Herne Bay 1 Cray Wanderers 1 (Balarabe 15)
Cray Wanderers pre-season continued on Saturday as the Wands travelled to the North East Kent Coast to face an unbeaten Herne Bay side in pre-season and it was honours even at the end of the game as a late equaliser for Herne Bay prevented a Wands win.
On an afternoon which began in decent sunshine, then overcast and for the second half in particular a heavy downpour of rain with the occasional clap of thunder the match was a pretty brisk, fast flowing affair and at the end a draw was the right outcome.
The match was a special event for former Herne Bay player and coach, Martin Collins who passed away in June and there was a fair sized crowd for the match with ex-Bay forward Danny Kedwell playing the full match for Cray Wanderers as centre-half. Former Cray midfielder and member of the 2018-19 Isthmian South-East championship side, Tom Phipp played for his new club Herne Bay. Danny was partnered in defence by a young trialist who had a very good game throughout.
The game started very even with not too many early chances although a right wing Charlie Allen cross was glanced towards goal by Sadik Balarabe but was comfortably claimed by keeper Jordan Perrin.
On 15 minutes, Cray went ahead with a goal that owed much to the pace of Jamie Yila who picked up the ball down the left, sped towards the area and put over a cross to the near post which was flicked across by Allen and off a Herne Bay defender to the far post where Balarabe stooped to head into the net for his 5th goal of pre-season.
Herne Bay looked to respond and the no 6 hit a sweet volley which just cleared the crossbar and then the no 10 who was lively down the left saw a shot pushed out by the superb Jack Turner. Then the no 5 fired wide and the no 11 saw a shot blocked.
The closest though that Herne Bay came to scoring came when the no 10 found space and from 20 yards hit a fizzing shot which Turner pushed behind one handed for a corner.
Before the break though Cray began to threaten and following hesitation from Perrin who came to meet a ball down the right, Anis Nuur looked to have left him stranded from goal but his curling shot went wide of the left post.
Then Balarabe cut in from the right and hit a shot which went just over the crossbar and then after a Joey Taylor cross from the left was put behind for a corner, Andy Drury’s cross to the far post was glanced over by Allen.
Half Time: 0-1
The heavens opened at the start of the second half and it was Herne Bay who generally held sway for the half in terms of chances.
The no 20 who came on at half time immediately threatened and set up the no 9 for a shot which Turner may have seen late and did well to get down to push the ball away.
Cray did look to threaten themselves and after good link up play, Cameron Brodie hit a shot from 18 yards which was well claimed by the Herne Bay keeper.
For Herne Bay, the no 10 down the left whipped over a cross which no-one could get on the end of and then the no 9 was clipped outside the area by Brodie and from the free kick, the no 10 curled over.
The home side came closest yet when a ball in from the right found the no 9 in the box but his header from 8 yards was met by a terrific reflex save from Turner who managed to push the ball over to deny Herne Bay once again.
The game got a bit scrappier as the game went into the final stages but there was a great slice of nostalgia for Wands fans as Jon Main came on for the last ten minutes for his first appearance since 2006.
Towards the end , Harvey Brand who had a fine game for Cray down the right sent over an inviting cross into the area and Abdul Saccoh looking to convert the cross just couldn’t get a firm connection and the ball went wide.
A minute later in the 87th minute, Herne Bay drew level when the no 12 found space and made a run forward and his shot from outside the area was well struck and might have got a slick nick off a defender and gave Turner no chance to save on this occasion.
In the end the game finished in a draw and Herne Bay had certainly deserved something for their endeavours in the second half. For Cray, there were some good performances especially Jack Turner, Harvey Brand, the young trialist at centre-half, Cameron Brodie in midfield and Sadik Balarabe looked sharp up front in the first half. Overall, hopefully the winner of the day were the family and friends of Martin Collins and the popular local player and entertainer was given a fitting tribute game.
The Wands have two more friendly games left starting with a home game with Welling United on Tuesday, 3rd August and wrap things up with a trip to Ashford United on Sunday 8th August with the Isthmian Premier starting on Saturday 14th August.
Cray team: Jack Turner, Harvey Brand, Danny Kedwell, Trialist, Joey Taylor, Andy Drury,
Cameron Brodie, Charlie Allen, Jamie Yila, Sadik Balarabe, Anis Nuur:
Second half subs: Fjord Rogers, Abdul Saccoh, Martin Onobagbe, Lee Lewis, Jon Main