Cray Wanderers – 2019-20 season – That was the season that wasn’t – A Pictorial Review

Isthmian Premier – Game 11 – Tuesday 15th October

Pics Kindly provided by Jon Hilliger

Merstham                                           1      Monga 4
Cray Wanderers                                 2      Taylor 18, Pritchard 57

After a steady stream of home games in the early weeks of the season, the Wands headed to Surrey for the first of four successive away matches in League and Cup over the next 11 days.

Also for the next three games, the Wands would fall behind but quickly Cray came back and in the end deserved the three points and make it 100 league wins for Tony Russell as manager.

The first 20 minutes of the game was full of action and Merstham took the lead in the 4th minute with a breakaway goal and Omar Folkes cross was helped on to Yannick Monga who steered the Moatsiders in front.

Cray though fought back well and Ben Mundele was denied by a fine save from Matte Pierson while at the other end Lewis Carey made a fine stop to turn over Peter Wedgeworth’s free kick.

The Wands drew level on 18 minutes with a well worked goal which ended with Karl Dent’s ball in from the right towards the near post being turned in by Joe Taylor getting in front of the centre-half to score.

Before half time, Karl Dent and Charlie Allen came close but in the second half Cray took a grip of the game.

In the 57th minute, Cray went in front when down the right, Taylor played a short pass through to Bradley Pritchard who found space inside the area to turn and shoot into the bottom left corner.

The reassurance of having Jay Leader and Mitchell Nelson at the back was one of the key moments of this part of the season and the defence resolutely swatted away what Merstham could throw at them and Cray saw out the win to keep them unbeaten on the road in the league and 9th in the league table.

Cray Wanderers: Lewis Carey, Barney Williams (Capt.), Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Charlie Allen, Bradley Pritchard, Karl Dent (Lee Lewis, 82), Ben Mundele (Tom Murphy, 77), Andre Coker, Joe Taylor: Subs: Jerome Federico, Freddie Parker, Geofrey Okonkwo

Att: 147

Merstham v Cray Wanderers – The thoughts of Tony Russell

” We talked about the game at training tonight, the boys were a bit stiff following the game. I thought from a tactical viewpoint we were very impressive. They played 3-5-2 and tried to press us at the start and play similar to the way Bishop’s Stortford did against us but tactically we were very good and stretched them out and left JT one on one with their centre-half and nearly got joy when Ben was played through and nearly scored. Turning up at the game you’d probably think why aren’t they pressing us? They tried to but we reacted to it.

We are developing brains as well as technique, people think we just turn up and pass the ball around but tactically we are very astute and all the players know their role in the team and whatever we ask of them or something new they react to it. I thought we were brilliant on Tuesday night after a shaky start. Our worst case scenario is a dry, bobbly pitch and a tight one as well. After all the rain the ball was jumping about and for their goal, the ball came to Carlsey, it jumped up off his foot, the no 9 picked up the ball, crossed the ball and Merstham scored from it. After that despite the small pitch we managed it very well, took control of the game and scored a great goal to level. Credit must go to Joe Taylor for that as we had watched the Enfield game back and we didn’t quite realise how well we played in that game. For the first hour we looked like a side who had just come up. We were defending too high and up front we were a bit static. The Enfield forwards were always on the move and looking to get in front of people.

If you look at JT’s goal at Merstham it was brilliant. I said to him that was the best goal he has scored in his time with us. We get a throw in, it goes onto Denty, he peels off away from the centre-half, gets in front of him and volley’s the ball into the top corner. He hadn’t done that for us before and if we can improve him by 1% this year we could make him an even better player with that movement and sharpness. JT is superb, he loves playing for us and is a joy to have around the club. All the players are to be fair and we’ve had a good discussion about the Lewes game and that they play three different formations. We discussed all three formation and scenarios how to deal with them and all the players gave their views and how we would play with and without the ball.

I thought it was a very mature performance at Merstham especially the second half where we just took control of the game. We made them very work hard and gradually wore them down, took it out of their legs and they never had a shot on goal during that last half hour. We could have possibly scored another couple at the end but it was our most mature display of the season and I said that to them at the end of the game. Merstham are a good side with decent players and I watched them play Worthing last month and although they lost the game for 70 minutes it was a very even match so to nullify them was excellent.

I thought one of the pleasing things that came out of the game was Andre’s performance. He had struggled after being out for six weeks and getting his fitness and sharpness back and was getting a bit frustrated and down on himself. I knew he was a good player and why I tried so hard to get him in during the summer. I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of him but we have seen glimpses of what he can do. There are things that he does in training that he hasn’t produced yet in a match which are frightening. We had a one to one session the other day and what he was doing to the defenders, we had to take him out as we didn’t want them to lose confidence. He was doing tricks and flicks and the boys couldn’t believe what they were seeing. He’s got everything and just needs to transfer that to matches. At training we put our arms round him and said that’s more like it and there’s more from him to come.

(On having Jay Leader back) In all my time in non-league football I don’t think I’ve ever seen a centre-half like him what he can do with the ball and is a bit of a freak of nature to be honest. He was a bit sore after the game where he has played two matches in a short space time where he hasn’t been playing. He and Mitchell are tight and good friends and complement each other so well. Our spirits are very high and training and bonding well as a group and in a good place. This is the best squad of players I’ve had in the time I’ve been here and the players love playing for the club”