Cray Wanderers vs Corinthian Casuals – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 8th April – Match Report

Cray Wanderers                                  1

Clunis 29

Corinthian Casuals                            0

Cray Wanderers moved to within a point of 5th placed Enfield Town in the race for the Isthmian Premier playoffs after a hard fought victory against Corinthian Casuals at Hayes Lane.  As a result of the win, Casuals who needed a win are relegated despite other teams around them all losing.

With the stakes high there were few chances in the game but Cray edged the match throughout and after a good spell of pressure took the lead in the 29th minute through Nyren Clunis’ classy finish and ultimately proved enough for the three points.

Cray now have 67 points in 6th place, two ahead of Horsham and Lewes in 7th & 8th with Hastings United in 9th on 63 points with a game in hand. Enfield Town who were beaten at Horsham have 68 points and it’s all building to an exciting finish to the season.

With another match in 48 hours at Herne Bay, Neil Smith made three changes to the side which drew at Enfield Town last Saturday. Into the team came Destiny Oladipo for his first start for the Wands after three substitute appearances in place of Tom Derry, Marcus Sablier for Anthony Cook and Danny Bassett for Dajon Golding.

Corinthian Casuals had to win the game being ten points from safety and named an unchanged side from the one which won at Potters Bar Town last Saturday.  

The opening five minutes saw Cray have the lion share of possession but both sides won a corner apiece and the first half chance fell to the visitors when Shaun McAuley’s ball from deep to the left post was headed into the side netting by Sahid Kamara.

The Wands first opening came in the 10th minute after a good spell of passing with Dan Bassett, Marcus Sablier and Harrison Sodje combining to set up Nyren Clunis who stabbed wide from 13 yards.

For Casuals, Kamara’s cross from the left fizzed across the box and away from a touch from Mack Reilly but the flag was raised for offside.

After a quiet ten minutes Cray threatened when a free kick out on the left from Sodje was played across to the right to Jephte Tanga who set up Sam Wood for a volley from twenty five yards which went wide of the right post.

For Casuals, Ricardo Thompson made a strong run from midfield towards the penalty area and played a pass into the box for Finlay Lovatt who attempted to shoot but a combination of a Rowley block and being crowded out saw the ball cleared.

From the 25th minute Cray began to exert more pressure and down the right Clunis’ ball across the box came to Bassett who set up Wood for a shot inside the area that was blocked.

In the 29th minute the deadlock was broken when a fine ball from Tanga from deep found Clunis down the right and from just inside the area drilled an accurate shot wide of Callum Coulter and into the bottom left corner for his fifth goal of the season and a fine example of deadeye finishing.

Casuals had to come out and came close a minute later following a free kick on the left edge of the area and Lovatt’s shot around the wall was well pushed out by Rowley.

Six minutes before the break there was a half opening for Casuals when early substitute and ex-Wand Jordan Clarke played the ball across from the right and Lovatt set up McAuley for a shot that was blazed over the top.

On the stroke of halftime Cray almost scored a second when from a free kick down the left of the penalty area, Clunis’ shot aiming for the near post was pushed superbly onto the left post by Coulter for the save of the match.

HT:  1-0

Cray began the second half with purpose and Oladipo made a couple of runs forward and saw attempted shots blocked by defenders.  

Anthony Cook came for David Ijaha three minutes after the break and the Wands had the ball in the net from a corner that came out to Bassett who finished well but the flag was raised for offside.

For Cray, the excellent Marcus Sablier put a great ball across for the far post but went across goal and then Sablier and Wood combined to set up Bassett for a shot wide of the left post.

After the hour, Yahaya Bamba and Tom Derry came on for Sodje who had gone down three times with knocks during the game and Oladipo and although Casuals were hanging in the game well couldn’t really fashion a great chance to go with their neat approach play.

Cray had an issue with Tanga struggling at right back and although he carried on for a few minutes the Wands went the last twenty minutes or so with ten men with all three subs being used.

The Wands came close to a second when a corner from Cook in the 73rd minute was headed over the top by the imperious Jalen Jones.

Six minutes from time Cray almost put the game to bed when Bamba down the right saw his cross-shot deflected and Coulter did well to turn the ball aside and went away from goal.

The game went into five minutes of added on time and Casuals almost grabbed a goal out of nothing when Kamara from inside the centre circle sent the ball towards goal and drifted wide of goal.

Then right at the end Casuals won a corner but Kamara’s ball in was well claimed by Rowley who kept his thirteenth clean sheet of the season and the final whistle went and Casuals stay in the Isthmian Premier of five seasons came to an end. 

Despite the knocks to the full backs who both had great games there were still some very good performances with Jalen Jones and Freddie Carter now building a rock solid defensive partnership, Clunis is in a rich vein of form and Sablier looks a major talent on loan from Bromley.

For the Wands, there are three more games to go and have a tricky trip to Herne Bay on Monday who need the points to pressure Bowers & Pitsea and Kingstonian in the battle to avoid the drop.  Cray are now six unbeaten and in the recent run have been able to grind out results and a first ever place in the Isthmian Premier playoffs is still very much on.

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga, Jalen Jones, Freddie Carter, Harrison Sodje (Yahaya Bamba, 62), Sam Wood, David Ijaha (Anthony Cook, 48), Marcus Sablier, Nyren Clunis, Danny Bassett, Destiny Oladipo (Tom Derry, 63).  Subs:  Dajon Golding, Rio Campbell

Booked: Oladipo 60

Corinthian Casuals: Callum Coulter, Zack Chislett, Jack Tucker, Malakai Hyman, Simba Kudyiwa (Jola Lahan, 90), Shaun McAuley, Sahid Kamara, Finlay Lovatt, Mack Reilly (Nathaniel Pinney, 87), Ricardo Thompson, Lesley Duru (Jordan Clarke, 15):  Subs: Sean Agun, Yann Janssen

Booked: Thompson 82

Referee: Daniel Blades

Assistants: Wayne Horsfall, Simon Cutler

Att:  305