Cray Wanderers vs Wingate & Finchley, Isthmian Premier, Saturday 19th November, 3 pm – Match Preview
Pics: Ozay Booth/Jon Hilliger
Cray Wanderers are in pre-World Cup action on Saturday as Wingate & Finchley are the visitors to Hayes Lane. KO: 3pm. This is Cray Wanderers last home game for three weeks before five successive away matches in league and cups.
Neil Smith’s side are looking to maintain a six game unbeaten league run and lie 8th in the Isthmian Premier League table on 24 points. Last Saturday the Wands showed their quality and resilience during a lively goalless draw at Lewes who were also on a good unbeaten run despite playing the last half hour with stoppage time with ten men after Mitch Chapman’s dismissal.
Going forward Cray created chances and Dan Bassett and Ben Krauhaus in particular were denied by some good saves or efforts go just wide and on another day could have had a couple of goals apiece.
Defensively Cray are considerably improved from last season with Shaun Rowley keeping his fifth clean sheet of the campaign, where last season the side kept only two and was an area Neil was seeking improvement. The Wands back four who are all young players, Jalen Jones, Sinn’kaye Christie and the two full backs, Kellen Fisher and Harrison Sodje were superb at the Dripping Pan against a lively attack and defended with good discipline and the full backs got forward when they could to good affect.
Another positive for the Wands has been the impact of substitutions and were able to call upon the experience of Sam Wood and Anthony Cook after the red card and also a lively few minutes from Yahaya Bamba, coupled with Chapman’s impact as a sub in the last home game against Aveley with the winner.
Wingate & Finchley though are always tough opponents and despite lying 18th in the table on 12 points and after eleven games without a win at the start of the season look by some results as a better side than their league positions suggests.
Manager Marc Weatherstone stepped down in mid October and Ahmet Rifat and Ricky Machel took over there was an immediate bounce with two straight league wins but have lost their last four matches in league and cup. Last Saturday, Wingate & Finchley led early on at home to Margate through a Dernell Wynter goal but the visitors fought back and won the game 2-1 with a 90th minute winner.
Away form has seen a very good win at Canvey Island (3-0) and draws at Kingstonian (2-2), Haringey Borough (0-0), Bowers & Pitsea (2-2) and Bishop’s Stortford (0-0). Their defeats came at Folkestone Invicta (1-2), Bognor Regis Town (0-3) and Hornchurch (0-2). At home Wingate & Finchley beat Brightlingsea Regent (5-0) and drew with Lewes and Horsham while losing to Aveley, Billericay Town, Hastings United and Margate. In the FA Cup, Wingate & Finchley advanced to the 2nd Qualifying Round after beating Bowers & Pitsea before losing at Hendon. In the FA Trophy after a penalty shoot out victory at Kingstonian were beaten at Uxbridge in the 1st Qualifying Round. In the Isthmian League Cup, Wingate & Finchley were beaten at Hullbridge but are through to the 2nd Round of the London Senior Cup after victory at home to Clapton has set up a home tie with Woodford Town on 6th December. Top scorer so far is Dylan Kearney with 11 goals in league and cups.
Last seasons encounters were dramatic and high scoring. Wingate & Finchley won 5-3 at Hayes Lane in late September 2021, Anthony Cook scoring twice and Adam Coombes on target for Cray with Liam Smyth, Sam Hatton, Bilal Sayoud, Dominic Sadi and Jabir Laraba in a match which saw six goals in the second half. The corresponding fixture on 12th February finished 2-2 with Chris Dickson and Nazir Bakrin scoring for Cray with Kearney and Kevan Cotter scoring for the home side in a match notable for Cook playing in goal for Cray for the last 80 minutes plus following an injury to Bailey Vose. Wingate & Finchley finished last season in 15th place but comfortably clear of the relegation places on 49 points.
Nazir Bakrin levels for Cray Wanderers in last season’s 2-2 draw at Wingate & Finchley
Wingate & Finchley have been members of the Isthmian Premier since 2011-12 so now well established. The club were formed in 1991 after a merger of Wingate FC and Finchley FC and the sides playing at Finchley’s ground at Summers Lane were placed in the South Midlands League. In 1994-95 they were promoted to Division Three of the Isthmian League and were promoted in 1998-99 before being relegated the following season. They then moved between Division One North and the Eastern Division of the Southern League before returning to the Isthmian North. In 2009-10 they finished third in the North losing to Enfield Town in the Playoff Semi Final. The following season was their most successful winning promotion via the playoffs after a third placed finish and beat Harlow Town and Brentwood Town to go up. This was alongside winning the Isthmian League Cup and London Senior Cup in the same season. They settled well into the Premier Division although survived relegation in 2013-14 via a reprieve and in 2016-17 finished fifth losing to Bognor Regis Town in the playoff semi-final. In 2017-18 a 9th placed finish was followed by 19th in 2018-19 and finished two points ahead of Whitehawk to stay up. The two unfinished Covid affected seasons saw Wingate & Finchley in 20th and 16th place before finishing 15th last season.
Despite the World Cup starting on Sunday and perhaps taking a lot of headlines over the next six weeks, non league football continues as normal and there is no better feeling than watching your local club and enjoying, honest and wholesome football in a friendly environment and forgetting all your troubles for 90 minutes and having fun.
Admission £12 adults, £6 concessions, pay on gate (cash only) or online at www.cray-wanderers.com/tickets