Cray Wanderers vs Billericay Town – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 17th December, 2022

Cray Wanderers                                                       4

Anthony Cook 13 pen, Dan Bassett 69,

Tom Derry 83, Sam Skeffington 90+9

Billericay Town                                                       3

Bradley Stevenson 71, 81 pen,

Marvel Ekpiteta 87

Cray Wanderers moved up to 4th place in the Isthmian Premier league table and made it one defeat in the last 13 league games after a dramatic last gasp victory against Billericay Town as Sam Skeffington’s goal in the 9th minute of injury time won a remarkable game.

Cray led at the break through Anthony Cook’s 13th minute penalty and after being the better side for the first half withstood a strong Billericay Town fightback in the second. Cray were strong on the break and scored a second in the 69th minute through Dan Bassett for his 10th goal of the season.  BIllericay pulled the game around with two Bradley Stevenson strikes, the first a crisp finish from outside the box, the second a penalty after he was upended just inside the area.  Cray restored their lead in the 83rd minute when from a corner down the right from Sam Wood the ball came out to the left to Cook whose ball into the six yard box was headed in by Tom Derry.   

Still Billericay wouldn’’t go away and they levelled again three minutes from time when a ball in from the left was volleyed in by Marvel Ekpiteta and at this stage the Wands were on the ropes and hanging on.  However, there was another twist to the captivating plot when in last minute of ten additional minutes, Yahaya Bamba down the left cut the ball across and Derry helped the ball on to Sam Skeffington who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes and crashed his shot wide of keeper Harry Seaden with the final kick of the game.

Both teams came into the game in contrasting form with Cray unbeaten in their last five league games while Billericay who had a good spell in October and November had picked up two points from their last four games.

The work of volunteers helped clear the pitch of remaining snow at Hayes Lane and it was worth it as the game became a thriller with some superb attacking play from both sides.

Cray had beaten Haringey Borough 5-1 on Sunday and from the side that started that match, a newcomer to the ranks, Matthew Weaire signed from Sevenoaks Town started at centre-half in place of Sam Skeffington.  Billericay who were beaten at home to Corinthian Casuals last time out made two changes with Eze Ebouzeme and Chris Dickson coming in for George Wind and Matthew Price.

Billericay shaded the early possession but Cray were playing with confidence and from a free kick outside the area Anthony Cook’s shot came back off the wall and then Dan Bassett who began in impressive fashion down the left cut inside and curled a shot just wide of the right post.

In the 13th minute, Cray were awarded a penalty when again Bassett showed his pace breaking into the area and was clipped by John Ufuah and a spot kick was given. Cook scored his seventh goal of the season from the spot.

Cray looked to score a second and a free kick from Cook into the area was headed wide by Mitch Chapman.  Then, Harrison Sodje down the left played a great ball out to Sam Wood, who took on the right back and into the area but pulled his shot into the side netting.

Billericay began to get into the game and in the 22nd minute from a corner down the right, Alfie Cerulli’s cross was pawed away by Shaun Rowley and came out to ex-Wand Chris Dickson who hooked the ball over the bar.  Then, on the half hour a cross from Ufuah from the right came to Dickson but under pressure from Jephte Tanga turned the ball over the top.

A minute later Cray almost scored a second when Yahaya Bamba down the left put over a great cross which was half cleared out to Cook whose shot from outside the area was blocked by Montel Agyemang for a corner.

For the Blues, Dickson put over a very good cross from the right and fizzed across the box and Bradley Stevenson couldn’t get a connection.  Then a cross from the left by Toby Stevenson had no takers in the box much to his frustration

Before the break, Cerulli fired over from a free kick and Cray had played well and merited the half time lead.

HT: 1-0

The second half was a different story as Billericay came out looking a more fired up side and looked to threaten as first from a free kick from Agyemang was played to Bradley Stevenson who shot wide.  Then Ufuah who had an excellent second half put over a cross which Mitch Chapman flicked away and came to Agyemang whose shot was well held by Shaun Rowley.

Just before the hour Cray broke out to good effect and Tanga and Bamba down the left set up Bassett who laid the ball to Cook who shot just over the top.

Then for Billericay, Eze Ebouzeme let fly from 30 yards and was well fielded by Rowley as the game was beginning to go from end to end

Tom Derry was brought on after missing the last match for Nyren Clunis in the 65th minute an four minutes Cray went two nil up with a quality piece of finishing from Bassett who picked up a pass from Chapman and ran towards the edge of the D and fired in a shot which gave Seaden no chance and Cray what seemed like comfort in the game.

Billericay Town though showed their qualities and pulled a goal back two minutes later when Bradley Stevenson who had a spell with Cray in the 2017-18 season found space 25 yards out and placed a shot wide of Rowley and into the bottom left corner.

David Ijaha came on in the 74th minute in place of Bassett who had picked up a couple of knocks during the game as Billericay seemed to have the bit between their teeth.

In the 81st minute, Billericay drew level after the award of a penalty when Bradley Stevenson was brought down by Tanga and got up to take the spot kick and fired down the middle and into the net to make it 2-2.

The Wands resilience has never been doubted and two minutes later went back in front when a Sam Wood corner down the right was headed out by Ebouzeme and came to Cook whose deft cross was headed in by Tom Derry from the edge of the six yard box.

In the 87th minute Billericay drew level once again when this time a ball in from the left from Ufuah caused consternation in the Wands defence and Marvel Ekpiteta found space to volley into the net and it was 3-3 with still time to go and six minutes injury time.

Billericay looked the likely winners against a Wands side on the ropes and could have gone behind when Ufuah’s cross down the left came to Ebouzeme who flicked the ball across for Matt Price who stabbed the ball goalwards and Rowley saved on the line.

There was more time to be added when Matt Weaire needed treatment after being caught on the nose and this allowed the Wands to steady the ship which had been rocking for a few minutes.

Then in the final minute of stoppage time there was an extra twist when Tanga found Bamba down the left and his ball across was helped across the box by Derry and came to Sam Skeffington who had been on the pitch since the 88th minute and placed a shot wide of Seaden for his second goal in three games and cue delirium amongst the Wands fans.

There was literally no more time left and in the end a breathtaking finale to the game which produced six goals in half an hour saw Cray pick up a big three points and their first ever home victory against Billericay Town.  Neil Smith’s side moved up to 4th on 36 points which equals the total of points gained in all of last season and a great way to wrap up 2022 at home for the Wands.  Cray started 2022 with a 4-4 draw with Enfield Town and finished with a 4-3 win and that has pretty much summed up a year of twists and turns.  

There were some very good performances from the Wands, Bassett was outstanding, Tanga and Sodje continue to belie their young ages with mature displays, Chapman and Cook were impressive in midfield and Bamba up front was a livewire especially in the second half.

Cray now finish the year with a trip to Margate on Boxing Day before entertaining Herne Bay on 2nd January and a side that is developing all the time has started to grind out results from difficult situations and pllaying some good attacking football


Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga, Matthew Weaire, Jalen Jones, Harrison Sodje, Sam Wood, Mitch Chapman (Sam Skeffington, 88), Anthony Cook, Nyren Clunis (Tom Derry, 65), Danny Bassett (David Ijaha, 74), Yahaya Bamba: Subs: Leevi King-Bassett, Omari Hibber

Booked: Chapman

Billericay Town: Harry Seaden, Toby Stevenson, Montel Agyemang, Marvel Ekpiteta, Michael Chambers, Bradley Stevenson, Eze Ebouzeme, Chris Dickson, Alfie Cerulli (Matthew Price, 67), John Ufuah, Imran Uche:  Subs:  George Wind, Ellis Sullivan, Lawrie Wilson, Henry Burnett

Booked: Cerulli, Dickson

Referee: Craig Barnett

Assistants: Matthew Pointer, James Perry

Att: 313