Cray Wanderers will be looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s defeat at Hastings United and here Tony Russell reflects on a dramatic afternoon, a look back to the Horsham game, arrival and departure from the club and a look ahead to another tough game against Haywards Heath Town.
Tony, it seems unusual to reflect on a league defeat for the Wands this season and perhaps shows how far we’ve come that a defeat at Hastings is regarded as a shock result in some circles. We made an electric start at Pilot Field with two well crafted goals but on this occasion was this one we just have to hold our hands up and give credit to Hastings for the comeback?
Hastings played well. It was a good game of football between two good sides that could have gone either way in that 2nd half. It wasn’t to be for us but we have learnt a lot from that game as a group. We did a long video session on Monday night and the boys fronted up. We know we didn’t play anywhere near the level we have set for ourselves and we came off the game plan. We were not honest and hard working without the ball as we normally are. We are a team who does not go mad when we win and watching the after match celebrations, just like Horsham did when they beat us, it felt a bit OTT for some but, like I said to them, you are a big deal in this league so teams and managers will get overly excited when they take points off you. We just need to have the same reaction we did after the Horsham loss and if we do that then we really would have something to be excited about as we will win the league.
The game itself – we started the game well and went 2-0 up without them really touching the ball, then out of nowhere with their first shot on goal, the centre half steps in and hits one from 35 yards into the top corner. We then went back up the other end and missed a sitter from 5 yards out to go 3-1 up. 5 minutes later we opened them up again and Archie chipped a lovely ball up and we had a free header in the middle of goal from 5 yards and we missed it. I love this group of players, I really do, but I have never been involved with a group that misses so many chances like this group does. In fairness, as the game went on, Chris could point to a few chances from his team too, in fact the game could have finished 8 – 8 as it became so open and went like a basketball match.
We spoke in the build up to the match and we said we can’t get dragged into that sort of game with them, they are set up for counter-attacking football and the game became us having the ball then them breaking on us. I have watched them a lot and teams do well against them when they are in a set shape and then they over-commit and get picked off. We went away from home and allowed a team to do that to us, we were all very naive. During the 2nd half we were a lot more tighter. We sent a player through on goal with only the keeper to beat and failed to take the chance only for their keeper to hold the ball from the shot and get up and roll it out – 3 passes later we are 3-2 down. I know Bluey is a little upset as he felt he should have saved it but, even before that it, was poor from us. We knew the midfield area was going to be key to the game and we lost that battle so could not get any control on the game from 15mins on. You also can’t go to places like Hastings and miss the sort of chances we missed in that first half, it’s simply not good enough and is something I have spoken about all season. What I would say is we have had two good games vs Hastings and both games could have gone either way, so we have had to share 3 points each and I would say it’s about right. As I said to Chris after the game, if they can put that much effort in the remaining games of the season they will have a great shot of going up but I thought that after the first game and they couldn’t maintain it – it will be interesting to see how they do. If we did go up, I wouldn’t mind them following us as I really enjoyed the two games. Both games were full of high tempo and high quality and no shortage of drama. Anyone who paid to watch both got their money’s worth that’s for sure.
Let’s look back to our last home game against Horsham on 9th March. It was a very solid and professional display against the team in second place in the league. It had the look of a game where the first goal was going to be vital and Junior Dadson’s opener broke the ice and we didn’t look back. What were your thoughts after the Horsham game?
It was a funny old game. It never really got going, it was just one of those games that won’t live long in the memory, that’s for sure. But, I suppose this time of the season, you would take a drama free game. I read after that Dom wasn’t happy with how they played and I get that. They are a good side who will give anyone problems. They have come on so much from last season and with a new ground on the horizon they are a club on the up and one to keep an eye on.
Since the last home programme, we signed Tom Carlse from Ashford United on the eve of the Horsham game. We understand also that Daniel Uchechi has been released. The supporters wish Daniel all the best. Tell us a little about Tom and his qualities?
Having to let players go is never a nice thing for a manager to do but its part of the job, I’m afraid. Dan is a very good player and a lovely man to deal with so we are all sorry to see him go but I’m always looking forward and we wouldn’t have signed him next season, so thought it would be better to bring a couple of the exciting young players we have at the club into the first team fold. I feel they would benefit being around a team that is going for the league and the pressures that comes with that. One thing any young player won’t have is experience so the quicker we can expose them to that the faster they will come on. I won’t name names but I think we have a special young player coming through who I intend to hold back in terms of starting games for us for now, so he can sit and learn, but I’m generally excited with this young man’s potential. As for Tom – I tried to sign Tom pre-season but he had enjoyed his time at Greenwich Boro with Gaz and John so wanted to carry that on with them and I get that. So when Gaz left Ashford and Barney got injured he was the number 1 target and luckily enough we managed to get him it. As for him as a player, Tom is a player who gives you great quality going forward and defending. He is a leader and someone who knows the game. It will take him time to fully understand how we do things as we are a little different to most but he has a good football brain so won’t take him long.
Finally the next two games see us take on sides at the top and bottom of the table. We travel to Whitstable Town on 30th March but before that we face a tough Haywards Heath Town side who visit us for the first time and have had a tremendous debut season at this level. It was a real battle down at Haywards Heath in November and we had to dig deep to win. Are you expecting a similar type of encounter or a free flowing game like at Hastings?
In boxing, styles make fights and football isn’t much different. Hastings are a passing team so it made the game easy on the eye. With the greatest respect to Hayward’s Heath they are very different in how they do it. First you must congratulate them for the season they have had up to this point. Not many people were talking about them at the start of the season. They are a good honest side who will work hard for each other, they play 4-4-2 and have two big men one being really big in Melford! They like to hit diagonals to the big man and work off that. Very hard working in midfield and are a physical side. They will be a handful no doubt about it, we need to be brave on the ball and impose our style of football on the game. If we don’t it will be a long day but if we do, I’m confident we will get the win.
Hope you all enjoy the game.