Cray Wanderers vs Chatham Town – Isthmian Premier – Friday 29th March, 3 pm – Match Preview

Cray Wanderers play their final game in March on Good Friday and the second of three consecutive Kent derbies as Chatham Town are the visitors to Hayes Lane for the first time since New Years Day 2017. Kick off 3 pm.

Cray will be looking to bounce back from Sunday’s 0-1 defeat at home to Folkestone Invicta and have lost the last two games at Hayes Lane but remain in 15th place in the Isthmian Premier with 45 points from 35 games played.

With seven games of the season to play and against teams with something to play for, Cray will be looking to pick up as many points as possible and a consistency of performance to finish off the season.  Cray will hope to have Tom Bonner back after missing the Folkestone game while Gary Lockyer and Anthony Cook came off the bench on Sunday and helped add a bit more punch going forward.  Cameron Black who played on Sunday has been recalled by his club Dorking Wanderers and also Rhys Murrell-Williamson has departed Cray Wanderers.

Chatham Town in their first Isthmian Premier season have had an excellent campaign and lie 2nd in the table on 71 points and the only team that can mathematically catch Hornchurch for the title.  Cray though can take confidence from one of the finest performances of the season on 9th September with a 5-1 win at Chatham Town with Frankie Raymond scoring twice along with goals from Cameron Thompson, Nyren Clunis and Jamie Mascoll with Jake Munns scoring for Chatham Town.

The last time the two sides met at Hayes Lane was on 1st January 2017 with Cray winning 3-0 with two goals from Lee Prescott and a Karl Dent strike. Chatham Town, who had many great Kent League battles with the Wands were relegated from the Isthmian South that season and after back to back promotions from the SCEFL Premier and Isthmian South-East meet up with the Wands again.

Kevin Hake’s side have been very consistent all season and as well as being 2nd in the league are in the Final of the Isthmian League Cup after wins against Three Bridges, Basildon United, Billericay Town and Ashford United and face Hashtag United in the Final on 23rd April.  The Chats also reached the Semi-Final of the Kent Senior Cup before going out in an eight goal thriller at Ebbsfleet United.  Last Saturday Chatham came from behind to beat Haringey Borough 2-1 at home with goals from Jack Evans and Ashley Nzala. 

In the league away from home Chatham Town have won at Folkestone Invicta (3-2), Cheshunt (2-1), Dulwich Hamlet (5-2), Concord Rangers (3-1), Haringey Borough (3-0), Kingstonian (3-1), Whitehawk (2-1) and Lewes (3-0). Chatham drew at Potters Bar Town (0-0), Hashtag United (1-1), Horsham (2-2) and Hastings United (1-1) and were beaten at Margate (0-2), Billericay Town (0-2), Canvey Island (2-3), Bognor Regis Town (1-2), Wingate & Finchley (2-4) and Carshalton Athletic (0-2).  Home form has been particularly impressive and one of only two sides to have beaten Hornchurch in the league. Chatham have beaten Bognor Regis Town (1-0), Potters Bar Town (2-0), Lewes (3-0), Whitehawk (1-0), Wingate & Finchley (2-1), Enfield Town (3-1), Hornchurch (2-0), Dulwich Hamlet (2-1), Cheshunt (3-2), Canvey Island (5-1), Margate (2-1), Billericay Town (6-3), Concord Rangers (2-1) and Haringey Borough (2-1). Chatham drew with Carshalton Athletic and were beaten by Cray Wanderers, Hastings United and Hashtag United. Jamie Yila, one of a few ex-Wands in the Chats team is the leading scorer with 20 goals.

With Chatham Town having so much to play for there should be a decent turnout of Medway based fans for this Good Friday fixture and with just four more games to be played at Hayes Lane before the Wands head to a new home this should be a match to savour.

Admission £12/£6 – on gate (cash only) or online at Match Programme £2, Golden Goals £1.



Cray Wanderers go into Easter with two Kent derbies starting this afternoon with the visit of high flying Chatham Town and then on to Margate on Easter Monday.  Here Neil Smith looks back to last Sunday’s defeat to Folkestone Invicta, the challenge of today and a Happy Easter message to our supporters.

Hello Neil.  A Happy Easter Holidays to you, management and the players.  Let’s look back to the game against Folkestone Invicta last Sunday.  What were your thoughts on the game?

I was just disappointed, there was no energy considering how well we did against Haringey Borough the week before. There we looked sharp and had loads of energy but on Sunday we were missing Tom Bonner and George Brooke and it was a chance for players to stake a claim.  I didn’t think Folkestone did too much to deserve the 1-0 win, it was a messy goal.  Then again we didn’t create many chances to get a result ourselves and probably had 0-0 written all over it and it felt like an end of season game.

It was disappointing that we lost the game and also because I don’t think we played to our max. I spoke to Shaun Rowley after the game and asked how many saves he made and he said none yet we lost 1-0.  We didn’t really put their keeper under enough pressure to get a result and that’s the frustrating thing for me.  We seemed to cancel each other out and both defences were strong, Sam Wood made a couple of great tackles and we kept Tom Derry quiet who was coming back to his old club and wanted to prove a point. At the other end we didn’t create enough and didn’t get any shots off really until the second half when we changed things up a bit.

Let’s move on to this afternoon and the visit of Chatham Town. They have had a remarkable season, second in the league and in the Velocity Cup Final so it will be a tough game for us today.

They have had a fantastic season and especially when you are getting that amount of supporters coming through the door, getting the players you want to get in and have a big squad.   We had a great result against them in September, possibly against what everyone was expecting but we will have to be on our full mettle against what will be a strong Chatham Town side pushing for promotion.  

We have quite a busy April coming up don’t we with the London Senior Cup tie with Dartford, the rearranged game with Hornchurch so quite an unusually busy run into the end of the season.

That’s right, all these games are going to be crammed in. With the Dartford game, it depends how badly they want to win that match with the league position they are in. It is a mental one for us as we are safe but we will have an effect on who goes up and who goes down in terms of the teams we are playing at that time. There are some big games and good games to be playing during April even though they don’t really affect our league position.  We have a small squad, sixteen players so we need to try and keep everybody fit as well. It will be a busy month but although I do care about the results it is as much about performances and doing ourselves justice.  

We have been a bit inconsistent in the last four games but in respect of the small squad we have at the moment we have had to chop and change it all the time.

It hadn’t gone unnoticed Neil that last week it marked two years since you joined the club as manager. It must have been a whirlwind two years!

That’s right, it has been two years.  I came in to help the club stay up and I did everything in my power to generate a club that people can build upon and set some foundations. I’ve loved every minute of it even though it has been difficult this season. We’ve had more injuries which we didn’t have last season, and it has seemed to be a rebuild every few weeks but the support I have had has been immense and I do appreciate the fact that two years has just flown by for me.  I’m looking outside now, there is an Academy, a new pitch and the future is bright for Cray Wanderers and hopefully we can flourish next season as well as the end of this season.

From myself and all the club to you, Tosh, Alfie, Ally, Paddy, Robert and the team a very Happy Easter holidays.

Likewise from me and the team, a very Happy Easter to all the supporters and hope we can get a few positive results for the fans as it has been a difficult season in terms of where we are.  Last season I think expectation levels were raised and rightly so as we had a great season but when you lose the likes of Nyren Clunis through injury and players like Danny Bassett depart and even recently with Yahya Bamba these are big names to fill.  I know the boys are desperate to win as many points for the club as possible to the end of the season.