst’s corner into the area was headed away and came to Golding down the left and his cross was headed wide of the left post by a diving Freddie Carter.

Hornchurch though had a strong spell early in the half and came close to going two nil up when Dickson found Higgins down the left of the area and his shot was turned away well by Rowley.  Then, Yusuff set up Micky Parcell who from the right of the penalty area curled a shot towards the far post which was deflected behind for a corner.  This was followed by Yusuff volleying over from Higgins cross.

In the 65th minute Hornchurch put daylight between the teams when Higgins played a ball through to Dickson down the left of the area who showed customary composure to shoot past Rowley into the bottom right corner of the net.

From here, Cray brought on Anthony Cook and Tom Derry to look to try to get back into the game but the Urchins defence then stepped up to the plate and despite some great endeavour from the Wands couldn’t really fashion a chance to test Joe Wright who was well protected by Nathan Bertram-Cooper and Tom Wraight at the back and in effect looked to put a lid on the game and secure the win.

The nearest Cray came to scoring was in the last minute when Akehurst’s free kick from the right of the area was headed wide at the near post by Derry and in the end that proved the end of the afternoon’s entertainment.

Cray go down to 9th place and head to Bowers & Pitsea next Saturday looking to return to winning ways and after three games without a goal to regain sharpness in front of goal once again.  Hornchurch for their part are a highly polished side and a defeat here was no disgrace for the Wands and it will be a surprise if  they are not promoted automatically or at least via the playoffs this season.

The Wands though are still in with a shout of the playoffs but probably require an unbeaten March to go into the final month of the season amongst the contenders.

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga, Matt Weaire, Freddie Carter, Bailey Akehurst, David Ijaha (Sam Wood, 77), Sam Skeffington, Nyren Clunis, Yahaya Bamba, Dajon Golding (Tom Derry, 66), Dan Bassett (Anthony Cook, 66)

Booked: Bamba 76, Carter 82, Skeffington 90+3

Hornchurch: Joe Wright, Mickey Parcell, Remi Sutton, Jamal Allen (Jordan Clark, H/T), Nathan Bertram-Cooper, Tom Wraight, Ellis Brown, Ollie Muldoon, Sam Higgins (Liam Nash, 79), Chris Dickson, Ade Yusuff (Charlie Stimson, 85):  Subs:  Destiny Olidapo, Lamar Joseph-Johnson

Booked: Bertram-Cooper 83, Parcell 88

Referee: Joel Lamping

Assistants: Brendan Jones, Thomas Price

Att:  330