Cray Wanderers return to league action on Saturday following the drama and excitement of the FA Trophy matches with Grays Athletic with the first of a double header of away games as the Wands travel to South Park. Kick off at King Georges Field is 3pm and plenty of fireworks are expected on the 4th November.
Cray travel down to Surrey in good heart and full of confidence and are unbeaten in 11 matches in league and cups. Away form has been particularly good but it would be foolish to disregard South Park who are one of best and canniest teams in the Bostik South and will be tough opponents.
The win at Grays Athletic on Wednesday night was possibly Cray’s best performance of the season and ticked every box in the ‘professional win away from home’ criteria. They got off to a quick start, scored an early goal, soaked up the pressure, broke away well to score a second half way through the half and had a goalkeeper in top form to keep a clean sheet.
All the players deserve credit for the performance on Wednesday but it is only right to point out the performance of Jay Leader which was pretty much near to perfect from a centre half as you could get. Strong in the tackle, won all the headers, came forward well and was a calming influence as Grays threatened to come back into the game. Mitchell Nelson alongside him was a rock too and this has been the trend to virtually all the away matches so far which has seen Cray concede two goals in nine games and one of those was an iffy penalty and the other slightly offside at Lewes whilst down to ten men. Ben Mundele and Barney Williams were extremely disciplined and got forward well and Nick Blue who hasn’t always had a lot to do in away games made a tremendous save at 2-0 with twenty minutes to go which snapped any hopes the home side had of a comeback.
The midfield played well to and Lea Dawson, Zak Henry and Michael Frieter had exceptional games and won that area of the match against what was a powerful Gray’s midfield.
The pace of Ralique Lawrence was a factor in the first game and showed plenty of big match experience out on the left on Wednesday and Jerome Federico on the right made telling contributions throughout the game. Michael Power also continued his rich vein of form since September scoring definitely his 13th goal of the season and maybe has a claim for the opener too. The team spirit and resilience in the team is infectious and this has rubbed off on the supporters who have turned up in good numbers for away matches.
Before the trip to Moneyfields on 11th November, Cray will look to keep in the playoff places and lie fifth in what is a very competitive Bostik South. The extra automatic promotion place is going to make things very interesting up to the end of the season and is going to make every point earned that bit more important.
South Park were one of many clubs talked about as contenders for promotion and Malcom Porter’s side got off to a flying start to the season and lost just one of their opening eight league matches. Since then they have won just one of their last six but they are a side that score a lot of goals with 29 in their 13 games. They also come into the game with a win under their belts after beating Ashford Town (Middlesex) on penalties in the Surrey Senior Cup on Tuesday night
Their home form has seen the Sparks beat Ashford United 5-0 and East Grinstead Town 3-1, picked up draws with Phoenix Sports and Hythe Town and lost just once to Chipstead in October. Away from home they picked up three points at Shoreham, Ramsgate, Guernsey and Ashford United and drawn at Horsham whilst they were beaten at Whyteleafe, Corinthian Casuals and Greenwich Borough. In the FA Cup they were beaten in the Preliminary Round at Haywards Heath Town whilst in the FA Trophy they lost at home to Brentwood Town following a replay. In the Isthmian League Cup they defeated Molesey before losing at home to Chipstead in the 2nd round.
Last season was a good one for South Park as they finished in a hugely creditable 8th place and enjoyed a tremendous run in the FA Trophy which took them to the 2nd Round Proper for the first time beating Guernsey, Faversham Town, Hastings United, Oxford City and North Leigh taking South Park to the 2nd Round where they drew a plum tie at former League Cup Finalists Tranmere Rovers and were not disgraced in a 1-4 defeat.
We met in league competition for the first time last season and both sides won away from home. Cray were particularly impressive winning 4-1 on February 8th with Luke Medley scoring a hat-trick and a penalty from Sol Taiwo giving Cray a big three points. The two sides met again in March at Hayes Lane when Cray were in the middle of a bad run and South Park won quite comfortably 3-0.
South Park have made solid progress climbing the non-league pyramid in recent years. They were founded in 1897 but spent many years in Surrey district leagues, merging with Reigate Town FC in 2001. Their climb up the leagues started in earnest in 2006 with promotion from the Crawley and District League to the Combined Counties Division One where they entered the FA Vase for the first time. In 2010 they made their first foray into the FA Cup and after beating Greenwich Borough and Horsham YMCA they drew Cray Wanderers in the only previous competitive encounter at Hayes Lane. The Ryman Premier Wands in their 150th Centenary season struggled to break down their Step 6 opponents but a last minute Lol Hamici goal gave ten man Cray a 1-0 win. That season (2010-11) they gained promotion to the Combined Counties Premier. They reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup in 2012-13 and the following season, they won the Combined Counties league to gain promotion to the Ryman League for the first time. They have improved their league position each year by three places finishing 14th, 11th and 8th since promotion.
This promises to be one of the key games of the day in the Bostik South and one that Cray will need to be at their very best to head back home with three points.
DIRECTIONS TO SOUTH PARK FC
South Park FC
King Georges Field
Admission prices £9 for adults, £5 for concessions (senior citizens, students and Under18s), and accompanied under 12s are admitted free
The ground is hard to reach once you have left the M25, junction 8 and follow the A217 Reigate Hill down into the Town Centre. Continue to follow signs for the A217 as you go around the one-way system. The road will pair off to the left and follow that the turning left into Bell Street. After about a mile take a right into Park Lane East then the 6th road on your left into Whitehall Lane and the ground will be on your right. Parking is available free of charge either on the cricket pitch or in the tarmac car park.
The nearest railway station is Reigate but it is a good 2 mile walk so a taxi may be the best option. From London Bridge there are no direct trains to Reigate on a Saturday, you will have to change at Redhill or East Croydon and go to Platform 1B for the five minute train journey to Reigate or Platform 5 from East Croydon. Trains leave London Bridge at 27, 53 and 57 past the hour. Trains back are at 14, 19 and 34 past the hour again changing at Redhill.
If you wish to catch a bus there is the 435 which goes from Reigate, Bancroft Road (Bus Stop I, about a ten minute walk from the station) which stops on Eastnor Road which is about a three minute walk to South Park FC and on a Saturday leave at 14 and 44 past the hour.
As it is a good 2 mile walk a taxi may be the best option. If you wish to catch a cab there is no taxi rank at the station. The following no’s are suggested by National Rail for a pre-booking. Belfry Cars (01737 766111), Reigate Taxis (01737 390 004) or Roadrunners (01737 760076).
If you are going to walk then head down London Road into the centre of Reigate, then walk through the Castle Grounds and down the A217 straight ahead opposite the Market Stores pub. Carry on for a mile before you take a right into Park Lane East. Then sixth left into Sandcross Lane and then take the right-hand fork for Whitehall Lane and the ground.
THE CRAY MASSIVE ON TOUR – GOING DOWN TO SOUTH PARK
For a pre-match drink there are plenty of pubs in Reigate, Skimmington Castle (on Binny’s Road), The Yew Tree (Regiate Hill), Three Horseshoes Inn (which is in Sidlow just outside of Reigate, has rooms if late getting home) all come highly recommended. The nearest pub to the ground is the Barley Mow in Eastnor Road, a few minute walk from the ground. There is the Prince of Wales pub (Shepherd Neame) close to the railway station.
Otherwise in Redhill there is a Harvester and Beefeater restaurant for a bite to eat. For Fish and chip lovers the Holmesdale Fish Bar in London Road, Reigate could be worth a stop off. For Indian food, the Spice Guru, Church Street, Reigate could well be what you are looking for. If you like Chinese food you could try the China House on Holmesdale Road. You should find plenty of places to eat in Reigate or even Redhill which is much further out but you would need time on your hands.
Regiate is a market and commuter town in the East of Surrey. The town is part of a borough that included Banstead and is at the foot of the North Downs so is quite hilly. The town houses a medieval castle and the grounds are public gardens.
The South Park area of Reigate is one two neighbourhoods along with Woodhatch and consists mainly of the Priory Park and is quite a green area.