Cray Wanderers return to home action on Saturday in the penultimate home game of the 2017-18 season as South Park are the visitors to Hayes Lane. Kick off is 3pm.
Cray will be looking to continue a six game unbeaten run and also to try to cement a playoff place. After the midweek fixtures this week Cray can no longer go up automatically as Lewes clinched promotion on Wednesday night and the Wands cannot catch Carshalton in second place. The main focus will be on confirming their place in the playoffs as Hythe moved up into sixth and are just four points behind Cray in third place.
Cray’s good recent run has seen four wins and two draws including last Saturday’s goalless draw at VCD Athletic. It was a game of few chances but once again the defence were in outstanding form and also Nick Blue who made a tremendous early save to keep the home side at bay. Charlie MacDonald also impressed with his display up front and Junior Dadson came closest to scoring for Cray but was twice denied by the VCD keeper Joe Mant. Defensively away from home Cray have been very miserly and have conceded only 12 league goals and 16 in all competitions. Meanwhile at home Tony Russell’s side have been involved in some memorable games including the last home match on Easter Monday when Cray drew 2-2 with Greenwhich Borough. Cray are just two goals shy of a 100 for the season in the league which has never happened in the Isthmian League years and Michael Power remains on 98 career goals for the Wands..
South Park come into the game on the back of a 2-0 win on Thursday night at home to VCD Athletic. Jack Mazzone’s two goals took his tally to the season to an impressive 22 and he will be a player to be watched. The win moved South Park up to 14th in the table with 54 points. The Sparks have a bit of fixture congestion for the final three weeks after their game at Molesey on Tuesday was postponed so still have seven games still to play compared to Cray’s three.
The two sides last met at South Park on 7th November with Cray winning 1-0 with Michael Freiter’s 13th minute goal separating the two team although Kieron Lavery missed a first half penalty for the home side.
South Park started the season very well losing only one of their first eight games and looked to be a side that may challenge for end of seasons honours but have perhaps lacked the consistency to maintain a challenge. Malcolm Porter’s team are quite a durable side and have quite a decent away record. They have picked up wins at Shoreham (4-0), Ramsgate (3-1), Guernsey (3-1), Ashford United (4-0), Phoenix Sports (2-1), Sittingbourne (3-0), VCD Athletic (2-1) and East Grinstead Town (2-0). They picked up a point at Horsham (0-0) but lost at Whyteleafe (1-3), Corinthian Casuals (0-5), Greenwich Borough (1-2), Faversham Town (1-2), Lewes (1-3), Hythe Town (2-3), Walton Casuals (1-2), Herne Bay (1-4) and Carshalton Athletic (0-1). At home they beat Ashford United (5-0), East Grinstead Town (3-1), Walton Casuals (2-1), Whyteleafe (3-0), Shoreham (4-2), Thamesmead Town (2-1), Ramsgate (2-1) and VCD Athletic (2-0). They drew with Phoenix Sports, Hythe Town, Hastings United, Faversham Town and Herne Bay and were beaten at home by Chipstead, Cray Wanderers, Corinthian Casuals, Lewes, Carshalton Athletic, Greenwich Borough and Horsham.
The two sided met in league competition for the first time last season and the last meeting at Hayes Lane in March 2017 was won comfortably by South Park who beat Cray 3-0.
South Park have made solid progress climbing the non-league pyramid in recent years. They were founded in 1897 but spent many years in Surrey district leagues, merging with Reigate Town FC in 2001. Their climb up the leagues started in earnest in 2006 with promotion from the Crawley and District League to the Combined Counties Division One where they entered the FA Vase for the first time. In 2010 they made their first foray into the FA Cup and after beating Greenwich Borough and Horsham YMCA they drew Cray Wanderers in the only previous competitive encounter at Hayes Lane. The Ryman Premier Wands in their 150th Centenary season struggled to break down their Step 6 opponents but a last minute Lol Hamici goal gave ten man Cray a 1-0 win. That season (2010-11) they gained promotion to the Combined Counties Premier. They reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup in 2012-13 and the following season, they won the Combined Counties league to gain promotion to the Isthmian League for the first time. They have improved their league position each year by three places finishing 14th, 11th and 8th since promotion and last season saw them reach the 2nd Round Proper of the FA Trophy for the first time where they lost at Tranmere Rovers.
It promises to be a difficult game against a good footballing side but these are the games which make this part of the season so interesting and exciting with so much to play for. Admission costs are £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions/U16s.