If it’s a Wednesday night then it must be a Cray Wanderers home league game during August as the second Kent Derby of the season sees Margate visit Hayes Lane. Kick off at the Lane is 7.45.
Both sides have made reasonable starts to the season although both are without a win in their first three games. Cray Wanderers have two points gained from a couple of draws with Kingstonian and at home to Corinthian Casuals on Saturday with the last gasp defeat against Folkestone in between.
The match against Corinthian Casuals took a bit of time to warm up but against a fairly defensive Casuals team, Cray almost won the game in the last ten minutes with Bradley Pritchard, Tom Murphy and agonisingly Charlie Allen’s flick inside the area went just past the post and despite a lot of endeavour the breakthrough never came.
The problem for Tony Russell in the early weeks of the season has been injuries to Jay Leader, Andre Coker, Karl Dent and on Saturday Tom Phipp had to go off in the first ten minutes and where last season Cray could ride out those knocks with each one a key player it has made it a bit of awkward start to the season. The injuries have meant opportunities perhaps earlier than expected for the likes of Lee Lewis who at 17 has had a terrific start to the season and had fine games at Kingstonian and on Saturday. Also, Charles Etumnu came on after just ten minutes and slotted in at the back alongside the excellent Mitchell Nelson and had a fine game.
The feeling is that the team are not quite getting the rub of the green but certainly the chances are being created and you feel a matter of time that things will start to click for Cray.
Jay Saunders, Margate side will pose a tough challenge for Cray and come into the game unbeaten at the start of the season having drawn all three of their games so far. After a goalless draw at home to Brightlingsea Regent on the opening day of the season, they have had two tough trips since with a 2-2 draw at Hornchurch last Tuesday night with lively winger Kadell Daniel scoring twice. Then on Saturday grabbed another point from a thrilling 3-3 draw at Kingstonian with dangerous striker Kudus Oyenega scoring a hat-trick. Margate will be looking to improve on last season’s 12th place finish and certainly look capable of doing so.
Meetings between Cray Wanderers and Margate surprisingly considering the long, chequered histories of both clubs only really began with Cray’s promotion to the Isthmian League in 2004-05. We had met briefly in the Kent League in 1937-38 when Margate were for a while Arsenal’s junior team and then in Cray’s run to the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in 2005-06, Cray who were an Isthmian South side won 3-0 at Margate with two goals from Michael Power and a Ross Lover strike.
On Cray’s promotion to the Isthmian Premier in 2009-10, the clubs met for five seasons with Cray having a good record particularly at Hartsdown Road where Cray won 4 out of the 5 played. Margate have won the last 3 meetings between the sides though with a 4-1 win at Hayes Lane in February 2014 and comprehensively beat an already relegated Cray 5-0 at Margate in April 2014. The record is P. 12 W. 6 L. 6.
Mark Willy in action against Margate in a 3-2 win in November 2009 and action from a 3-1 Cray win at Margate in April 2012
Margate were founded in 1896 originally as Margate Town and moved for the vast majority of time in different circles to Cray. They were members of the Southern League from 1933 for three seasons reaching the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in 1935-36 before going to the Kent League before World War II. After the resumption of football after the war, Margate won two Kent League titles before in 1959-60 with the Kent League disbanded headed back to the Southern League Division One. They won the Division One title in 1962-63 and were relegated from the Premier straight away but returned again in 1966-67.
The 1970’s was often difficult for the club but did have two very contrasting FA Cup seasons. In 1971-72 Margate lost 11-0 at Bournemouth with Ted MacDougall scoring nine for the home side yet the following season in a complete turnaround reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup beating Swansea and Walton & Hersham setting up a home time with Tottenham in front of a crowd of 14,500 and Spurs won 6-0. In the 80’s, the club changed their name for a few seasons to Thanet United after a proposed merger with Ramsgate never took off.
In 1996 under the management of Chris Kinnear things began to take off and in 1997-98 won promotion to the Southern League Premier and in 2000-01 were promoted for the first time to the Conference. They finished 8th in their first season in 2001-02 and groundshared at Dover during this time with Hartsdown Road being renovated and beat Leyton Orient in the FA Cup. They were demoted in 2004-05 while playing at Ashford were relegated from the National South to the Isthmian league for the first time returning to Hartsdown Road for the 05-06 season. They met Cray for the first time in 2009-10 and Margate generally finished in the upper reaches of the division and in 2011-12 after Chris Kinnear left for a second time the club were managed by two former Cray players, Craig Holloway and Simon Osborn. In 2015-16 under the management of Terry Brown Margate reached the playoffs beating Dulwich Hamlet in the Semis and after winning 1-0 at Hendon returned to the Conference South but were relegated after one season back to the Isthmian Premier.
This has the potential of being a great match between two good sides who are difficult to beat and could be another that goes right to the wire to decide a winner.
Admission prices on Wednesday night: £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions and don’t forget the Football For A Fiver offer for season ticket holders of Premier League/EFL/National League/Non-league clubs on presentation of valid season ticket on the night.