Cray Wanderers vs. Lewes

The Pre-Match thoughts of Tony Russell

Cray Wanderers second home game of the week sees the Wands face Lewes in Tony Russell’s 200th Isthmian League game in charge of the Wands. Here Tony looks back on the midweek game vs Hornchurch, what we can expect from the challenge of Lewes and a special trip for Tony, Joe Vines and Nathan White to a Premier League club.

Congratulations Tony on your 200th Isthmian League game in charge of Cray Wanderers for Saturday’s game with Lewes.  A 54% win record is not too shabby in the first 199 games. Let’s look back to Wednesday’s excellent game with Hornchurch which ended in a 1-1 draw.  Did the game pan out as you expected?

I thought it was a really good game, like I said to the boys in the huddle after if you finish above them in the table I think you will win the league.  They are well equipped and strong, Mark Stimson tactically is very good, and they are hard to break down.  We had to take a few risks, start switching the ball and began to wear them out.  I thought it was a great game of football, they added to it and I thought we were good and could possibly have gone on and won it.  I think a point was about right.

We went a goal down right on half time to a bit of a scruffy goal, how much of a blow was it to concede so late in the half?

We were positive at half time and didn’t try to let the scoreline dictate as we did some really good things in the game and felt Hornchurch were getting tired towards the end of the half. Lewis has made some big saves which really came from us as we tried to switch it, missed the middle man out and Lewis has done well to save but in the course of the game we did more than enough to get something out of it.  It was a good game, a great goal from Ben and we’ve seen him do that a few times now haven’t we and we are seeing him back now to his best and there is no better right back out there in my opinion.


Let’s look ahead to Saturday’s game with Lewes. When we played them in October at the Dripping Pan, that was Darren Freeman’s last game in charge. Since then under Ross Standen they have had an upturn in form but maybe a little inconsistent. What should we expect from the Rooks on Saturday?

In the league table there seems to be a bit of a breakaway. There are seven or eight teams from Leatherhead/Bognor Regis upwards that have broken away and then there is a bit of a gap.  There are the teams in the middle and then the sides near the bottom. Lewes are in the middle bracket, they might win one, then lose one. I like Ross Standen, the manager, a real good guy and student of the game. We sometimes lend each other game videos as we both record them of other teams. His side will be decent but we broke a bit of a hoodoo against them when we won 3-2 in October.

I look at where we are and that we have come a long way in a short period of time.  Last Saturday we beat a team which ran away with the North Division last season at a canter and put 11 men behind the ball against us.  Lewes are a fantastic club and a couple of seasons ago they were well in front of us and got promoted to the Premier.  Now, we are ahead of them in the table and have different aspirations.  It will be a hard game, Ross will have them well prepared and there are no easy games in this division at all.  It makes things a lot easier as I’ve seen all the teams a few times, if we turn up and play well, we win. No doubt! We’ve got the top goalscorer in the league, pace out wide, Bradley Pritchard and Tom Phipp in the midfield along with Charlie Allen and Karl Dent and great players at the back. We have put together a seriously good squad, once back all fit it will be an exciting end to the season and who knows where it is going to end.

One of the traits of the team last season and definitely this season has been how strongly the team have finished a game, always seemingly on the front foot and never letting the opposition rest.


It’s interesting as you say we always seem to finish a game very strong and I suppose from an outside in people think it’s because of our fitness levels and must be so fit.  We are probably no fitter than any other team but it’s because we wear teams out. People might look at it and get frustrated, why are we just passing from side to side or into midfield and go back, then forward but it is all for if we don’t get them in the first 70 minutes, it is always the last 20 minutes that teams we have played have been out on their feet. We are always going to come on strong at the end so stick with us during a game and will always score late goals and create chances.

Just looking back a couple of weeks, I noticed on social media that you, Joe and Nathan visited the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth.  Tell us a little about your trip to the Dorset coast and to a Premier League club.

Yes, we spent a day down at Bournemouth watching them train and the U23s & U18s, speaking to the coaches and went to the ground after and had a look around.  It’s more to do really, me, Vinesy and Nath looking to take ourselves onto the next level in terms of what we are trying to do.  We want to keep learning, we want to try and cherrypick what other clubs are doing and pick their brains on a couple of things and see if there is anything we can bring back to put into Cray Wanderers what we do on matchdays or training sessions.  It is more of an educational thing for us really but it was a long day but glad we could make it happen. Everyone at Bournemouth were very friendly and we had full access to the training pitches, if we had any questions don’t be afraid to ask. We just spent the day picking brains and asking why are you doing that.  It was good, we’ve got to keep learning and the three of us, are young managers and coaches and although we think we are doing ok, we don’t want to stop and stagnate and always try to learn and what can take us on to the next level.  I know we have the option to go and look at Spurs and Charlton who’ve both offered the chance and we just need to work it round everyone else’s schedule.

It is hard for me in particular to learn too much off other non-league team’s managers. I don’t really play a non-league style of football so it is hard to go to another manager in the National League as it is different to what I do.  Maybe in terms of fitness I would but if you go to a professional setup like Bournemouth who play an attacking style of football and runs throughout the club that was why we were so keen to go there.  There was stuff there I wouldn’t do and didn’t see the point of but also bits I hadn’t thought about it and an interesting concept, training methods etc. Nathan was explaining to them about the sessions that he does with our boys while Joe and I were watching the youth team training where they did a passing drill that emulates a game and we thought how that would work with us.  For us though it was all really about developing ourselves and eventually the players and club will benefit from that.