Cray Wanderers bring the curtain down on 2019 and indeed the decade on Boxing Day as festive football comes to Hayes Lane with Leatherhead making the trip from Surrey for the afternoon. Kick off is 3pm.

It has certainly been a dramatic, exciting but ultimately a very good year for Cray Wanderers on the pitch after promotion from the Isthmian South-East last season and making the step up to the Premier has seen Cray planting themselves amongst the early playoff contenders and lie 6th in the league table ahead of the Christmas/New Year games with a trip to Margate to come on New Years Day.

Cray were looking to regain some confidence after the defeat at Bognor Regis Town on 14th December last Saturday at Worthing and looking back put in a good performance which was perhaps a shade unlucky not to take the game to at least a penalty shoot-out.  Worthing won the match 3-2 but Cray showed plenty of fight after the break and goals from Bradley Pritchard and Karl Dent were well taken and with another trip to Worthing in the league to come in February certainly showed enough to suggest there could be plenty to encourage them next time.

The only main blow was a toe injury to Tom Carlse in the first half and that has been a main theme of the season so far the amount of knocks and injuries to key players. With Andre Coker departing the club last week Cray are looking in due course to bring in new blood just to keep the squad ticking over and with plenty in the league still to play for.

Cray will face tough opposition on Boxing Day as Leatherhead head to Kent for the second successive game on the back of a run of one league defeat in the last nine games.  The Tanners sit 10th in the league table and last Saturday picked up a point from a 0-0 draw at Margate.  Nikki Bull’s side got off to a slow start and were in the bottom three in September but have steadily climbed the table since.  Away form has been good with wins at Merstham (4-1), Bishop’s Stortford (1-0) and Lewes (1-0). They drew at Horsham (1-1), Folkestone Invicta (1-1), Worthing (5-5) and Margate (0-0). Their only defeat came at Bognor Regis Town (1-5) and East Thurrock United (0-3).  At home Leatherhead beat Bowers & Pitsea (1-0), Hornchurch (2-1), Corinthian Casuals (2-1) and Brightlingsea Regent (1-0). They were beaten by Haringey Borough, Enfield Town and Lewes.  Joint leading scorers are Tommy Ward and Ibrahim Olatunde with 6 goals and Olatunde scored a hat-trick in the Velocity League Cup in December at Ramsgate which sets up a home tie with Worthing in the last 16.  Last season Leatherhead finished in 8th place in the Premier Division table.

This will be the first league meeting between the sides since March 2012 where last time we met Leatherhead won 2-1 on a Sunday afternoon match at Hayes Lane. James Darvill scored for Cray.  Overall in 12 league meetings Leatherhead lead the head to head with 5 wins to Cray’s 3 and there have been 4 draws.  The clubs also met in cup ties since Cray’s move into the Isthmian with Leatherhead winning all four games, two in the FA Cup (one after a replay) and two in the Isthmian League Cup.  Perhaps the most notable game between the sides came on 17th August 2004 when the two sides met in the first ever Isthmian league home match for Cray ended in a 2-2 draw with Michael Power and Matt Woolf scoring for Cray.

Leatherhead were formed in 1907 as Leatherhead Rose and after World War II merged with another local team, Leatherhead United and the new Leatherhead side entered the Surrey Senior League in 1946-47. After winning the league four times they moved into the Delphinian and Corinthian Leagues and were the last Corinthian League champions in 1962-63 thereby moving to the Athenian League.  Leatherhead twice reached the FA Amateur Cup semi-finals in 1969 and 1971 and became members of the Isthmian League in 1972-73.  Leatherhead made national headlines in 1974-75 with a run to the 4th Round of the FA Cup after beating Bishop’s Stortford, Colchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion before going two nil up at 1st Division Leicester City before the Foxes turned it round to win 3-2.   In 1978, the Tanners reached the FA Trophy Final losing 1-3 to Altrincham at Wembley.

More good cup runs were made over the years but there were a couple of relegations and promotions during the Isthmian League years and in the summer of 2000 were saved from extinction by their supporters who helped preserve the use of their Fetcham Grove ground. In 2001-02 they were placed in the Isthmian League South and met Cray in league competition in 2004-05 and in 2010-11 gained promotion to the Premier after beating Dulwich Hamlet in a playoff final but were relegated in 2011-12.  In 2013-14 Leatherhead reached the playoffs and beat Guernsey and Folkestone Invicta on penalties to gain promotion back to the Premier.  They have since finished 10th, 11th and 13th and in 2017-18 finished sixth and missed out on the playoffs on goal difference and 8th last season.

This promises to be a tough game but as usual an exciting one and could be a fascinating contrast of styles and a great way to unwind after the excesses of Christmas.

Admission costs are £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions and U16s but don’t forget the Football For A Fiver offer for season ticket holders of Premier League/EFL /National League clubs on presentation of a valid ticket and might be worth a trip if cannot make your game on Boxing Day.