Cray Wanderers vs. Merstham – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 5th February, 2022
Cray Wanderers 3
Cray Wanderers continued their winning start to February with a morale boosting victory against Merstham at Hayes Lane to move out of the bottom three and make it two wins in a week.
Against a hardworking Merstham side, Cray got off to a great start and went ahead in the 5th minute when Chris Dickson finished with some aplomb down the left of the area after latching onto a back pass. The game was very open for the first quarter of an hour and on 16 minutes, Cray doubled their lead with Dickson the provider as his cross-shot was pushed out and at the second attempt Kyel Reid fired home from 8 yards. The next goal in the game would be crucial and it went the Wands way in the 59th minute when Sam Wood’s corner to the near post was met by a stopping header from Ethan Kaiser and into the net. Another bonus was the team’s second clean sheet of the season.
The Wands were looking to build on the momentum of a big 3-2 win at Potters Bar Town on Tuesday night where Cray came back from 0-2 down and for one of the few times this season, manager Grant Basey named an unchanged side with the big story being the home coming appearance of Sam Wood who re-joined Cray Wanderers after a seventeen year career away earlier this week.
Merstham came into the game in 15th place and had proved very hard to break down defensively in recent matches and drew 0-0 with promotion chasing Kingstonian last Saturday. From the team which narrowly lost at Carshalton Athletic in the Velocity League Cup on Monday night into the team came James Richmond and Tahjae Anderson in place of Michael Olarewaju and Luke Cook. Merstham had been very comfortable winners when the sides met in November in a game where 2-0 perhaps flattered Cray so looked a tough game.
On a grey and slightly blowy afternoon the game off to a breezy start with Merstham perhaps shading the early exchanges but it was Cray who broke through first in the 5th minute. Down the left a pass back towards goal was latched onto by Chris Dickson who took on the Merstham defence and from 14 yards coolly placed the ball wide of Toby Bull into the net for his sixth goal for the club.
Merstham looked to get back into it quickly and Charlie Greenwood saw from outside the area blocked and then in the 11th minute, Dylan Adjei-Hersey down the right received a short cross and fired a shot just past the left post.
Two minutes later, Cray pushed for a second and Jamie Yila broke forward from midfield and into the area down the right and his shot skimmed along the turf and was well held by Bull.
In the 16th minute it was 2-0 to Cray and Anthony Cook played a fine ball out to Dickson down the right who sent over a cross as Bull seemed to lose his footing but did well to sprawl down to save as Kyel Reid broke into the area and at the second attempt was able to turn the ball into the net.
Cray began to grow in confidence and from a corner down the left to the far post, Nazir Bakrin set up Reid who shot over the bar.
Then, Dickson was again the provider from the right as his cross found Wood who could have made a dramatic return with a goal but fired over the bar. Then the excellent Freddy Barton put over a fine cross which Bull punched away under pressure from Wood. Again Cray looked good going forward and Reid exchanged passes with Barton and his cross fell to Dickson who shot over the top from 25 yards.
Five minutes before half time, Merstham looked to respond and Jacquart set up Serge Makofo who swiveled and turned just inside the area and his shot was saved by Bailey Vose.
The last action of the half saw Yila almost get on the scoresheet again down the right and this time his near post was well pushed out by Bull.
The second half looked to continue with the same ebb and flow of the first as Merstham sought a goal to get back into it and brought on Korrey Henry at half time.
Cray though were playing well and down the right Barton found Yila who was beginning to become a key influence in the game with his pace and set up Cameron Brodie who fired a shot over the top from 20 yards. Then Yila saw a cross-shot blocked as Cray threatened a third goal and the Wands had the ball in the net possibly through Kasim Aidoo but was disallowed for a foul on Bull.
Again down the right, Cray prospered and after a good passing spell Brodie and Barton set up Yila whose shot was parried well by Bull and Cook fired over from outside the box.
Cray continued to threaten and were awarded a free kick 30 yards from goal and Cook’s shot was deflected over for a corner. From the corner down the right, Cray went 3-0 up in the 59th minute when Wood’s cross towards the near post was met by a header under pressure from Ethan Kaiser for his first Cray Wanderers goal.
Following the goal the Wands were able to relax and Barton set up Dickson for a rasping shot from the edge of the area which was well held by Bull.
For Merstham, Henry was looking like a positive substitution and did well to barge his way into the area down the left and fired over the crossbar and then a minute later saw a shot from the edge of the area held by Vose. For Cray, Wood down the left set up Dickson but his shot went away from goal.
Cray had pretty much had the game won but the big challenge was to claim a clean sheet and Jacquart shot over for the Moatsiders and a cross from the left was headed wide by Henry towards the end.
Dickson saw a shot deflected to Bull and were able to see out the remaining minutes and pick up the three points and record their biggest win of the season and a bonus clean sheet.
The impact of Dickson and Reid up front for Cray was at times pretty devastating and Yila once again showed his exceptional pace. The defence did especially well with Barton and Aidoo fairly consistent performers at the back for a while now and Kaiser and Bakrin seem to have built up a decent partnership already. Certainly the arrival of Wood also has made a mark and worked extremely hard all game and looked as fit as a fiddle as anyone at the final whistle. Merstham who remain 15th on 30 points did work very hard and kept going until the end but the two early goals for Cray proved quite decisive.
The win for Cray moved them up to 19th level on 26 points with Bowers & Pitsea and with 13 games to go gives hope if this performance is replicated can move the Wands more into a mid-table position and move on to Wingate & Finchley next Saturday looking to keep up the momentum.
Cray Wanderers: Bailey Vose, Freddy Barton, Nazir Bakrin, Ethan Kaiser, Kasim Aidoo, Sam Wood, Cameron Brodie, Anthony Cook (Jai Reason, 90), Jamie Yila, Kyel Reid (Luca Albon, 83), Chris Dickson (Emanuel Oduguwa, 86): Subs: Tom Hanfrey, Jacob Munting
Scorers: Dickson 5 mins, Reid 16, Kaiser 59
Merstham: Toby Bull, Jack Haire, Jude Mason, Ayman Gharbaoui (Luke Cook, 61), James Richmond (Capt.), Bertie Lloyd, Dylan Adjei-Hersey, Charlie Greenwood, Serge Makofo (Craig McGee, 76), Tahjae Anderson, Chace Jacquart: Subs: Barry Hayles
Referee: Jack Oxenham
Assistants: Bartosz Chimilecki, Robert Alderton