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BetVictor Isthmian Premier – Saturday 12th October, 2019

Cray Wanderers                        3
Taylor 7, Murphy 73, Leader 85

Enfield Town                              5
Faal 2 mins, 41, Charles 52, 64,
Payne 70

Photos kind courtesy of Jon Hilliger

On Non-League Day Cray Wanderers took on Enfield Town in the Isthmian Premier and the two teams served up an eight goal thriller at Hayes Lane in front of a 600+ crowd.

Both sides had suffered narrow defeats in the FA Cup last weekend and the return to league action saw good football from both sides and on a very wet and grey afternoon two goals in the first seven minutes set the tone for the afternoon. Enfield went ahead through Muhammadu Faal after just two minutes but five minutes later Joe Taylor’s classy strike levelled the scores. In the 41st minute against the run of play Faal restored Enfield’s lead which they added to in the second half through a brace from Ken Charles. Joe Payne’s 30 yard deflected shot made it 5-1 with twenty minutes to go but Cray looked to stage a comeback and goals from Tom Murphy and Jay Leader looked to make it a grandstand finish.

There was good news for the Wands with the long awaited return to the starting lineup of Jay Leader who was making his 150th Cray Wanderers appearance and his first game of the season. Also back was Tom Phipp who hadn’t played since picking up an injury against Corinthian Casuals on 17th August. From the side which played at Haringey Borough last Saturday, Ben Mundele came in for the suspended Barney Williams, Leader for the now departed loanee Harry Hudson, Phipp for Karl Dent and Jerome Federico for Tom Murphy.

Enfield Town came into the match unbeaten away from home and 4th in the league table and all the signs were there for a tough afternoon for Cray.

This was bore out as early as the 2nd minute when Cray were caught cold when a ball from midfield was played through to the impressive Muhammadu Faal who broke into the area and as Lewis Carey advanced coolly lifted a shot into the net.

This set the stall for the rest of the match and Cray almost got back into it from the kick off when down the right, Joe Taylor’s fizzing ball across just missed the onrushing Charlie Allen and no-one could connect. Up the other end, ex-Cray Wanderers youth player Ken Charles won the ball close to goal but his shot on goal lacked power and was claimed by Carey.

In the 7th minute, Cray were back on terms with an excellent goal worked down the left and Tom Carlse played the ball across to Joe Taylor who from 20 yards hit a superb shot which gave Nathan McDonald no chance in the Enfield goal and in no time it was 1-1.

For the next half hour, Cray began to take control of the match and played some fine attacking football. The Wands were unlucky not to take the lead when down the right Bradley Pritchard’s free kick, 18 yards from goal was floated into the area and met by the head of Mitchell Nelson but saw his header go just over the crossbar.

Cray thought they had taken the lead from another free kick from distance, Pritchard found Carlse who played the ball towards Nelson who guided a header into the six yard box where Taylor put the ball in the net but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.

In the 21st minute Cray came close again when down the left Andre Coker found Pritchard who fired in a shot which was pushed out by McDonald and following up Federico looked to drive a shot at the near post but was blocked by a defender, across the area an no-one could apply a finishing touch.

Enfield almost scored in a breakaway when Joe Payne found Faal in the area and his shot was saved by Carey’s legs and the follow up from Sam Youngs was blocked by the Cray defence.

Cray won a handful of corners around the half hour mark and from one Pritchard’s ball in was punched out by McDonald out to Carey who set up Leader who lobbed the ball back towards goal and the keeper pushed the ball onto the crossbar and the ball was then put behind for another corner..

Cray Wanderers felt they had a shout for a penalty for handball when Coker’s left wing cross into the area sought out Taylor and looked to have possibly struck an arm of an Enfield defender. Meanwhile from another Pritchard corner the ball came to Leader whose header into the six yard box was cleared away before a Cray player could get there.

Then Enfield felt they had a claim for a penalty when Faal again showed his pace and strength down the left to break into the area and went down under a challenge from Nelson but no penalty was given.

If they felt hard done by that decision in the 41st minute they went back in front when a ball from inside his own half by Sam Hatton went over the top to Faal who was not flagged offside and from inside the area fired in a crisp finish wide of Carey and into the bottom right corner of the net for his tenth goal of the season.

Shortly after, Charles fired a shot fractionally wide of the left post from 25 yards and after a breathless first half, Enfield Town went in at the break with a 2-1 lead.

Half Time: 1-2

If the first half was exciting then the second half was even more so with non-stop action from the first whistle.

Straight away Cray looked to combine down the left and the excellent Carlse put a fine ball across which was cleared away by Scott Thomas. Then from the opposite side, Pritchard found Federico whose ball into the box was claimed by McDonald.

It was looking like the next goal in the match would be vital as to the destination of the result and it was Enfield who scored the third goal in the 52nd minute. From a left wing corner, Youngs ball into the box was flicked towards to the far post where Charles was on hand to turn the ball into the net.

Shortly after Faal fired in a shot from distance which Carey saved at the second attempt while at the other end another fine Carlse cross found Federico whose shot was cleared away by the Enfield defence. Then from a right wing corner Pritchard’s ball across was headed by Leader back into the area and from Federico’s pass Taylor headed wide.  Then Taylor saw a shot deflected behind and from the corner, the ball came to Taylor who guided a shot on the turn wide of the right post.

However in clinical fashion, Enfield Town having soaked up the pressure grabbed a fourth goal in the 64th minute when Ryan Blackman played a ball out to the right to Bobson Bawling who found space to whip a ball across to Charles who from the edge of the box lashed a well-placed strike into the bottom right corner and it was 4-1.

This started a good period of play for Enfield Town and from a free kick just outside the area, Blackman’s fierce strike was tipped over the bar by Carey.

Then from another free kick 25 yards from goal, Sam Hatton stepped up and hit a cracking strike which was pushed behind by a fine diving save from Carey.

In the 70th minute Enfield Town scored their fifth goal which owed quite a lot to fortune but from 30 yards Joe Payne let fly with a shot which may have got a deflection towards goal which diverted the ball past Carey and perhaps a rather harsh 5-1 scoreline.

It was looking like it wasn’t going to be Cray’s afternoon when from another corner, the ball came to Taylor who powered a header against the underside of the crossbar and was cleared away. However, the ball came back out to the left and Tom Murphy found space to cut inside and superbly curl the ball past McDonald into the bottom right and it was now 5-2 to the visitors.

There was so much happening there was almost time for Faal to claim a hat-tick but his stinging drive went just over the bar.

However, in the 85th minute Cray had more hope when they pulled another goal back. After a patient build up Cray won a corner and the ball across from Pritchard into the six yard box was met by Leader who marked his 150th game with a headed goal and at 5-3 Cray could sense a comeback.

It was very nearly 5-4 with a couple of minutes to play when a Pritchard free kick out on the right was floated into the area and Leader headed over via the top of the bar.

That would prove to be their last chance and Enfield almost scored again in stoppage time. Firstly, Alex Read broke forward and lobbed a shot just over the top.

Then in the dying moments Blackman who played well for Enfield was denied by an excellent save from Carey after he turned in the box and his shot was pushed round the post and an excellent game finished on a high.

Despite the defeat there was much to compliment Cray Wanderers on for their performance and perhaps can play worse than this and win but they kept going despite not having much luck in front of goal. Also the returns of Leader and Phipp promise much for the team and the amount of chances created is also a plus.

Enfield Town were as impressive a side as Cray have played so far and showed why they have hit the ground running in the Premier and are just three points off the top of the table. In Muhammadu Faal they have a potential star in the making and very good players in Scott Thomas, Blackman and Glenn Wilson and also in Ken Charles who took his goals very well.

Cray now embark on some league travelling over the next week with a trip to Merstham on Tuesday evening followed by Lewes on Saturday and then to 3rd placed Horsham on Tuesday 22nd October.

As matches go that was pretty hard to beat for quality and was almost like a cup tie rather than a league game but the two teams meet again on 25th January and if anything like this game will be a treat.

Cray Wanderers: Lewis Carey, Ben Mundele, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.), Tom Phipp (Freddie Parker, 65), Charlie Allen, Bradley Pritchard, Jerome Federico, Andre Coker (Tom Murphy, 68), Joe Taylor: Subs: Lee Lewis, Charles Etumnu, Geofrey Okonkwo

Booked: Allen, Nelson

Enfield Town: Nathan McDonald, Sam Hatton, Joe Payne, Scott Thomas, Glenn Wilson, Jon Muleba, Ryan Blackman (Capt.), Sam Youngs (Nathan Livings, 85), Ken Charles (Alex Read, 77), Muhammadu Faal (Charles Brown-Bampoe, 81), Bobson Bawling: Subs: Junior Mubiayi, Marc Weatherstone

Booked: Faal

Referee: Scott Rudd
Assistants: Richard Joss & Jak Hill

Attendance – 621