Cray Wanderers vs Horsham – Isthmian Premier – Wednesday 16th August, 7.45 pm – Match Preview

Pics:  Ozay Booth

Cray Wanderers play their first home game of the 2023-24 season on Wednesday 16th August with Horsham the visitors to Hayes Lane.  Kick off 7.45 pm

Both sides will be looking to bounce back from narrow opening day defeats but sees two good attacking teams which on the basis of last season’s two league games which saw 12 goals in total promises an entertaining evening.

Despite the 0-1 defeat at Lewes on Saturday the mood around the Wands is at a high with the announcement on Friday 11th August that work is getting underway at Flamingo Park for the new ground hopefully ready for the start of next season.  

The club have all the pieces of the jigsaw in place for the move to take place with an Academy setup creating a pathway to the first team, Ladies team and four girls teams along with a thriving youth setup.  Last season saw a successful season on the pitch for the first team with a playoff place and the team have been strengthened with some astute summer signings.

On the opening day, Cray had half chances in the main at Lewes with Mason Saunders-Henry unlucky when his shot hit the bar and in the second half, late pressure saw Cameron Thompson denied by an excellent save.  However, the Wands who were without the suspended Frankie Raymond and George Porter were unable to pull back a Rooks goal on the half hour.

Horsham have created a template as a football club in creating a new stadium and integrating quickly and have built solidly with an impressive fan base and are now an established Isthmian Premier club having been promoted with Cray Wanderers from the Isthmian South-East in 2018-19.  Like Cray, Horsham also has a new Ladies team which promises exciting times for both clubs. 

The Hornets were not that far away from the playoffs in the end last season finishing 7th, two points behind Cray and Lewes on 72 points.  The Wands 5-3 win vs Horsham at the end of March in the end looked to have proved crucial.  That day Nyren Clunis scored twice with goals from Harrison Sodje, Freddie Carter and Dajon Golding for Cray with Lee Harding, Tom Day and Daniel Ajakaiye scoring for Horsham who played for much of the game with ten men.  It finished 2-2 when the sides met at Horsham last November where Clunis also scored.

Horsham have added wisely to an already strong squad in pre-season with former Wands keeper Lewis Carey, defender Sami El-Abd and striker Kadell Daniel and former Fulham player Matt Briggs amongst newcomers to the club.  

Like the Wands, Horsham were beaten on the opening day at home to title favourites Hornchurch with Jack Brivio scoring in the 78th minute after two Ryan Scott goals in each half for the Urchins.

This should be a great game to watch if previous games between the sides are anything to go by and Cray will be looking to build on four straight home wins at the end of last season but will be a real test of Neil Smith’s side.

Admission £12 adults, £8 concessions – online tickets available here or pay on gate (cash only).  Printed Programme:  £2.00

The Pre-Match thoughts of Neil Smith

Cray Wanderers make their 2023-24 season home bow this evening as Horsham are the visitors with both sides looking to bounce back from narrow opening day defeats.  Here Neil Smith looks back on the game at Lewes last Saturday and tonight’s opponents.

Hello Neil and on behalf of all the supporters we welcome you, your management team and players back again for another high octane, exciting season.   We began the season on Saturday at Lewes with a 0-1 defeat.  Personally I thought it was a pretty untidy affair, did you see it any differently.

No, I agree it looked like it was two teams playing their first game of the season.  There are still things we need to work on.  Defensively I thought Jack and Cameron did very well but up front we were unable to take any of the chances that came our way and these were only really half chances.  They scored their goal from a half chance and really it looked like both teams were not really firing on all cylinders but they took their chance when it came.  Cameron Thompson had a good chance near the end and just missed his lines but we can build on it.  I still believe we have a good squad of players, obviously we will have Frankie Raymond and George Porter available which makes us stronger.  There were some good things but obviously still a lot to work on.

We were unlucky when Mason Saunders-Henry hit the crossbar and if that goes in it is a totally different game.  That was our best effort in the first half but I thought their goal was scrappy.  We know Ryan Gondoh likes to cut inside and we didn’t defend the one-two very well and they went 1-0 up but I still believed we could get something back especially in the last ten minutes when we were a lot stronger and quicker but had no cutting edge up front.

Looking ahead to tonight’s game, Horsham are a side that have been consistent in this division for some time and are highly fancied to do well this season.

It will be a tough game, we have been looking at some of the players they have been recruiting as they were a good side last year.  I know we did well against them but they are always difficult games and we expect nothing else.  It is a Wednesday night game which means everyone gets an extra day of rest but we are at home and just need to put right what we didn’t do Saturday and hopefully come away with a win.