Another cup adventure begins for Cray Wanderers on Saturday as the FA Trophy sees the Isthmian Premier sides enter the competition at the 1st Qualifying Round stage.  Cray have a more than tricky hurdle to get past as the Wands travel to Maldon & Tiptree for a 3 pm ko at the Maldon Stadium.  Should the game end in a draw the replay would take place on Wednesday 30th October.

Cray come into the game in good heart having played three away games in a week and remain unbeaten on their league travels after wins at Merstham and Lewes and a hard earned and well merited point at Horsham on Tuesday night.

In all three matches, Cray came from behind showing their resilience and stickability and on Tuesday were behind at Horsham for only two minutes after Lea Dawson’s header put the Hornets in front, Jay Leader swiftly headed home his second of the season to put Cray back on terms.  The Wands dug in and defended well in the second half and could have won it at the end with both Joe Taylor and Bradley Pritchard inches away from putting Cray in front.  At the finish a point was well deserved and could at the end of the season when the points are all stacked up and analysed this would be one looked back on as a big point.

After the first couple of months of the season being predominantly home matches the last couple of weeks has taken a shift to away games and this continues with a tough trip to Maldon & Tiptree who won their first 16 games of the season in five different competitions before their run ended on Tuesday night with a penalty kicks defeat to AFC Sudbury in the Velocity Trophy.  Wayne Brown’s side have maximum points in the Isthmian North with 18 points from six games played and lie 2nd behind leaders Bury Town with three games in hand.

The Jammers have broken new ground by reaching the 1st Round of the FA Cup and were handed a good draw against Football League opposition and not too far to travel away to Leyton Orient.  To get to that stage they won at Saffron Walden Town (2-1) and Histon (3-0) and won home games against Wingate & Finchley  (4-2) and Chertsey Town (6-1) which set up a 4th qualifying round win at Royston (3-1) last Saturday.  Their FA Trophy campaign has already begun and have done so in high scoring fashion in two wins against Felixstowe and Walton United (5-0) and Cray Valley PM (5-2) to set up a clash with the Wands. This means they have beaten both FA Vase finalists from last season this season.  Goal scoring hasn’t been a problem with Charlee Hughes leading the way with 16 in all competitions with Jerome Slew not far behind with 14 and Daniel Parish with 12.

In the Isthmian North home form has seen wins against Soham Town Rangers (3-1), Witham Town (5-1), Basildon United (3-0) and Canvey Island (5-0). Away from home they won at Brentwood Town (2-1) and Aveley (2-0). In the Velocity trophy they beat Coggleshall Town and Felixstowe & Walton United before losing to AFC Sudbury and in the Essex Senior Cup beat Wivenhoe 7-1. However, they haven’t played Cray Wanderers yet and will surely be their toughest challenge so far.  Last season they finished third in the Isthmian North and reached the playoff final losing to Heybridge Swifts on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Matches between the two sides have been few and far between with just four league matches played in the Isthmian North in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season. Maldon & Tiptree have won 2, and one draw but Cray won the last time the two teams played at Maldon in December 2015 on a very windy afternoon 2-1 with goals from Nathan Fox and James Duckworth.  Cray did play at Tiptree United in the FA Vase in November 1976 winning 2-1 with goals from John Scott and Pat Carey. Tiptree United who reached the FA Vase Final in 2001-02 joined forces with Maldon Town in 2009 to become Maldon & Tiptree United.

Cray Wanderers take on Maldon & Tiptree on the last day of the 2015-16 season

Maldon Town were formed in 1946 playing in local Essex Leagues until gaining promotion in the late 60’s to the Eastern Counties League and then the Essex Senior League in 1972.  They won the Essex Senior League in 1984-85 before rejoining the Eastern Counties in 1996.  As an Eastern Counties side they reached the FA Vase Semi Final in 2002-03 losing to Sudbury and the following season won promotion to the Eastern Division of the Southern League earning promotion via the playoffs to the Isthmian Premier where they stayed for one season before relegation.

In September 2009 the club were taken over by Tiptree United chairman Ed Garty and the two clubs who shared a ground joined together and were rebranded as Maldon & Tiptree United.  Since then they have come close to promotion three times.  In 2012-13 they finished second in the table behind champions Grays Athletic but after beating Aveley in the Semi-Finals were beaten at home in the final by underdogs Thamesmead Town on penalties after a 2-2 draw.  In 2016-17 they again finished 2nd behind Brightlingsea Regent and after beating Haringey Borough lost 0-1 at home to Thurrock in the Playoff Final.  Then of course last season and their defeat to neighbours Heybridge Swifts on penalties.

As matches in the competition go this is probably the match of the round and Cray Wanderers are ready for a tough game but one they will definitely relish.



Maldon Stadium, Park Drive, Maldon, Essex  CM9 5JQ

Adults = £10
Concessions = £5
U16’s = £2

From either direction off the A12, exit junction 18 signposted A414 to Maldon. Take the 3rd exit off roundabout onto Maldon Road / A414 and follow through the pretty village of Danbury. Eventually you will reach a main roundabout, take 1st exit, still signposted Maldon and A414. At the next roundabout, where Morrisons is located take the third exit into Limebrook Way. Follow this over 1st round about and then at the next one take 2nd exit into Park Drive. The ground is then on your left hand side. There is ample free parking at the ground, or next door in the leisure centre car park.

The nearest train station is at Hatfield Peverel, which is around 5 miles away and would require a cab to reach Maldon. Alternatively you’ll might find it easier to go to Witham (6 miles away) and take a taxi, or go to Chelmsford (11 miles away) and catch the 31 or 31X bus. Buses leave Chelmsford Bus Station at 05 and 35 minutes past the hour and takes approx 35-40 minutes.

Nearest pub: Probably best as the ground is rather in the middle of nowhere to stick if you’ve plenty of time to quite a few decent pubs in Maldon. There’s the Queens Head and the Jolly Sailor by the Quayside and on Spital Road is the Queen Victoria.  Close to the Jolly Sailor is the Fish Inn chippie.  In the High Street you will find the Intimo Fresco, The Warwick Arms and the Farmers Yard. The Borough Arms Motel on Wantz Road is probably the nearest and gets the best reviews but still a bit of a trek to the ground so maybe best to enjoy the food and drink at the ground.

Maldon is located on the Blackwater Estuary and the starting point of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation and is popular with sailing enthusiasts. It is also home of the Maldon Mud Race where competitors run the estuary at low tide, along the bank and back through the water for charity.  Like much of Essex and East Anglia, Maldon has evidence of an early Saxon residence and port and fended off an attack from Vikings in 924 but eventually fell in another raid in 991 and is regarded as the Battle of Maldon.  This battle is commemorated with a window in St. Mary’s Church and a statue of the killed Saxon warrior Byrthnoth.  The great-grandfather of George Washington is buried in Maldon.   Maldon was also the location of the first self-service Tesco store opened in 1956.  Essex and England cricketer Alistair Cook started his career at Maldon CC.