Cray Wanderers vs Folkestone Invicta – Wednesday 15th February – The pre-match thoughts of Neil Smith

Cray Wanderers play the second of back to back home games this evening as Folkestone Invicta are the visitors. Here Neil Smith looks back to Saturday’s come from behind win against Carshalton Athletic, the challenge Folkestone will pose and praise for a club legend, Ian Jenkins.

Hello Neil. A good win for us on Saturday against a strong Carshalton Athletic side who later won on Monday night. What were your thoughts on the game and performance.

It was a tough game as it was when we played them at their place and I know their management team very well. I’ve not long spoken to Tim O’Shea and as we mentioned those last two-three minutes the game could have gone either way. I thought though we acquitted ourselves very well especially after going a goal down. To come back and get the two goals like we did showed the character we are going to need for the run in to the end of the season.

We had a bit of a wobble at the start going behind especially on the back of a defeat but I thought the two goals we scored were well crafted quality strikes and for Danny Bassett that is twelve goals for the season for him.

That’s right, he had a chance just before the goal when he mis-hit the shot and the keeper saved it but bounced back to take his chance superbly. I thought Woody was instrumental in both goals, I know Yahaya had the beating of the full back and centre half for Tom Derry’s goal but the pass to Yahaya came from Sam Wood and playing in midfield I thought he was quite inspirational. When we got the chances we took them well and for Tom that is ten for the season for him. So it was a good all round performance from the front three

The second half we have had to show the character to see the game out haven’t we. We weren’t exactly holding on but have had to defend well to protect the three points.

If you think about the last couple of results, we gave a soft goal away at Wingate & Finchley the week before on the break. The two goals Lewes scored might just have crept into them but I thought Jalen Jones and especially Freddie Carter with last ditch tackles and clearances and Shaun Rowley making a late save were excellent. We are going to learn along the way with these young guys and everything we thought we did wrong with the goals against Lewes that the boys have learnt.

Defensively we did do very well and we have three quality young centre-halves in Jalen, Freddie and Matt Weaire at the club.

Definitely and also we had Jephte Tanga another young kid at right back, Bailey Akehurst at left back who before the game was feeling really ill and wasn’t sure to be starting or how long he would play. So the way he played and that he played the full ninety minutes was testament to himself and commitment. He is on loan from Gillingham, he didn’t have to play but put himself out there. So again we had a very young back four all coming together from different clubs and learning, and behind them when Shaun Rowley was called upon pulled off a fantastic save right at the death.

It was the sort of game as a fan where you are pleased as punch with that sort of win as Carshalton are a good side who will have a say in the promotion race right to the end.

I agree 100% and as you say they had a good win against Bognor Regis Town on Monday. Everybody seems to beating each other at the moment and every game is a tough one with something to play for. The playoff places go down to about 11th-12th at the moment and the teams fighting to stay up are not easy games and there are no easy games.

Moving on to the game with Folkestone Invicta, they are another side that if they get momentum with results could be very dangerous in the remaining weeks of the season. We had a very good win down at Cheriton Road in September after taking a bit of a pounding to go in at half time 2-2 and took over in the second half to win 4-2.

That was an excellent result and it was one of them where I think we had three right backs in the first half. I had to bring a player on and he got injured which messed us around. They have a terrific front three who caused us problems with their crossing but couldn’t find the net. In the second half we got on top and scored twice and thoroughly deserved to win. They’ve got Roland Edge who I know from my time at Gillingham along with Michael Everitt and apparently he has put out there that they have ambition and think they can still make the playoffs. They have just acquired Louis Collins a centre forward on dual registration with Tonbridge Angels after top scorer Ade Yussuf left so they are not giving up the ghost. . I’ve spoken to Roland a few times since he has been in the job and wants to put a marker down how good he is as a manager. It will be another tough match, perhaps one of few chances and it is all about who takes them on the night. The way things are going with the table so tight and the games tough for every team you have to keep winning. You can’t go into games hoping not to lose you have to win. If you want to stay in the pack you have to start putting runs of wins together.

Finally, for the match with Folkestone Invicta our guest for the night will be Ian Jenkins, our legendary former player and manager. Although you may have moved in different circles do you have fond recollections of Jenko?

I came across Jenko obviously when I was at Bromley and sharing the ground and one or two friendlies, he is a fantastic character, he was the life and soul of Cray Wanderers and will always be remembered and rightly so as a legend as player and manager. What he achieved in the time he was with the club deserves enormous credit and I hope he has a fantastic tonight and all he ever wants is for Cray to do well.