East Thurrock United v Cray Wanderers – Isthmian League Premier – Saturday 22nd February, 2020  


East Thurrock United                                   0

Cray Wanderers                                            1

Murrell-Williamson 52

Cray Wanderers continued their impressive start to 2020 with a hard fought victory at East Thurrock United to move back up to 4th in the Isthmian Premier Division.  On a blustery afternoon and in a game of few chances, and the home side down to ten men a real moment of quality from Rhys Murrell-Williamson lit up the game after a superb 20 yard strike seven minutes into the second half. This made it ten unbeaten since the start of 2020 and five consecutive away wins, the first time Cray Wanderers have achieved this in the Premier.

The strong wind perhaps didn’t help the fluidity of the match but Cray perhaps with the conditions against them first half perhaps just shaded the game while East Thurrock United were reduced to ten men in the 30th minute when Jordan Brown was sent off for a two footed lunge on Ben Mundele.  Cray started the second half impressively and went ahead through Murrell-Williamson’s strike. The home side pressed for a leveller and applied a fair bit of pressure but Cray defended superbly throughout and held on for the win which takes them to 58 points and three behind second placed Folkestone Invicta.

Cray travelled to Essex looking to maintain their promotion push which has built momentum since the New Year and were looking to follow up a goalless draw at home to Kingstonian last Saturday in another very windy affair.  From the side which started that game into the team came, Tom Carlse, and Geofrey Okonkwo in place of Barney Williams and Martin Onoabhagbe.  East Thurrock United had beaten Carshalton Athletic 2-0 on Tuesday night and would be a hard side to break down.

Although dry and thankfully rain free it was very cold and windy and certainly affected the first half play at times as the teams battled to get the better of the conditions although it wasn’t for the want of trying.

East Thurrock began brightly and Michael Tweed saw an effort from outside the area blocked.  Then down the right, Darren Foxley found Ayo Olukoga and his ball across the box just had too much pace and went across goal before Frankie Merrifield could apply a touch.

Cray had a half chance when from a free kick out on the left, Karl Dent’s ball into the box aiming for Joe Taylor was headed behind by Ryan Scott for a corner.  From the resultant corner Dent’s left wing ball into the near post was flicked across goal by Jordan Brown and out for a throw in.

Then from another left wing free kick, Dent’s ball into the box looked to be overhit through the wind but was claimed by Jack Giddens in the East Thurrock at the second attempt after it appeared to squirm through his grasp under pressure from Charlie Allen.

In the 20th minute, Cray following a throw in down the left the ball came to Allen who looked to find space and from 25 yards hit a shot which went just wide of the right post.  Then from a free kick out on the right, Murrell-Williamson swung a ball towards the far post but swirled wide of goal.

East Thurrock had a little flurry and Foxley found Merrifield who hit a well struck shot which was safely gathered by a diving Lewis Carey.  Then Carey did well to block when Merrifield broke into the box down the right and his effort was blocked by the chest of the Cray keeper and out for a corner.  The corner came out to Jason Ring and his drive was blocked.

East Thurrock though on the half hour were reduced to ten men when Brown was sent off for a mistimed challenge on Ben Mundele and gave the Wands a man advantage for an hour of the game.

Cray for the remainder of the half had the bulk of possession and pressed forward but the East Thurrock defence prevented Giddens from being troubled and at half time, it was 0-0 and maybe the wind was the winner.

H/T: 0-0

The second half began with Cray looking sharp and in the opening minutes, Joel Rollinson and Allen combined to find Dent who turned and shot wide of the right post from the edge of the area.

Then, a neat, patient build up saw Rollinson play the ball out Rhys-Williamson down the right who turned past Danny Harris but his cross-shot was slightly overhit and drifted over the bar.

However, in the 52nd minute, Cray made the breakthrough after Murrell-Williamson was fouled 20 yards from goal and from the right of the area hit a fierce shot over the wall and into the net for his third goal for the Wands and was a goal worthy of winning any game.

With the lead and a man advantage, Cray were able to soak up what East Thurrock could throw at them and despite being a man down certainly applied some pressure but the combination of Geofrey Okonkwo and Mitchell Nelson were superb and repelled a lot of the balls into the box with headers and tackles where necessary.

There were half openings for the Rocks and Amos Nasha saw his drive blocked by the Wands defence and then Foxley from 25 yards, turned and fired in a shot which was well held by Carey.  This was followed by a right wing cross from Ring was flicked wide by Foxley

Cray looked to keep hold of the ball and a decent passing buildup ended with Rollinson finding Lee Lewis whose shot from just outside the area was well held by Giddens.

For East Thurrock, Hakeem Nuama made a run forward and was denied by a fine tackle from the excellent Bradley Pritchard.  Then perhaps came the home side’s best chance of the game came when from a free kick, Foxley’s ball into the box was glanced wide of the right post by Scott.

Cray despite four minutes of injury time saw out the threat from East Thurrock United and although Cray were not as fluent as other games this was possibly as big a win as any as the conditions were not conducive to a classic passing game and in the end picked up their 16th win of the season and ended a tough February with wins against Horsham, Worthing and East Thurrock and a draw with Kingstonian and these are all fine sides and not always with a team at full strength.

This was a real team effort rather than individual performances but Okonkwo and Nelson deserve credit for their displays while Pritchard and Allen won the midfield battle with Dent looking positive going forward.   This may not go down as a memorable match but certainly a memorable win and one which all good, promotion seeking sides claim when perhaps not at their best but still pick up a win.

Cray now take a brief breather and return to action next Sunday as the Wands face Merstham at Hayes Lane as March begins and whittles down to 11 matches remaining in this excellent season so far for Cray and Tony Russell’s side are sitting nicely in 4th place, level on points with Hornchurch and three points behind Folkestone Invicta in 2nd and 9 points behind leaders Worthing.

Cray Wanderers:  Lewis Carey, Ben Mundele, Geofrey Okonkwo, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.), Tom Carlse (Barney Williams, 76), Charlie Allen, Karl Dent (Lee Lewis, 70), Bradley Pritchard, Rhys Murrell-Williamson (Palace Francis, 88), Joel Rollinson, Joe Taylor:  Subs: Jerome Federico, Martin Onoabhagbe

Booked:          Carey, Murrell-Williamson, Williams, Okonkwo

East Thurrock United:  Jack Giddens, Jason Ring, Jordan Brown, Ryan Scott (Capt.), Danny Cossington, Darren Foxley, Michael Tweed (JJ Da Cruz, 85), Ayo Olukoga, Danny Harris, Frankie Merrifield (Hakeem Nuama, 58), Amos Nasha: Subs:  Iaia Jau

Sent Off:         Brown 30 mins

Referee:          Steven Marr  

Assistants:     Reece Pinchback, Liam Giles


Attendance – 185