St Albans City v Cray Wanderers

Buildbase FA Trophy 2nd Round – Tuesday 15th December, 2020 – Match Report

St Albans City 3

Wiltshire 49, Banton 61, Weiss 86

Cray Wanderers 0

Cray Wanderers FA Trophy hopes for the season came to an end as National South Leaders St Albans City proved just too strong on the night despite a gutsy effort from a Wands side reduced to ten men just before half time.

The first half remained scoreless with Lewis Carey in good form in the Cray goal and the home side hit the crossbar twice but Cray who saw Lee Lewis perhaps harshly dismissed a minute before the break bared their teeth from time to time and just before the break were unlucky when Joe Taylor’s hooked shot was well blocked by keeper Michael Johnson.

The second half was always going to be a tough with ten men but was even harder when four minutes after the break, Kyran Wiltshire curled the home side in front and then just after the hour the impressive Zane Banton made it 2-0. Cray hung in the game until the 86th minute when Mitchell Weiss turned home Devante Stanley’s cross to complete the scoring and set up the Saints for a home time with Sutton United on Saturday.

Cray were looking to build on the momentum of last Tuesday’s win at Uxbridge which was Cray’s first game back after lockdown whereas St Albans have been playing a pretty full schedule and went top of the National South on Saturday and are unbeaten in the league. From the side which started at Uxbridge there was one change to the starting lineup with Tom Phipp coming in for the injured Jay Leader.

The Wands began the game confidently, stroking the ball around and Tony Russell’s side showed their attacking intentions when Rhys Murrell-Williamson found Kyron Richards who sent over a cross to the far post towards Joe Taylor who saw his effort blocked behind for an early corner. Then a good passing move ended with Taylor and Freddie Parker combining to set up Jason Banton whose shot was fielded by keeper Michael Johnson. This was followed by Banton shooting narrowly wide of goal.

St Albans though after a quiet opening began to threaten after the first ten minutes and a free kick out on the right from Luke Warner-Eley was headed over by Mitchell Weiss. Then down the left, Zane Banton played the ball into Shaun Jeffers in the area and laid the ball to Weiss who was denied by a smart block from Lewis Carey, one of several fine stops in the game.

Cray perhaps had their first real warning of what St Albans could do when Weiss found Zane Banton whose shot from just inside the area crashed back off the crossbar and put behind by Mitchell Nelson for a corner.

Cray continued to look good going forward and in quick succession, Murrell-Williamson and Taylor saw efforts blocked leading to a corner.The game then went through a quiet and even spell before Munashe Sundire cut inside from the right and fired a shot over the bar. Then Cray were indebted again to Carey who made a smart stop to from Warner-Ely’s long range effort and then did well to push out a Weiss shot.

Then Carey made perhaps his best save of the night when Banton’s volleyed cross was met by Jeffers’ flicked header and tipped brilliantly over the bar.

Cray had to make two substitutions in the first half which possibly may have affected Cray’s flow with Lee Lewis coming on for Charlie Allen and then Barney Williams replaced Tom Carlse. St Albans continued to threaten and Sundire shot over the bar, and Kyran Wiltshire’s left wing cross aimed toward the far post just couldn ‘t get a touch from James Kaloczi and then Banton shot over.

The key moment of the half came in the 44th minute when Kaloczi played a fine ball through to Weiss who just outside the area was adjudged to have been clipped by Lee Lewis who was shown a straight red card when there didn’t seem to be a lot of contact to leave Cray with ten men.From the resultant free kick, Banton’s fierce shot cannoned back off the bar and Sundire’s follow up shot was held by Carey.

Then Cray against the run of play bounced back off the ropes and out of nothing Taylor just outside the area down the left hooked a shot goalwards but was denied by a good save from the chest of Johnson which was the last chance of a lively if scoreless half.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Cray with a man less to keep going for another 45 minutes and St Albans carried on where they left off at half time and came close two minutes after the break when Banton down the left of the area saw his shot deflected past the right post by the fingers of Carey.

However, in the 49th minute the deadlock was broken when Kaloczi played a fine ball out to the right to Wiltshire who cut inside and from just outside the area fired low past Carey into the bottom left.

St Albans had their tails up then and then Jeffers was put through on goal but his effort was blocked by Nelson and then Devante Stanley’s cross from the right to the far post saw Weiss not get much purpose to his flicked shot and claimed by Carey.

Another goal was looking likely and came in the 61st minute when slick passing down the left saw Warner-Eley set up Banton for a smart strike into the bottom right for a goal his performance deserved.

Cray now had to work very hard and continued to graft exceptionally but the home side continued to come close and from a free kick out on the right, Warner-Eley’s swung the ball towards the far post and Carey did well to push the ball over.Warner-Eley then saw a rasping shot from distance held by Carey and then down the left, Banton’s cross into the box was somehow spooned over the bar from close range by Sundire.

As the game entered the latter stages, Parker fired wide of goal for Cray from a free kick and then neat play down the left between Murrell-Williamson and Taylor set up Jerome Federico and his effort was well blocked by Michael Clark.

The game was finally up for Cray in the 86th minute with a third goal for the hosts and possibly the best of the night as the excellent Solomon Nwabuokei sent a tremendous pass out to Stanley down the right and his whipped in cross to the far post was turned in by Weiss.

Towards the end a ball across from Weiss towards Jeffers was flicked wide from close range but by this stage the game was pretty much won.

Cray though kept going and certainly nothing to be ashamed of in the performance against a side that will surely be there or thereabouts at the top of the National South this season and on this occasion just had too much especially in the second half where, St Albans looked that bit sharper with continuous games whereas Cray’s season and flow has been staccato through no fault of their own.

What happens now in regards of the next match remains to be seen with the Tier 3 restrictions coming in we await a re-start date from the Isthmian League but when it does resume, Cray still have much to look forward to but is just a question of when.

St Albans: Michael Johnson, Devante Stanley, Luke Warner-Eley, James Kaloczi (Capt.), Joy Mukela (Michael Clark, 81), Kyran Wiltshire (David Noble, 70), Solomon Nwabuokei, Munashe Sundire (Michael Dara, 87), Zane Banton, Mitchell Weiss, Shaun Jeffers: Subs: Alex Lankshear, Chidubem Onakwei, Dave Diedhiou, Richard Matrevics

Booked: Warner-Ely

Cray Wanderers: Lewis Carey, Kyron Richards, Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp, Tom Carlse (Barney Williams, 39), Rhys Murrell-Williamson, Charlie Allen (Lee Lewis, 33), Bradley Pritchard, Jason Banton (Jerome Federico, 64), Freddie Parker, Joe Taylor: Subs: Karl Dent, Martin Onoabagbe, Emmanuel Oduguwa, Roman Hall

Sent Off: Lewis 44

Booked: Williams, Nelson, Taylor

Referee: Daniel Simpson

Att: 174