Bostik League South
Cray Wanderers 5
Power 45+1, 49 pen, 85, Nelson 58, Rhule 63
Cray Wanderers moved back up to fourth place in the Bostik South league table after in the end achieving a fairly comfortable victory against Ramsgate at Hayes Lane.
After a fairly quiet first half of few chances, the game burst into life in added time at the end of the half when Michael Power turned Jay Leader’s fine header over the line from Michael Frieter’s corner on the way to his second hat-trick of the season.
The second half burst into life and Cray added a second four minutes after the restart when Power converted a penalty after he himself was upended in the box.
Ramsgate though were lively in attack and pulled a goal back two minutes later when Rory Smith tucked home a tidy finish.
Cray though went back on the attack and in the 58th minute eased nerves when another fine Frieter corner was met by Mitchell Nelson who headed in from four yards.
Five minutes later it was 4-1 when Frieter’s free kick was pushed out by keeper Daren Hawkes and Brandon Scott played the ball back into the area to Aaron Rhule who set himself up for a shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
Ramsgate were reduced to ten men with twenty minutes still to play when Luke Wheatley was sent off for a second bookable offence.
The scoring was completed five minutes from the end when Jerome Federico unselfishly laid the ball across for Power to score his third of the game.
Cray came into the game unbeaten in ten league games whilst Ramsgate were unbeaten in their last two matches. The Wands were beaten in the FA Trophy on Saturday at Braintree Town and from the side that started that game in came Zak Henry and Brandon Scott for Dean Carpenter and Jerome Federico.
On a very cold night the game took a while to really get going and it was Ramsgate who began on the front foot. Firstly, from a corner down the right, Alfie Paxman’s cross was cleared out as far as Daniel Lawrence who fired over the top from twenty five yards.
Then in the tenth minute, Ramsgate should really have taken the lead when a rare misplaced header by Jay Leader saw Rory Smith nip in and seemed certain to score from ten yards but his shot was well saved by Nick Blue and the ball went behind for a corner.
The Wands gradually got into the game and came close when Barney Williams down the left set up Aaron Rhule who broke into the box but pulled his shot just wide of the right post.
Then from a free kick out on the right, 25 yards out, Frieter put over a very good cross but no Wands player could get on the end of the cross.
In the 23rd minute Cray came close again when from another free kick out on the left, Frieter’s ball into the area found Lea Dawson who rose highest to turn a header just wide.
The match then got rather bogged down and the temperature significantly colder and there were few opportunities in the rest of the half with Cray dominating possession but often the final ball was just lacking. Brandon Scott down the right made a jinking run to the byline but his near post cross was claimed by Hawkes.
However with the game seemingly heading for a goalless first half, a minute into stoppage time Cray won a corner down the right. Frieter put over an excellent cross to the far post where Leader arched a powerful header towards goal and practically on the line Michael Power got the slightest touch to turn the ball into the net for his 19th goal of the season.
Half Time: 1-0
The game which had been pretty dire up to that point then went through a very exciting second half which saw Cray crank up a few gears.
Three minutes after the break the ball was worked down the left to Frieter who put a great ball across to Power who turned inside the area and was brought down by Wheatley for a penalty. Power stepped up to stroke home the penalty kick with supreme confidence.
Cray though then had a sloppy few minutes and in the 51st minute Ramsgate pulled a goal back. From Cray’s own free kick the ball in their own half the ball was inadvertently knocked forward to Smith who showed good pace to beat Ben Mundele and fired his shot past Blue to make it 2-1 and it was game on again.
Ramsgate looked rejuvenated and Cray a bit nervy and the visitors almost got levelled when Tom Chapman set up Paxman for a shot which was blocked by Leader despite Ramsgate claims it hit his hand. The loose ball fell to Smith whose first time effort was pushed over the ball superbly by Blue. From the corner, Lawrence’s effort was deflected behind by Billy Munday.
Cray though went back on the attack and Rhule was unlucky not to score when he worked an opening down the left of the area and his goalbound shot to the near post was deflected behind by George Crimmen for a corner. From the corner in the 58th minute, Cray restored their two goal advantage. Frieter’s fine corner went straight into the heart of the penalty box where Mitchell Nelson stole in to steer a close range header into the net for his third goal in four matches.
The Wands were now able to exert their authority and in the 63rd minute Rhule was brought down for a free kick out on the left. Frieter’s ball into the box was only half pushed out by Hawkes falling to Scott who hit a pass which fell nicely to Rhule inside the box who turned past a couple of defenders to coolly place the ball wide of the keeper to make it 4-1.
The game was practically decided in the 69th minute when Wheatley who was booked for conceding the earlier penalty was shown a second yellow and hence a sending off for a foul on Scott on the edge of the area.
Ramsgate to their credit kept plugging away but Cray were now firmly in the driving seat and were able to wind the clock down with some good possession football.
Michael Power was put through by a fine ball from Jerome Federico but was denied by a very close offside call.
A minute later though with five minutes still to play, Cray scored a fifth when Federico beat the offside trap and cleverly and unselfishly laid the ball across to Power who steered the ball home from five yards for his hat-trick and his 91st career goal for Cray taking him above the legendary Davy Waight into eighth place in the all-time Cray scorers list.
Before the end Zak Henry who had an outstanding game for Cray and but for Power’s hat-trick probably would have been man of the match tested Hawkes with a shot from distance.
The last shot of the game came to Ramsgate in the last minute when Paxman fired wide from a free kick but Cray had done enough to earn a big three points and now travel to third placed Carshalton Athletic on Saturday in what should be a terrific game.
Cray have now scored twelve goals in their last two league games and are high in confidence but the fixtures have a tough look about them for December and there is plenty of high drama to come yet.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Marcus Evans, 73), Lea Dawson, Zak Henry, Michael Frieter (Dean Carpenter, 65), Michael Power, Aaron Rhule (Jerome Federico, 75), Brandon Scott: Subs: Freddie Parker, Ralique Lawrence
Ramsgate: Daren Hawkes, Jacob Mensah, Jack Penny, George Crimmen (Capt.), Luke Wheatley, Tijan Jadama, Tom Chapman (Billy Lewins, 77), Billy Munday, Rory Smith, Daniel Lawrence, Alfie Paxman: Aaron Millbank, Jake Munday, Jake MacKenzie, Lewis Mitchell
Sent Off: Wheatley 69 (2 cautions)
Referee: Chris Bodell
Assistant Referees: Kennedy Kikulwe, Alphie Ibrahim