Cray Wanderers vs Newhaven – FA Cup 1QR – Saturday 2nd September, 3 pm – Match Preview.
After a pretty bruising start to the league season the attention turns for Cray Wanderers on Saturday to the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round as the Wands host Southern Combination Premier Newhaven FC for the first time. Kick off at Hayes Lane, 3 pm.
A note for Wands fans that season tickets are not valid for this fixture.
With August out of the way and the start of a new month, manager Neil Smith will be hoping for a change of fortune for Cray Wanderers after what was already a challenging start to the season fixtures wise has been added to by injuries and suspensions in the early games meaning his full strength first team has yet to be fully utilised.
The Bank Holiday weekend unusually saw two away games at Enfield Town and Hastings United which both ended in defeats but for the latter game the Wands were without Jack Holland, Nyren Clunis, Anthony Cook, David Ijaha as well as the injured George Porter since the 15th minute of the home game with Horsham. So compared to last season and a more settled team at this stage the difference couldn’t have been more stark. Cray will also be looking for more sharpness up front with just one goal in the first five games played although there have been chances in all five games but have either come up against a goalkeeper in great form or just unable to take the chances.
Despite the setbacks there have been some personal player milestones with Sam Wood making his 150th appearance for the Wands and also Shaun Rowley and Tom Derry making a half century of appearances in recent games. Anthony Cook is five games shy of a century of Cray Wanderers appearances. Since the last home game with Billericay Town on 19th August, left back/midfielder Will Wood has joined the Wands on a two month loan from Welling United and right back/midfielder Lee Lewis has rejoined the club after being part of the Wands between 2018-21.
The two sides come into the game with contrasting starts to the season. Newhaven FC have had no problems scoring goals and as well as being unbeaten after five league games in the Southern Combination Premier have also advanced past two qualifying rounds of the FA Cup scoring ten goals in the process to reach the 1QR for the first time since 1962-63.
The Dockers won both games at home beating Little Common 3-1 in the Extra Preliminary Round on the 5th August with Callum Edwards scoring a hat-trick. Then in the Preliminary Round were 7-1 winners against Spelthorne Sports where Ian Robinson scored four of the goals. In the league, Newhaven started with draws at Horsham YMCA (1-1) and Midhurst & Easebourne (1-1) before winning 4-2 at home to Crawley Down Gatwick. A 1-1 draw at home to Little Common last Friday was followed by a 5-0 win at Varndeanians on Bank Holiday Monday and are 7th in the table. Their only defeat came in the RUR Charity Cup at Seaford (0-1) on 22nd August. The team are co-managed by Andy Cook and Sean Breach and finished 3rd for the last two seasons and won the Sussex League Cup for the second time in 2022-23 beating Crowborough Athletic 2-1 in the Final.
The sides have met once previously in the FA Vase at Newhaven on 7th September 1996 where two Tunde Utsaja goals helped Kent League Cray to a 2-1 win.
Newhaven were formed in 1889 and joined the East Sussex League (originally as Newhaven & Cement Works) and won the league title three times in 1904-05, 05-06 and 08-09, joining the Mid-Sussex League winning the league in 1909-10 and 11-12 before the outbreak of World War I.
After the war Newhaven joined the Sussex County League in 1919-20 and have been constant members ever since playing through their history in all three divisions reaching the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in 1926-27. They won the Sussex County League Division One in 1953-54 and 1973-74. After a number of seasons playing in the third tier of the league they won the division in 2011-12 also winning the Intermediate Cup. The following season they were runners-up in Division 2 and earned promotion to Division One (now Southern Combination Premier). In 2014-15 Newhaven won the Sussex League Cup for the first time beating Arundel in the Final and back to back RUR Charity Cup’s in 2015-16 and 2016-17 beating Chichester City and Crawley Down Gatwick respectively. In 2019-20 Newhaven reached the 3rd Round of the FA Vase before losing to Glebe before two highly satisfactory 3rd placed finishes in the post Covid seasons.
This will have to be a game where Cray Wanderers show their professionalism and mettle against a confident side in form and aim to turn hopefully a blip at the start of the season into some consistent results going forward.
Admission £12 adults, £6 concessions/U16s pay on gate (cash only) or online at www.cray-wanderers.com/tickets. Printed programme £2, golden goal tickets £1.