BetVictor Isthmian Premier – Saturday 8th February, 2020
Cray Wanderers 2
Taylor 69, Rollinson 90
Cray Wanderers continued their unbeaten start to 2020 and made it four successive wins after a come from behind victory at league leaders Worthing snapping a 19 unbeaten league run stretching back to October.
In a game where Cray lost three players to injury in the first half with Geofrey Okonkwo, Jay Leader and Lee Lewis having to leave the field and had to blood two debutants in Ehizojie Onoabhagbe and Femi Abatan. The Wands fell a goal behind with a well taken strike from Reece Myles-Meekums in the 24th minute but both teams had first half chances with Rhys Murrell-Williamsons’ free kick coming back off a post while Lewis Carey had to make good stops to deny Alex Parsons and Ricky Aguiar. The second half saw Cray claw their way back into the game and Joe Taylor scored his 29th goal of the season on 69 minutes when he latched onto Carey’s through ball.
Worthing were reduced to ten men six minutes from time when Jesse Starkey was sent off for a slightly mistimed challenge on Barney Williams. Then with the game entering its final minute, Cray went in front when from a throw in down the left, Joel Rollinson picked up the ball and charged towards goal and placed a fine shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
Cray headed to Woodside Road in good heart after a seven match unbeaten run but without three key players with Ben Mundele suspended, Tom Phipp injured and Mitchell Nelson unavailable but Tom Carlse returned for his first game back since the Velocity League Cup tie between the sides in December and also Geofrey Okonkwo, Karl Dent and Joel Rollinson came in for Jerome Federico.
With two teams in fine form and on a bright early February afternoon all the ingredients were there for a rip-roaring game and it certainly didn’t disappoint as the first half flashed by but was certainly filled with incident from a Cray Wanderers point of view.
Cray had the first opening of the game when from a free kick out on the left, Karl Dent’s ball towards the near post was just turned fractionally wide by Joel Rollinson.
Worthing looked threatening particularly through Reece Myles-Meekums who made an electric start to the game and following a corner helped set up Ricky Aguiar whose shot was blocked by Geofrey Okonkwo. Then Alex Parsons won the ball and found Myles-Meekums whose well hit shot was pushed out well by Lewis Carey.
Unfortunately Okonkwo had to leave the field with injury after 11 minutes and was replaced for his debut by former Crystal Palace U23s and Greenwich Borough centre-half Ehizojie Onoabhagbe.
Cray came close in the 14th minute to taking the lead when Bradley Pritchard found Taylor who broke down the right of the area and his cross-shot was saved well by the boot of Carl Rushworth.
Worthing though were having a decent spell of pressure and went in front on 24 minutes when Myles-Meekums down the right cut inside and from close to the byline found space to drill a shot past Carey into the bottom left corner of the net.
Shortly after, Myles-Meekums again found space in the area but was denied a goal by a fine tackle from Tom Carlse. Then Myles-Meekums down the right set up Parsons who fired wide from the edge of the area.
Cray though were still in the game and from a free kick out on the right, Rhys Murrell-Williamson curled in a ball towards goal which eluded Rushworth but came back off the left post and into Rushworth’s arms before Taylor could get to the ball.
There was another blow when Jay Leader went down with a head injury going for a challenge and had to leave the field with cuts to his head and spent the second half in the hospital. He was replaced by Lee Lewis in the 40th minute.
Before half time chances came to Cray when Pritchard found Rollinson who shot over the bar but the best chance fell to Worthing when Parsons set up Aguiar who seemed destined to score but Carey did superbly to get a hand to the ball to turn it wide of the right post.
Then just on the break from a corner, Jesse Starkey’s ball towards the far post was turned wide by Danny Barker.
The first half toll told even more when Lee Lewis was injured and was replaced by Stefan Abatan for his first team debut
The second half began a little more quieter but the first half opening came to Worthing when Starkey’s ball in from the left into the box went across goal and no-one got a touch.
Cray though were not out of the game and Abatan down the right set up the impressive Murrell-Williamson who ran into the box and from 12 yards saw his shot pushed out by Rushmore who held the ball before Taylor could follow up. Then Abatan and Dent combined to set up Taylor who held off Aarran Racine but fired just over the bar.
Worthing then had a good spell and Aguiar set up Starkey whose shot from just outside the area was parried away well by Carey. Then from a corner into the box the ball was flicked into the area and cleared off the line by Dent and back out and Barker’s ball towards goal was hacked off the line by the superb Barney Williams.
This proved key as in the 69th minute Cray were back on level terms when Carey’s ball forward sought out Taylor who won a race with Racine and ran on down the left of the area, round the keeper and calmly slotted in from 6 yards.
Now the game was going from end to end and for Cray, Murrell-Williamson down the right fired over the bar. Then at the other end, Worthing almost regained the lead when Aguiar’s shot was pushed out by Carey and came out to Starkey whose left wing ball into the near post was flicked wide by Ollie Pearce.
Then from a free kick from the right edge of the area, Starkey bent the ball round the wall and was well saved by Carey turning the ball over. For Cray, Dent shot over the top from Williams’ pass.
In the 84th minute came a key moment when Starkey was sent off for a slightly mistimed challenge on Williams in the centre of the field which led to a bit of a skirmish and a red card was shown for dangerous play.
With the game heading for a draw in the 90th minute there was a sting in the tail as from a throw down the left the ball came to Rollinson who drove towards goal and into the box and from 16 yards placed an unerring finish wide of Rushmore and into the bottom right for his third goal for the Wands.
Now Cray had five minutes to hold on and despite some pressure from Worthing and a free kick in a dangerous position on the right edge of the area, Joel Colbran’s ball into the area towards Aguiar was glanced behind for a corner. Cray saw out the corner and picked up a huge win which tested the team to its absolute limit but not for the first time this season and in 2020, Cray scored on the road to win in the last minute or later for the third successive game showing the stamina of the team is endless.
Despite the setbacks during the game, Cray picked up a big three points which sees them move above Hornchurch into 3rd in the table on 54 points. Worthing are a very good side and they do have a five point cushion at the top after Folkestone lost at home to Carshalton so the defeat doesn’t hurt them at this stage and will surely bounce back.
Cray though go from strength to strength and at least have a free week before another tough challenge against Kingstonian at Hayes Lane to heal some of the knocks picked up today. However this magnificent adventure in the Isthmian Premier continues and to where it will end no-one yet knows.
Cray Wanderers: Lewis Carey, Barney Williams (Capt.), Tom Carlse, Jay Leader (Lee Lewis, 40, Stefan Abatan, H/T), Geofrey Okonkwo (Ehizojie Onoabhagbe, 11), Charlie Allen, Karl Dent, Bradley Pritchard, Rhys Murrell-Williamson, Joel Rollinson, Joe Taylor: Subs: Jerome Federico
Booked: Allen, Carlse, Pritchard
Worthing: Carl Rushworth, Joel Colbran, Fin Stevens, Alfie Young, Aarran Racine, Danny Barker, Ricky Aguiar, Jesse Starkey, Reece Myles-Meekums (Marvin Armstrong, 88), Alex Parsons (Lloyd Dawes, 83), Kieron Pamment (Oliver Pearce, 66): Subs: Darren Budd, Jasper Pattenden
Sent Off: Starkey 84 mins
Booked: Racine, Parsons, Colbran
Referee: Lewis Sandoe
Assistants: Derek Pratt, Bruce Waymark
Attendance – 932