Cray Wanderers v Walton Casuals
Bostik League South – 7/1/2018
Cray Wanderers 2
Federico 15, Dawson 57
Walton Casuals 2
Bamba 55, 90+3
Photos credit – Jon Hilliger
Cray Wanderers moved back into second place in the Bostik South and maintained an unbeaten league run to 20 games but had to be content with a point after a dramatic finish saw sixth placed Walton Casuals level in the third minute of stoppage time.
This was a tremendous game played at a breakneck pace and with lots of talking points and chances but Cray worked hard to go in at the break 1-0 up after Jerome Federico prodded home from Brandon Scott’s left wing cross.
Walton were always a threat going forward and levelled ten minutes after half time when Yousseff Bamba struck with a great curling shot out on the left.
Two minutes later though, Cray went back in front when Scott and Karl Dent combined to set up Lea Dawson who turned inside the area to finish clinically.
It looked like Walton’s hopes were dashed when Jack Battie was sent off in the 90th minute following a foul on Michael Power.
However, three minutes into added time, Walton pounced from a left wing corner where Bamba crashed home an unstoppable shot to make it 2-2 and a point apiece.
There were two changes to Tony Russell’s Cray Wanderers lineup from Monday’s goalless draw at Greenwich Borough with Karl Dent and Jerome Federico starting in place of Aaron Rhule and Michael Freiter who picked up knocks in that game.
Both sides have proved hard to beat with Casuals going down only to a narrow defeat at Corinthian Casuals on New Year’s Day after winning their previous six matches.
Walton had the first semblance of an opening after three minutes when from a corner down the right, Yousseff Bamba’s corner eventually came to Harry Mills who shot wide from 30 yards.
Cray though had an opportunity to take the lead when Brandon Scott playing down the left was put through and was caught just outside the area by goalkeeper Denzel Gerrar who was booked for the foul.
The Wands won a couple of free kicks and corners but Walton looked the more dangerous in the opening exchanges. In the 11th minute, the pacey Tyrell Richardson-Brown scorched his way down the right and from just outside the area fired a cross-shot just wide of the left post.
Then, Isaac Sarpong fired over from 25 yards and then the impressive Josh Kelly cut inside from the left and fired in a shot which Nick Blue got down to save.
However, it was Cray who made the crucial early breakthrough in the 15th minute when Scott down the left used great speed to work his way into the area and laid the ball across which went past Gerrar to the far post where Jerome Federico turned the ball home for his third goal of the season.
Cray came close to scoring again shortly after when after the award of a free kick 25 yards from goal out on the left, Dent put over a great ball to the far post where Gerrar did well to push the ball behind as Scott looked to pounce.
The game was going from end to end and Sean McCormack set up Sarpong for a shot which was deflected through to Blue. Then it was Cray’s turn to threaten and had a shout for a penalty when Federico was found by Ben Mundele and went past Joe Hicks and just inside the area went down under Dominic Ogun’s slight nudge but no penalty kick was given.
Cray almost scored a second when Scott latched onto a through ball and with a great first touch took him inside the area but his shot was blocked by Gerrar’s legs.
For Walton, Kelly shot just over and then Michael Power found space 25 yards from goal but shot well wide of the left post.
Scott won a corner down the left from which Dent’s cross to the far post sought out Jay Leader but Max Hustwick put the ball behind for a corner.
The Wands then came very close to going two nil up when from a corner the ball was cleared out to Scott who whipped in a ball towards goal which Gerrar did well to push away from the attentions of Mitchell Nelson. The ball came to Leader who turned two defenders inside the box and his goal bound shot was cleared off the line by Ogun out to Dent who planted a header into the hands of Gerrar.
Before half time though it was Walton who almost scored next when down the left, Josh Kelly worked his way into the area and played the ball across to Bamba who headed over from five yards.
It was Cray who went in at the break with the lead after an excellent first half of football.
Half Time: 1-0
The first fifteen minutes of the second half continued where the first half left off with some more inspired football.
Cray almost went two nil up when a ball forward found Power who won a chase with Ellison-Hustwick but from the edge of the area his shot was blocked by the defender. The ball was hoisted up in the air by Mills and Power first time hooked a shot over the bar from ten yards.
Then Walton got themselves into a muddle at the back and Power teed up Scott whose shot to the near post lacked power and hit the side netting.
Walton though are a team which break with great pace and almost made it 1-1 when Bamba found Josh Kelly down the left and his goal bound shot was pushed around the post by the diving Blue for a corner. From the corner the ball came to McCormack who shot wide.
However, Walton did draw level ten minutes after half time when this time Josh Kelly set up Bamba down the left who cut inside and unleashed a great curling shot which gave Blue no chance hitting the top right hand corner.
Cray are great at bouncing back from setbacks and two minutes later retook the lead when some fine play by Scott saw the ball come to Dent down the left who put over a great cross which found the excellent Dawson who turned two defenders and buried a shot wide of Gerrar into the bottom left corner of the net to make it 2-1.
The Wands were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal centrally when Dawson was fouled and from the free kick, Power shot just over the crossbar. Then slightly further to the right, Power fired a free kick wide of the right post.
Walton though were never out of the game at any time and almost drew level again when Josh Kelly bore down on goal and his shot was pushed on to the crossbar by Blue but not over the line and the loose ball to Richardson-Brown was cleared off the line by Barney Williams.
Then Sarpong put over a good cross from the right into the area which no-one could get on the end of whilst for Cray, Power down the right hit a shot which was safely gathered by Gerrar. This was followed by Federico firing over from twenty yards.
The match then went through its first lull in the game as Cray looked to have weathered the Walton challenge and seemed in control of the match perhaps for the first time. With the game in its final minute, the game seemed won when Power who worked his way to the left touchline looking for the corner flag when substitute Jack Battie came in with a challenge which must have been studs up and after a brief flare up Battie was sent off although the ref didn’t make this evidently clear and Power was booked.
The game though had a sting in its tail when three minutes into added time with Cray a bit edgy Casuals won a corner. The ball was played into the area and was half cleared out as far as Bamba who hit a crashing shot which from the edge of the area which flew into the roof of the net to make it 2-2 and thwart Cray’s attempts of a ninth straight home win.
There was frustration that Cray couldn’t hang on to the lead but Walton played as well as any side has at Hayes Lane this season and the Wands just couldn’t get a third goal which would have secured the points. Despite, the draw Cray moved back up to second in the table on 56 points, four points behind leaders Lewes but with a game in hand which is against VCD Athletic on Wednesday night. There have been some dramatic games at the Lane this season, like against Corinthian Casuals, Sittingbourne and Faversham Town but this was the best game between two sides who came to play and it promises to be quite a game when the two sides meet at Walton in the final away game of the season on 21st April.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Lea Dawson (Capt.), Zak Henry, Karl Dent (Dean Carpenter, 65), Michael Power (Marcus Evans, 90), Jerome Federico, Brandon Scott (Ralique Lawrence, 82): Subs: Freddie Parker, Joe Vines
Walton Casuals: Denzel Gerrar, Harry Mills, Dominic Ogun, Alex Kelly (Jack Battie, 69), Joe Hicks, Max Hustwick, Tyrell Richardson-Brown (Alfie Taylor, 78), Sean McCormack (Sonny Black, 64), Josh Kelly, Lartey Sarpong, Youseff Bamba: Subs: Stuart Baldwin, Fraser Trigwell
Sent Off: Battie, 90
Booked: Gerrar, Hustwick
Referee: Graeme Ions
Assistant Referees: David Joseph, Shane Brown