Cray Wanderers play the second of two quickfire home games at the start of the season on Saturday as Canvey Island are the visitors for the first time since August 2013.

Cray picked up the first point of the season on Wednesday night against Bognor Regis Town and despite a strong Rocks fightback to make it 2-2, Cray were unfortunate on the night not to win and haven’t quite had the rub of the green with decisions in the opening games.  The Wands lie 17th in the admittedly very early league table.

There are signs of a potent attacking game from Cray in the first two games and Danny Bassett at Billericay and Nyren Clunis against Bognor Regis, both consistent scorers in their careers to date, got off the mark with goals.   

There have been strong performances at the back, Shaun Rowley is a confident keeper, Alex Bentley, Harold Joseph who scored the opener on Wednesday and Jalen Jones have performed very well at the back with Anthony Cook playing at left back in the absence of Sam Wood showing his great versatility and stellar captaincy skills.  Mitch Chapman and Sam Skeffington haven’t been found wanting in midfield and Michael Ademiluyi’s pace has been a major factor in the first two games as has the quality of Tom Derry and his hold up play and doesn’t as yet seem to get a fair shake off match officials at the moment.  This has been without Wood, Billy Crook and Freddy Barton in the side.

Canvey Island are making their return to the Isthmian Premier for the first time since the 2016-17 season.   Brad Wellmen’s side were beaten 1-3 on the opening day at home to early league leaders Horsham but on Tuesday showed their qualities in a 5-1 win at Brightlingsea Regent. After going an early goal down, two goals from Evans Kouassi, who also scored against Horsham, two from new signing from Hastings United, Danny Parish and a strike from ex-Wand Luca Albon got Canvey off the mark for the season.

Canvey had a very consistent season in 2021-22 in the Isthmian North and finished 2nd, two points behind champions Aveley which meant another crack at the playoffs. After a 3-1 win at home to Felixstowe & Walton United, Canvey won a tense final against Brentwood Town on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time.  They kept their nerve in the shoot-out 4-1 to clinch promotion.

Canvey Island were founded in 1926 and first met Cray Wanderers in league action in the Greater London League in 1965-66, a year when Cray won the league. We met up again in the early-mid 70’s in the Metropolitan London League before quite a gap until our paths crossed again in the Isthmian Premier for five seasons from 2009. The last meeting at Hayes Lane was on 13th August, 2013 with Cray winning 2-1 with goals from Leigh Bremner and Chris Saunders which was the last win in charge for Ian Jenkins.  The Wands lost 0-4 in the corresponding game in December 2013.  The last couple of meetings have been in the FA Trophy in October 2018 which Canvey won 2-0 and in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round on 25th October, 2020 at Canvey which the home side won 3-2.

They have a good FA Cup record and reached the 1st Round in 1995-96 losing to Brighton after a replay. In 2000-01, a great year for the club they made it to the 2nd Round beating Port Vale after a replay before losing to Southend United. They also won the FA Trophy that season, beating Forest Green Rovers in the final at Villa Park. The following season they did even better getting to the 3rd Round after beating Wigan away and Northampton Town in a televised tie before losing at Burnley. In 2003-04 they were promoted to the Conference where they spent two seasons before taking voluntary demotion to the Isthmian North winning promotion to the Premier in 2007-08. They stayed in the Premier until 2016-17 when they were relegated to the North reaching the playoff final in 2017-18 losing to Haringey Borough before making their way back to the Premier last season.

This should be another dramatic afternoon at the Lane and between two sides who have begun the season confidently.

Admission £12 adults, £6 concessions/u18s on gate (cash only) at the turnstiles or online at  Match Programme: £2