Cray Wanderers vs. Haringey Borough – Sunday 11th December, 2022 – The pre-game/Programme notes of Neil Smith

Cray Wanderers return to Hayes Lane this afternoon after five successive away games as Haringey Borough visit in one of two pre-Christmas home matches. Here Neil Smith looks back on an exhausting three weeks and some good performances.

Hello Neil.  A welcome back to our home supporters this afternoon after five games on the road.  This must have been an unusual spell of games for you and the team since our last home game on 19th November.

That’s right, I was saying to the lads that it is very rare that you get so many away games in a row. To do as well as we have and still perhaps disappointed we didn’t pick up at least one more win shows the effort we put in. However, I’ve been very pleased with the team in difficult circumstances with so many away games on the spin.

Let’s first focus on Wednesday night and a 2-2 draw at Bognor Regis Town, the third time we’ve drawn 2-2 with them this season.  What were your thoughts after the match on the South Coast.

I thought the goals we conceded were soft and we had the chances to kill the game off when it went to 2-2.  Travelling to the match got a bit out of hand and we only had a ten minute warm up so didn’t expect us to start like a house on fire but to give the first goal away in the 42nd minute was very disappointing. We get the equaliser and then straight away concede another goal from a free header in the box.  Then we get back to 2-2 and we had chances to win it, Yahaya Bamba went through and the keeper made a great save and I thought there was only one team that was going to win it. It is a hard place to come and we’ve played them four times so we know each other inside out. What I do know is the boys showed a lot of character when after going behind kept coming back and believing in themselves. I’ve had to bring people on like Sam Skeffington, Nyren Clunis and Mitch Chapman has had to play centre-half when Sinn’kaye Christie went off and was outstanding.  Our forward line will scare most teams but we just need to take more of our chances when they come as we are getting punished with the goals we give away but want to be winning games. However, coming in as I did at the end of last season to where we are now there has been an improvement in the team and a spirit to never give up which is full credit to the players.

Let’s look back to last Saturday and a 1-0 win at Kingstonian which was a hard fought win against a side which had done well at home this season. 

We knew it would be a difficult game.  The surface looked better than what it was which can happen when you have two teams playing on it and they left the grass very long but underneath was quite bobbly.  Kingstonian had signed four players before the game and when that happens the newcomers give their all for the club. I was really pleased with the win, it was hard fought and a clean sheet which was good as I’ve been demanding more from the defenders on that side of things. When we went forward we always looked a threat.

A great winner too from Sam Wood with a header from a fine Dan Bassett cross.

Yes, that’s right, Dan was a bit disappointed at the end as he came off as he thinks to have a good game you need to score a goal but his work rate for the team was unbelievable. We are really appreciative of the effort he puts in off the ball as well as on it.  Sam Wood has got that driving force and has that winning professional mentality. At the end I said to him you took it off Tom Derry’s head but Sam said he was totally focused on the ball and where he was going to put it and not aware Tom was in there too.   

For our supporters that may not have travelled to the earlier games in the run, we went to Horsham on 22nd November, three days after the Wingate & Finchley defeat and were two down in the first 15 minutes against a good settled side so to come back and get a point was a decent result.

We knew that would be a tough game, I had watched them at Enfield Town earlier in the season and they went two nil down and could have got a draw in the end. So we knew their style of play, they are a team that are together but we didn’t envisage going two nil down. The goals were difficult for the boys, we had to rearrange it at half time after a few words and in the second half were unbelievable. Looking back on it they thought we could have won it at the end.  Once again we have shown resilience, character and togetherness and after a bit of a rollocking have taken it on the chin and performed like that.  Difficult to take away from a draw after the way we started the game but when you go two nil down and you can still believe we could come back like we did so we have to be pleased with the way we finished the game.

We followed that up with a 1-1 draw at Carshalton Athletic who have been flying of late and beaten Billericay Town and Potters Bar Town since. 

Again, I thought we were very competitive against Steve McKimm’s side who are hard to beat and play against so we expected no different.  We went 1-0 up before half time and were still leading with twenty minutes to go but again it was just a bit of a mistake or a decision we could have dealt with better for them to get a goal so in the end we came away with a draw. If you look back and the results they have had since that is a good point away from home against another strong side who are above us.

Then we had that exciting London Senior Cup tie at Dulwich Hamlet which in the end we lost 4-3 but maybe if we had another five minutes we could have taken the game to penalties.

Yes, I felt if we scored a third goal we would have gone on to score an equaliser and almost did with the last kick of the game but for a deflection which took the pace off the ball when we were in the box. Again, the goals we conceded I was very disappointed with, I think we should have done better but you are playing against a side a division higher and with the players they had playing, I was able to play the likes of Anthony Cook, Mitch Chapman had a run out so that was good. So in that respect it was a good experience against a side from the National South and on a fantastic pitch. Although disappointed with the goals we let in I was pleased with the boys resilience and determination not to give up and went right to the end. The players wanted to do as well as they could in a cup tie but just five minutes was too short to get an equaliser.

For those supporters unable to get to these away games we brought in Jephte Tanga on loan from Leyton Orient before the Carshalton game and striker Omari Hibbert on dual registration with Dulwich Hamlet and played at Kingstonian.

Jephte Tanga

Omari Hibbert

We were a few players short because of suspensions and just wanted to make sure ahead of the Christmas games that we had a full body of players. We brought in Jephte as we lost Kellen Fisher to suspension for three games from Leyton Orient who we seem to have a good relationship with as we have Harrison Sodje with us. He has fitted in really well, the players love him and he loves playing so has been a good addition for us. 

Omari scored against us for Dulwich and we just wanted to have a bit of cover for Tom Derry who has carried a lot of workload up front on his own so to take a bit of pressure off him. He came on to see the game out against Kingstonian. We are always looking to add where we can and have a settled squad at the moment. When you do pick up a few suspensions going into four away league games and David Ijaha was injured athis proves how strong the squad is and the strength in depth that we are still just outside the playoff places.

Finally, let’s look ahead to today and the visit of Haringey Borough. I have felt like our last home game vs Wingate & Finchley that we find it harder at home than away. Haringey Borough are a side that are dangerous and have had some good results so will be a good test for us. Have you had a chance to look at Haringey Borough.

I have and they are a side that gets a good result and then the next game they get a result that perhaps they expected  to do better.  I feel when you are playing at Bromley for our home games teams are going to lift themselves. It is a nice stadium, good playing surface and surroundings and they get to play probably how they want to play rather than playing on a grass, bobbly pitch over the Christmas period. We have got to be mentally and physically prepared for that but I know the boys don’t give any less when we are at home and try to do the right things.