A great sporting weekend is added to on Sunday afternoon as Cray Wanderers face Hastings United in an eagerly anticipated clash at Hayes Lane. Kick off is at 3pm.
With the promise of some fine early April weather coinciding with the start of the Cricket season this should be a great game between two attack minded sides. Both teams have contenders for the Ryman South Golden Boot with Hastings Frannie Collin on 25 goals and the Wands Luke Medley on 24 and Danny Haynes on 22 still very much in with a shout. The current co-leaders of the race are Shaun Okojie (Corinthian Casuals) and Sam Bradford (Carshalton Athletic) on 28 goals.
Cray who are 11th in the league table on 63 points will be looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s home defeat to an admittedly impressive Dorking Wanderers side and look to finish the last four games of the season with a flourish.
Before the Dorking game, Cray had won a couple of hard fought games against Whyteleafe and Herne Bay and at times this showed during the game but they stuck at their task well. Unfortunately chances were not as common as they were in the Herne Bay game. When Cray did get past a line of lime green shirts they were denied by the Dorking keeper who made a fine save from Brandon Scott’s shot ten minutes into the second half which if that had gone in could have led to a dramatic last half hour.
Wands boss Tony Russell has never been afraid to give young players a chance and there have been some good performances of late from the likes of Jai McKinlay, Ben Mundele, Timi Osidobu and Anthony Adesite all very young players. They have all played their part along with Brandon Scott this season and played a substantial number of first team games. This is as well as a some of the U21 team getting either starts of places on the bench in the last few games.
The Wands opponents on Sunday, Hastings United are very much still in the race for the playoffs and before Saturday’s games are in seventh place on 73 points two points behind fifth placed Carshalton Athletic but do have a vastly superior goal difference having scored 111 goals this season. The playoff race particularly for the final two places is still very much up for grabs with sixth placed Lewes and eighth placed Hythe Town perhaps the most likely to be Hastings main contenders. Tooting and Mitcham United and Dorking Wanderers are guaranteed at least to be in the playoffs whilst Greenwich Borough need just a point to confirm their place. Corinthian Casuals are favourites for fourth with a seven point lead from Lewes.
Darren Hare’s side though missed a good chance to go into the top 5 last Saturday when they were beaten 0-1 at relegated Godalming Town. Away form has been decent with seven wins and eight draws including a 4-0 win at Tooting and Mitcham United and also won 1-0 at Corinthian Casuals. They have been involved in some high scoring games which include a 7-0 win at Chatham Town, a 4-5 defeat at Molesey and 4-4 draws at Carshalton and East Grinstead.
When the two teams met at Pilot Field on 7th January, Cray produced possibly their best performance of the season as two well taken goals from Haynes gave Cray a 2-0 lead before Collin pulled a goal back before half time. The second half saw a determined rear guard action from Cray and a master class from Jay Leader and Paul Lorraine as the Wands held on to win 2-1.
The last time the two teams met in the league at Hayes Lane was in February 2013 with Hastings United winning 3-0. There most recent meeting though came in October 2014 in the Preliminary Round of the FA Trophy when Cray won 2-0 with goals by Ian Daly and Shaun Welford.
Hastings United can trace their existence back to 1894 but it wasn’t until the mid 80’s when they were known as Hastings Town that they emerged from the Sussex League to join the Southern League and were promoted to the Southern League Premier in 1991-92 where they spent six seasons. After some seasons of struggle they moved to the Ryman league following non league restructuring and met the Wands for the first time in competition during the 2005-06 season, Ryman Division One season. The following season, Hastings came fourth and reached the playoffs and were promoted the hard way, winning both ties away from home against Dover Athletic and Tooting & Mitcham United to gain promotion to the Ryman Premier. The Wands would catch up with them and meet again for three seasons from 2009-10. Hastings had a strange season in 2012-13 where they were relegated from the Ryman Premier but managed to reach the 3rd Round of the FA Cup where they lost to Championship Middlesbrough at the Riverside. Since then they reached the Ryman South playoffs in 2013-14 where they lost to Folkestone Invicta, but in 2014-15 they came close to relegation and only survived on the final day of the season. Last season they finished in a respectable seventh place and hope to go a couple of places better and prolong their season for an extra week.
This has all the ingredients to be a cracking game and if you are flush from Grand National success on Saturday you can continue your great weekend with a trip to the Lane then get home to watch the conclusion of the Masters in the evening.
Admission costs are £10.00 adults, £4.00 concessions/U16s