Bostik League South-East – Saturday 30th March, 2019
Whitstable Town 1
Cray Wanderers 0
Cray Wanderers remain 10 points clear at the top of the Bostik South-East but went down to only their third league defeat of the season as in-form Whitstable Town kept their run going with a 1-0 victory at a sunny Belmont Ground.
There was a scenario where if Ashford United had drawn or lost at home to Guernsey in the earlier kick off and coupled with a Cray win at Whitstable would have seen the Wands promoted but as it was that didn’t come to pass as Ashford won 3-0 and whatever the result there was still a bit of work for Cray to do to cross the line and gain promotion. In the end in a game of very few chances and with two good defences it was one moment of clinical finishing from Harry Stannard in the 69th minute for the home side which separated the teams.
From the side which drew with Haywards Heath Town last Saturday there was change to the starting lineup with Karl Dent coming in for Jerome Federico.
On a warm afternoon in the pleasant and serene Belmont Ground the game perhaps unusually for a Wands game this season was a fairly lacklustre affair with Cray having the lions share of possession and did most of the pressing but they were held at bay by a resolute Oystermen side who were unbeaten in four games and well marshalled at the back by John Walker and Thomas Bryant.
Cray began in a positive fashion and Karl Dent won an early corner with a good run and then from a ring wing corner his ball to the near post was put behind by Nick Treadwell for another corner. Then Junior Dadson saw an effort blocked by Bryant on the edge of the area.
Perhaps the best chance of the game for Cray came after 15 minutes when after Tom Carlse was fouled on the left edge of the penalty area, Dent’s ball into the box to the back post was met by Mitchell Nelson who got above Connor Sanders but headed over from four yards.
Then down the right, Junior Dadson did well to set up Tom Phipp inside the area but couldn’t get a firm connection to the ball and the chance went away.
By this stage the game hadn’t yet really come alive and the rendition of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds by the Whitstable fans perhaps echoed the mellow mood out on the pitch. Cray still looked most likely to break the deadlock and Carlse fired a shot over from 20 yards
Perhaps the one talking point of the half was a possible shout for a penalty for Cray on the half hour when Ben Mundele made a strong run down the right and took on Sanders to just inside the area and was tripped but was deemed to have been just outside the penalty area and a free kick was given.
For another Cray corner down the left, Dent’s ball into the box was pushed away by keeper Dan Eason before Joe Taylor could get to the ball.
The game picked up in momentum before half time and after some rare hesitation at the back, Whitstable almost took the lead when Harry Stannard broke through but fired over the top. This was followed by a decent shot from Ricky Freeman which was well held by Nick Blue.
Shortly before half time, Phipp and Sean Roberts combined to set up Taylor for a shot from just inside the area which was well fielded by Eason.
Half Time: 0-0
At the break Cray introduced Archie Johnson into the fray for Freddie Parker and he began the second half positively and from a corner down the right the ball came to Phipp who set up Johnson for a shot which was inadvertently blocked by Dadson.
Then Johnson did well down the left to get a cross over close to the byline which was headed out by Taylor Fisher and came to Dent who turned and fired over from just inside the area.
Whitstable having contained Cray in the first half began to show a bit more coming forward and Sanders found Freeman whose shot was blocked by Nelson.
Then Freeman and Stannard combined to find Miles Cornwell down the right of the penalty area and his cross shot was deflected behind for a corner. For Cray following a throw in down the right the ball came to Mundele who curled a shot over from the edge of the area.
Just when it was looking like it was going to be heading for a goalless draw, Whitstable took the lead on 69 minutes when Cornwell made a run from midfield and slipped a ball through to Stannard down the left of the penalty area and tucked home a tidy finish from 14 yards.
Cray looked to respond soon after and Carlse set up Phipp who from 20 yards shot just over the crossbar.
From here Whitstable were able to soak up any Cray pressure and kept Eason in goal well protected in the closing stages. Joe Vines came on for the final five minute to add some bustle to the attack but Scott Porter’s side were able to withstand the Wands pressure and despite three minutes of added on time held on fairly comfortably in the end for their fourth win in five games.
Certainly not a game that will live long in the memory and a bit of a rarity this season for a Cray match with so few chances at both ends but Cray despite going three games without a win still have a ten point buffer at the top with five games to play ahead of Hastings United and Horsham (four games left) and eleven in front of Ashford United who Cray have still to play in two weeks time. Their next game is on Sunday at home to Greenwich Borough and much could happen on the Saturday involving Horsham who are at Sittingbourne and Ashford United at Hythe which could make Sunday an interesting match.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (Capt.), Tom Phipp, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent (Joe Vines, 85), Joe Taylor, Freddie Parker (Archie Johnson, H/T), Junior Dadson (Jordan Clarke, 60): Subs: Jerome Federico, Charles Etumnu
Booked: Roberts, Leader, Vines
Whitstable Town: Dan Eason, Jordan Wright, Taylor Fisher, Nick Treadwell (Harry Brown, 90), John Walker, Thomas Bryant, Connor Sanders, James Morrish (Capt.), Ricky Freeman, Harry Stannard (James Trueman, 75), Miles Cornwell
Referee: Ricky Adams
Assistants: Nick Dunn, George Lowe