Cray Wanderers vs Bishop’s Stortford – Isthmian Premier, Sunday 15th January – 3 pm

Pics:  Ozay Booth, Jon Hilliger

This Sunday sees perhaps the biggest game of the season so far for Cray Wanderers as Neil Smith’s side in 2nd place in the Isthmian Premier table face currently 3rd placed Bishop’s Stortford at Hayes Lane.  Kick off 3pm.

A nine game unbeaten league run and just one defeat in sixteen league games has seen the Wands onto 43 points after 25 games and moved three points behind leaders Hornchurch although the Urchins have three games in hand. The Wands will stay second regardless of Saturday’s results but Bishop’s Stortford will go 2nd with a win but could drop down a place or two if Enfield Town, Aveley and Canvey Island win on Saturday.

Cray picked up a useful point from a 1-1 draw at Canvey Island last Saturday on a gusty afternoon and not for the first time showed resilience to come back from a goal down to draw with Yahaya Bamba’s 55th minute header.  The Wands had to reshuffle the pack due to an injury to Jephte Tanga and Harrison Sodje being recalled for Leyton Orient’s game and had one or two knocks during the match so showed stickability in trying conditions to grab a point at a ground where the Wands haven’t had much success of late.  

Dan Bassett remains the Wands top scorer with 11 goals with Anthony Cook on 8 and Tom Derry on 7 but goals have been shared around and Cray on 47 goals are the second highest top scorers behind Hornchurch.

Bishop’s Stortford were a very consistent side during 2022 and went on a 17 game unbeaten run last season from January including a win against eventual champions Worthing and 12 games without conceding a goal so are certainly capable of putting another good run together. The Blues ended 2022 with a 4-1 home win vs leaders Hornchurch on Boxing Day but have lost their last two games to start 2023 at Brightlingsea Regent and last Saturday were beaten 0-3 at home to Lewes who completed a league double over Bishop’s Stortford. Bishop’s Stortford made a slow start to the season with one win in the first six games but then went eight undefeated and moved up the table and have been in and around the playoff places since October.

The two sides met at Bishop’s Stortford on Friday 26th August and finished in a 1-1 draw as Franke Merrifield’s first half goal was cancelled out by a late strike from Mitch Chapman for Cray.  This will be only the fourth ever meeting at Cray and Bishop’s Stortford have won the previous three including a 1-0 win at Hayes Lane on December 11th 2021.

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 11: XXX during the The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Bishop’s Stortford at Hayes Lane on December 11, 2021 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

Away form for Bishop’s Stortford has seen wins at Horsham (2-0), Hastings United (1-0), Enfield Town (1-0) and Corinthian Casuals (1-0) and draws at Potters Bar Town (1-1) and Billericay Town (2-2). Their only defeats came at Lewes (1-2), Hornchurch (1-2), Canvey Island (0-2) and Brightlingsea Regent (0-2).  Home form has been strong with wins against Haringey Borough (2-1), Aveley (2-0), Bowers & Pitsea (2-0), Folkestone Invicta (3-0), Carshalton Athletic (2-0), Kingstonian (1-0), Margate (2-0) and Hornchurch (4-1). They drew with Cray Wanderers, Wingate & Finchley and Potters Bar Town and their only defeat came against Lewes last Saturday.  In the FA Cup Bishop’s Stortford were beaten in the 1st QR by St Neots Town and in the FA Trophy advanced past Herne Bay and Harlow Town before losing at Leamington in the 2nd Round.  Top scorer so far is Frankie Merrifield with 12 goals.

Although still way too early to be talking about this being a match being a winner takes all clash as still plenty of matches to go but does look very much like the game of the weekend and one on a Sunday that should attract some neutrals and be a cracking game of football.

Admission £12/£6 – Printed Match Programme, £2