Cray Wanderers 2-1 Hastings United - Hastings asked us all sorts of questions today, admits Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Sunday 11th November 2018
Cray Wanderers 2 – 1 Hastings United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 11/11/2018 15:00

Bostik South East Division
Sunday 11 November 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell says Hastings United manager Chris Agutter and his impressive side asked his team all sorts of questions during this high-quality top-of-the-table clash at Hayes Lane.

The Wands attracted their largest crowd of the season as 345 people were treated to an excellent game of football.

Russell’s men extended their lead to 10 points at the top of the Bostik South East Division table, winning 11 and drawing the other, although Hastings United do have a couple of games in hand.

Hastings United were the better side during the first half as they stopped Cray Wanderers playing their usual passing game but the hosts grabbed the lead, totally against the run of play, through debutant striker Wilberforce Ocran, 18, who has signed on loan from Sky Bet League One side Charlton Athletic.

Holding midfielder Tom Phipp then smacked a stunning drive into top bins to double their lead early in the second half but Hastings United pulled a goal back through Cray Wanderers’ right-back Barney Williams’ headed own goal from a corner.

“I thought I was involved in a top game of football,” said Russell, who collected the manager-of-the-month-award before the game and beat the curse.

“Me and Chris (Agutter) both want to play and it allowed us to go all out in what we both wanted to do.  Tactically it was a great game of football.  They had spells in the game when we were hanging on and we had spells in the game they were hanging on.

“It was a real good game of football for the neutral especially.

“I think when you put a game on a Sunday or Friday you get a bigger crowd than normally. Hopefully a few of them enjoyed it and like to come back. That’s something that we want to do and get the numbers up.”

Hastings United created the first opening after only 143 seconds when central midfielder Sam Adams drilled a left-footed shot screaming just past the foot of the right-hand post from 30-yards.

Russell felt his side had taken the lead just 88 seconds later.

Right-winger Jerome Federico played the ball in from the channel and Bradley Pritchard swept in a lovely goal across the keeper and into the bottom far corner.

However, an offside flag was raised as the officials deemed Junior Dadson was interfering with the keeper, despite not getting a touch to the ball, as it nestled inside the corner.

Russell said:  “The referee said he disallowed it because Dadson was offside but Dadson didn’t touch it so just communicate!  I’m a long, long way away but I thought it looked a good goal but people have got better angles than me!”

Former Bromley Academy striker Daniel Ajakaiye impressed during the first half for Hastings with his pace but his threat was wiped out after the interval.

He sprinted down the right and played in Lanre Azeez, who poked the ball against Nick Blue’s legs from eight-yards.

“There were times in that first half we were hanging on to dear life,” admitted Russell.

“He’s a top goalkeeper.  I think I’ve lost count how many times we’ve sat here and told you that, he’s a very good goalkeeper!

“When you’re playing against good sides you need your goalie to play well.  We can’t protect him all the time. We’re playing against a very, very good side.  He had to stand up and make some saves today.”

The game was very open and Cray Wanderers swiftly went up the other end and Pritchard lofted his corner in from the right and Ocran rose to head over the crossbar from six-yards.

Pritchard swung in his second corner, which was cleared out to Dadson, who stroked a left-footed shot from 22-yards from a central position, which was to be meat and drink for visiting keeper Charlie Horlock.

Adams whipped in a great cross from the right, which Blue flicked away in front of Ajakaiye and Pritchard calmly cleared his lines.

Hastings United were certainly the better side during the first half and centre-half Tom Climpson came up from the back to steer his header past the right-hand post from six-yards after Sam Beale swung in a corner from the left towards the far post.

Hastings United went close halfway through the half, following their fourth of eight corners.

Youssouf Bamba swung in a low corner from the right towards the base of the near post and Ajakaiye hooked his volley inches wide from a couple of yards out.

“I thought we were all over the place because we wasn’t very organised and there were spare men coming from everywhere,” said Russell.

“I was trying to organise it from the side-line. It was never going to work so we had to hold on until half-time.”

Cray Wanderers rode the storm and hit Hastings on the break in the 31st minute.

Holding midfielder Sean Roberts swept a diagonal pass, which split open Beale and Climpson to release Federico down the right. The winger cut into the box before cutting the ball back for Pritchard to sweep his first time shot towards goal, only for it to be cleared.

Pritchard whipped in a deep free-kick from the right for Mitchell Nelson to come up from the back to send his downward header wide.

Cray Wanderers were forced to go long through Phipp, whose ball over the top split open the Hastings defence but Ocran lacked composure and dragged his shot past the far post from 25-yards.

Hastings United were a great side and Ajakaiye burst down the right and cut into the box and shrugged past Jay Leader.  He put the ball on a plate for Azeez to sweep his first time shot looping towards goal, which was brilliantly headed off the line by Williams.

Williams frustrated Hastings for a second time just 130 seconds later when Hastings United should have buried the chance.

Emmanuel Mensah (right-back) and Bamba linked up down the right and Ajakaiye cut the ball back for Dixon, who swept his shot towards goal, only for Williams to make a second vital goal-line clearance.

“Chris will be disappointed with the two off the line, one of them was a great bit of defending but the second one the guy’s got to score really. He took a touch and he can have the whole goal to aim at,” said Russell.

“Listen, don’t get me wrong, it was an unreal bit of defending, top drawer bit of defending. He’s just an out-and-out defender Barney. He’s brilliant! He senses danger and you can’t coach that in people.

“The second one is a bad miss if I’m honest.  It was great defending but he’s got his body there but the kid will be disappointed.”

It was almost inevitable when Cray Wanderers grabbed the lead – totally against the run of play – with 43 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Ben Mundele whipped in a cross from the left, Phipp found space inside the box at the near post and guided his downward header on. The ball bounced off centre-half Jahmal Howlett-Mundele and Ocran placed a low first time shot into the bottom left-hand corner from eight-yards.

“He’s a young professional, got his first-year pro at Charlton. We’ve had no Shaggy (Michael Power) for the last eight or nine weeks now and he’s the main striker and Freddie Parker’s come through our youth team and I’ve been going with him.  Last week Freddie wasn’t feeling very well so we ended up putting Ben Mundele, the right-back, up front and he scored (in our 1-0 win at Haywards Heath).

“Freddie hasn’t trained all week, he’s been ill, so I had no choice, I had to get someone in. It’s a too big a game.

“Shaggy’s close (trapped nerve in his back), he’s two weeks away. What do I do? I always promote our youth boys.

“I didn’t think Wilberforce had a great game today but it’s hard. He’s just walked into the dressing room, he doesn’t know what we do but he took his chance well.  I think he’ll do well for us.”

Russell and his assistant manager Joe Vines earnt their corn during the half-time interval by using a tactical magnetic board to get their message across to their players as Hastings United gave them a massive fright during the first half.

Russell said: “It was all on the board.  It’s amazing when you play against really good sides and they expose you.  Normally at half-time you’re talking about random stuff.

“I had one year in the Ryman Premier with VCD Athletic and I loved it the most because you lose games because you come up against better players and better coaches that are so much better and you have to find a way.  It makes you go out and coach and work on stuff.

“Sometimes you take liberties and we have done in this league. We’ll turn up and go through the motions and we might score four or five and today they asked us all sorts of questions and I had to get on the board and Vinsey and me had magnets everywhere.

“I said to Chris (post-match) massive compliments to him because he made us do that and the second half we were a lot better and we were the better side in the second half.”

Cray Wanderers started the half on a front foot. An offside flag was raised to prevent Ocran planting his header over Horlock’s left-shoulder sailing into the to top far corner - after meeting Williams’ deep cross from the right after 180 seconds.

Cray Wanderers almost went 2-0 up when Ocran turned inside the box and smacked a shot on the turn against the crossbar from 10-yards.

“It’s standard Cray Wanderers, we miss a million chances.  It was a long ball inside, good spin, good strike, it’s hit the bard and it’s come out,” said Russell.

“I felt more comfortable second half because I felt first half we were just hanging on to be alive and second half once we got going, it’s like having a leak, once you stop the leak, I felt we was alright.”

But they doubled their lead with 10 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock through a stunning strike from Phipp.

The superb Pritchard played the ball out to Federico, who cut into the box and put the ball on a plate for Phipp, who drilled a first time beautiful serving shot into the top right-hand corner from 20-yards.

“Great goal! Fred has nutmegged the left-back (Beale), the centre-half has come over, he’s squared it and on the run Tom’s beautifully side-footed it into the top corner, it was a great finish,” said Russell.

“If I’m honest I thought that would do us. I said that to Vinsey, the next 10 minutes was big but I fancied us.  I couldn’t see how they were going to score.” 

Hastings United pulled a goal back just 104 seconds later, courtesy of Williams’ own-goal.

It came from Hastings’ sixth corner of the game, swung in by Bamba towards the near post and the ball skimmed off Williams’ head inside the six-yard box and sailed into the top far corner.

“No one is round him! Pritchard’s right behind him and I said to Pritch just call it and head it out! There’s not a Hastings player around you,” complained Russell.

“It’s more than what Hastings deserve in the game.  You’d like Bamba to come in and bend it in the top corner, if someone’s going to score a goal past you but it’s a poor goal from us, a lack of communication but I can’t knock Barney, I thought he was unreal today.”

Cray Wanderers shut the door after the goal and Ajakaiye was living off scraps for the rest of the game.  Agutter later brought on winger Dajon Golding down the left but he was dealt with by Williams and Nelson despite going on three pacey runs.

The closest Hastings came to equalising came in the 65th minute when left-back Beale went on a 70-yard run with the ball before unleashing a left-footed angled drive from 20-yards, which forced Blue to dive low to his left to hold.

Russell said: “If the left-back is shooting from 20-yards, you’re doing alright. That was a big contrast to the first half. We looked more like scoring than they did (in the second half.)”

Cray Wanderers finished strongly and called Horlock into action inside the final 15 minutes.

Phipp rolled a low ball across to Federico, who strode forward before hitting a low angled drive from the right, which was tipped around the post by Horlock, diving low to his right.

“Great save! It was a very good save. We’ve broke and Fred has cut into the box and it’s going in and I thought the goalkeeper’s done very well. He’s a good goalkeeper.”

Cray Wanderers missed a glorious chance to seal the points when Nelson hit a long ball over the top of the defence towards the edge of the Hastings box.  Keeper Horlock was forced to clatter into Howlett-Mundle in an attempt to head the ball out.

Pritchard latched onto the loose ball, cut across his marker and fed the ball into Freddie Parker’s feet but the substitute striker dwelled in the box and the ball was smothered by a brave Horlock just eight-yards from his goal in a central position.

“He’s got to score! I think Fred was going in straight and the goalkeeper’s come out and then he’s collided into the centre half and Pritchard has faked to shoot and because the full-backs come all the way over and he’s laid Fred in. 

“The goal was just there! Fred just needs to get one in off his bum at the moment. He’s hit a bit of a dry patch.  You see a forward who is not confident he takes too many touches or takes too long to get their shot off and he took too long and the goalkeeper made a good save but that should be game, set and match really.”

Keeper Blue spilt a teasing cross in from the left from Hastings substitute Sam Cruttwell, but Leader was there to clear the ball towards safety.

Hastings United forced Cray Wanderers to go long again when Blue’s big kick went down the left and Dadson cut into the box and drilled his shot around the diving keeper and the far post.

These two superpowers will be challenging for the title during the rest of the season but Cray Wanderers hold the bragging rights tonight.

“Listen, on the evidence what we’ve seen today, Hastings are going to win a lot of football matches so there’s a lot to do. We’re not getting carried away,” said Russell.

“We’ve got off to a good start but it’s just a start.  Honestly, I’m not just saying that for a soundbite, it’s a long way to go.

“I’m delighted with the start and delighted with the squad we’ve got and we’ve hit the ground running.   Mentally we’re very strong and we’ve got some good players. I think we’ll do well this year, I don’t know what that means, but we’ll do well.”

Cray Wanderers welcome Charlton Athletic to Hayes Lane in the Kent Senior Cup Second Round on Wednesday night, before flying over to play Guernsey next Saturday.

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams, Ben Mundele, Sean Roberts, Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Junior Dadson, Tom Phipp, Wilberforce Ocran (Freddie Parker 72), Bradley Pritchard, Jerome Federico (Archie Johnson 89).
Subs: Malik Solebo, Karl Dent, Zak Henry

Goals: Wilberforce Ocran 44, Tom Phipp 56

Booked: Sean Roberts 43

Hastings United: Charlie Horlock, Emmanuel Mensah, Sam Beale, Hassan Ibrahim (Sam Cruttwell 67), Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, Tom Climpson, Lanre Azeez, Jack Dixon, Daniel Ajakaiye, Sam Adams, Youssouf Bamba (Dajon Golding 81).
Subs: Sinn’kaye Christie, Antonio Walker-Barth, Jamie Fielding

Goals: Barney Williams 57 (own goal)

Booked: Hassan Ibrahim 66, Tom Climpson 71, Jack Dixon 73, Sam Beale 82

Attendance: 345
Referee:  Mr Jack Oxenham (Egham, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Fernando Costache (Uxbridge, Middlesex) & Mr Alperen Nayir (New Malden, Surrey)