Bostik League South-East – Saturday 2nd March, 2019
Phoenix Sports 0
Cray Wanderers 1
Cray Wanderers remain 13 points clear at the top the Bostik South-East after their 11th away win of the season as Karl Dent’s first half strike was enough to see Cray win at Phoenix Sports for the first time. Cray had plenty of the ball first half and a handful of chances and deserved to go in front with Dent’s first goal of the season just after the half hour.
The second half was a scrappier affair but Dent was twice denied another goal by good saves from Steve Phillips while at the other end, Jeff Duah-Kessie turned the ball wide after a fine goal-saving tackle from Mitchell Nelson. Cray though were able to hold on to pick up another big three points with nine more games to go and a big match against 2nd placed Horsham at Hayes Lane next Saturday.
Cray Wanderers had been without a game last Saturday and from the side which drew with Ramsgate on 16th February, there were two changes to the starting lineup with Karl Dent coming in for Sean Roberts and Jerome Federico for Freddie Parker.
Phoenix Sports had done Cray a big favour last weekend by winning 2-0 at Ashford United and they made one change to their team with ex-Cray midfielder Sol Taiwo replaced by Jack Barry.
Phoenix are a difficult side to play against and a tough afternoon was expected but the home side were unusually subdued first half and Cray were able to dominate possession and as the half wore on chances were created.
The Wands started well and a Junior Dadson ball across from the left was put behind for a corner at the near post by another ex-Cray player, Danny Young who had a great game at the back and but for him, Cray could have won by a bigger margin but for his blocks. Then, Ben Mundele made a good run forward into midfield and he set up Archie Johnson who shot over the top from the edge of the area.
Phoenix had to make an early change when full back Tony Robinson was replaced by Lee Bird and Cray then continued to probe for an opening. Firstly, Mundele, Bradley Pritchard and Karl Dent saw attempts charged down inside the area and then Joe Taylor from Dent’s pass tested Steve Phillips in the Phoenix goal with a low drive from 18 yards.
Then Dent who was having more influence as the half wore on down the right of the penalty area worked his way into the area and his effort was deflected into the side netting for a corner. Then Dadson down the left cut inside and his cross shot was pushed away well by Phillips.
On 25 minutes, Taylor did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the area and was unlucky to see his shot go just wide of the left post. Shortly after Taylor again held off three challenges inside the area, turned and his shot was gathered by Phillips.
A goal was coming and duly arrived on 32 minutes, worked down the left and Mitchell Nelson’s ball forward was helped on by Joe Taylor to the edge of the area and Dent took advantage of a loose ball and found space for himself and he hit a well struck shot and hit the bottom left corner for a goal he has deserved for his recent fine displays.
This seemed to rouse Phoenix who broke down the right and Bird put a ball across to the far post which no-one could get to and was half cleared out to Jeff Duah-Kessie whose shot from 12 yards was met by a fine blocked save by Nick Blue.
As the half wore on, Dent almost scored again when from Taylor’s layoff he dinked the ball just over the bar on to the roof of the net in the 39th minute.
In the final action of the half from a free kick out on the right, Dent’s ball into the area was headed wide of the right post by the diving Tom Phipp.
Half Time: 0-1
The second half was a little more scrappier in comparison to the first but again Cray just had the upper hand early on and could have scored a second to give a bit more comfort.
Firstly Pritchard down the left found Dent inside the area and his effort was deflected behind for a corner. Cray then had a decent shout for a penalty when Pritchard down the left looked to have been bundled over by Jack Hopkins but appeals were waived away.
Then Jerome Federico cut in from the right and from the edge of the area fired in a shot which Phillips got down to save.
The Phoenix keeper was certainly kept busy and did very well to come and make a smart save to deny Dent from Federico’s pass coming out to block from 12 yards.
Then Taylor was unlucky to see a shot go just over the top and after a Dent shot was deflected behind for a corner, from the corner kick to the far post Mitchell Nelson headed the ball across but Jay Leader couldn’t get a firm connection to the ball and went wide.
Phoenix then began to look more dangerous and a ball across from Kenny Aileru down the right went just across the area and couldn’t get a touch.
Then came a bit of a let off for Cray as a ball forward found Aileru and as Blue came out to meet him turned the ball towards goal and the ball went wide of the left post with Duah-Kessie unable to get a touch following great defending from Nelson which ended with both players needing treatment.
For Cray, Federico shot just over the bar before Nelson unfortunately had to go off five minutes later and was replaced by Sean Roberts, while Freddie Parker was introduced for Federico.
Cray continued to seek the second goal and Dent fired over the top and from a free kick to the left of the area, curled a shot over.
Then Roberts played a superb pass through to Parker down the left of the area who took the ball round Phillips but the angle was a little tight and put his shot past the left post. This was followed by Parker testing Phillips with a low shot from Johnson’s pass.
The game got a bit bogged down after one or two strong challenges from Phoenix led to yellow cards for Bird and George Whitelock and Cray looked to see out the remaining minutes although Dadson shot wide from Pritchard’s pass .
Phoenix almost grabbed a goal as the game entered stoppage time when Duah-Kessie down the right worked his way to the byline and his ball found Ansah whose shot was well saved by Blue at the near post. In the closing minutes Dent came close to a second when his run into the box ended with another good save from Phillips turning the ball behind.
The game then ended and Cray had picked up a big three points to start the month of March and the game was never going to be a classic but at this stage of the season it is all about picking up the points. Next Saturday sees 2nd placed Horsham visit Hayes Lane and the only side yet to beat Cray in the league this season with the Wands 13 points ahead of the Hornets having played a game fewer.
Phoenix maybe have a little bit to do to reach the playoffs now but they can look back on a good season and will make life difficult for teams for the rest of the season.
This was a very professional performance from Tony Russell’s side today and some good displays particularly from Dent who was superb once again as were Leader and Nelson at the back and Taylor worked very hard up front and was a bit unfortunate not to score. Blue also made a couple of important saves which instils confidence to the team and the Wands keep on winning.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Archie Johnson, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.) (Sean Roberts, 69), Bradley Pritchard, Tom Phipp, Karl Dent, Joe Taylor, Junior Dadson, Jerome Federico (Freddie Parker, 69): Subs: Daniel Uchechi, Joe Vines, Donnell Anderson
Phoenix: Steve Phillips (Capt.), Tony Robinson (Lee Bird, 7), Ashley Probets, Jack Hopkins, Danny Young, Lewis Clark (Alex Teniola, 84), Zak Bryon, Jack Barry, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Kweku Ansah, Kenny Aileru (George Whitelock, 69)
Booked: Bird, Whitelock, Bryon
Referee: Alex Bradley
Assistants: Jack Hobbs, Tom Price