Ryman League Division One North: 10/10/15
Heybridge Swifts 0
Cray Wanderers 1 Payne 86
Cray returned to winning ways as a Ben Payne goal four minutes from time was enough for the Wands to grind out victory at Heybridge Swifts. Following a mini blip of two defeats in a week, after a cagey first half Cray carved out the better opportunities in the second half to merit the win.
Since Tuesday nights defeat to AFC Hornchurch, Cray have added experience to their squad with the signing of central defender, Lewis Tozer from VCD Athletic and much travelled striker, Omone Sodje on a month’s loan from Billericay Town. They both started the game with Dean Carpenter and Malik Ouani dropping to the bench.
Heybridge who had won their last two games in League and cup were a very workmanlike side and the first half was something of a war of attrition as chances were few and far between.
Cray looked the more threatening early on with a Duckworth cross causing consternation in the Swifts defence with the keeper struggling but with Tozer and Lea Dawson looking to follow up the ball was cleared. Cray forced a couple of corners and another Duckworth ball in to the box was punched away well by keeper Sam Cowler. From another Duckworth corner defender Taylor Hastings diverted the cross wide for another corner kick.
The pairing of Ben Payne and Tozer were looking very confident as a unit and defensively sound and with the home side playing the ball long, managed to soak up what was thrown at them for the first twenty five minutes. The only concern was that despite Cray having the bulk of possession and play they were finding it hard to create chances themselves.
Heybridge then started to make one or two opportunities and Cray had a let off when Aldaberto Pinto was played through but the excellent Nick Blue raced off his line to narrow the angle and got a block to the ball and the follow up came to Joshua Fagbohun who shot over the top.
A couple of minutes later, Pinto set up Billy Hunt for a strike from 20 yards which was well held by Blue. Just after the half hour, Blue had to be alert again to make a smart save from Hunt’s low drive.
As the half wore on both defences were on top although there was almost a moment of high controversy five minutes before the break when the ball was kicked out of play following a knock for Payne and a spot of treatment. Connor Peters threw the ball back into play and Fagbohun instead of returning the ball to Cray proceeded to charge into the area looking to score and it was only the quick thinking of Blue that prevented Swifts from taking the lead.
The first half seemed to be slowly winding down when in the last minute, Cray were awarded a free kick following a foul on Dawson on the right edge of the penalty area. Basey’s kick was blocked but the ball eventually came out to Duckworth whose shot from just outside the penalty area got the faintest of touches from Cowler for a corner.
Half Time: 0-0
The second half was a much better game with both teams looking to go for the win and a fascinating contrast of styles.
Cray managed to get a bit more width in their play in the early stages and Duckworth’s left wing cross looped into the box but went behind via the top of the crossbar. Basey was also joining the attack much more and put in one or two crosses that were cleared by the Swifts centre-halves.
Heybridge were looking to go forward themselves and once again Hunt ran on and found space to get a shot in from outside the area which Blue dealt with comfortably. Cray’s came close in the 55th minute good approach play between Duckworth and Dawson set up Sodje for a shot that was blocked as was the follow up from Aryan Tajbakhsh and the ball then fell to Michael Frieter who from the right edge of the penalty area fired over the top.
Cray were forcing more corners and from a Basey cross from the right, the ball was met by the head of Tozer and his header was deflected for another corner. More good set up play between Sean Roberts and Duckworth saw the ball played to Basey who’s left wing cross was excellent but just eluded the onrushing Tajbakhsh.
Cray then had the best chance of the game when Blue played an accurate kick down to Tajbakhsh who laid the ball through to Sodje down the left who ran on into the area but pulled his shot across goal and past the right hand post.
Shortly after Tajbakhsh set up Frieter who fired a shot wide of the left post from the edge of the penalty area. For the home side, Fagbohun picked up a loose ball and played in Hunt for a shooting chance but lashed the ball high and wide. Then with their last real opportunity of the game, Aaron Gayle hit a shot which Blue got down to save.
Despite plenty of endeavour from Cray it looked as if the game was heading for a draw when with less than five minutes to go, Duckworth saw a shot deflected for a corner off Hastings from which Cray forced another two corners. From Duckworth’s cross into a crowded box the ball fell to Payne who turned the ball into the net off his chest to give Cray the lead, for his second goal of the season. Certainly Cray have scored quite a few goals this season in the later stages of games (Tilbury, Aveley (twice), Soham, Great Wakering and Thamesmead) showing a positive side to their character to keep on going when perhaps not getting the breaks.
After this Cray quite cleverly managed to play out the game and should really have added a second when Ray Powell was rather harshly adjudged to have fouled Cowler from Duckworth’s floated free kick which ended up in the back of the net
By the end of the game Cray looked the stronger side and certainly the three points were well earned. There were very good performances from Tozer and Sodje on their debuts and these sort of wins are what make up championship and promotion winning sides, having to dig deep and work hard to earn the victory.
From here, Cray now move on to Monday night and a trip to local rivals Thamesmead Town in another crunch game at the top of the table.
Cray: Nick Blue, Ade Osifiuwa, Grant Basey, Lewis Tozer, Ben Payne, Lea Dawson (Capt.),
Sean Roberts, Aryan Tajbakhsh (Malik Ouani, 71), Omone Sodje (Ray Powell, 89),
James Duckworth, Michael Frieter (Dean Carpenter, 88): Subs: Dane Moore, Jack Lodge
Booked: Osifuwa, Dawson
Heybridge: Sam Cowler, Taylor Hastings, Connor Peters, Aaron Gayle (Paul Grimsey, 88), Luis Morrison (Capt.), Liam Thomas, Troy Williams, Aldaberto Pinto, Joshua Fagbohun, Billy Hunt, Raphael Duyile: Subs: Alex Andrews, Jack Barham, Jack Hayes
Referee: Michael Robinson-Tant
Assistant Referees: James Beal, Dean Welham