Ryman League Division One North: 7/11/15
Harlow Town 1 Antoine 17
Cray Wanderers 1 Ibemere 3 mins
The honours ended even as Cray gained a point against Harlow Town in a tremendous contest which could have gone either way at the Harlow Arena. Cray got off to a tremendous start with Uche Ibemere scoring his first goal for Cray in the third minute before the home side levelled just after the quarter hour. Both goalkeepers excelled in the second half as both teams went for the win. The point keeps Cray five points clear at the top of the Ryman North table.
There was just the one change to the side that played Charlton in the Kent Senior Cup on Wednesday with Leigh Bremner starting in place of James Duckworth.
The game started in fairly steady rain but it was Cray who started the quickest and looked very sharp in the early stages and went in front in the 3rd minute. Grant Basey swung in a tremendous corner from the right which was met powerfully by Ibemere at the back post to head past Niklas Freund.
Harlow came close when Layne Eadie’s cross shot was tipped away well by Nick Blue before Cray had a free kick twenty yards out which Basey curled round the wall and parried away by Freund.
The impressive Bremner found space on the edge of the box for a shooting opportunity but his attempt was blocked and then from a free kick out on the left the ball came to Onome Sodje who volleyed over from just inside the area before the rain then mercifully ceased for the remainder of the afternoon.
Harlow are a nippy side going forward and they levelled in the 17th minute. A corner from the right from Ryan Melaugh was flicked on by Ibrahima Sonko and fell to Leon Antoine who headed home from close range.
The home side had a good spell in the ascendancy and came close to taking the lead when Antoine played a lovely ball through to prolific marksman, Alex Read whose shot was well saved by Blue.
The game steadied for a short while before Cray were back on the attack and patient build up saw Bremner tee up Aryan Tajbakhsh for a shot but got under the ball and his effort went over the bar. Tajbakhsh then hit a free kick wide of goal from a good position.
Cray were unlucky not to take the lead shortly before half time when another excellent corner from Basey found the head of Nathan Fox unmarked who steered his header wide of goal.
Harlow came close when Read flicked a cheeky back heel just wide of goal but at half time, 1-1 was about right.
It was Harlow who started the second half on the front foot and a free kick from Melaugh was met by the head of Sonko but straight at Blue and away for a corner. From the corner, another Sonko header was punched away by Blue.
Cray showed what they could do in attack when Sodje ran on and from the edge of the box hit a powerful shot which Freund did well to get down to save. Then Bremner found space for another goal bound shot well saved by the home keeper.
Then Nick Blue took over for a great spell of goalkeeping showing just what a great shot stopper he is. First Dadson, set up Shane Stamp for a shot which was tipped wide by Blue diving low to the left.
Just after the hour Cray were indebted to their keeper once again this time after Read fed Dadson on the left of the penalty area and he got his hand to his shot to turn the ball wide for a corner. Then Read was frustrated by Blue when his goalbound effort was double blocked and then made probably his best save to deny Melaugh who was played in by Stamp and Blue got down to make a tremendous diving save.
These saves would prove key as the last quarter of the game saw Cray mostly on the attack and the Wands had weathered the storm. Bremner was continuing to impress with his all action performance and hit a fine curling shot from the edge of the box which went just wide. He then had another opportunity when Ibemere played him the ball out on the right edge of the penalty area and his shot went narrowly wide of the left post.
A good ball from Blue found James Duckworth who hit a shot first time from the edge of the area which went just wide. Cray were perhaps a little fortunate when Read had the ball in the back of the net ten minutes from time but was disallowed for what looked a very narrow offside decision.
The last five minutes saw Cray finish the game the stronger and Ibemere hit a stinging shot which Freund pushed away well then Bremner shot narrowly wide under pressure from a defender as Cray lloked for a winner.
In the closing moments, Duckworth his a decent shot from twenty yards which went over the top and then Ibemere also fired over from Bremner’s cutback.
With the last attack of the game, Cray won a corner and from Basey’s kick, the ball was cleared out as far as Duckworth who hit a tremendous strike which went narrowly over the bar.
In the end both teams settled for a point apiece which was probably about right and certainly this was a great advert for the Ryman North as there was so much to admire about the game.
This was Cray’s third successive league draw away from home and one of the Wands best performances of the season. They definitely finished the game strongly which has been a constant throughout the season and their attacking play was very good. As well as a fine performance from Nick Blue, this was another excellent display from Nathan Fox who looks so assured at the back.
This could well be a very important point come the end of the season as Harlow is a difficult place to go and get a result.
Cray: Nick Blue, Ade Osifuwa, Grant Basey (Capt.), Nathan Fox, Joe Vines, Sean Roberts, Aryan Tajbakhsh, Karl Dent (Mike Frieter, 78), Onome Sodje (James Duckworth, 65), Leigh Bremner, Uche Ibemere: Subs: Ray Powell, Dane Moore, Adrian Garcia
Harlow Town: Niklas Freund, Craig Pope (Capt.), Layne Eadie, Sam West, Ibrahima Sonko, Fabion Simms, Junior Dadson, Ryan Melaugh, Alex Read, Leon Antoine (Leon Fisher, 76), Shane Stamp (James Small, 70): Subs: Joe Benjamin, Ben Glasgow, Sam Holloway
Referee: Andreas Ansatasiou
Assistant Referees: Leon Kosikas, Martyn Cannon