Cray Wanderers vs Ashford United – Saturday 13/4/19, 3pm – Match Preview
This Saturday sees another huge game in the history of Cray Wanderers as they take on Ashford United at Hayes Lane knowing that 2 points are required to seal promotion from the Bostik South-East.
The match also sees Tony Russell’s 200th game in charge of Cray Wanderers and the occasion is set up perfectly for a dramatic afternoon, one bound to be mixed with nerves and tension but exciting at the same time.
Cray had the chance on Sunday of being promoted but were held at home 1-1 by Greenwich Borough making it four without a win and this meant that the opportunity for Bostik Premier football next season is carried over to this weekend. The Wands on 73 points lead at the top is 8 points from Horsham who have played one game more than Cray. Hastings United are 11 points behind and can still in theory catch Cray but they too have to play Ashford before the end of the season. Ashford are 12 points behind Cray but would probably need to win every game and Cray and Horsham lose every game in order to grab automatic promotion.
The Wands certainly couldn’t have tried any harder to get the job done on Sunday. After going a goal down early on through a rather debatable penalty they piled on the pressure in the second half and thoroughly deserved Karl Dent’s superbly finished equaliser on 77 minutes. Despite seeing a Tom Phipp penalty kick saved four minutes from time and an incredible save to deny Tom Carlse at the end Cray couldn’t get the winner they and the supporters craved.
Ashford United come to Hayes Lane looking at least to consolidate their playoff place which seemed unlikely before ex-Wands manager Tommy Warrilow took over at the Homelands in November. Gradually the Nuts n’ Bolts moved up the table and had a real chance to put extra pressure on Cray on Saturday but went down to a 1-3 defeat at Hythe Town despite taking the lead early through Toby Ajala with Hythe winning the game with two goals in the last ten minutes.
Ashford’s away form has been good with wins at East Grinstead Town (2-1), Faversham Town (4-0), Greenwich Borough (3-0), Guernsey (3-0), Phoenix Sports (2-1), Ramsgate (3-1), Sittingbourne (2-0), Three Bridges (1-0), VCD Athletic (4-0) and Whyteleafe (3-1). They drew at Haywards Heath Town (1-1) and Horsham (0-0) and their only defeats came at Herne Bay (1-1-2), Hythe Town (1-3), Sevenoaks Town (0-1) and Whitstable Town (0-1).
When the two sides met at the Homeland on 15th September, Ashford were still managed by Gary Alexander and Cray produced one of their best performances of the season to win 3-1 with Michael Power scoring twice and a Jay Leader header for Cray with Stefan Cox netting for the home side. At home Ashford beat East Grinstead Town, Faversham Town, Greenwich Borough, Guernsey, Herne Bay, Hythe Town, Ramsgate, Sevenoaks Town and Whitstable Town, drew with Sittingbourne and Whyteleafe and lost to Cray Wanderers, Hastings United, Horsham, Phoenix Sports and Three Bridges. Leading scorers are Dan Parish with 18 goals while Sam Corne has an impressive 14 from midfield.
The last meeting between the sides at Hayes Lane was one of the most remarkable in Cray’s recent history but surely highly unlikely to happen on Saturday with Cray winning 9-1 on 17th January 2018 with goals from Charlie MacDonald (2), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Brandon Scott, Barney Williams, Ralique Lawrence (2) and Ben Mundele.
Ashford United were reformed in 2011 after the original Ashford Town club who supporters may remember from our early days in the Isthmian League were suspended from competition at the end of the 2009-10 season and if you like re-booted themselves after a year hiatus as Ashford United in the Step 6 Kent Invicta League and after promotion in 2012-13 they began life in the Southern Counties East League and did well for a few seasons reaching the Kent Senior Trophy final two seasons in row and in 2016-17 won the title on the last day of the season ahead of Crowborough Athletic and also won the Kent Senior Trophy beating Cray Valley PM at Maidstone for a league and cup double. Last season was a bit of a struggle at times and finished 21st in the Bostik South.
Overall the sides have met 23 times in the league with Cray just shading the series with 11 wins, 3 draws and 9 defeats. .
This promises to be quite an occasion at Hayes Lane on Saturday, one which will test the resolve of the supporters and with the stakes high be a test of the players temperament and will to win. Admission costs are £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions but there is also the option of the Football For A Fiver offer for season ticket holders of Premier League/EFL or National League clubs on presentation of valid ticket.
It’s games like this that all players and supporters yearn for at the start of every season and should be one to relish even though the nerves are likely to jangle from first minute to last.