Cray Wanderers vs. Ashford United
Bostik League South-East – Saturday 13th April 2019
Cray Wanderers 3
Taylor 32 pen, Nelson 41, Carlse 87
Ashford United 1
Photos kindly provided by Jon Hilliger
Cray Wanderers are the first Champions of the Bostik South-East after Tony Russell’s side clinched the title on a dramatic afternoon to book their place in the Premier Division next season after a five season absence.
Promotion was well deserved after a very consistent campaign but had had a bit of a blip in recent weeks going four games without a win but after a strong start from Ashford United, Cray gradually worked their way into the game and were two up before half time. Firstly, Joe Taylor scored his 11th of the season from the penalty spot after Tom Carlse was brought down. Then, four minutes before half-time, Mitchell Nelson headed a second from Karl Dent’s free kick. Ashford were reduced to ten men five minutes after the interval when Lee Prescott was sent off, but pulled a goal back in the 79th minute through Danny Parish to set up an exciting finish. Cray’s nerves though were calmed when three minutes from time, Carlse was on hand to score from Taylor’s ball across and the win and promotion was secured.
The Wands went into the game following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Greenwich Borough requiring two points to gain promotion or with a defeat or loss depending on the results of Horsham and Hastings United. From the side which drew with Greenwich there were two changes with Bradley Pritchard returning after a four game absence and Tom Carlse coming in for Junior Dadson and Jerome Federico,
On an afternoon of great anticipation, Cray almost got off to a great start when Jay Leader found Carlse down the left and his ball across just couldn’t’ get a touch from Joe Taylor and the ball went away from goal.
Ashford United who could still mathematically had a chance to go up depending on results elsewhere started the game positively and ex-Wand Tommy Warrilow’s side passed the ball around well and perhaps settled that bit quicker than Cray.
The best chance of the game came on 9 minutes when good work down the right saw Sam Corne put over a fine ball across to the far post where Danny Parish met the ball and seemed certain to score but was denied by an excellent save from Nick Blue pushing the ball out and behind for a corner.
Shortly after, Ashford felt they had a claim for a penalty when Toby Ajala found Jay May inside the area and Blue came to meet the forward who went down in the box but no penalty was given which did seem the right decision. Then again from a Corne cross, the ball came to Parish whose snap shot was gathered by Blue.
Cray began to come into the game against a strong Ashford defence and firstly, Archie Johnson hit a snap volley over the bar from 20 yards.
Then, Taylor down the right cut inside and narrowly curled a shot just wide of the left post. This was followed shortly after by Ben Mundele down the right setting up Taylor who drove a shot wide at the near post after a spell of Cray pressure.
From a free kick 20 yards from goal, Karl Dent lifted a shot just over the crossbar and Cray were now beginning to get on top of the game.
On 32 minutes, Cray had the opportunity to take the lead when Mundele sprayed a fine ball out to Carlse down the left who cut into the box and was brought down inside the area by a combination of Jerald Aboagye and Afolabi Coker for a penalty kick. Taylor stepped up to take the penalty and stroked the ball into the net to give Cray the lead they wanted.
Ashford had a fair amount of possession but Cray were just beginning to get a grip on the game and four minutes before half time grabbed a second goal. From a free kick out on the left, Dent whipped over a superb cross which was met by a thumping header from Mitchell Nelson for his second goal of the season.
Before half time, Ajala curled a free kick over for Ashford but Cray had a two goal lead to take into the break and an excited crowd went for their half time refreshments in good spirits.
Half Time: 2-0
The second half promised to be a tense affair and from a free kick out on the left of the area and Parish’s shot was pushed over the bar by Blue.
Ashford’s hopes though were dealt a blow on 52 minutes when former Cray midfielder Lee Prescott was sent off to a fairly rash tackle on Tom Phipp and gave Cray a man advantage with forty plus minutes to go.
This gave Cray a bit of breathing space and from another free kick out on the right, Dent’s ball into the box was hooked off target by Taylor. Then for Ashford, Coker found Parish whose low drive was held by Blue.
Taylor then had the ball in the net from Leader#s pass which was disallowed for offside which was followed by Ashford going close with a shot from Jake McIntyre down the left which flashed just past the right post.
Cray looked to settle the game and Mundele hit a skimming shot from 25 yards which was deflected behind for a corner.
Just when it seemed the game would run out of steam, there was a sting to the tail when Ashford pulled a goal back eleven minutes from time when good work down the right by Aboagye saw the ball find Parish who found space to drive home a fine finish from twelve yards for his 19th league goal of the season.
Cray looked to restore the two goal advantage and Jerome Federico set up Bradley Pritchard who lifted a shot just over the top.
Then three minutes from time came the goal, Cray and their supporters wanted when superb link up play between Pritchard and Johnson down the left saw the ball played into the area to Taylor who held the ball up superbly to play the ball into the six yard box wher the ball was helped on to Carlse who stroked the ball into the net against his former club for his first goal for Cray.
This helped to quell any late nerves and Cray could prepare for the celebrations about to follow and managed to see through the final few moments and clinch promotion in Tony Russell’s 200th game in charge of the club amid great joy.
Cray have had a very consistent campaign, winning 23 of their 33 games and although they had a slight wobble in recent weeks confidence was always high that they would get the necessary points to win the title and the excellent team-spirit and togetherness shone through when it really mattered and Cray return to Step 3 of the Non-league pyramid ten seasons after their last promotion. A superbly organised medals and trophy presentation from the Bostik League officials followed the game and was a great moment to see the Wands get their hands on the prize and enjoy the celebrations were richly deserved over the season. Great days ahead but before that there are three more league matches to play starting next Saturday at Three Bridges.
Congratulations to everyone at Cray Wanderers for a marvellous season and achievement following the disappointment of playoff defeat last season and this superb team deserve a crack as the Premier and one I’m sure they will relish.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.), Tom Phipp, Sean Roberts, Bradley Pritchard, Joe Taylor, Karl Dent (Jerome Federico, 69), Archie Johnson (Lee Lewis, 87): Subs: Jordan Clarke, Charles Etumnu
Ashford United: Sam Mott, Jerald Aboagye, Jake McIntyre, Lee Prescott, Afolabi Coker, Mohammed Kamara, Sam Corne, Bode Anidugbe (Laurent Mendy, 75), Jay May, Danny Parish, Toby Ajala: Subs: Josh Wisson, Trey Williams, Kundai Munyama, Clark Woodcock
Sent Off: Prescott, 51 mins
Booked: Coker, Aboagye
Referee: Paul Johnson
Assistants: Luis Nunes, Nigel Owen