Haywards Heath Town vs Cray Wanderers – Bostik League South-East – 3rd November 2018
Haywards Heath Town 0
Cray Wanderers 1
Cray Wanderers maintained their seven point lead at the top of the Bostik South-East and with it one of only two unbeaten records in the Bostik League (along with Bowers & Pitsea) with a tremendous finish from Ben Mundele two minutes from time to beat a determined and tenacious Haywards Heath Town side who were reduced to ten men halfway through the second half.
In the first ever match between the two sides on a very bright and sunny early November afternoon, there were few opportunities in the first half for either side but the second half saw more goalmouth action with Barney Williams, Jerome Federico and Mundele coming close for Cray. Haywards Heath were reduced to ten men when Callum Saunders was sent off for a second bookable offence on 66 minutes but came close to taking the lead when Alex Laing’s shot hit the top of the crossbar.
The Wands though had pressed hard all match for a breakthrough and broke the deadlock when Mundele who was pushed up front in the second half, latched onto Karl Dent’s pass into the right of the area and fired a crisp low shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
This was Cray’s first game for a couple of weeks and named an unchanged side from the one which won 2-1 at Herne Bay on 20th October. Haywards Heath had lost just one of the last six league matches and were well set up and looked to unsettle Cray and after a bit of early sparring, Saunders was booked early on for foul on Tom Phipp.
Cray created the first real opening after 12 minutes when Jerome Federico down the right found Mundele who worked his way through three challenges to set up a shooting chance inside the area which was pushed away well at the near post by keeper Josh Heyburn. Cray won a couple of corners which saw some blocks and cleareances from the well drilled Haywards Heath defence.
The home side did forge an opening though when a ball into the area from the right was knocked back out to Saunders who hit a low shot from 20 yards which was saved by the legs of Nick Blue.
Perhaps the best opening of the opening half came to Cray down the right hand side with Federico making a run down the right and laid a cross to the near post where Bradley Pritchard steered the ball just wide.
There was a half chance for Cray on 32 minutes when Junior Dadson down the left found Barney Williams whose ball into the area was punched away by Heyburn back out to Dadson whose half-hit shot fell to Freddie Parker but under pressure from a defender just couldn’t steer the ball towards goal and drifted slowly wide.
Five minutes before half time, Pritchard who had a fine first half saw his run into the area lead to a clearance out to Mundele who hit a shot which looped off Byron Napper and went behind for a corner out on the left.
There was plenty of full blooded commitment in the first half and a fascinating clash of styles and a battle of wills was taking place but at the interval two good defences ended the half on top.
Half Time: 0-0
The second half right from the outset looked to be a different type of contest with Cray moving the ball forward quicker but Haywards Heath were still providing a tough barrier to break down. The first real shooting opportunity of the second half came to Cray but Tom Phipp’s shot was deflected through to Heyburn.
The Wands were unlucky when Williams made a run down the left, cut inside past Nathan Cooper and curled a shot fractionally over the top of the crossbar from just outside the area.
Then Federico down the right laid the ball across to Dadson whose shot was blocked by Karl Akehurst, then Williams won the ball and found Phipp whose effort was blocked by Cooper.
Cray were very much dominating the game and possession at this time and were handed a numerical advantage when Saunders was sent off on 66 minutes for a second bookable offence after a challenge down the left hand side on substitute Archie Johnson.
From the resulting free kick out on the left the ball was played into the area and cleared out to Jay Leader who shot over the top.
Despite going a man down Haywards Heath offered a bit more attack after the dismissal and the lively Alex Laing made a good run from midfield and his shot from 25 yards was fielded by Blue.
Then the home side perhaps came the closest yet to a breathrough when a good run by Kieran Rowe down the right led to a ball across towards Andrew Dalhouse but Mitchell Nelson did well to block and turn the ball behind for a corner.
The best chance of the match came with twelve minutes remaining when down the left Dadson cut to the byline and his ball across was hooked out by a defender to Karl Dent whose shot was blocked and came out to Federico who shot over from 8 yards.
Cray had a good shout for a penalty when Pritchard’s ball through was touched on by Dent to Mundele down the left of the area and looked to have been upended by Rowe but no foul was given.
This was followed by Dent finding Mundele down the right of the area and his shot effort from 14 yards was well held by Heyburn.
Haywards Heath almost grabbed a winner out of nowhere when Laing picked the ball up just shy of 30 yards out and hit what looked like a speculative shot which hit the top of the crossbar and over it seemed possibly by the fingertips of Blue but no corner was given.
With time running out and a draw looking likely Cray grabbed a winner when Nelson’s ball forward was cleared by the chest of Akehurst back to Nelson and both went for a fair challenge with Akehurst going down but quite rightly no foul was given and Phipp slipped a ball through to Mundele who broke into the area down the right and from the edge of the six yard box hit a sweet strike wide of Heyburn and into the bottom right corner of the net with a goal greeted by great euphoria from the Wands supporters who had the kept the faith well throughout the game.
With four minutes of stoppage time to play Cray were able with the man advantage to see out the remaining minutes and grind out a win which was deserved on the balance of the game but Haywards Heath had shown a lot of tenacity and resilience and will not be an easy team to break down.
Cray for their part had to show a lot of patience and although maybe not at their most free flowing showed their mettle to notch their sixth away win out of six in the league and maintain a seven point lead at the top on 31 points. The win also sets up brilliantly next Sunday’s top of the table clash with Hastings United at Hayes Lane as first meet second and two very good sides will go head to head full of confidence.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp, Sean Roberts (Karl Dent, 74), Bradley Pritchard, Freddie Parker (Archie Johnson, 59), Junior Dadson, Jerome Federico (Malik Solebo, 81): Subs: Zak Henry, Marcus Evans
Booked: Pritchard, Parker, Williams
Haywards Heath: Josh Heyburn, Kieran Rowe, Luke Robinson, Karl Akehurst, Nathan Cooper (Capt.), Josh Spinks. Callum Saunders, Byron Napper, Andrew Dalhouse (Ansu Janneh, 75), Kane Louis, Alex Laing: Subs: Max Miller, Vincent Folles, George Brown, Sean Roddy
Sent Off: Saunders 66 mins (2 cautions)
Referee: Alex Mathieson
Assistants: Gary Hodgkinson & Michael Taylor