Cray Wanderers vs Concord Rangers – Isthmian Premier, Sunday 11th February – 3 pm – Match Preview + The thoughts of Neil Smith
Cray Wanderers return to Hayes Lane on Sunday, 11th February after a couple of away games in a big match against Concord Rangers who visit the Wands for the first since January 2013. Kick off 3 pm.
Cray will be looking to build on a good run of seven points from the last three league games which although has kept the Wands in 17th place in the Isthmian Premier has given Neil Smith’s side a ten point buffer over Cheshunt and Margate in 18th and 19th place ahead of Saturday’s games.
On Tuesday night on a foul evening and on a very difficult pitch the Wands showed great powers of recovery to turn around a 0-2 deficit to draw at Folkestone Invicta. Cray, who had an unchanged starting lineup for the third game in a row left it late to pull the game around but Ellis Brown claimed his third goal in two games in the 89th minute taking his tally to the season to eight. Then in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Anthony Cook was on hand for a rare headed goal also for his eighth goal of the season. Cray had to show a lot of character and the performances of Alfie Evans and Emmanuel Kwatchey caught the eye especially in a game where genuine quality was always going to be in short supply with the wind and rain.
This followed wins against Wingate & Finchley who have won twice at home in the last seven days and at Carshalton last Saturday who are both promotion contenders but with the exception of the trip to Hornchurch on 2nd March, Cray continue on against sides near the foot or around the middle of the table with games against Cheshunt, Canvey Island, Kingstonian and Whitehawk all to follow before then.
Cray have signed loanee left back Josh Hallard to the club on a month loan from AFC Wimbledon but can also play left midfield to gain experience. Rhys Murrell-Williamson came on early in the second half on Tuesday as the winger made his playing return but Jamie Mascoll has departed the club.
Concord Rangers visit on Sunday in 20th place in the table on seventeen points but have only played 22 games, five less than Cray Wanderers so certainly have time to turn things around but will be busy.
On Tuesday night, Concord were beaten 0-2 at home by Redbridge in the Quarter Final of the Essex Senior Cup. This followed a tough 3-4 loss at Potters Bar Town on Saturday after leading 3-2 going into stoppage time. Concord have been harder to beat in 2024 and Cray will certainly have to be at their best against Rob Small’s side.
When the sides met at Concord Rangers on 3rd October, Cray won 3-0 with goals from George Porter, Cameron Black and an Anthony Cook penalty. The last time the sides met at Hayes Lane on 7th January 2013 saw Concord win 2-0.
Away from home Concord have won at Haringey Borough (1-0) and Kingstonian (2-1) and drew at Margate (1-1). They were beaten at Enfield Town (0-3), Hastings United (0-3), Carshalton Athletic (0-2), Dulwich Hamlet (0-2), Bognor Regis Town (0-2), Wingate & Finchley (0-2), Canvey Island (0-1) and Potters Bar Town (3-4). At home Concord are unbeaten in their last five league games and have beaten Folkestone Invicta (2-1) and Lewes (4-1), drawn with Horsham, Hastings United, Kingstonian and Haringey Borough and been beaten by Hashtag United, Margate, Canvey Island, Cray Wanderers and Chatham Town. Top scorer is Harrison Day with 12 goals in all competitions.
This promises to be a tense afternoon as the Wands look to increase the points gap from the bottom four but should be an enjoyable occasion on what has been a very good few days for Cray Wanderers on and off the pitch.
Admission £12, £6 on the gate (cash only) or via www.cray-wanderers.com/tickets – Match Programme £2 – Golden Goal £1
Cray Wanderers vs Concord Rangers – The Pre-Match Thoughts of Neil Smith
Cray Wanderers busy start to February continues on Sunday as Neil Smith’s side look to continue to climb up the Isthmian Premier league table as Concord Rangers are the visitors to Hayes Lane. Here Neil looks back on recent league doubles over Wingate & Finchley and Carshalton Athletic and Tuesday night’s stirring fightback at Folkestone Invicta and also the challenge Concord Rangers will provide.
Hello Neil. Since our last notes three wins in a row and back to back wins and league doubles over Wingate & Finchley and Carshalton Athletic, both sides pushing for the playoffs and then on Tuesday night a hard earned point in difficult conditions at Folkestone Invicta.
Absolutely, these were very tough games and we knew that going into them but I thought from goalkeeper right through to my subs everyone did their jobs. Against Carshalton it was a difficult pitch to play on and I thought we were deserving of both wins and especially last Saturday and of a point on Tuesday.
From the back four we looked good, going forward with Yahya Bamba and the finishes from Ellis Brown, we had been waiting for those and he took both goals with aplomb and thought he was outstanding.
I thought Gary Lockyer was excellent in those two wins and both teams struggled against him. Also a word for Emmanuel Kwatchey who has performed so well at right back in the last few games.
Yes, Emmanuel is getting confidence from playing, he is 18 years old so still a young kid and is learning quickly. He played for Leyton Orient on Tuesday and did really well for them rather than come to training for us and scored a goal. So his confidence is up and Orient are happy with the arrangement at the moment. We have that rapport with them after having Harrison and Jephte here last season and long may that continue. Rhys Murrell-Williamson is still getting himself fit and hopefully getting players back so we can be competitive. We had two 16 year old’s on the bench at Carshalton and Folkestone in Charlie Paye and George Brooke who came on near the end at 0-2 down which was great for us.
Our resilience was very impressive in those two wins and to restrict Wingate & Finchley and Carshalton to so few chances must have pleased you.
Yes, I said to the boys after I’ve been waiting for that. The team spirit, people covering for each other, if someone missed it someone else was there. Right from the front defensively, Gary was chasing around, Tom Beere coming back to his old club looking to prove a point in midfield. Alfie and Frankie were very solid, our two wingers were tracking back when not going forward. As you say, the full backs we had Sam Wood with his experience and Emmanuel with his in-experience and youthfulness. Our centre-halves in David Ijaha and Tom Bonner were outstanding and behind Shaun Rowley when he was coming for crosses he was taking them and pulled off a couple of really good saves.
Let’s look back to Tuesday night at Folkestone and Cray coming from 0-2 down late on to grab a valuable point in trying conditions against a team on the same points as us. What were your thoughts after the game?
Yes, the conditions were atrocious, the pitch wasn’t the best so to come away with a point was great and how we did it was amazing. We didn’t give up and showed resilience and I think that was epitomised by Alfie Evans on the last goal. A hopeful ball into the box gets flicked on and most people would have given up on it but Alfie didn’t and hooked the ball across and Cookie was on hand to make sure the ball went over the line. This epitomises the team at the moment.
The two goals we gave away weren’t the best and we will look at that and try to improve but from the second half I thought we got the ball down well and it was good to have Rhys Murrell-Williamson coming on and showing what he can do. Disappointed with the goals but the least we deserved was a point. Alfie was superb and dealt with the conditions well. We didn’t use it to our advantage in the first half as much as we should have. In the second half, Alfie goes through one and one and the keeper makes a great save and then another from Sam Wood’s shot. Yet we gave a goal away from a set play and that was a disappointment as I thought David and Tom at the back have really got an understanding and have been very strong.
It was an important point as it was against a team in a similar position to us in the league and you don’t really want to be losing to teams around you because then the points difference gets closer and there is a game less. If you can come away from these games with the same points as in the difference between you or even nick the three points obviously that is going to benefit you and be worth six in the end. Every point we can gain now will be vitally important. We have games coming up against teams around us in the next couple of weeks and we will see if we can get as many points as we can.
Confidence should be high Neil and at home we are unbeaten in twelve games which is a record for the club in the Isthmian Premier.
Obviously we got off to a rocky start to the season but I think it is three defeats in fourteen games and we had a pretty tough run in December and January but I felt the result at Carshalton was massive but every game we have played have been big even though they haven’t been top of the table clashes. The lads are showing that little bit of team spirit and resilience and the will to run for each other.
Let’s look ahead to Sunday and the visit of Concord Rangers. They are quite a young side and we beat them 3-0 at the beginning of October. They do have a lot of games in hand of others around them so plenty of points still to play for despite their lowly league position.
That’s right, I think it is five games in hand they have in hand of us and of course if they will them all they could be level with us. I think that amount of games could be a hindrance to them as they have so many games to play and have no respite. So we need to make sure we use that to our advantage. They will be a young side and actually started well in the game in October and hopefully we can get the same result but it will take a lot of hard work. We will be fully up for the game and having a day’s rest on Saturday after the heavy pitch of Tuesday will be a blessing and hopefully on Sunday we can pick up another vital three points.