There’s a chance to forget the Christmas shopping for a couple of hours tomorrow as Cray Wanderers are in action at Hayes Lane for the third time in seven days as Barkingside are the visitors for a 3pm.
This is the last Cray game before Christmas and despite the obvious disappointment of defeat to AFC Sudbury on Tuesday night, if we take time to reflect on where we were this time last year. If I would have said in a year’s time we would be three points in front at the top of the Ryman North you may well have thought I was crazy, but this is where we are.
A lot of Cray’s success in 2016 has been down to clever choices of managers, talented managerial and coaching staff, recruitment of top class players at this level and the togetherness of all the players in what has really been two completely different teams between January-May, June-December. There has also been a great deal of work going on behind the scenes in order to get Cray to a ground of our own and a great debt of gratitude to Gary Hillman, Dave Francis, Mike Paye, Terry, Ozay and Sadie from Substantia who have been striving hard to make those dreams come true. A big thanks and a Happy Christmas for all of those that on matchdays help to make the experience run as smoothly as possible from Mark and Martin getting everything ready for the match, to Phil and Peter on the gate, Kerry with the 100 Club and John on PA, to Dave, Jeanne, Brian and Carol and a big thanks to for Victor for his tremendous match videos throughout the season. To, Jerry and Pete for all their historical input which sets the club apart from others and Merry Christmas to all the staff at Bromley FC and match day stewards and we wish you compliments of the season.
Above all too, a very Happy Christmas to Tony, Ray, Nathan, Bill, Ally, Tunde and all the players and we hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Most importantly, a Happy Christmas to all our great and loyal supporters who have followed the team through some difficult times in recent years but are always around and have seen some fantastic football in 2015.
With Sudbury winning on Tuesday, Cray’s lead at the top was cut to three points with the Suffolk club having two games in hand. From the pack underneath, Thurrock have had their last two games called off so have five games in hand of Cray and three of Sudbury. If anyone was in any doubt that this will be a difficult league to win then Tuesday proved that it will be. However, Cray have bounced back well from defeats and setbacks already his season and go into tomorrow afternoon’s game still high in confidence.
Cray will probably start as favourites tomorrow as our visitors from East London are currently 22nd in the table and not in the best of form. However, nothing can be taken for granted in this league and Gursel Gulfer’s side deserve respect. Those supporters with a good knowledge and thirst for history may remember, Gursel played eight games for Cray in the 1992-93 season back in the Kent League days, scoring twice. We also welcome back tomorrow, Darren Behcet who was a very popular goalkeeper at Cray for between 2013 and 2015.
Last seasons games between the two sides finished with Cray winning 4-2 at home way back in August 2014 with Pat O’Connor and Ian Daly scoring twice in a game that was so open it could have finished 8-8. The return game took place in December 2014 and wasn’t one of the more memorable games with a Laurent Hamici penalty earning a point from a 1-1 draw.
Whatever happens tomorrow there is no denying that this has a been a memorable year in many ways for Cray with the Great Escape, the U21s success, to Tony Russell and Ray Powell coming to the club and building a side that has set the pace this season and to the Flamingo Park planning application which hopefully bear fruit next year and set the club up for a very bright future.
Happy Christmas everyone.