So after what has been a pretty packed month of pre-season activity the final friendly game takes place tomorrow as Cray Wanderers travel to Surrey to face Bostik Premier opposition for the second time in two days in Merstham. Kick off at Moatside is 3pm.
Thursday night saw Cray take on Dorking Wanderers in a very close and keenly fought encounter and Cray were rather unfortunate to lose 2-1 after taking an early lead. The first game on the new 3G surface showed a glimpse of the future and once Cray settle over the next few weeks should feel at home on the synthetic pitch.
Despite the defeat there were positives to take from the match especially the way they took the game to Dorking and for the first 20 minutes were in electric form especially Brandon Scott who had a good runout for an hour. Karl Dent scored the first goal on the new surface and but for some fine goalkeeping could have extended their lead especially the save second half from Michael Frieter’s 35 yard effort. Dorking are a very good side who could take the Bostik Premier by storm and Cray restricted them to few chances and both goals came from set pieces. Tony Russell was satisfied with how Cray played and was really the sort of test they were looking for as pre-season nears its end.
Merstham start life in the Bostik Premier for the third successive season and Hayden Bird’s side will provide similarly tough opposition especially at home. After finishing 10th in 2015-16 they came 20th last season but made national headlines when victory against Ebbsfleet earned them a run to the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup for the first time where they hosted League One Oxford United at Moatside where they bowed out of the competition but the run and TV coverage proved very profitable with a record attendance of 1,920.
The Moatsiders were formed in 1892 add spent many years in the Redhil and District leagues before becoming members of the Surrey Senior League in 1964. They joined the London Spartan League in 1978 as Cray had gone to the newly formed Kent League so missed playing them by a season. Then they went to the Combined Counties League in 1984 and after one or two runners up places won the title in 2007-08 earning promotion to the Isthmian League South. There they met Cray in league competition in 2008-09 with Cray winning 3-0 at Hayes Lane in August 2008, Colin Luckett, Tommy Whitnell and Jamie Kempster scoring and drew 1-1 at Moatside in January 2009 with Kempster scoring for the Wands.
Since then with Cray moving up Merstham became well established in the South and in 2014-15 had a great season and finished fourth thereby reaching the playoffs. In a dramatic semi final defeated Faversham Town on penalties to reach the final against strong favourites Folkestone Invicta and won impressively 3-0 to reach the Premier for the first time.
They are a side which will provide stern opposition and a gauge to set for Cray’s eventual progress.
DIRECTIONS TO MERSTHAM FC
REDHILL RH1 3QB
The best and quickest way from the Bromley area is via the A23. Head to Pickhurst Lane/B251 then left onto Hayes Hill Road, then Tiepigs Lane and after 0.3 miles turn right onto Addington Road. After 0.3 miles at the roundabout go straight onto Addington Road/A2022 continuing on for 1.6 miles. At the next roundabout take the 2nd exit onto Kent Gate Way/A2022 then at the roundabout take the 1st left exit onto Selsdon Park Road/A2022 for 2.2 miles. At the roundabout take the 3rd exit onto Sanderstead Hill/B269 for 0.3 miles and then turn left onto Purley Downs Road. Go through one roundabout and then after 1.3 miles head for the A23. Turn left onto the Brighton Road/A235 and then after 0.6 miles on to Brighton Road/A23. Continue to follow the A23 for 4.2 miles taking a slight right at M23 for 0.5 miles and then continue on to London Road N/A23 for 1.2 miles. Turn left onto Station Road South and then a right onto School Hill. At roundabout with School Hill go straight over (NOT on A23) and then straight on at next roundabout into Bletchingley Road. Take a right at next roundabout into Worsted Green, then right into Weldon Way for ground. Parking is either in the Library, school or on the roads surrounding the ground.
If you are coming around the M25 clockwise then take junction 6 and follow signs for Godstone (2nd exit on roundabout). Follow the road until it joins the A25. Go around the “gyratory” and continue on A25 towards Redhill. After you pass through Bletchingly carry on for a mile then do a right into Little Common Road. Carry on down this road as it snakes through the countryside. Pass under the M23 and then after 3/4 of a mile you will see Weldon Way on your left. If you are coming anti-clockwise then exit the M25 at junction 8 and take the 3rd exit into Reigate Hill (A217). Take the first left into Gatton Bottom. After a couple of miles take a right into Rocky Lane. Follow this road until it reaches the A23, then a right into School Hill after 3/4 of a mile. Pass under the railway and then after 1/4 mile turn right into Weldon Way.
If going by train there are trains direct to Merstham from London Bridge Station at 27 and 57 past the hour taking around 35 minutes with returns at 11 and 41. On Saturday you can also travel directly from London Blackfriars. Normally there is a service from London Victoria direct but will run from Blackfriars instead. These run at 08 and 38 past the hour with returns at 21 and 51.
Upon alighting go over the footbridge, turn left past the front of the station and take the road to the left (Station Road South) past the car park. Proceed to the top of the road and turn left down School Hill. Take the fifth right onto Weldon Way with the ground on the right hand side.
CRAY MASSIVE ON TOUR – LAST PRE-SEASON GAME
Pubs in Merstham. To be fair, the clubhouse venue at the ground is first class and if you cannot find somewhere local then it is worth popping straight there. If you like to travel afield in Merstham High Street there is the Feathers Hotel and in Albury Road there is The Limes (RH1 3LL). In nearby Redhill you have the Jolly Brickmakers, Inn On the Pond and Home Cottage.
The nearest chippie to the ground is Leo’s Fish and Chips which is in Nutfield Road (RH1 3ER). Also on Nutfield Road is the Saffron Indian Takeaway and The Oriental restaurant for something more exotic whilst the Merstham Tandoori is on Portland Drive. For those that like something more traditional on a matchday there is the Quality Café on Station Road South whilst in the Hight Street there is the Hungers End restaurant. With Redhill being so close you may find with time you could find somwhere to eat or drink there.
Merstham is a village which lies in the borough of Reigate and Banstead and is linked to nearby town Redhill and is part of the picturesque North Downs Way. It has an art gallery in the old part of the village and there is the St. Katherine’s Church which dates back to the 13th century. The area was set aside for mining and is known for its quarries and some of the stone produced there was used to build Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle. Now like many places we have been to in Surrey the railway is a key part of the area with links to London and Sussex.
Merstham is actually a very good away day at a decent ground with good facilities. Possibly one of the grounds should we be promoted and they remain in the division could be one to ringfence as a must to go to.