Cray Wanderers 4
Dent 48, MacDonald 79, 88, Mundele 81
VCD Athletic 2
Blackwood 52, Mfula 61 pen
Cray Wanderers moved to within a point of league leaders Lewes after a come from behind victory saw Cray emerge 4-2 winners after a dramatic second half against VCD Athletic. This made it 21 games unbeaten in the league and showed the spirit in the side is still strong.
The game saw the debut of new signing Charlie MacDonald who brings a wealth of experience to the side in the first league meeting since 2004 against VCD Athletic. Cray had the better chances in a goalless first half before the game came alive in the second.
Three minutes after the re-start Cray took the lead when Karl Dent scored his fourth goal of the season with a low drive into the bottom right corner of the net.
VCD though had showed enough in attack to suggest they could pose a problem and levelled four minutes later when Siao Blackwood found space to hit a good shot past Nick Blue from twenty yards.
The visitors took the lead in the 61st minute after Aymun El-Moyhalbel was adjudged to have been fouled inside the area by Jay Leader and Warren Mfula stroked home the penalty.
Cray threw everything forward in an attempt to save the game and levelled eleven minutes from time when Ben Mundele’s cross from the right was turned in by MacDonald for a debut goal.
Two minutes later Cray went back in front with a fine strike from 25 yards from Mundele who received a pass from Dean Carpenter and crashed a shot into the top left hand corner.
Two minutes from time Cray scored a fourth and MacDonald his second when he tapped home Ralique Lawrence’s ball across to cap off another night of drama at Hayes Lane.
There was one change to the line up from the side which drew with Walton Casuals on Sunday. Charlie MacDonald started in place of Michael Power making his first appearance since his move from Greenwich Borough.
On a at times murky January evening the game set off at a quick pace and Alastair Gordon dragged a shot well wide for VCD Athletic and Brandon Scott for Cray cutting in from the left drove a shot narrowly across goal.
After five minutes Cray created a well worked chance when MacDonald got behind the defence and played the ball across to the right to Jerome Federico who found Karl Dent who was unlucky to see his shot from 12 yards go just wide under pressure from Gordon.
Then the blistering pace of Federico took him away down the right and almost from the byline put over a great cross to the far post which was met by the head of Brandon Scott but his on target header was met by an exceptional save from Joe Mant who pushed the ball away.
After that early onslaught the game evened for a spell and VCD had a chance from a right wing corner. Gordon’s ball across found Kemo Darboe who hit a first time shot which went just wide of the right post.
Cray went back on the attack and Lea Dawson found Federico who from inside the area drove a shot to the near post but Mant did well to push the ball behind for a corner. From the corner, the ball came to Dawson at the back of the area but couldn’t direct his header on goal.
Then from a left wing corner, Dent found Federico who put a ball across to the far post where Dawson got a touch but the ball was put behind for another corner off a defender. This time from a right wing corner Dent’s great ball found the head of Mitchell Nelson and his goalbound header was clawed away by Mant before MacDonald could get a touch. The ball then came to Federico who drove a ball across but no-one could get a touch. This was followed by Scott shooting wide.
The game got a bit quieter after that with Cray pressing for a goal and Scott cut inside from the left and fired just over the bar.
Before half time though, VCD almost made the breakthrough when Aymin El-Moyhabel hit a shot from distance which was deflected behind for a corner. From the right wing corner the ball came to Jeffrey Imudia who drove a shot through a ruck of players just wide of the right post.
At half time we had the rare occurrence of a goalless first half but it wasn’t for the want of trying.
Half Time: 0-0
The second half exploded into life straight away and Scott made a great run from his own half all the way into the penalty area and looked set for one of the individual goals of the season but his shot was pushed onto the post by Mant and following up Federico’s effort was cleared off the line by Imudia.
VCD never cleared their lines and in the 48th minute the ball came back to Barney Williams who fed Dent down the left of the penalty area and with space fired a low shot across the keeper into the bottom right corner of the net.
Then Ben Mundele coming forward hit a shot which went well wide but it looked like Cray were beginning to get a grip on the game.
However, in the 52nd minute VCD levelled with their first real shot on target. The ball was played across by Imudia from the right and the ball wasn’t cut out and finding space Siao Blackwood strode forward and hit a fine shot which gave Nick Blue no chance to save nestling in the bottom right corner of the net.
VCD then grew in confidence and Cray had a more shakier few minutes and went behind in the 61st minute following the award of a penalty kick when El-Myohalbel worked his way into the area and went down in the area following a push from Leader which the referee deemed to be a penalty. From the penalty spot Warren Mfula confidently stroked home the kick.
The visitors then fashioned an opportunity to go 3-1 up when a well worked move saw Jonathan Adebayo and El-Moyhalbel combine to set up Mfula whose shot to the near post was pushed behind by Blue.
Cray began to get their game together after that and were unlucky not to score when Scott found Zak Henry who teed up Dawson for a shot which just brushed against the post and behind.
Then from a Dent corner the ball came to Leader whose header was cleared off the line by a combination of Mant and Daniel Smith. This was followed a free kick way out on the right and Dent’s cross was headed wide by Leader.
VCD were cleverly using tried and tested ways of slowing the game down but did nearly score a third when Imudia set up Mfula for a shot which went into the arms of Blue.
Cray were pushing for a leveller and were desperately unlucky not to score when Mundele exchanged passes with Federico and inside the area first saw his shot parried by Mant and from the follow up saw the keeper somehow push the ball onto the post and MacDonald looking to turn the ball in saw Smith clear off the line.
A goal was coming and did so in the 79th minute when Dawson found Mundele who from the right edge of the penalty area put over a fine ball which MacDonald latched onto and hooked into the net from the edge of the six yard box for a debut goal.
Cray then almost went ahead when Federico’s cross was met by the head of MacDonald but turned his header over the bar.
That was a temporary reprieve for VCD as in the 81st minute Cray went back in front with a stunning strike from the increasingly influential Mundele. The ball was worked down the left and VCD gave the ball away to Dean Carpenter in the centre and played the ball to Mundele who took on Adebayo and with space hit a great shot from just shy of 25 yards which gave Mant no chance to save hitting the top left corner of the net cueing tremendous celebrations.
Cray then unveiled another pacey player from the bench in Ralique Lawrence and two minutes from time down the left he took on Smith and glided past another challenge to prod the ball across where the predatory MacDonald was on hand to fire into the back of the net to complete the comeback and make it 4-2.
There was almost a consolation goal for VCD in stoppage time when a ball forward wasn’t cut out and Mfula strode on and seemed certain to score from inside the area but pulled his shot wide of goal.
In the end Cray had to show character to come from behind and ended the game well and didn’t panic when things weren’t going for them in front of goal.
Cray now move onto 59 points in second place and with a healthy goal difference and are the leading scorers in the Bostik League with 67 goals.
The Wands now make the journey to Guernsey on Saturday before returning to midweek action next Wednesday against Ashford United. Tell your friends about it as you are guaranteed excitement and drama whenever the Wands are in town.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Lea Dawson (Capt.), Zak Henry (Dean Carpenter, 65) Karl Dent (Michael Freiter, 84), Charlie MacDonald, Jerome Federico, Brandon Scott (Ralique Lawrence, 84): Subs: Michael Power, Marcus Evans
Booked: Henry, Freiter
VCD Athletic: Joe Mant, Jeffrey Imudia, Kojo Awoti, Junior Baker (Capt.), Daniel Smith, Siao Blackwood, Jonathan Adebayo (Ellis Brown, 86), Alastair Gordon, Kemo Garboe (Anthony Martin, 76), Warren Mfula, Aymin El-Moyhalbel: Subs: Mark Gorbell, Kadeem Ajeon, Rashid Kamara
Referee: Matt Goldsmith
Assistant Referees: Thomas Nicholls, Joshua Godfrey