Cray Wanderers got their pre-season campaign underway with a hard fought 1-0 victory at Sheppey United on Tuesday evening. A goal seven minutes before half time scored by a trialist centre-forward capped what was a good spell for the Wands and proved to be the only goal of the contest.
On a fine playing surface, the first pre-season fixture as expected saw a mixture of first team, U23s, U18s and trialist players and the second half saw a number of changes. Sheppey United had begun their pre-season games on Saturday with a 4-1 win against Bromley U23s and looked the sharper out of the blocks in the early stages and saw a couple of efforts go just wide of goal.
The best early chance came for Sheppey when the no 12 down the left worked his way into the area and took the ball round the Cray trialist goalkeeper and his goal bound effort was cleared away almost off the line by Mitchell Nelson. From the resulting corner the no 5 glanced a header off target.
Cray gradually got their game together in a first half that seemed to fly by and played at a brisk pace. Perhaps the highlight of the game came when Cray won a corner down the right and Freddie Parker’s ball towards the back of the area was met by the head of Nelson and looked to be goalbound into the top right corner but the Sheppey keeper did superbly to flick the ball over the bar. From the corner, the ball was worked down the right to Parker and his cross was met by a bullet header by Jay Leader and flashed just over the bar.
Sheppey continued to press and the no 9 saw a shot blocked and the no 12 who had a lively half saw a shot deflected behind by Tom Carlse.
Before the break Cray began to get on top and Leader saw a shot go just wide of the left post and a layoff from Joe Taylor saw Parker hit a half-hit effort which was just off target.
What proved to be the only goal of the game came on 38 minutes and the ball was played through to Aaron Rhule who beat the offside trap to advance on goal. As the keeper came out Rhule unselfishly laid the ball across to the right to the trialist striker who from 12 yards calmly slotted the ball into the net.
Half Time: 0-1
The second half saw as expected some changes and a few quality young players entered the game. Sheppey also made a number of changes including the introduction of former Cray Wanderers player Michael Phillips but not surprisingly the game lacked the flow of the opening half.
Sheppey began brightly and the no 16 got into the area and his effort was deflected behind by a Wands player for a corner.
Cray looked secure at the back and there were not too many alarms after that and at the other end, Parker worked an opening but shot wide of the left post and then Charles Etumnu from distance tested the keeper with a fizzing drive.
This was followed by a trialist wearing the no 7 shirt cutting in from the right and pulled a shot across goal and wide of the left post. There was an impressive showing from 16 year old Emauel Oduguwa who won a couple of fine tackles in midfield and looked composed.
Perhaps the best chance of the half came with a fine cross from Frankie Morgan out on the left which found Parker but his header just went over the crossbar. Then from a free kick on the right, Morgan’s accurate ball into the box just couldn’t find a Cray player to apply a finishing touch.
Towards the end Sheppey came into it and the no 14 flicked a shot from the edge of the area just off target and then the no 19 tested the Cray keeper with a shot from 20 yards but in terms of goal mouth action that was the last of the evening.
Perhaps not a match that would live in the memory but a decent work out against a good side who will surely be in the upper reaches of SCEFL Premier this season.
From here Cray Wanderers step it up a notch against Step 2 opposition on Saturday as Tonbridge Angels visit Hayes Lane. Please note the 1pm kick off time.
Team: 1st half: Trialist, Trialist 2, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Tom Carlse, Trialist 3, Trialist 4, Aaron Rhule, Freddie Parker, Joe Taylor, Trialist 5 (goal scorer)
2nd Half: Trialist (as first half), Barney Williams, Edward Jones, Mitchell Nelson, Frankie Morgan, Charles Etumnu, Freddie Parker, Emauel Oduguwa, Neil Spencer, Aaron Rhule, Trialist 6