Hastings United vs Cray Wanderers

Isthmian Premier, Saturday 18th, February – Match Report

Hastings United                                    1

Pope 17

Cray Wanderers                                   0

Pics: Ozay Booth

Cray Wanderers dropped back into 6th place as Hastings United edged a clash between two playoff contenders courtesy of a first half Ben Pope goal to complete a league double over the Wands.  Cray slipped to their second straight away defeat for the first time in the league this season 

Hastings are 7th and level on 51 points with Cray Wanderers and had the better chances in a lively and quick first half and took the lead in the 17th minute when a free kick was played to Ryan Worrall who whipped the ball towards goal and Shaun Rowley pushed the ball out but came to Pope at the left post who tucked the ball into the net.

Hastings had other chances in the first half for Jack Dixon who saw an effort cleared off the line and David Smith saw an effort saved by Rowley.  The best for Cray in the first half came to Yahaya Bamba who down the left was denied by a quick blocked save from Louis Rogers and Freddie Carter hooked a Tom Derry flick on over the top.

The second half became a scrappy disjointed affair with the best chance for Cray falling to Dajon Golding, seconds after coming on as a substitute down the left saw his effort well pushed out by Rogers while at the other end Smith and Kane Penn saw shots saved but Hastings with the second best defensive record in the division held on fairly comfortably to win the game

A grey, overcast and drizzly afternoon promised a tight game between two sides who have contributed much to the Isthmian Premier this season and Cray had picked up four points from two home games with Carshalton Athletic and Folkestone Invicta while Hastings had won three straight league games to start the game eighth in the table.

From the side which drew 0-0 with Folkestone on Wednesday night, Neil Smith named one change to the starting lineup with Sam Skeffington coming in for David Ijaha.  For Hastings there was one change to the team which won 3-0 at Kingstonian on Wednesday with Freddie Legg starting for Ollie Black.

Cray began the game confidently with the excellent Jephte Tanga combining well with Yahaya Bamba down the right initially.  Tom Derry saw an early effort blocked and Bamba down the right put over a fine cross which flashed across the box with Derry and Bassett just unable to get on the end of it.

Hastings perhaps just had a little more cutting edge early on and Knorry Scott down the right got into the box but his effort was put behind by Shaun Rowley.  Then the ball came to Kane Penn who shot wide.  In the 15th minute Cray threatened when a ball in from the right was met by a header from Derry which went over the bar.

Two minutes later came the decisive moment of the game when following the award of a free kick down the right Jack Dixon set up Ryan Worrall who saw his cross-shot pushed out by Rowley and Ben Pope who scored the winner when the sides met at Hayes Lane in September made no mistake from six yards.

Cray looked to get back into the game and an Anthony Cook corner down the left was played into the six yard box and missed Jalen Jones and Freddie Carter just couldn’t get a touch which would have surely led to a goal.

Hastings almost scored a second when from a free kick, Pope’s header was saved and following up, Dixon’s effort was cleared off the line by Sam Skeffington.

Cray almost levelled when Tanga’s ball across from the right was flicked to the far post by Derry for Bamba who was unlucky to see Louis Rogers make a good block.

The Wands came close again when Bailey Akehurst’s cross into the box was scooped over the bar by Carter under pressure from a defender but it was unsure whether the goal would have counted but was a decent chance.

Five minutes before halftime ex Folkestone striker David Smith on loan from Bromley beat the offside trap to advance on goal but his chipped effort was tipped away by Rowley and Carter cleared the ball away.  

The last opening of a fast paced first half fell to Hastings with Knorry Scott shooting just past the right post.

HT:  1-0

After a high quality first half the second half was a much more cagier affair and there wasn’t a great deal of flow to the game which probably suited the home side with their excellent defensive record.

Chances were at a premium but Jephte Tanga continued to impress with his performance down the right and made a good run into the area but his effort was blocked.

Cray’s best chance of the second half came to substitute Dajon Golding who came on for Anthony Cook in the 53rd minute and straight away did well to get into the box down the left and Rogers did well to block his shot on the half volley.

For Hastings, a free kick from Worrall was headed off target by Pope while for Cray there were shouts for a penalty for hand ball following Bamba’s ball into the box down the right but appeals were waived away.

Cray kept plugging away without really creating that big chance to seriously threaten the Hastings goal.  The Wands did win a corner and from Nyren Clunis’ cross the ball eventually came out to Akehurst who fired well over.

Then in the 80th minute a cross from Tanga was helped on by Derry for Bamba who blazed over the top.

Before the end Hastings looked to add a bit of a gloss to the game and Smith came close with a break and shot which Rowley did well to save.  

Finally close to the end Penn saw an effort pushed out and following up James Hull saw his effort blocked but United had defended well second half and saw out the remaining minutes to make it four league wins in a row and set themselves up as serious promotion contenders.

For Cray, it makes it two away defeats in succession and two games without a goal and in the Wands seven league defeats this season all have been by the odd goal. The Wands are still very much in with a shout for the playoffs through a more than decent goal difference which keeps them in sixth place but will probably need to find their goal scoring touch once again going into the last couple of months of the season and pick up wins to at least aim for around 70+ points to keep up with the other contenders.  The Wands are at home to 3rd placed Hornchurch next Saturday which will be another tough test but should be an exciting challenge.

Hastings United: Louis Rogers, Ryan Worrall, Craig Stone, Jack Dixon, Ben Pope (Sam Adams, 71),  David Smith, Alex Brefo, Kane Penn, Freddie Legg (Ollie Black, 79), Knorry Scott (James Hull, 67), Jake Elliott

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga, Jalen Jones, Freddie Carter, Bailey Akehurst, Sam Skeffington, Sam Wood (David Ijaha, 81), Anthony Cook (Dajon Golding, 53), Yahaya Bamba, Danny Bassett (Nyren Clunis, 62), Tom Derry: Subs: Matthew Weaire, Leevi King-Bassett


Referee: Simon Finnigan

Assistants: Nik Garside, Nicholas Monkman


Att: 863