Cray Wanderers vs Cheshunt – Isthmian Premier – Saturday 23rd September, 3 pm – Match Preview
Cray Wanderers return to league action on Saturday 23rd September after the FA Cup exertions of the past week as Cheshunt are the visitors to Hayes Lane. Kick off: 3 pm
The Wands will be hoping to build on the positives of the last league game on 9th September where Cray upset the form book by winning 5-1 at Isthmian Premier league leaders Chatham Town to pick up the first three points of the season. Cray go into the game in 19th place but after a difficult August have begun to get that out of their system and scoring more goals and more confidence.
Cray though will be looking to bounce back after two titanic tussles with Ramsgate in the FA Cup which ended on Wednesday with the Thanet side going through 3-2 after extra-time. On a foul night, Cray looked to be heading out after going 0-2 down but fought back with two goals in two minutes going into the last quarter of an hour through a Sam Wood header for his first goal of the season. Then Nyren Clunis levelled for his fourth goal in consecutive matches making him the Wands top scorer at this stage in league and cup. Unfortunately, Ramsgate went back in front a minute into extra-time and Cray despite late pressure and being down to ten men couldn’t force a penalty shoot-out.
The Wands will hope to have Gary Lockyer back in the starting lineup after being cup-tied for the Ramsgate games and hopefully Frankie Raymond back in contention after missing the Ramsgate replay through injury. Another recent signing, former Merstham and Hornchurch midfielder Ellis Brown has featured as a substitute in the last two games and adds experience to a solid midfield where David Ijaha has been outstanding this season.
Cheshunt under the canny management of Craig Edwards always provide stern opposition and after a slow start to the season picked up a good three points last Saturday beating Bognor Regis Town 3-1 with Nnami Nwakuchu scoring a hat-trick and are 15th in the table on seven points. Away from home Cheshunt won 2-1 at Margate on 26th August and drew 1-1 at Hastings United, losing 0-1 at Horsham on 9th September. At home Cheshunt were beaten in their first three games against Billericay Town, Chatham Town and Wingate & Finchley before beating Bognor last Saturday. The Ambers were beaten in the FA Cup 1QR at Royston Town.
Cheshunt have made their return to the Isthmian Premier this season after spending last season in the National South following promotion via the playoffs in the 2021-22 season. After winning their opening game went twelve games without a win but despite finishing 23rd and being relegated on 43 points gave a very good account of themselves in their first ever season at Step 2.
The last time the two sides met at Hayes Lane was on 5th March 2022 and ended in a 1-1 draw with Anthony Cook scoring for Cray and Rowan Liburd levelling for Cheshunt. Cheshunt had beaten Cray 4-0 in the corresponding game in October 2021.
Going back through league history the Wands and Cheshunt were regular opponents for seven seasons between 1955-56 to 1961-62 in the London League Division One and Aetolian Leagues before meeting for two seasons in the Isthmian North from 2014-16.
Cheshunt were promoted in the 2018-19 season from the Isthmian South-Central Division via the playoffs beating Marlow and Bracknell Town 3-0 in the Final to reach the Premier for the first time since 2003-04. In 2019-20 Cheshunt were lying 18th in the Isthmian Premier league table when the season ended in March 2020 and in 2020-21 were flying and were 2nd in the table after 11 games with 20 points but the season was curtailed in November 2020 . They carried on that momentum into the 2021-22 season reaching the 5th Round of the FA Trophy losing narrowly at Stockport County and had a very consistent league season. From February 2022 Cheshunt won 11 out of the last 16 games including seven successive away wins to finish 5th in the league table to finish 5th on 76 points and earn a crack at the playoffs. Despite playing away in the Semi-Final and Final, they won 3-2 at Bishop’s Stortford and 2-1 in the final at Hornchurch to earn promotion for the first time.
Games between the sides are always competitive and promises to be so again as both sides look to build on wins in their last league games.
Admission £12/£6 on gate or online at www.cray-wanderers.com/tickets – Printed programme £2, Golden Goals £1