Cray Wanderers 2-1 Herne Bay - It's been one of my hardest seasons , admits Herne Bay boss Sam Denly

Wednesday 29th March 2017
Cray Wanderers 2 – 1 Herne Bay
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 29/03/2017 19:45

Ryman League Division One South
Wednesday 29th March 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

HERNE BAY manager Sam Denly says this has been the hardest season that he has had since becoming manager of the club.

The Bay suffered their 18th league defeat of the season to leave them in seventeenth-place in the Ryman League Division One South table on 49 points with five games of the season left to play.

The club are 23 points clear of the relegation zone, which is occupied by Chatham Town, Three Bridges and relegated side Godalming Town.

Cray Wanderers climbed up a couple of places into tenth-place on 63 points with five games remaining – 11 points adrift of the play-offs after claiming their 18th league win of the campaign.

The Wands grabbed the lead through Lee Prescott’s tenth goal of the season, before Herne Bay equalised when striker Mark Lovell’s penalty saw the 33-year-old notch his 21st goal of the season.

Cray Wanderers won it with only 63 seconds on the clock in the second half when Jai McKinlay came up from the back to bundle in a corner.

“My thoughts are, disappointed,” said Denly, following his side’s 11th away league defeat of the season.

“A game we should never have lost. We were not good second half. They probably had 10 chances. We had the same first half. It could’ve ended up a lot different but a game I think we certainly could’ve come away with something, so it’s disappointing.”

Herne Bay created the first chance when Lovell’s angled deflected drive flashed across the keeper and past the far post.

Cray Wanderers’ right-back Ben Mundele sprinted forward with the ball before releasing striker Danny Haynes, whose driven shot deflected towards the roof of the net and keeper Toby Wood made sure by tipping the ball over the bar.

Herne Bay missed a glorious chance to open the scoring inside nine minutes.

Cray Wanderers defender Zak Henry lost his footing and this gave Billy Lewins a chance to cut in towards the edge of the box and his right-footed drive forced Nick Blue to dive to his right to make the save.

“I thought Billy was excellent tonight,” said Denly.

“He’s a young lad, he’s come in from Ramsgate.  I’m not going to be critical of the lad.  Give him a couple of games, a little bit more experience he’s probably slotting them, but he got himself in good areas in the right time and on another night could’ve got himself a couple as well.”

A ball in from the right from Darnell Weise was laid off by Lewins and Adam Woollcott’s angled drive flashed across the keeper and past the far post after 12 minutes.

The game then turned into an uninspiring affair before Herne Bay squandered another chance to take the lead in the 29th minute.

Woollcott’s low drive was trapped by Weise inside the penalty area and he laid the ball off to Williams, whose angled drive deflected past the far post.

“We started well,” said Denly.

“We had some good chances first half, could’ve gone in three or four-one up, for me.

“We spoke about it at half-time. I’ve been saying all season, we’ve got to be taking those chances.  They had a spell for five minutes in the first half and got a goal and for me we dominated the rest of the first half, but second half we didn’t really come out and they were the better side.

“But we still created enough chances to certainly get something out of the game, even in the last couple of minutes with a header flashing over the bar.”

Prescott played a sublime through ball that cut open Herne Bay’s central defender Gary Sayer to put striker Danny Haynes through on goal but he opted to cross towards an unmarked Luke Medley at the far post, when he should have attempted to call Wood into making a save.

Prescott swung in his side’s third corner of the night towards the far post where skipper Lea Dawson’s downward header was blocked by Wood’s legs on the line.

But Cray Wanderers grabbed the lead with 36 minutes on the clock when Prescott picked up the loose ball some 35-yards from goal and from the edge of the box placed his right-footed shot past the flat-footed goalkeeper into the bottom right-hand corner.

Denly said: “Exactly that, again, look, frustrating!  We dominated for a good 35 minutes of the first half and they have a bit of a spell and they get a goal and we find ourselves one down.

“But we showed good character to get back into the game, got the goal but the game was lost first half for me because we should’ve been going in three or four-one up and we didn’t and we paid the price.”

Denly was delighted with his side’s response as they clawed themselves back into the game with an equalising goal in the 39th minute.

Woollcott swung in a corner from the left towards the far post and Medley pushed Williams inside the box and referee Jack Packman pointed to the spot.

Lovell stepped up and emphatically drilled his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.

“Good penalty. You’ve covered it all there, yes, a good penalty,” said Denly.

“Listen, we should’ve had another penalty as well for me, an absolute stonewall penalty but there you go, we didn’t get that.

“We showed good character and got straight back in to the game and Loves coolly slotted it away, like he’s done for us all season.”

Denly was full of praise for his 21-goal talisman.

“He’s been outstanding. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again, there’s not many better in the league this season. He’s been on absolute fire. He doesn’t just play as a goalscorer, a centre forward, he holds the ball up well, he brings players in, he’s a complete centre forward. He certainly has been for us.”

Karl Dent went close for the home side when he was given time and space to crack a left-footed dipping drive from 30-yards, which only just cleared the Herne Bay crossbar.

Herne Bay missed a glorious chance to take the lead just before the break.

Williams’ low through ball was hit first time by Lewins, right-footed from 12-yards, but Blue made a vital save, diving low to his right.

“Very frustrating, it’s been the story of our season,” admitted Denly.

“We haven’t been clinical in front of goal and I’ve highlighted that.  Having said that we’ve had Loves (Lovell), Pully (Ian Pulman) on fire in front of goal.  Loves gets another one tonight but he should’ve got another one. 

“We’ve got to take those chances if you want to win games of football matches when you’re creating chances like that, you’ve got to be taking them and we didn’t tonight.”

Denly said wanted more of the same for the second half.

He said: “Much of the same. I thought we were excellent first half. We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing, high press, create chances and if we had done that I thought we would get something out of the game – but we didn’t.”

Cray Wanderers dominated the second half and were wasteful in front of goal on numerous occasions.

Left-back Timmi Osibodu played a one-two with Dent and cut into the penalty area before cutting the ball back for Haynes, who was denied by a fine block from Sayer, who stuck out his right leg to divert the ball behind for a corner.

Prescott swung in the resulting corner from the left and McKinlay bundled the ball into the back of the net at the far post from six-yards.

“Poor goal, a really poor goal from our point of view. We’ve got to do better than that,” complained Denly.

“The keeper has got to come and claim - and we’ve got to clear our lines but terrible goal to concede one minute in.

“Awful start. It wasn’t what we spoke about at half-time and then we leave ourselves with a mountain to climb, which is never easy.”

Cray Wanderers then turned the spell and wasted numerous chances.

Haynes linked up with Dent to reach the by-line before cutting the ball across the face of goal which was missed by Medley.

Herne Bay broke - started by a strong tackle on the halfway line by midfielder Liam Quinn - and Williams released Lovell through on goal. The striker cut into the box but dragged his shot across goal and the home side were able to clear their lines.

Medley played Haynes in through on goal but the striker drilled his shot into the side netting, before Herne Bay gave the ball away in their final third and Medley skied his shot over the bar after cutting in towards the edge of the penalty area.

Visiting keeper Wood was called into action in the 57th minute, diving low to his left as Haynes cut the ball onto his left-foot and drove a shot towards the bottom near corner from 22-yards.

Cray Wanderers then struck the crossbar shortly afterwards adding to the frustrations for their small fan base. 

Osibodu played the ball inside to Dent, who turned one way and then the other, before powering a right-footed drive against the crossbar from 15-yards.

Denly said: “We started the second half sloppy and I think they completely dominated the first 15-20 minutes and we couldn’t get out of our half.  Their management will be disappointed that they haven’t got a few more goals but we hung in there but to keep it at 2-1 with all the possession they had was good and on another night we could’ve nicked it.”

Herne Bay striker Williams attempted to snatch a goal with a speculative strike from 30-yards, which went harmlessly wide, as he attempted to knock the wind out of the home side’s sails.

Bundele’s pass along the deck released Haynes, who turned Harry Brown outside the box, cut into the box and hit his shot into the ground, seeing the ball flash past the foot of the far post.

Brown, the Herne Bay left-back, swept in a deep free-kick in the 65th minute, which was knocked down and substitute Isiag Adebayo’s overhead kick from 15-yards was gobbled up comfortably by Blue.

Wood pulled off another fine save to frustrate the home side as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

Ben Gorham pressed Haynes, who swept a right-footed curler, which deflected off the former Canterbury City defender and was sailing into the top far corner, but Wood dived high to his left to pull off a brilliant save.

Denly added: “They could’ve got themselves probably three or four more goals if they were a little bit more clinical – but they weren’t!

“A mixture of bad, poor finishing from them, maybe a bit of quality from our defence, we’ve managed to keep it at two.”

Herne Bay right-back Michael Turner whipped in a cross which was cleared out to Adebayo, whose left-footed drive flashed through a crowd of players and past the far post from the edge of the box.

Medley dribbled towards the Herne Bay box, opted to ignore an unmarked Haynes inside of him and his shot was blocked. Dent miss-kicked the ball as it broke out of the area and Prescott got all of his power behind his shot, which screamed over the crossbar.

But Herne Bay sensed that they could nick a late equaliser after being on the cosh for a large majority of the second half.

Brown delivered a deep free-kick some 35-yards from goal which hung in the air and dipped and Blue back-peddled to tip the ball away from underneath his crossbar.

Dawson slipped the ball through to substitute Brandon Scott, whose deflected shot was grabbed by Wood.

Wood pulled off another brilliant save when he dived high to his left to prevent Haynes rifling in a right-footed drive.

Herne Bay were like a fighter on the ropes but they kept taking punch after punch and they had a couple of chances to deliver a late sucker-punch.

Brown delivered another great free-kick into the penalty area and Gorham ghosted into the box unmarked to plant his free header over the crossbar in the 86th minute.

A frustrated Denly said: “As soon as my centre half blazes it over the bar from five-yards I thought tonight’s not our night!”

Williams then cut onto his left-foot before stroking a shot from 30-yards, which was comfortably saved by Blue.

Adesite turned his man down the left before breaking into the box and stroking his right-footed drive against the near post.

And with virtually the last kick of the game, Dent cut in from the left wing to reach the by-line and his centre should have been tucked home by Adesite, who took too many touches on the edge of the six-yard box and another chance went begging for the home side.

Herne Bay welcome third-placed Greenwich Borough to Winch’s Field on Saturday, followed by second-placed Dorking Wanderers on 8 April.

They then travel to South Park (15 April), host Ramsgate on Easter Monday for their last home game of the season, before travelling to Whyteleafe on 22 April.

“We’ve got some difficult games coming up, Greenwich, Dorking, but they’re up in the top five playing for something so what we want to try to do us put a dent in their season,” said Denly.

“We’ve got five games left, nothing left to play for, we’re safe but I’ll be making sure the boys prepare properly and we’ll go into those games and we’re going to get something out of the game.”

When asked to reflect on the season, Denly admitted: “It’s been a long season, I think I’ve made that pretty clear to everybody. 

“It’s been difficult. There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes that have made it very difficult. It’s been very up and down, very inconsistent so for me it’s been one of my hardest in four years that’s for sure.

“But we stuck at it, a few players have gone but the core players have stayed when things have been hard. The budget’s been cut. I’ve managed to keep 80% of the team and I’m proud of them with that and I think the run we’ve been on before the last couple of games has been fantastic and we’ve stayed in this division, but overall disappointing but pleased to still be in the league.”

When asked whether he’s already planning for Herne Bay’s sixth Isthmian League campaign, Denly replied: “Yes and no. Let’s get the season out of the way first. There’s a few things that I’ve got to get right in the background first before we plan properly but it’s been a long season.  Yes, I have one eye on next season and what lies ahead but I’ll worry about that when the season’s over.”

Cray Wanderers secretary Mark Simpson said that no one from the club would be made available for interview tonight.

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Timmi Osibodu, Lea Dawson, Zak Henry, Jai McKinlay, Karl Dent, Sean Roberts, Danny Haynes (Anthony Adesite 90), Luke Medley (Brandon Scott 77), Lee Prescott.
Subs: Tyrone Guthrie, Paul Lorraine, Sean Law

Goals: Lee Prescott 36, Jai McKinlay 47

Booked: Lea Dawson 84

Herne Bay: Toby Wood, Michael Turner (Caleb Afoke 89), Harry Brown, Liam Quinn, Gary Sayer, Ben Gorham, Adam Woollcott, Darnell Weise (Isiag Adebayo 60), Danny Williams, Mark Lovell, Billy Lewins.
Subs: Stuart King, Umaku Mainsaraj

Goal: Mark Lovell 39 (penalty)

Booked:  Harry Brown 79

Attendance: 123
Referee: Mr Jack Packman (Margate)
Assistants: Mr Joe Stokes (Dover) & Mr Adam Steele (Canterbury)

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