Cray Wanderers vs Sittingbourne – Bostik League South-East – Sunday 23rd December, 2018
Cray Wanderers 2
Pritchard 22, Mundele 73
Cray Wanderers returned to winning ways after three games without a win to ensure a ten point lead at the top of the Bostik South-East at Christmas with a 2-1 win against Sittingbourne at Hayes Lane.
Cray who were beaten for the first time in the league at Horsham last Saturday produced a good performance with a goal in each half from Bradley Pritchard on 22 minutes and Ben Mundele in the 73rd minute before a late strike from Chris Webber for Sittingbourne reduced the arrears. The Brickies saw Lex Allan receive a straight red card for a foul tackle in the last minute and Cray were able to see out the three points and complete a league double over Sittingbourne.
There was one change to the side which started at Horsham with Jerome Federico starting in place of Archie Johnson. Sittingbourne came into the game on a positive note after a 4-1 home win against Sevenoaks Town last Saturday.
The visitors started brightly but Cray had the first half opening after five minutes when good work down the left saw Joe Taylor’s ball across find Junior Dadson whose effort from eight yards was blocked by Lex Allan. Then five minutes later in a similar move this time down the right, Jerome Federico found Taylor whose attempted shot was blocked by Ben Fitchett.
The first real effort on target came after quarter of an hour when Dadson found Taylor whose ball in from the left touchline was met by the head of Bradley Pritchard from seven yards and brought a diving save from Patrick Lee at the left post.
This was followed a couple of minutes later from a right wing corner, Karl Dent’s cross to the far post found the head of Jay Leader whose effort was saved by Lee and the ball was cleared. Then Dent fired over from just outside the area as Cray probed for an opening goal.
On 22 minutes Cray did take the lead when down the left Dadson did well to cut into the area and his short ball across found Pritchard who from five yards did well to control the pass and fire into the bottom right corner for his fourth goal of the season.
Shortly after Sittingbourne looked to respond and Gil Carvalho put over a decent cross from the left which found Henry Woods at the far post but was adjudged to have committed a foul before shooting.
Cray nearly scored a second on the half hour when Ben Mundele’s pass found Federico who cut to the left byline and his ball across found Taylor who fired over from six yards before Dadson had to be replaced by Archie Johnson following a toe injury.
Sittingbourne looked to respond and had an opportunity with a free kick, 20 yards from goal from which ex-Wand Dan Parkinson’s shot came back off the wall and following up volleyed wide. Then from a similar position from a free kick, Woods hit his shot through the wall into the arms of Nick Blue.
On the stroke of half-time Cray almost doubled their advantage when from a Dent free kick out on the left his ball into the six yard box was nicked off the back of Taylor’s head and against the right post from a couple of yards.
Cray had played very well at times in the first half and deserved their one goal lead at the break.
Half Time: 1-0
The second half started a little bit scrappy and took a while to get going but Cray gradually worked their way into it and ten minutes after the break came close to a second when after a patient passing move Federico put across a high quality cross to the far post when Taylor’s goal bound effort was kept out excellently by Lee pushing the ball behind.
Sittingbourne almost got back on level terms shortly after when from a free kick out on the right, Parkinson’s good ball across just missed the onrushing Lewis Chambers and went behind while for Cray Taylor found Federico who shot well over from 20 yards.
The visitors had their best chance when from a left wing corner, Parkinson’s ball into the area was glanced over by Allan as Blue came to meet the ball.
Cray began to reassert their authority as the half went on and Dent and Federico combined to set up Pritchard who shot wide of the left post from just outside the area.
The Wands just needed a second goal to give themselves breathing space and it duly arrived on 73 minutes when Dent down the left found Pritchard who from just inside the D saw a low shot pushed out to the right by Lee onto the post and following up the predatory Mundele was on hand to steer home from four yards for his sixth goal of the season.
A couple of minutes later, Mundele nearly scored again when Pritchard found Taylor and his ball towards the back post was met with a deft dinked lob which was claimed by Lee via the top of the crossbar while for Sittingbourne, Tommie Fagg shot wide.
With eleven minutes to go, another opportunity came to the unlucky Taylor when after a classy passing movement down the left, Dent’s superb cross found the ex-Sittingbourne forward who saw his shot come back off the right post.
A real bonus for the Wands came with seven minutes to go when Aaron Rhule came on for his first appearance since the game against Hythe Town on 22nd September and a welcome return to action after 14 weeks out.
Sittingbourne managed to find their way back into the game with three minutes to go after David Latunde won a corner down the right after a block by Blue to the cross. From the corner, Parkinson’s cross was headed away but the ball came to Chris Webber some thirty yards from goal who let fly with a cracking shot which flew into the top left hand corner of the net to leave perhaps a nervy final few moments.
A bit of that pressure was released as the game entered stoppage time when a Blue kick forward found Taylor who advanced to very edge of the penalty area and was adjudged to have been brought down by Allan who was shown a straight red card. From the free kick Dent fired over.
Then in the closing moments, Taylor was denied a goal his performance deserved when down the right powered in a fierce cross shot which was pushed away well by Lee and no-one could follow up.
In the end Cray had done enough to claim the three points and go ten points ahead at the top although this could be cut to eight on Boxing Day if Hastings United win at home against the Wands next opponents Sevenoaks Town.
This was the perfect response to the defeat at Horsham and shows the heart and desire is still very much there. Sittingbourne will make life difficult for many teams as the season carries on and could yet be seen as a pivotal victory in the season. The Wands can now relax and enjoy the Christmas festivities up to Saturday and the relatively short trip to Sevenoaks for their first ever Isthmian League meeting.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Bradley Pritchard, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent (Zak Henry, 90+2), Joe Taylor, Junior Dadson (Archie Johnson, 30), Jerome Federico (Aaron Rhule. 83): Subs: Freddie Parker, Marcus Evans
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Danny Devine, Chris Webber, Dan Parkinson, Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett, Gil Carvalho (Chimidi Otuadinma 82), Lewis Chambers, David Smith (Moboladi Dawodu, 63), Tommie Fagg, Henry Woods (David Latunde, 75)
Sent Off: Allan 90
Referee: Matthew Pollington
Assistants: Dean Markwick, Jordan Whitworth