Cray Wanderers vs Kingstonian – 19/9/20, Pitching In Isthmian Premier – Match Preview

After an unusually late pre-season and following an uncertain summer for football and life in general, Cray Wanderers kick off the 2020-21 Pitching In Isthmian Premier Division season with a reversal of last season’s opening day as Kingstonian are the visitors to Hayes Lane. Kick off is 3pm.

Since Cray Wanderers and Kingstonian’s last league match on March 7th the world has had to cope with a pandemic that has cost the lives of millions around the globe. Since in the UK there have been a full lockdown, furlough schemes, clapping for carers, flattening of curves, queuing to get into the supermarket or DIY store and an early shortage loo rolls, schools and offices closing for six months, travelling in bubbles, the zoom conferencing boom and wearing masks and using hand sanitizer, football gradually returned for pre-season in August and now despite a huge period of uncertainty Isthmian league football returns on Saturday which comes as a relief.

Despite the difficulties the pandemic has caused Cray Wanderers go into the new season with pretty much the same side as last season which speaks volumes for the positive environment instilled by manager Tony Russell and Cray Wanderers were able to fend off interest from a number of clubs for key players like Joe Taylor, Lewis Carey, Jay Leader and many more to stay.

Cray who were second in the table, 7 points behind leaders Worthing when the season ended have had a positive pre-season which culminated in good performances in the final few games including a narrow defeat to Bromley and a 3-1 win against Welling United.  A couple of new additions to the are winger, Jason Banton and midfielder Kyron Richards while Freddie Parker has seemed like a new signing in pre-season with some fine displays now playing in midfield.  Young goalkeeper Roman Hall is also part of the 1st team squad this season. The last pre-season game at Hayes & Yeading was quite a combative contest and there were a few knocks during the game but at this point the only definite absentees are Karl Dent and Richards with injuries. Charlie Allen and Ben Mundele who had bit part roles in pre-season because of injuries resumed training this week and hope to be involved against Kingstonian even as part of the matchday squad.

Hayden Bird’s side are amongst the sides heavily fancied to do well this season and actually started their competitive season last Saturday beating Horley 4-1 at home in the FA Cup with goals from new signing Corie Andrews, Simon Cooper (2) & Lewis Pearch.  They travel to Horsham in the 1st Qualifying Round on Tuesday night.  The club have made a handful of signings over the summer including ex-Wands winger Andre Coker who played against Kingstonian for Cray in the opening game of last season.  Jake Hutchings, Kadell Daniel, Andrews, Elliott Buchanon, Tom Richards and Tom Howard are newcomers to the side this season.

Kingstonian last season were 10th when it ended but did have games in hand on the clubs just below the playoffs after runs to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup and FA Trophy meant a bit of a fixture backlog. They only lost five league matches last season so were very hard to beat and both league meetings with the Wands last season ended 0-0.  Cray fans may remember the last meeting at Hayes Lane on 15th February on a wet and windy afternoon where both keepers, Lewis Carey and Rob Tolfrey made fine saves to keep the scoresheet blank.

Cray have met Kingstonian 20 times in league competition and the Wands record is in need of improvement with 3 wins, 7 draws and 10 defeats.  Perhaps Cray’s best league result at home 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 as proved by their FA Cup and Trophy runs last season.

After a difficult few months for everyone, it will be great to have league football back again and with such a big game to begin and hopefully the league can last the distance this time.

Admission is £10.00 adults, £5.00 concs & U16s. Tickets can be purchased online from our website link (see Buy Tickets) and there will be cash admission on the day.  Please note the Football For A Fiver offer in operation last season for season ticket holders of Premier League/EFL/National League clubs is not available this season.