Cray Wanderers vs Bognor Regis Town  – The pre-game thoughts of Neil Smith

This evening sees Cray Wanderers begin their home fixtures for the 2022-23 Isthmian Premier season as Bognor Regis Town are the visitors to Hayes Lane on what could be a balmy evening finishing under the lights.  Here Cray Wanderers manager Neil Smith looks back on Saturday’s trip to Billericay Town where the Wands put in a fine display in tough conditions but just came up short on the day.  

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 26: Cray Wanderers’s new Manager, Neil Smith applauds the fans as he walks to the dugout for his first match uncharge, before The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Kingstonian at Hayes Lane on March 26, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

Hello Neil.  Let’s look back to Saturday and the trip to Billiercay Town.  The conditions must have been very difficult as it was incredibly hot.  I felt we put in a very positive performance, shaded the first half and deserved to lead and Billericay only really came on strong at the end with a penalty and a goal five minutes from time. What were your thoughts of the match?

Yes, I agree it was always going to be a bit frantic the first game of the season and with the heat which was a problem but to be fair it was the same for both sides.  I thought we controlled the game and looked very solid.  They looked to hit us on the break and I thought we had our chances and when we went one nil up I thought we deserved it as we were just getting on top.

At the start of the second half I thought we started on the back foot a little bit and they were on the front foot being the home team but I couldn’t see them scoring. Our back four up to the penalty had been outstanding and soaked up everything they threw at us. We didn’t allow them too many shots for Shaun to save and looked comfortable.  We had a couple of opportunities on the break but then their first goal changed the game, put us on the back foot again and gave Billericay a lift.  Being the home side and with their support the important thing for us was to not start panicking and see the game out.

Obviously, we had a head injury for Tom Derry in the middle of the pitch. The referee didn’t see it and the boys were concerned but on our part we have to learn to play to the whistle.  Tom has come off with an egg shaped lump on his head and if there was no contact it does make you wonder.  In the end I’m disappointed that we haven’t won but felt we didn’t deserve to lose.

It was great for Dan Bassett to get off the mark for the club and it was a well worked goal involving Tom Derry and Michael Ademiluyi and at the right time just before the break.

Yes, it was a goal we have worked on in the run up to the game in respect of Tom putting defenders under pressure. He won the header and Michael has gone through, he could have been selfish but has seen a team-mate and that is when you think that we are just starting to become a team. It is not about me, it is about us and I saw that on Saturday. We had players playing out of position in order to get a result and I thought we deserved one but we just have to dust ourselves down and we have a game this evening and we put in a similar performance for the home fans.

Looking at tonight’s game, at Billericay we were without Billy Crook, Freddy Barton, Sam Wood will they be available in the coming matches.

Yes, I have a squad of 18 players, Billy wasn’t fit on Saturday, Freddy didn’t make the bench but I have a squad of players, any one of them I can feel comfortable playing. I gave Mitch Chapman and Sam Skeffington the chance to play and felt they deserved the opportunity and were outstanding on the day. Gary Lockyer did well when he came on with fresh legs and Sinn’kaye Christie too showed his potential again. Alex Bentley played in place of Sam Wood and did well at left back. That is what I am looking for to have that squad of players that can push each other.

We move on to the game with Bognor Regis who won on the opening day of the season and will be a different type of challenge to Billericay but one perhaps we are more used to.  Against Billericay it came down to a quality piece of finishing.

As I mentioned before, Billericay will be one of the favourites to go up, great facilities and many of those players played in the National South last season so to put in that type of performance was great.  Now we move on to Bognor who we know well and look to have strengthened in the summer. We have to make sure they we put in the same effort at home as on Saturday and look to get those first three points of the season against a good side.