Cray Wanderers Lions vs. Welling United

Kent Youth League – U14s North Division – 4/4/21

Cray Wanderers Lions          4          Mann 24, 27, Ihiedi 34, Butcher 64  

Welling United                         2

Today was the day that the Cray Wanderers Youth section was thinking may never come and the return of Youth team league football after the restrictions on grassroots football were lifted and it was almost like it had never been away as Cray Wanderers and Welling United served up a cracker at Flamingo Park.

This was Cray Wanderers Lions first league match since October and it was certainly a tough way to re-start against a Welling United side who had won their first five league games before lockdown.  On a sunny early afternoon with just a touch of chill in the air after an initial spell of sparring both teams produced high quality performances and Steve Redman and Steve Owen’s team came from a goal down to hit a purple patch before half time to lead 3-1 with two superb goals from Yuvi Mann and a clinical Michael Ihiedi strike.  Welling though pulled a goal back shortly after half time but despite some pressure from the Wings, Cray played well and Jack Butcher’s fine header six minutes from time from a Mann corner helped set the seal on the win and keep Cray in 3rd place in the table.

Welling beat Cray 2-1  in the last meeting between the sides in October and the Wands were pretty much down to the bare bones and influential skipper Andy Dzontoh has been signed by the Brighton & Hove Albion Academy.  Despite this, on a terrific playing surface Cray started the game well and an early Yuvi Mann cross from the left curled on to the roof of the net. Welling though looked a confident side and the lively no 11 was unlucky to see a fizzing shot from 25 yards go just wide of the left post.

Welling continued to stroke the ball about well but Cray almost went in front when a fine ball forward found Michael Ihiedi who broke into the area but was denied a goal by a terrific block from the no 19.  Then Zuriel Elueme found Mann who again got behind the Welling defence but just overran the ball a touch and the Welling keeper was able to claim the ball.

In the 18th minute, Cray were desperately unlucky not to score when from a right wing corner, Mann’s cross towards the far post was met by Harry Bunclark and his close range effort was met by a fine save from the Wings keeper.

That proved a key save as two minutes later, Welling went in front with a classy goal with the no 11 striding forward and hit a crisp shot from 20 yards which flew past Harry Haines into the bottom left.

The Welling no 7 shot just wide shortly after but in the 24th minute Cray had parity when a great pass from the back by Kaya Mahmutt was latched onto by Mann who broke to the edge of the area and his powerful shot gave the keeper no chance and it was 1-1.

Cray now had their tails up and three minutes later turned the game on its head with a breathtaking piece of skill from Mann who out on the right, cut inside and seeing the keeper perhaps a touch off his line from shy of 25 yards curled in a shot which dipped and dropped over the keeper into the net to put Cray 2-1 in front.

The Wands finished the half well and a free kick from Mann in a similar position required the keeper to push over the bar.

Then on the stroke of half time it was 3-1 when Elliott Hayward’s ball towards Ihiedi looked to be dealt with by the no 19  but he seemed to miskick the ball to Ihiedi who had the freedom to fire home from 10 yards and at half time Cray had a degree of comfort.

The chill seemed to have disappeared for the second half and Cray came close to scoring a fourth when a Mann corner was launched towards the right of the area and Ihiedi’s header clipped the top of the crossbar and went over.

Five minutes into the half, Welling pulled a goal back when a ball switched from the right to the left came to the no 7 who just found a bit of space outside the area to place a precise shot into the bottom right corner to make it 3-2 with half an hour to go.

Welling had a fair amount of ball and looked threatening going forward but Haines’ goal was very well protected and didn’t have to make many saves as the half went on.

An effort from Bunclark was curled wide and then some superb play by Ihiedi down the right, saw him jink past a defender and laid the ball across to Mann, on a hat-trick but his shot was deflected wide of the left post for a corner.  Then a free kick from Callum Redman into the area was glanced off target by Bunclark.           

 There were just understandable signs of both sides slowing down and looking a bit tired as the game went into its last knockings but Cray were able to restore the two goal advantage with another fine goal six minutes from time.  From a corner down the left, Mann’s great ball into the box was hard to defend against and Butcher who had had a great game at the back powered in a header which crashed into the roof of the net.

There was almost time for another goal and assist from Mann who set up Heath Cole-Goodwin but rolled a shot wide.

In the end Cray saw out the remaining minutes and a hard earned and perhaps on the balance of chances was a deserved victory.  It is not fashionable to do so but a special word of mention for the referee who allowed the game to flow, and actually was barely noticed which is a sign of good officiating. 

Following the game, Steve Owen who himself was awarded the prestigious Grassroots Coach of the year award by the Kent FA this week, presented a special memento to Andy Dzontoh from the club and players and to wish him well with his exciting move to Brighton.

With some of the mini youth teams playing earlier in the morning and the SE Dons in action on the main pitch starting their league campaign there was some tremendous activity taking place and the U15s were in cup action to wind things up for the afternoon.  Hopefully this is the new normal with the league and cups expected to carry on to June and well worth a visit if you get a chance perhaps when the restrictions are lifted even more.

Cray Wanderers:            Harry Haines, Callum Redman, Kaya Mahamut, Heath Cole-Goodwin, Jack Butcher, Elliott Haywood, Yuvi Mann, Harry Bunclark, Ben Cook, Michael Ihiedi, Alfie Sadlier, Zuriel Eleume, Oliver Perkins, Kieran Fowler. 

Two other Kent Youth League Cray Wanderers teams were in cup tie action too. The U15s were beaten 0-1 by Glebe at Flamingo Park while the U13s were 2-0 winners at Parkwood Rangers U13s Phoenix.