No big deal as Cray look forward to Maidstone showdown
Defending Go Travel Kent League Premier Division champions,
Cray Wanderers warmed up for Wednesday's showdown against Maidstone United
with a very comfortable 4-0 victory over a poor Deal Town side at Hayes Lane,
writes Stephen McCartney.
With current leaders VCD Athletic having a day off, Ian
Jenkins side move within four points of the Vickers, but the Wands have the
advantage with two games in hand.
But Jenkins knows how important Wednesday's home game against
Maidstone United is to the club if they are to fulfil their ambitions and play
at a higher level of football next season.
Cray Wanderers are still to play both the Stones and VCD
Athletic twice in the league and are still to arrange the return fixture
against Maidstone United at Bourne Park and the two league clashes with VCD
Athletic. These mouth-watering fixtures could decide who will land
the title at the end of the season.
Next Saturday, Cray Wanderers leave the hot-pot of Kent League
football for a Kent League Cup semi-final first leg tie at Herne Bay.
They should collect three Kent League points against struggling Tunbridge
Wells at Hayes Lane on Wednesday 31st March before the return clash at home to
Herne Bay in the second leg on home turf on 3rd April.
Jenkins side have also reached the Kent Senior Trophy Final
where they play improving Hythe Town with April 17th the most popular date for
all parties. Even though the venue hasn't been cast in stone, Chatham
Town's Maidstone Road ground appears to be in favourite to land the showpiece
Jenkins went into the Deal Town game without selected
goalkeeper Dean Mann. The shot-stopper, who made two appearances for
Ryman League Bromley recently, collided with a post in the pre-match warm up
and needed hospital treatment where he had two stitches inserted into his arm.
The first real goalscoring chance fell to Mark Hammond after
six minutes. The winger, a real disappointment at Bromley where he
scored only once in 24 starts, struck a right footed half volley from 22 yards wide
of the left post.
Deal Town's Dan Smith was stretchered off the Hayes Lane pitch
after sixteen minutes with a shoulder injury and once play restarted after
lengthy treatment, David Bathgate was ever so close giving the visitors the
lead but his free kick narrowly sailed over Micky Simmons crossbar.
Deal substitute John Ovard lashed a shot over the crossbar
before Cray Wanderers took the lead after 26 minutes from a well worked corner
Hammond's corner was cut to Adam Heaslewood who squared the
ball to Jamie Wood whose 22 yard shot from a central position but the shot was
too hot to handle for goalkeeper Sam Gibbons and the ball found the right
corner of the net.
Three minutes later, Cray doubled their lead when Heaslewood's
free kick was headed across goal by central defender David Gray from the
by-line, and his partner at the back, Ian Rawlings headed into the top right
hand corner from close range.
A shot from Deal's Lee Majoram from 28 yards struck Simmons
foot on the left post and narrowly missed the upright before the home side
went close from Danny Whealan and Ricky Bennett's half volley from ten yards which
bounced wide of the right post from a Hammond cross.
Cray increased their lead further, scoring goal number three
six minutes before the break.
Goalkeeper Gibbons should have done better dealing with
debutant Robert Browning's shot but the ball fell nicely to predator Ricky
Bennett who scored from close range to net his 25th goal of the season.
Danny Smith stood out for the visitors and he almost pulled a
goal back after the break but his left footed shot from 23 yards went three
yards wide of the right post.
Robert Browning, making his Cray debut after impressing Jenkins
when he played for Slade Green against the Wands last Wednesday, almost scored
on his debut after 56 minutes but his shot from outside the penalty area
deflected wide of the target.
Bathgate made home goalkeeper Simmons work after 66 minutes
when his dipping free kick from 25 yards was tipped onto the crossbar by the
experienced goalkeeper who dived to his left to deny the visitors a
Cray wrapped up the comfortable three points, scoring goal
number four after 68 minutes.
Ricky Bennett in midfield flicked the ball ahead of Jamie Wood
who collected the ball just outside the centre circle. He raced clear of
the Deal defence before rifling a shot into the top right hand corner of the
net from 12 yards to celebrate his 15th strike of the campaign.
Former Slade Green midfielder, Browning maybe should have done
better in the 75th minute but his poor touch allowed goalkeeper Gibbons
to come off his line and smother the ball.
Deal hit the woodwork for the second time in the game when Lee
Majoram's 22 yard shot clipped halfway up the right hand post in the
final seven minutes.
Speaking after the game, Cray Wanderers manager, Ian Jenkins
was satisfied with the three points and is looking forward to Maidstone
United's visit on Wednesday night.
Jenkins, who has played for Cray 408 times, said: "Deal
are second from bottom and they are a poor side. I think on a better day
conditions wise, it would probably have been a bigger scoreline. The
conditions played a major part today. We were 3-0 up at half time and we
were cruising in the second half and we weren't on the back foot at all.
We played good enough football and ran out comfortable winners.
"Maidstone is a big game on Wednesday night. If we
get a result from that, a result is a draw or a win. It's all in our
hands really, we just can't afford to lose against Maidstone or VCD Athletic
as we've got to play them both twice."
Jenkins, however was pleased with central defenders David Gray
and Ian Rawlings, both players have played at Ryman League level with Bromley
and two-goal hero Jamie Wood, who collected the man of the match award after
Slade Green's problems keeping hold of talented players
continue as Robert Browning made the switch from the Small Glen to a rival
Kent League club.
Browning made an impressive debut for the Wands against Deal
Town, but his new manager revealed the reason why he snatched the player away
from their rivals.
He revealed: "I thought he was outstanding on Wednesday
night when he played against us for Slade Green. As soon as you see a
player like that you've got to go out and grab him. VCD Athletic
play Slade Green next week and I thought if he played for Slade Green against
them, VCD would have grabbed hold of him. We got in nice and quick and
that was it. I got him before them!"
Cray Wanderers: Micky Simmons, Danny Whelan, Ian
Rawlings, David Gray, Mark Hammond (Richard Dimmock 73), Sam Wood (John Mayall
84), Adam Heaslewood, Jamie Kempster, Jamie Wood (Matt Woolf 81), Ricky
Bennett, Robert Browning. Subs: Andy Silk, Dean Bowey
Deal Town: Sam Gibbons, Adam Calvin, Luke Farmer, Lee McElliott, Darren Waring
(Matthew Stroud 83), Dan Smith (John Ovard 16), Ben Laslett, David Bathgate,
Danny Smith, Lee Majoram, Andy Biggington (Jordan Barnett 73).
Referee: Alan Escuider (Belvedere)
Assistants: R Dibbs & D Blunden