Cray Wanderers completed a busy spell of away games with trips to Merstham, Lewes and Horsham in the league and at Maldon in the FA Trophy on Saturday.  Here Tony Russell looks back on the last three games and a look ahead to more cup action in the Kent Senior Cup against VCD Athletic.

The last time we spoke was after the Merstham win and you were very happy with the performance and the maturity of the display.  Did we repeat that level of performance at Lewes and at Horsham?

I thought the Lewes game was a funny one really.  The first ten/fifteen minutes we started slowly and then we took over and went 2-1 up and could have had a third.  Then second half, JT down the left has squared the ball to Andre Coker and he’s tapped it in for 3-1.  Andre has then gone through on goal and elected to shoot rather than pass to JT which would have been another goal.  We got a bit sloppy at the end with Lewes pulling a goal back which made the game look closer than it actually was.  It was nice to learn after that it was the first time we’ve actually won down at Lewes especially on what was their manager Darren Freeman’s last game in charge which adds different emotions to the game but I thought the boys played well and deserved the three points.

At Horsham I thought we were the better side first half but there’s been three key decisions in the which have cost us and we could have been three nil up at half time.  Horsham have scored with their only attempt on target from a free kick that should never have been given as Jay won a header up against their striker from which of course, Lea Dawson does what he does best and scores with a terrific header.  Then Charlie Allen goes through over the top, heads the ball over the keeper and into the net but a foul on the keeper is given even though the keeper has connected with Charlie after the ball has gone so that should be 2-0.  Then before half time a cross has come in from Ben from the left and their defender has put his hands up and pushed the ball out of play and a clear and blatant handball.  These were key decisions in the game and we go in 1-1 when we could have been 3-0 up.

In the second half credit to Horsham they played with more purpose and put us under a spell of pressure for 10-15 minutes but never really tested Lewis Carey apart from one free kick from 35 yards from Charlie Harris which he’s had to push over for a corner.  We rode that storm out and I thought we came on strong at the end.  We had a good chance when Joe Taylor went through on goal and just flicked it goalwards and it has hit the outside of the post and gone wide.  The form he’s been in you just expect that chance to go in.  Then Fed’s got wide down the right and put a ball across which Bradley Pritchard has got a flick to and went just wide of the post. I thought we were the only team likely to win it at that stage but to be fair to them they’ve nearly won it at the end when Zack Newton has turned a right wing cross wide when it seemed easier to score which was a good chance and just like that we could have lost the game 2-1.  We’d have taken a draw as they’ve made a cracking start to the season and full credit to them they’ve made life very hard for teams that have gone there and we’ve restricted them to two shots on target all game.  Certainly better for us than last season when we lost 4-2 so an improvement in that respect but we felt perhaps disappointed we didn’t win it with the missed chances in the second half.  It was a good game between two honest sets of players and although there were 8 bookings it was never a dirty game but Horsham are a good side, I like their manager Dominic and they are a good benchmark for other teams because if you don’t turn up against them they will beat you.  They’ve got an excellent set up down there, good fan base and are a decent club and enjoy going there.

Another team doing well this season are Maldon & Tiptree and on Saturday they recorded a three nil win against us in the FA Trophy.  I’m not sure they were three goals better than us but did you have any complaints about the final result?

I wasn’t happy to be honest and I was very angry particularly at half time. We just seemed to be going through the motions, we never really got going and that we really wanted it enough and that we saw it as a break from the league playing a team below us. We wanted to stop them playing out from the back and make them play it long from the keeper which we were happy with but we seemed to come off the game plan and not sure why and individuals started doing their own things.  I was very disappointed we’ve had a very good chance in the first half when Carlesy puts over a cross we’ve had three against one in the box and Pritchard is going to head the ball in from five yards out but JT has got their first and headed it away from goal.  For their first goal we were a bit annoyed as we had a goal kick and we just gave the ball back to them and from down the right they put over a dangerous cross and we were one-nil down.  For me, there wasn’t a lot between the two sides and there wasn’t nothing in it.  They’ve had two chances in the first half and two chances in the second.  We’ve had one good chance first half and in the second Barney and JT had opportunities to score.  They took their chances but the first two finished from Danny Parish were different class, the first where he has got in front of Mitch and the second was a great through ball and he lifted the ball over Lewis as he’s come out.

For me, if we turn up and put our best foot forward we win but it didn’t really seem like us on Saturday. It’s one thing we always pride ourselves on that we always put in a performance, we might not necessarily always win but if we lose we like to do it in a certain way and we give everything.  I didn’t think that was a good representation of us and I don’t know why that was. We are a very good side when we work as one, we’ve got a terrific group of players, a delight to work with and a credit to the football club but Saturday just wasn’t them and we are better than that.  It’s gone now and we move on and we will talk it out on Monday during training and analysis and should be an interesting session to reflect on the performance.   Credit to Maldon & Tiptree, a nice club, well managed and I like that sort of chess game type of match and good luck to them for the rest of the season.

In football you always get the chance to move on to the next match and a busy October ends with the Kent Senior Cup at Hayes Lane against VCD Athletic. Is this an opportunity for those players not getting the minutes to grab their chance?

Although it’s a competition not always high on our list of priorities it is always important to put in a performance and VCD Athletic are likely to put their full team out and a chance for those players who haven’t been getting the minutes to put their hands up for the chance.  We are going to try something different in that I said to Vinesy that he can take the game in the dugout while I watch from the stands.  Joe and I will talk about it and the team likely to play at training on Monday.  We are keen to possibly include some U18s players in the squad for the game whilst also resting the likes of Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Bradley Pritchard and Joe Taylor. Mitchell is suspended for the Worthing game and will partner Geofrey Okonkwo at the back. Barney, Tom Phipp, Lee Lewis are looking to gain minutes as is Denty, Charles Etumnu, Feds and Tom Murphy.  Andre has picked up a knee injury at Maldon and we will see how it goes at training if he’s included but some of these players are very keen to play after Saturday and it will be interesting sitting up in the stand to get a different perspective of the game.