Cray Wanderers look to continue their unbeaten start to 2020 on Saturday but will be put to the test against Kingstonian at Hayes Lane. KO 3pm.

Cray come into the game in great heart, unbeaten since the start of the year and 8 games without defeat including 4 straight wins.  The excellent win at league leaders Worthing last week put the Wands up to 3rd on 54 points and remain there after the midweek fixtures.

The win at Worthing was all the more remarkable with the absence before the game of Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp and Ben Mundele and during the match itself picked up knocks for Geofrey Okonkwo, Jay Leader and Lee Lewis in the first half as well as being a goal down.  Despite, those setbacks and players playing out of position, Cray fought back and took their chances when they came as Joe Taylor pounced to level with his 29th goal of the season in all competitions.  Then in the last minute, for the third successive away game, Cray won the game with Joel Rollinson’s well taken strike.

Confidence is high for Tony Russell’s side at the moment and the resilience in the team epitomised by the last home game against Horsham where Cray were down to 10 men for 80 minutes and won shows a new steel to the team. In the last three games Charlie Allen has played up front, right back and centre half showing the versatility of the players.  Mitchell Nelson and Ben Mundele are set to return after missing the Worthing trip.

Cray will be tested on Saturday though as Kingstonian despite their league position of 11th have had an excellent season in cup football and in the league have lost only one game since October.  Hayden Bird’s side followed up their 2-1 home win against Brightlingsea Regent last  Saturday with a 1-1 draw at Leatherhead on Tuesday night.  A goal from Gus Sow put the K’s in front in the first half but Leatherhead levelled a couple of minutes before half time.

When the two sides met on the opening day of the season on 12th August, it ended in a lively goalless draw and both sides have proved hard to beat in the league with just 10 defeats between them.

Their away form has been good with wins at Merstham (1-0), Haringey Borough (1-0), Brightlingsea Regent (2-0), Potters Bar Town (2-1) and Bishop’s Stortford (2-1).  They drew at Wingate & Finchley (1-1), Carshalton Athletic (2-2), Folkestone Invicta (1-1), East Thurrock United (3-3), Bognor Regis Town (1-1) and Leatherhead (1-1). Their only defeats came at Hornchurch (0-3), Worthing (1-2) and Cheshunt (1-3) which was their last league defeat on 4th January.

At home they beat Lewes (3-1), Merstham (4-0), Carshalton Athletic (3-1) and Brightlingsea Regent (2-1).  They drew with Cray Wanderers, Margate, Bowers & Pitsea, Enfield Town East Thurrock United and Horsham and lost to Bishop’s Stortford and Bognor Regis Town.  Currently top scorer is Tom Bennett with 12 league and cup goals after Louis Theophanous (who had 18) left to join Romford.

In the FA Cup, Kingstonian had a great run to the 2nd round after knocking out Walton Casuals, March Town, at Weston-super-Mare, Dartford and Macclesfield Town before losing to AFC Fylde in the 2nd round proper.    In the FA Trophy they also reached the 2nd round after beating Corinthian Casuals, Blackfield & Langley, AFC Sudbury and Woking because losing to Leamington after a replay, so the club have certainly been on their travels this season.

Cray have met Kingstonian 19 times in league competition and the Wands record is in need of improvement with 3 wins, 6 draws and 10 defeats.  The last time the two sides met at Hayes Lane was not a good one for Cray on 5th April 2014 as Kingstonian won 4-0 with goals from Andre McCollin (2), Sam Page and Charlie Knight which virtually confirmed Cray’s relegation from the Premier.  Perhaps Cray’s best league result and Kingstonian came in January 2011 when Cray won 2-0 at Hayes Lane with goals from Chris Saunders and John Guest, one of two home wins for Cray in the Isthmian Premier against promotion seeking Kingstonian. The sides have also met in a number of cup competitions over the years, including 3 meetings in the FA Cup with Cray winning 4-1 in 2005-06 during the Wands run to the 4th Qualifying Round in a game where both teams finished with 8 men. We’ve also met in the FA Trophy, Isthmian League Cup and London Senior Cup with Kingstonian winning those ties.

The K’s were formed in 1885 and in 1919 just after World War I became an amalgamation of two clubs Kingston Town and Old Kingstonians.  In 1929 the club were accepted into the Isthmian League where they have but for a short period spent a lot of their history.  In 1932-33 they won the FA Amateur Cup beating Stockton 4-1 in a final replay at Darlington. They reached the final again in 1959-60 at Wembley where they lost to Hendon.

Their golden era came in the late 90’s under the astute management of Geoff Chapple and the team were promoted to the Conference as Champions of the Isthmian Premier in 1997-98.  They remained in the Conference for three years earning a reputation as a great cup side winning the FA Trophy two years in a row in 1999 and 2000 in the last finals at the old Wembley beating Forest Green Rovers and Kettering Town.  The following season despite relegation reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup beating Brentford and Southend along the way before losing after a replay at Bristol City.  They had one or two struggles back in the Isthmian and were relegated to Division One in 2004-05 therefore meeting Cray Wanderers in league football for the first time.  They gained promotion in 2008-09 as Champions with Cray going up in the playoffs. They’ve been in the Premier since then and twice reached the playoffs under Alan Dowson in 2009-10 losing to Boreham Wood in the Final and in 2013-14 in the semi-finals to AFC Hornchurch.

The club had to leave their former Kingsmeadow ground now owned by AFC Wimbledon (and also used by Chelsea ladies and youth teams) after the 2016-17 season and the following year groundshared at Leatherhead FC.  In 2018-19 the club moved back to the London Borough of Kingston-upon Thames with another ground share arrangement with Corinthian Casuals and now after a few seasons of uncertainty look to be heading in the right direction.

This has the look of a great game between two sides who share an similar attacking philosophy and more drama and excitement which has been one of the hallmarks of the season is likely to continue.  Games at Hayes Lane are always special but you might just have to wear an extra layer of clothing as Storm Dennis is supposed to be heading our way later in the weekend but you will have plenty of hot drinks and food available

Admission costs £10.00 adults, £5 concessions/U16s. There is also the Football For A Fiver offer for supporters of Premier League/EFL/National League clubs on presentation of valid ticket and match tickets can be purchased online here by clicking the Buy Tickets tab . Programme costs £2.00 and also a golden goal competition, £1.00 a go for a chance to win a cash prize.