Ryman League Division One South – 9/4/17
Cray Wanderers 1
Hastings United 4
Leonard 8, Collin 32, 90+3, Stannard 58
Cray Wanderers home woes continued as Hastings United inflicted a seventh home defeat in 2017 which moved United into the playoff places.
On a very warm Sunday afternoon in front of the biggest crowd of the season which included supporters from Holland and Germany, Hastings started strongly and went in front after just eight minutes when Danny Leonard scored with a well taken goal from just inside the penalty area. Cray though rallied well and levelled in the 23rd minute with Karl Dent firing home his ninth goal of the season. Hastings though hit back and the impressive Frannie Collin headed in from Sam Cruttwell’s cross after 32 minutes to give Hastings a 2-1 lead at break. Cray had chances after the interval to level the scores through Danny Haynes and Brandon Scott but it was Hastings who were a bit more decisive and scored a third in the 59th minute through Harry Stannard. Cray kept going but Hastings added a fourth in injury time with Collin’s second of the game which puts him back into contention for the Golden Boot.
The Wands had seen their mini revival ended by Dorking Wanderers last weekend and took on a Hastings United side who the Wands beat back on 7th January and were looking to complete a league double over Darren Hare’s side. Tony Russell made two changes to the side with Jai McKinlay replacing Antonio Lazzari and Brandon Scott coming in for Luke Medley.
Cray were hoping to get off to a good start but it was Hastings who came out of the traps the quickest and should really have taken the lead in the 2nd minute. Following a corner down the right, Collin’s cross to the near post was turned wide from five yards by Ollie Rowe.
This was a temporary reprieve for Cray as in the 8th minute, Hastings took the lead. A ball out from the back found Rowe who played a ball through to Danny Leonard who ran on into the box, took on a defender and placed a ball wide of Nick Blue for a well taken goal.
Cray though despite perhaps being second best in the early stages had a great chance to level just before the quarter hour. Following a free kick the ball was worked from Ben Mundele out to Brandon Scott down the right who from the by line put over a great cross to the far post which Haynes turned wide of the left post.
Hastings were looking dangerous each time they attacked and almost added a second when Leonard down the right laid the ball across to Harry Stannard whose shot from twelve yards was met by a fine instinctive save from Blue turning the ball behind for a corner.
It was Cray though that scored the next goal. In the 23rd minute after a period of good passing Dent linked up with Haynes and his through ball found Dent clear on goal who tucked away an excellent finish from twelve yards.
On a very warm afternoon, the game then got a bit scrappy for a few minutes but Hastings upped their game and re-took the lead in the 32nd minute. Leonard down the right played the ball across and the ball came to Sam Cruttwell down the left who cut inside and put over a fine cross into the heart of the penalty box and Collin was on hand to score his 26th goal of the season with a neat header.
Hastings then began to dominate the remainder of the half and from a free kick some 35 yards out, Collins stepped up to fire in a great shot which Blue did well to push over the bar.
As the half wore on following a throw in the ball came to Matt Bodkin who had a fine game for Hastings who fired over the bar. This was followed by a snap shot from distance from Simon Johnson which was well fielded by Blue.
The last effort of the half came from Cray when Lee Prescott found Dent who laid the ball back to Haynes who perhaps half hit his shot which trickled wide of goal.
Half Time: 1-2
The second half almost got off to a dramatic start when Dent played a superb ball through to Haynes who sprung the offside trap but from fifteen yards could only lob the ball wide of goal as keeper Ryan Nicholls advanced.
Hastings threatened when from a corner down the right, Collin’s ball to the far post found Rowe but his effort was deflected behind for another corner. Then Hastings looked to score again when Bodkin took advantage of a poor defensive clearance to drive a shot wide.
A third goal was looking likely and it came in the 58th minute when a ball in from the right was flicked on by Leonard to Bodkin who set up Stannard for a shot which crashed past Blue to give Hastings some daylight.
Cray battled on and a free kick from Prescott was floated into the area towards Lea Dawson but he couldn’t divert his header on target.
The Wands almost pulled a goal back when Dent played another good ball across to the right to Scott who made one of his trademark darting runs from midfield into the penalty area but could only roll the ball wide of goal with Nicholls to beat.
Then Prescott put over a decent cross from a left wing corner which Jai McKinlay just couldn’t get on the end of. This was followed by Bodkin firing over the bar from Stephen Butchers cross.
Cray had perhaps their best chance to get back into the game in the 73rd minute when Dent who was having a very good game played a sublime ball through to Scott who from the edge of the area hit a shot which went over the crossbar.
That was probably Cray’s last real chance of the game as the game became a bit scrappy in the closing stages. For Hastings, Collin’s free kick into the area was met by Jerome Sobers but the ball went through to Blue then Bradley Stevenson made a surging run forward and ended with a strike from twenty five yards which went wide. Then Johnson couldn’t connect with a volley from Butcher’s cross. Cray battled on and Luke Medley saw a shot from distance deflected through to Nicholls.
There was no doubt that Hastings deserved to win the game but perhaps put something of a false gloss on the scoreline three minutes into injury time. Stevenson’s ball forward was miscontrolled by the otherwise excellent McKinlay and Collin took advantage when he stole the ball and hit a powerful near post shot to make it 4-1. This took his season tally to 27, three behind the leading marksman, Corinthian Casuals Shaun Okojie.
This was practically the last kick of the game and Hastings moved up into fifth place with the win. They have a game at hand on the teams below them which is at South Park on Wednesday and you feel momentum could be now with them for the final playoff place.
Cray meanwhile worked hard and put in some good performances notably from Dent, Scott, Mundele, McKinlay, Osidobu and Zak Henry when he came on. Cray have three more games of the season left and will be looking to finish the season on a positive note over Easter with a trip to Three Bridges on Saturday and then an Easter Monday clash with Greenwich Borough at Hayes Lane.
Another plus was the biggest crowd of the season of 321 the biggest since the last day of the 2013-14 season against Enfield Town. We thank all the supporters for making such a positive contribution home and away this season and we hope you have a great Easter.
Cray: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Timi Osidobu, Jai McKInlay, Paul Lorraine (Luke Medley, 53), Lea Dawson (Capt.), Sean Roberts, Lee Prescott, Danny Haynes (Zak Henry, 64), Karl Dent, Brandon Scott: Subs: Antonio Lazzari, Tyrone Guthrie, Anthony Adesite
Hastings: Ryan Nicholls, Stephen Butcher, Sam Cruttwell, Callum Emptage, Jerome Sobers, Ollie Rowe, Matt Bodkin (Zach Kiernan, 90), Simon Johnson, Harry Stannard (Shomari Barnwell, 80), Frannie Collin, Danny Leonard (Bradley Stevenson, 69)
Referee: Elliott Swallow
Assistants: Jak Hill, Daniel Doyle