Saturday sees a huge top of the table clash as Bostik South leaders Cray Wanderers take on 4th placed Carshalton Athletic in one of the big games of the day in the Bostik League. Kick off at Hayes Lane is 3pm.
The Wands went back to the top last Saturday after a good victory on the road at Ramsgate which ended a three game run without a win and with Lewes and Carshalton’s game at the Dripping Pan postponed. Both Lewes and Carshalton have a couple of games in hand on Tony Russell’s side but one of those games is Lewes v Carshalton. Cray on 69 points are four points clear of the Robins and also with a superior goal difference. With Lewes at home to another top 5 side Greenwich Borough this is a key weekend in the promotion chase.
After a hard fought first 43 minutes Cray burst into life at Ramsgate with two goals in two minutes before the interval. Michael Power grabbed his 18th league goal of the season and then Brandon Scott notched his fifth of the campaign on the stroke of half time. The second half was a bit tougher with the Rams pulling a goal back and Lea Dawson was sent off just after the hour. Cray though dug in and fought extremely hard to pick up the three points and get the show back on the road and there were many fine performances particularly from Power and Junior Dadson up front.
The Wands could be boosted by the possible return of Aaron Rhule after his rather draconian four game ban and Cray are awaiting an appeal against Dawson’s red card following match video evidence. We should know by midday on Friday whether the appeal has been successful.
Carshalton Athletic are a very good side and deserving of their place in the top 4. Peter Adeniyi’s side play on a 3G surface so will feel at home on the Hayes Lane carpet. They made a good start to the season and were unbeaten in their first 8 games through August-September but had a wobble in October with four defeats but have recovered very well and since the 1-1 draw with the Wands on 5th December have lost just once since then. On that occasion, Cray took the lead at Colston Avenue with a Michael Power penalty before half time after missing an earlier spot kick in the match. The Robins levelled after half time through Danny Dudley. Their last match was on 3rd February when they beat Hythe Town 2-1 at home.
Away from home Carshalton have been very strong with wins at Ashford United (1-0), Corinthian Casuals (4-2), Chipstead (4-3), Horsham (1-0), Greenwich Borough (2-1), Hythe Town (4-0), Thamesmead Town (3-2), Shoreham (3-1) and VCD Athletic (4-1). They drew at Whyteleafe (1-1), Molesey (0-0) and Phoenix Sports (1-1) and their only defeats came at Hastings United (0-2), Guernsey (1-2) and East Grinstead Town (0-2). At home they beat Shoreham (4-1), Faversham Town (2-1), Ashford United (4-2), Chipstead (2-1), Walton Casuals (2-1), Lewes (3-2), Horsham (2-1), Sittingbourne (3-0), East Grinstead Town (5-1) and Hythe Town (2-1). Carshalton drew with Hastings United, Phoenix Sports, Ramsgate, Cray Wanderers and Corinthian Casuals and lost to Greenwich Borough and Herne Bay. They did have one of the leagues leading scorers with Mikel Miller with 18 goals but he has recently departed to club for Scottish Premier league side Hamilton Academical. However, there are still plenty of goalscoring options and Raheem Sterling-Parker has 11 goals.
The last time the sides met in the league at Hayes Lane was in October 2016 when Cray were really flying and the Wands won 4-1 with Danny Haynes scoring twice and Ben Mundele and Brandon Scott on target. The overall record is P.29 W 12 D 7 L 10.
The Robins had been members of the Isthmian League going back to 1973 and they spent thirty years there before being moved to the Conference South in 2004 following a re-structuring of the leagues. They spent two seasons there before relegation back to the Isthmian League where our paths crossed for the first time since the 1920-30’s in the Premier in 2009-10. Both sides were relegated together in 2013-14 and renewed a pretty decent football rivalry when Cray were re-allocated to the Isthmian South last season. Carshalton had a very good 2016-17 season and were front runners in the early part of the season and finished just one place off the playoffs finishing sixth.
The stakes are high on Saturday and this has the promise of being a tense and dramatic afternoon and a great match. Admission costs are £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions/U16s/Students on presentation of card.