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Isthmian League Premier – Saturday 4th January, 2020  

Cray Wanderers                                            0

Wingate & Finchley                                      0

Pics:  Kindly provided by Jon Hilliger

Cray Wanderers continued an unbeaten start to 2020 but had to be content with a point against Wingate & Finchley in an entertaining and open contest at Hayes Lane.

There were opportunities at both ends to win the game with both goalkeepers possibly laying claimant for man of the match as Lewis Carey and Shane Gore made important saves in a match which affected the top and bottom of the table.  During the game, Carey made stops to deny Bilal Sayoud, Alphanso Kennedy and late in the game, Charlie Ruff and Sean Grace.  Meanwhile, Gore made a superb stop to prevent Bradley Pritchard scoring in the first half and late on did well to save from Tom Murphy to preserve a point which the visitors probably deserved overall.

Cray had begun 2020 with a fine win at Margate on New Years Day and from the side which won at Hartsdown Road there was a welcome return to the side for skipper Barney Williams who came in for Charlie Allen and that was the only change with Tom Phipp continuing his comeback from injury.  Wingate & Finchley had been without a win in 9 league games but had run teams very close in that run and despite starting in 21st place look a pacey and skilful side. On New Years Day they were narrowly beaten 1-2 at Haringey Borough.

On a bright and sunny if a little chilly afternoon the match started at a quick tempo and it was the visitors who looked slightly the sharper early on.  Wingate & Finchley created the first opening of the game when from a throw in down the left, Kane Farrell ball came to the lively Henry Ochieng who broke into the box but drove a cross-shot wide of the right post.

Cray were looking to get things going and their first goal attempt came shortly after when after a neat passing move, Lee Lewis set up Williams whose shot from 20 yards was held by Shane Gore.

Wingate & Finchley had a very good 10 minute spell and could have taken the lead when the strong and powerful Olu Akinsanya set up Bilal Sayoud down the left of the area and his shot to the near post from 12 yards was pushed over the bar well by Carey.

Then a patient build up down the left ended with Johnville Renee and Sayoud combining to find Farrell who curled a shot narrowly wide of the right post.   This was followed by another save from Carey when Ochieng and Renee found Sayoud again down the left of the area but this time Carey saved with his legs.

Cray had a half chance to score when a ball was played through to Joe Taylor who looked to have found space inside the area but before he could shoot he was denied by a fine block from Richard Platt.  Meanwhile at the other end, Alphanso Kennedy’s ball into the area was glanced wide of goal by Akinsanya.

After this spell, Cray began to get more on top and a Bradley Pritchard corner was met by the head of Jay Leader inside the area but the visitors were able to clear.  Then Pritchard set up Tom Phipp who shot over from 20 yards.  Then a free kick in a good position saw Lee Lewis’s shot come back off the wall.

The Cray created perhaps the best chance of the half when Phipp played a fine ball through to Pritchard down the right of the area and his shot looked goalbound but Gore did superbly to push the ball away.

After this the game became more of an even affair but Wingate & Finchley still looked lively on the break and Kennedy’s ball in from the right found Sayoud 8 yards out but was met by a brave block from Ben Mundele who was making his 150th appearance for the club.  Then Ochieng saw a drive blocked by Mitchell Nelson.

In the latter stages of the half Wingate & Finchley threatened again when Sayoud who was a real handful in the first half down the left sent another cross-shot just wide of the right post.

For Cray, Williams set up Lee Lewis whose shot from 25 yards went straight to Gore.  This was followed by Taylor and Pritchard combining to find Tom Murphy who shot wide of goal.

The last chance of the first half fell to Wingate & Finchley when Ahmet Rifat strode forward and played a pass out to the right to Kennedy who broke into the area and his shot was pushed behind by Carey for a corner but the first half despite much endeavour finished goalless.

H/T:  0-0

The second half was much more even but still an end to end affair and seemed to fly by with the game having few stoppages aside from substitutions.

The first opening of the second period fell to Cray when Taylor played a quick free kick out to Lewis who shot over from 25 yards.  Then Lewis and Joel Rollinson combined to find Taylor inside the area whose shot was blocked but despite appeals for handball were waived away.  Wingate & Finchley had their first chance of the half when Rifat found substitute Olu Oluwatimilehin who rolled a shot wide of the left post.

It was looking like one goal was going to decide the contest and Cray had a better spell and Taylor found Williams down the left of the area and he drove a shot wide of goal.  Then after a neat passing buildup, Taylor found Mundele who down the right fired a shot fractionally wide of the left post.

This was followed by a good chance when Pritchard down the right found Taylor who set up Rollinson whose near post shot was well blocked by Gore from 8 yards.

Wingate & Finchley certainly didn’t look a bottom of the table side and came close again when Platt down the right found Akinsanya insde the area whose shot was pushed behind by Carey.  Then for Cray a ball in from the right by Pritchard was flicked off target by Taylor.

The game went through a quieter spell before bursting into life again in the last ten minutes.  Wingate & Finchley seeking the win had chances to earn all three points but were twice denied by Carey in the space of a couple of minutes.

Firstly, Ochieng who had a very good game in midfield found lively substitute Charlie Ruff whose half volley from the edge of the area was pushed brilliantly over the bar by Carey and was certainly goal bound.

Then Cray were indebted to Carey once again when Renee’s ball into the box was met by the head of Sean Grace and Carey did well to parry the ball away at the near post.

This was followed by another chance for Wingate & Finchley when Ruff who made quite an impact played a good ball through to Luke Ifil and as Carey came out the striker lobbed the ball just over the bar.

The visitors almost were made to pay for those chances when in the dying moments Cray nearly won the game when Jerome Federico found Mundele whose ball in to the box was headed goalwards by Taylor but straight into the arms of Gore.  Then came Cray’s best chance of the half when Charlie Allen and Mundele combined to play in Murphy down the left of the area but his shot was pushed away well by Gore and the ball was cleared away by the Wingate & Finchley defence.

The final piece of action came from a late free kick for Cray out on the left and Karl Dent’s ball into the box was cleared away at the second attempt by the defence and the game ended in a scoreless draw but certainly wasn’t for the want of trying and on the balance of the game was perhaps just about right.

Cray as a result stay sixth in the table as teams below them aside from Carshalton failed to overtake them while Wingate & Finchley go to the bottom of the table after Corinthian Casuals beat Leatherhead but certainly didn’t look like a relegation side in the two matches played between the sides.

Cray are next in action at Bowers & Pitsea next Saturday before returning for a league double header with Hornchurch and Lewes to come.

Cray Wanderers:  Lewis Carey, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Karl Dent, 72), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.), Tom Phipp (Charlie Allen, 56), Lee Lewis, Bradley Pritchard, Tom Murphy (Geofrey Okonkwo, 89), Joel Rollinson (Jerome Federico, 77), Joe Taylor: Subs: Stefan Abatan, Geofrey Okonkwo

Wingate & Finchley: Shane Gore, Richard Platt, Kane Farrell, Ahmet Rifat (Luke Ifil. 72), Sean Grace, Alieu Njie, Alphanso Kennedy (Olumide Oluwatimilehin, H/T), Henry Ochieng, Oluwaseun Akinsanya, Johnville Renee, Bilal Sayoud (Charlie Ruff, 82): Subs: Alex Read, Charlie O’Keefe

Booked:          Njie         

Referee:          Joseph Stokes

Assistants:     Jordan Critchlow, Samuel Ingray

 Attendance – 144