Ryman League Division One South: 13/8/16
Cray Wanderers 3
Ledgister 23, Williams 89, Roberts 90+2
Davies 38, Cornwell 59, 71
Two goals in the dying moments of the game gave Cray a point from a thrilling encounter with Sittingbourne at Hayes Lane as the Ryman South season finally got under way.
There was a renewed air of optimism around the ground as kick off approached following a good pre-season showing by Cray. However the visitors from Kent were not going to be here to make up the numbers and played their part in the afternoon’s entertainment.
Cray began the game with the majority of the team that played pre-season with new confirmed signings, Solomon Taiwo and Joel Ledgister starting the match.
Encouraged by their entertaining vocal support, Sittingbourne began the match much the sharper side and came close to scoring in the opening ten minutes. Firstly, in the second minute, Remell Davies pulled a shot wide from twenty yards. Then, a couple of minutes later, a shot from slightly further out from Stefan Wright took a deflection and Nick Blue had to get down to save. In the tenth minute, a free kick from 40 yards out from the impressive Hicham Akhazzan although seemingly over hit just bounced off the top of the crossbar and over.
Two minutes later, Cray came alive and Ledgister down the right put over a short cross into the box which was turned wide for a corner. Grant Basey’s right wing corner was glanced over the top by Jay Leader.
Cray won a free kick in a central position twenty five yards from goal which Basey curled round the wall but keeper Simon Overland got down to save comfortably.
Cray were starting to get a foothold in the match and Wright was booked for a pretty sturdy challenge on Karl Dent before Cray took the lead in the 23rd minute.
A ball forward by Taiwo wasn’t properly dealt with by Wright who was dispossessed by Sid Njie who teed up Ledgister who found space just inside the area to fire home a fine shot into the top right corner.
Cray looked to have more of a semblance of control for a few minutes although Dent was also booked for a strong challenge on Steven Ita.
Sittingbourne seemed to struggle from corner kicks and a left wing cross by Taiwo was punched out by Overland and the ball came back into the box to Taylor McDonagh who made the keeper scramble to save. The visitors still posed a threat and Davies saw a shot blocked for a corner by Paul Lorraine.
Despite the pace of the game being fairly sedate there was a lot of goal mouth action in the last ten minutes of the half and Cray almost exteneded their lead when excellent play by Basey down the left saw the ball come to Ledgister who first time fired the ball over the bar.
Sittingbourne levelled in the 38th minute with a poor goal to concede on the Wands part. A right wing corner from Ita went into the heart of the penalty area and Davies prodded the ball home practically on the goal line.
The Brickies then looked the better side up to half time. First Ita who was a constant threat first half fired a shot over from thirty yards and then Jack Stevenson shot wide after Davies’ run and layoff.
Davies then tested Blue with a strike from just outside the area which forced the keeper to make a smart stop.
For Cray Taiwo fired over from another corner, the keeper seemed to struggle with and then with the last kick of a action packed half, saw a shot blocked inside the area.
Half Time: 1-1
The second half began a lot quieter with Cray have better spells of possession but found it difficult to create openings.
Sittingbourne had a very good chance to take the lead when Cray gave the ball away and Ita found Davies down the right of the penalty area but with more time pulled a shot across goal and wide.
The game had a dramatic couple of minutes when Cray won a corner down the left. This was cleared and in a breakaway Wright won a corner off McDonagh at the other end. In the 59th minute, from the right wing corner again by Ita the ball came to Jono Richardson whose header cannoned back off the crossbar and Miles Cornwell following up nudged the rebound home.
Cray looking to get back into the game won a couple of corners and had free kicks in decent positions which came to nothing before Sittingbourne struck again.
In the 71st minute, Cornwell was able to charge forward without a challenge and hit a sweet strike from twenty five yards which flew past Blue.
A number of substitutions stemmed the flow of the game in the later stages but Cray huffed and puffed but without a real cutting edge. Their best opening seemed to have gone when Taiwo’s free kick into the box was headed over by Leader.
An inspired substitution by Cray saw Max Williams make a dramatic appearance five minutes from time and immediately gave the tiring Sittingbourne back four something to think about.
With a minute left on the clock, Cray pulled a goal back when Basey put over a tremendous cross from the left into the penalty area which was headed home by Williams from four yards to give Cray hope.
Sittingbourne had an opportunity to put daylight between the teams straight after when Jack Embery fired over from the right of the area.
Cray thought their last chance had gone when Williams down the right cut the ball across to Sean Roberts but the ball cannoned of this knee straight to the keeper.
Then in the second minute of stoppage time a free kick deep in his own half by Basey was floated into the penalty area towards Lorraine who did well to keep the ball in the box and set up Roberts who stooped to turn his shot past the keeper to give Cray a point which in their own estimation was somewhat fortunate but showed the guts and character needed over a long season to perhaps grab points when not at their best.
Sittingbourne will wonder how they manage to leave with just one point from a game they had the better of but perhaps Cray are due a bit of good fortune.
Thoughts now turn to Wednesday and the first ever visit to Guernsey as Cray look to build on the momentum of those dramatic final few minutes.
Cray: Nick Blue, Taylor McDonagh, Grant Basey, Jay Leader, Paul Lorraine, Solomon Taiwo, Lea Dawson (Capt.), Sean Roberts, Sid Njie (Ben Hunt, 60), Karl Dent (Max Williams, 85), Joel Ledgister (Anthony Adesite, 60): Subs: Jai McKinlay, Timi Osidobu
Booked: Dent, Dawson
Sittingbourne: Simon Overland, Conrad Lee, Tom Carlisle, Dan Tanner, Jono Richardson, Jack Stevenson, Hicham Akhazzan, Stefan Wright, Remell Davies (Joe Fuller, 85), Miles Cornwell (Tom Brunt, 77), Steven Ita (Jack Embery, 69): Subs: Danny Rumball, Connor Wilkins
Booked: Stevenson, Wright
Referee: Leigh Crowhurst
Assistants: Peter Stillwell, Daniel Hayes