Cray Wanderers vs. Phoenix Sports – Bostik League South-East – Saturday 8th December, 2018
Cray Wanderers 1
Phoenix Sports 1
Pictures kindly provided by Jon Hilliger
Cray Wanderers moved 11 points clear at the top of the Bostik South-East table and with their 15 game unbeaten start to the season intact despite being held at home by a strong Phoenix Sports side.
On a wet and blustery day chances were few and far between in the game as two good defences proved tough to crack but after a rare piece of indecision at the back by the Wands, Phoenix took the lead on 24 minutes when ex-Wands Alex Teniola nipped in to roll the visitors in front.
That was a lead they kept until just after half time when Cray debutant Joe Taylor struck two minutes into the second half to level the scores. After that Taylor saw a shot cleared off the line by another ex-Cray stalwart Danny Young and then was denied by a parried save from Steve Phillips. Young was sent off with seven minutes to go for a second bookable offence and Cray almost won it at the end when Junior Dadson saw a shot crash back off the crossbar.
Cray were playing their first game for a couple of weeks and since the goalless draw with Ramsgate on 25th November, Joe Taylor and a proven goalscoring record has been added to the team with Wilberforce Ocran’s loan spell over. Nick Blue was unwell and Jordan Carey who played a couple of games last season for Cray was signed this morning as emergency cover in goal. Tom Phipp is suspended for three games so Zak Henry came in and Junior Dadson stated in place of Archie Johnson.
Paul Bryon’s Phoenix Sports side were eighth coming into the game but just a couple of points off the playoff places and are a confident side but were without their leading scorer Jeff Duah-Kessie through injury.
The game hadn’t long started before torrential and swirly rain began to fall and the weather perhaps was perhaps winning in the early stages.
Phoenix began the game well but the first clear shooting opportunity fell to Cray after 12 minutes when Sean Roberts found Junior Dadson down the left and from the edge of the penalty area shot wide of the left post. A minute later Dadson put over a good ball to edge of the six yard box to Bradley Pritchard who attempted an acrobatic overheard kick but couldn’t get control under pressure from Jack Barry.
On 15 minutes Cray were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area after the impressive Ben Mundele was brought down. From the free kick which was played out quickly to the right when Jerome Federico found space and from 14 yards curled a shot wide. Then from a corner from the left Pritchard’s cross found Jay Leader but was adjudged to have fouled Danny Young.
Phoenix had been quite tidy in possession of the ball and had their first opportunity just after the 20 minute mark when Kweku Ansah down the right cut inside to shoot wide of the left post.
In the 24th minute Phoenix took the lead with a goal out of nothing when a ball over the top saw Carey come out of his area and Mitchell Nelson’s header back was pounced on by Alex Teniola who coolly slotted the ball into the net from just outside the penalty area for his fourth league goal of the season.
Two minutes later Cray almost got back into it when Federico’s cross from the right found Taylor inside the area who cushioned a pass to Dadson whose effort was blocked by Ryan Andrews and the ball came out to Sean Roberts who fired just wide of the right post.
As the half progressed Phoenix looked very strong at the back and almost grabbed a second when a Cray clearance came out to Tony Robinson who shot over from 25 yards.
Before half time down the left Taylor tested Phillips with a low cross-shot from eight yards but both keepers hadn’t had a great deal to do in the first half. The Wands though for the first time in a league game this season were trailing at home at half time.
Half Time: 0-1
The second half began with a change at the break with Archie Johnson coming on for Zak Henry and Cray began the second half in a more spritely fashion determined to get back into the game straight away.
The Wands took just two minutes to go level with a well worked goal with the ball being played out to the left to Dadson whose first time cross to the near post was controlled and slotted home from six yards by Taylor.
The match then went through a bit of a scrappy phase with both defences once again looking resolute with Cray perhaps having the lions share of possession.
On 63 minutes Cray were unlucky not to go ahead when good work down the right by Mundele saw the ball go through to Taylor who controlled the ball well and with the keeper down looked to squeeze the ball into the net but was cleared off the line by Young.
At the other end Phoenix almost went back in front when Teniola on the stretch hooked an effort across goal and wide of the right post.
There were glimmers of chances for Cray and from a free kick out on the right Johnson’s ball into the box was headed out as far as Dadson who hooked a first time volley over from 12 yards.
Cray were then awarded a free kick after a good run from Johnson drew a foul just outside the area by Young for which he was booked. From the free kick, Freddie Parker who had just come on, curled a free kick round the wall but into the arms of Phillips. Then with ten minutes to go Taylor fired well wide from 25 yards.
In the 83rd minute Phoenix were reduced to ten men when Young hauled back Dadson twenty five yards from goal for a second bookable offence.
Cray looked to claim a winner with the man advantage and with four minutes to go almost grabbed the lead when Johnson floated a ball into the area towards Taylor who met the ball firmly with his head and was parried away by Phillips but no-one could follow up inside the area.
In the last minute Cray almost won the match when after a patient passing move ended with Pritchard slotting a ball through to Dadson who just found a bit of space down the left of the area to crack a shot against the crossbar with the keeper beaten and the ball was cleared.
Then in injury time, Mundele fired a shot wide and the ten men managed to hang on for their first ever point against Cray at Hayes Lane. This always looked a difficult game and Cray did well to turn the game around second half and certainly merited at least from the match and with it extend their lead at the top to 11 points. This could go down to eight points if Horsham (next Saturday’s opponents) win at Three Bridges on Tuesday night after they moved into third place level on points with Hastings United and Haywards Heath Town on 28 points.
There were some good plusses for Cray particularly with the debut of Taylor and Mundele and Johnson put in positive displays particularly second half. Phoenix defended very well and many teams will find them a hard nut to crack this season and will take points off the top sides.
Cray though go into the game at Lancing next week in very good heart and with their unbeaten start to the season still intact after a considerable test.
Cray Wanderers: Jordan Carey, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Zak Henry (Archie Johnson, H/T), Sean Roberts, Bradley Pritchard, Joe Taylor, Junior Dadson, Jerome Federico (Freddie Parker, 73): Subs: Malik Solebo, Marcus Evans, Lee Lewis
Phoenix: Steve Phillips (Capt.), Ryan Andrews, Ashley Probets, Zak Bryon, Danny Young, Jack Barry, Tony Robinson, Conrad Lee, Kwaku Ansah (Jonathan Miller-Annor, 77), Alex Teniola (George Whitelock, 90): Subs: Joe Smith, Lewis Clarker
Sent Off: Young (83 mins)
Referee: Lee Dyson
Assistants: Matthew Charles, Peter Conn