Bostik League South-East – Saturday 20th April 2019
Three Bridges 0
Cray Wanderers 2
Parker 42, Taylor 55
Bostik South-East champions Cray Wanderers began their Easter double header of games with a solid and professional performance to beat Three Bridges at Jubilee Field. On a very warm and bright afternoon, Cray who won the title last Saturday were given a guard of honour onto the pitch by their gracious hosts Three Bridges and in a game of few chances two well taken finishes from Freddie Parker and Joe Taylor was enough to secure another three points on the road and a 14th clean sheet of the season for Nick Blue.
After an even start to the game Cray ended the first half strongly and on 42 minutes took the lead when Parker stroked home from seven yards and increased their lead ten minutes after the break with a classy finish from Taylor which was enough to give Cray the three points.
Following the excitement of last Saturday there were as expected a few changes to the Wands lineup with Barney Williams making his first appearance since the win against VCD Athletic at the end of January, while Charles Etumnu made an impressive first league appearance for Cray in midfield, plus starts for Freddie Parker and Jordan Clarke in place of the rested Jay Leader, Bradley Pritchard, Karl Dent and Jerome Federico.
On a glorious sunny afternoon with the merest hint of breeze the scene was set as far as Cray were concerned for one of the more relaxed afternoons of the season. Three Bridges technically still needed three points to guarantee safety but following Guernsey’s defeat this afternoon at Phoenix, 35 points is probably enough to keep them in the Bostik South-East for next season.
Three Bridges started the game strongly and an early left wing cross from Andrew Sesay was met on the volley by Ibby Akanbi and the ball went wide.
Cray were indebted to Nick Blue who made a good blocked save to deny Sesay down the left of the area and the ball came to Akanbi who shot wide.
The first opening for Cray came on 12 minutes when good work down the right by Williams saw him cut into the area and his shot looked to be heading for the top corner but was met by a fine save from James Shaw who got both hands to the ball to push the bar over the bar for a corner.
This was followed by Archie Johnson making a run from deep to just outside the area and his shot was saved by the knees of Shaw and away from goal.
Cray thought that had taken the lead on 23 minutes when from a free kick in a central position, Parker’s ball into the box was headed into the net by Mitchell Nelson but was ruled out by a marginal offside call.
The game became quieter after that with Parker twice shooting over from 20 yards while Lee Hall shot wide for the home side and game went through a bit of a lull with Cray mostly in the ascendancy.
Just when it looked like it might be a scoreless first half Cray went in front three minutes before the break when good combination play between Tom Carlse and Johnson saw the ball worked down the left of the area to Parker who coolly slotted home from seven yards for his 11th goal of the season.
Cray almost scored a second before half time when again down the left, Carlse’ ball across was blocked and came out to Jordan Clarke who fired over the top.
Half Time: 0-1
The second half was a more livelier affair and early on Williams down the right did well to set up Parker who shot over from just outside the area.
Then up the other end, Sesay’s ball across from the left was deflected out to Reece Hallarde who shot over the bar. Cray continued to look good going forward and Etumnu who was having a fine debut was unlucky to see a shot drift just past the post.
Ten minutes into the half came the decisive second goal for Cray which seemed to come from nothing as Joe Taylor won the ball and drove down the right of the penalty area and drilled a fine finish wide of Shaw into the bottom left corner for his twelfth goal of the season.
Both keepers were called into action as Three Bridges looked to get back into it and French set up Akanbi down the right of the area and his shot was well saved by Blue pushing the ball away. Then at the other end Johnson down the left cut into the area and his shot was pushed behind well by Shaw
For Cray Parker who was having a fine game for Cray set up Clarke who shot over from just outside the area while for Three Bridges from a corner down the left, Brannon O’Neill’s cross was deflected out to Hall whose effort was blocked. The Blue did well once again to make a block save to deny Sesay from Akanbi’s layoff.
By this stage Cray had done more than enough to win the game and kept possession very well and showed good game management in the closing stages.
Towards the end Three Bridges threatened with a couple of free kicks close to goal. Firstly, John Lansdale curled the ball over the wall and was claimed comfortably by Blue. Then in a central position in stoppage time, O’Neill fired in a shot which Blue pushed away and did well to save from Connor French’s follow-up.
In the end Cray in a very professional manner and with quite a changed side picked up another three points as the season begins to wind down and there were plenty of positives from the game and in particular the performances of young players Etumnu and Parker and defensively, the return of Williams and Phipp and Nelson at the back looked very strong and on the occasions breached saw the impeccable Nick Blue in fine form.
Cray are next in action against an in form Sevenoaks Town side on Easter Monday in the final home game of the season and there should be a great atmosphere at Hayes Lane to greet the champions.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams (Capt.), Tom Carlse, Tom Phipp (Ben Mundele, 84), Mitchell Nelson, Charles Etumnu, Sean Roberts, Freddie Parker (Bradley Pritchard, 76), Joe Taylor, Jordan Clarke, Archie Johnson: Subs: Jerome Federico, Junior Dadson, Karl Dent
Booked: Phipp, Clarke
Three Bridges: James Shaw, Nathan Simpson, Lee Hall, Dean Gunner (Antone Douglas, 57), Andrew Sesay, Connor French, Brannon O’Neill, Ibby Akanbi (John Lansdale, 81), Tyrone Berry, Reece Hallarde, Joe Tennent (Capt.): Subs: Alex Clark, Olu Oluwateimihelin
Referee: Jamie Wells
Assistants: Dominic Barrow, Nick Blogg