With the festive season now officially over Cray Wanderers return to Hayes Lane on Sunday for the first of a double header of home games as Tony Russell’s side face Walton Casuals for the first time this season. Kick off is 3pm with VCD Athletic to come on Wednesday, 10th January.
This promises to be one of the games of the weekend as 2nd placed Wands take on fifth placed Walton Casuals who have had an excellent season and will provide tough opposition as Cray look to extend their 19 game unbeaten run.
The first game of 2018 for Cray ended in a very useful point from a goalless draw at Greenwich Borough on New Years Day. After at times a difficult first half Cray played well after the break and did well to take a point and restrict Borough to few chances in the end. Cray possibly could have won it through Lea Dawson’s flicked header against the post and also saw a close range effort blocked and the Wands finished the game slightly the stronger.
The down side were the injuries which meant Aaron Rhule and Michael Freiter had to leave the field at half time with Rhule’s injury likely to keep him out of action for a few weeks.
Defensively, Cray have been excellent on their travels conceding just five goals and on the occasions when the defence was breached at Greenwich, Nick Blue was in tremendous form to deny the home side on a few occasions first half and early in the second to keep the 13th clean sheet of the season. Cray are also the only side unbeaten at home in the league.
However, Walton will arrive on Sunday having been one of the teams of the season and Anthony Gale’s side have been very hard to beat and have amassed an impressive 52 points from their 28 matches. On New Year’s Day it took a late goal at Corinthian Casuals to end what was a six game winning run in a 0-1 defeat but shows they are a difficult side to break down. They started the season with four straight wins and have been consistently amongst the leading teams since.
Their results away from home have been very decent with wins at Hythe Town (2-1) on the opening day, Molesey (2-1), East Grinstead Town (2-0), Phoenix Sports (3-0), Guernsey (3-1) and Faversham Town (1-0). They picked up a point from draws at Greenwich Borough, Ramsgate and Chipstead and have only been beaten at VCD Athletic (2-3), Herne Bay (0-1), Carshalton Athletic (1-2), South Park (1-2) and Corinthian Casuals (0-1). Their home form has been very good beating Chipstead (4-0), Faversham Town (4-3), East Grinstead Town (3-0), Hastings United (2-1), Whyteleafe (4-2), Sittingbourne (3-0), Shoreham (3-1), Molesey (2-1) and VCD Athletic (3-1). They drew with Hythe Town, Thamesmead Town and Greenwich Borough and have lost just once to Lewes (1-2) in September. Top league scorer is Josh Kelly with 12 goals.
In the Cups they advanced at least through the Preliminary Rounds. In the FA Cup they defeated Molesey in the Preliminary Round at home before losing at Herne Bay in the next round. In the FA Trophy they defeated Canvey Island, 3-0 at home in the preliminary round but lost by the same score at Maldon & Tiptree in the 1st Qualifying Round. They are still in the Isthmian League Cup after home wins against Kingstonian and Horsham have set up a 3rd round tie at Dulwich Hamlet.
Walton were formed in 1948 and spent many of their formative years in the Surrey Intermediate and Senior Leagues until 1995-96 when they were promoted to the Combined Counties League. Things began to change for them when former Fulham, West Ham and Blackburn Rovers centre-half Tony Gale became Director of Football in 2002-03. Two seasons later they stormed to the Combined Counties League title and in 2005-06 met the Wands for the first time at their Waterside ground in the Isthmian South where they have remained ever since. They have made solid rather than spectacular progress with a ninth placed finish in 2013-14 their highest league position. Tony Gale is now Chairman of the club with his son, Anthony manager of the club since July 2015. Last season they finished 13th but did the double over Cray last season winning 5-1 at their temporary home at Whyteleafe in January 2017 and winning a rather crazy game 4-3 at Hayes Lane in March. The overall record is P. 10 W 4 D 2 L 4.
They moved back to the newly named Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub at Waterside Drive early this season and are used to playing on a 3G surface.
This has the prospect of being a great game with lots at stake and two good sides this should be a treat for the Sunday crowd.
Admission costs £10.00 adults, £5.00 concessions/U16s/Students on presentation of card.