Cray Wanderers 4-3 Horsham - We have to do something this year because if we don’t get automatic promotion what we do need to do is finish as high as possible so we can get home advantage in the play-offs, says Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Sunday 18th March 2018
Cray Wanderers 4 – 3 Horsham
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 18/03/2018 15:00

Bostik South Division
Sunday 18 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell says their win over midtable Horsham was not the prettiest but he wants his side to finish the season as high as they can in the Bostik South table.


Since thrashing Ashford United 9-1 here on 17 January, Russell’s men have lost five (of their six league defeats) and slipped out of the title race but have steadied the ship with back-to-back wins over Whyteleafe and Horsham.

Lewes hold first place with 83 points from 37 points, followed by Corinthian-Casuals on 78 points from 38 games.

The four play-off places are occupied by Carshalton Athletic (77 points from 36 games), Cray Wanderers (75 points from 39 games), Greenwich Borough (73 points from 37 games) and Walton Casuals (70 points from 38 games).

On a bitterly cold day at Hayes Lane, Cray Wanderers just didn’t seem to be their usual selves – despite scoring four of the seven goals.

Cray Wanderers did click into gear and scored three times in 19 minutes, courtesy of two goals from striker Charlie MacDonald and midfielder Karl Dent.

Alfie Rogers pulled a goal back for Horsham, who last played on 24 February when they came away from Hythe with a 1-1 draw.

Striker George Landais scored his ninth goal of the season for the Hornets from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second half, but Cray Wanderers sealed the victory through Junior Dadson’s first-time finish, scoring his third goal in two games.

Lewis Hyde came up from the back to nod in a free-kick with virtually the last kick of the game to ensure Horsham scored a flattering third goal.

“I didn’t think we were great if I’m honest. I thought we made hard work of it.  However, the objective was to get three points and we got that,” said Russell.

“We’ve won two in a row so I’m delighted with that.  Today was hard work with the weather conditions, it’s tricky.  We’ve got one or two youngsters, they probably didn’t want to be out there, which was a little bit annoying but at this time of the season you just need to get wins on the board.”

After an uneventful opening 20 minutes when Cray Wanderers played far too many passes back to their goalkeeper Nick Blue and Horsham players were pressing the home side, the game livened up.

“It was just us, we were so far off it! With the greatest respect to Horsham this game was dictated on what we was going to do, not what they were going to do,” said Russell.

“They came here last time and we beat them 8-0. We were so far off it, it was frustrating.  There were four or five that were so lethargic, it was just frustrating!”

Horsham winger Ryan Worrall whipped in a low cross from the left, which was spilt by Blue, low to his left, and Hyde produced a central defenders finish by slicking his shot past the left-hand post from 14-yards.

“It was sloppy from Bluey, I don’t know what was up,” admitted Russell.

“The feeling in the dressing room was we knew how important this game was, it was so important to back up the win on Wednesday but we were so far off it.

“I thought it was such a rubbish game if I’m honest! I said to the subs to go and warm up, I’m not watching any more of this. If I’m going to be cold I want to be half-entertained while I’m doing it.”

Cray Wanderers broke the stalemate by scoring the first goal with 20 minutes and 21 seconds on the clock.

Dent released Barney Williams on the overlap and the left-back cut the ball back to Dadson, who was denied by a near-post block from visiting keeper Josh Pelling and MacDonald drove his low shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner from eight-yards.

“I don’t feel we played particularly well but when we did the first goal, the movement was really good. It was sharp and we opened them up and it was a good goal,” said Russell.

“All of a sudden we snapped out of it and popped our head out of the bunker for a couple of minutes, scored a goal and then jumped back into the slowness of the weather and the tempo of the game was like the temperature, it was low, very low.”

Russell added: “That was the one move we done at pace.  It started from Bluey and it was one and two touch and the passes were in front of people so they could come onto the ball.  Really good passing inside from Jay Leader so Denty could come onto the ball and then Dadson’s come inside and Barney’s gone on the overlap, the pull-back and Junior’s reacted to that.

“It was a really good goal, it was sharp. That was the first time in the game that we actually decided to turn up.”

Horsham almost caught Cray Wanderers cold from a throw-in taken by left-back Bailie Rogers and Landais turned his man and a mixture of Blue and the foot of the near post ensured the low shot from 10-yards went behind for a corner.

Russell revealed: “I never felt comfortable all day, even when it went 4-2.  I’m struggling to put my finger as to why.  You’d like to think not (it was the weather).  These boys play a winter sport unfortunately and they’ve got to wear short sleeved shirts and shorts so I’m sure they’ve played in this sort of weather before.

“I don’t know whether it’s a Sunday game as well, a couple of them might’ve had a couple of beers last night, I don’t know.

“We were ok, it wasn’t as though we were terrible. It was so slow there was no purpose to it. There were four or five of them so far off it.  If I had 10 subs I would’ve made 10 subs.  It was frustrating. The boys showed glimpses of quality in the final third to rip them open at times.”

Clinical Cray Wanderers doubled their lead with 36 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

Holding midfielder Zak Henry clipped a long ball forward and MacDonald was up in the box on his own.  He cut inside Joseph Shelley, who committed the foul and referee George Warren pointed to the spot.

MacDonald sent Josh Pelling the wrong way from the spot, stroking his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner to score his eighth goal for the club.

“Charlie and Shaggy (Michael Power) have been battling it out whose going to start and we’re very blessed to have two very good players,” said Russell, who was then asked why he has dropped 27-goal striker Power to the bench.

“We went with Charlie on Wednesday and he led the line brilliantly and got a goal and we were thinking about putting Shaggy back in.  We thought we need to give one of them a chance to go on a run of goalscoring to get their tail up.

“Shaggy wants to play like everyone, but he also understands we’re in a team sport and he’s a good lad and he’s desperate for us to do well. 

“He could come on or start next week and score a hat-trick and then go to the end of the season.  We are looking at the possibility of going two up top in certain games but it depends on the pitch.

“We just felt the last couple of weeks we haven’t been getting the results we want so it gives us fantastic options and we’re very fortunate to have two top forwards and two top guys.”

Cray Wanderers raced into a 3-0 lead with their next chance with 39 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock – but were not playing at their best at this point.

Ben Mundele played the ball into Dent’s feet, who fed the ball into MacDonald’s feet, whose flicked pass set up Dent, who drilled his left-footed drive into the bottom right-hand corner from 17-yards.

“It was nice flow. It was nice interchanging. There was some rotation in there, it was nice football and it opened up to Denty and he needed that goal,” admitted Russell, who was without Michael Freiter who was on a skiing trip.

“He’s been out of form for the last couple of months but he played really well on Wednesday. He wasn’t at his best today but he was probably our most creative player in midfield and that goal will do him no harm.  Hopefully he can kick on because he’s a big player for us.”

Horsham pulled a goal back with 41 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

Worrall floated in a free-kick from the left, Blue came out and failed to punch the ball away towards safety, the ball dropped down by Rogers, who swept his first time right-footed shot into the bottom near corner from 14-yards.

“In Bluey’s defence, it was more Jay Leader there.  Bluey’s called it and Jay has gone for the ball and then last minute ran into Bluey,” said Russell.

“If we just clear that ball we come in at half-time 3-0, having not played well, the games done!  What he’s now done is dangled a carrot and gone you never know? Those Horsham players will know when they last came here they got beat 8-0. That’s the frustrating thing, we’ve let a sloppy goal in!”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Russell replied: “I was angry, really angry!  We spoke to the boys who we felt wasn’t at it.  I asked them that question. Is it too cold for you? There were probably two or three who were playing within themselves and I said can we only pick you above zero degrees and if we drop below minus you’re not for us?”

The wintry conditions got worse after the interval.  Ineffective Horsham wide-man Tony Nwachukwu made a couple of snow balls from snow that was stored around the edge of the pitch and threw them at his colleagues.

Horsham right-back Steven Metcalf got away with a booking for a deliberate handball and Dent’s right-footed curling free-kick went straight down Pelling’s throat from the edge of the box.

Landais swept a shot on the turn from 25-yards, which was held by Blue whilst down on his knees inside the opening three minutes.

Pelling was then called into action in the 50th minute, flying high to his left to prevent Lea Dawson cracking a right-footed drive into the top right-hand corner from 30-yards.

“Dawson was banned for three games and he’s first game back was last Wednesday and we lost those three games.  He’s such an important player for us,” said Russell.

“We’ve lost six games this year and I think every time we’ve lost we’ve had people suspended.  He’s such a big player for us.  He puts that percentage up in tight games.  He does the basics very well and he’s our leader. He was brilliant on Wednesday and I thought him and Zak Henry held it together when we were not at our best.”

Cray Wanderers gifted Horsham a life-line when right-back Ben Mundele fouled Darren Boswell in the box and Landais sent Blue the wrong way with a right-footed penalty placing his right-footed penalty into the roof of the net – with nine minutes and a second on the clock.

“I didn’t think Ben had his best game today if I’m honest,” said Russell.

“It was a lazy tackle. He’s adamant he didn’t touch him but if you dangle legs as a defender in the box then you’re asking for trouble!

“Whether he’s touched him or not, why are you dangling lazy legs?  I think really highly of him, he’s a young man. Today he didn’t cover himself in glory but there’s always next week.”

The ineffective winger Brandon Scott was withdrawn on the hour-mark and the home side went close just past the hour mark.

They produced a sweeping move and Dent reached the by-line before wrapping his foot around the ball for MacDonald to guide his near post header past the far post from six-yards.

Horsham substitute Curtis Gayler whipped in a quality free-kick which was met by Shelley at the far post and he couldn’t hook in his shot on target from a tight angle.

Cray Wanderers killed the game off with their fourth goal, timed at 29 minutes and 44 seconds.

MacDonald did well to slide the ball down the line for substitute winger Aaron Rhule, who cut in from the left and whipped in a precise low cross for Dadson to cut across his man to sweep his first time shot into the roof of the net from six-yards.

Russell said: “That is why we wanted Junior at the club, this is it.  I was dying to get him in because he’s a wide player who scores goals – they’re a rarity!

“He thinks like a forward.  If you watch it, his movement, he’s across the front of the centre half, whipping it into the top corner.  You don’t get that from wide players.  That’s why I was so keen to get him in (for an undisclosed transfer fee from Bostik Premier Division side Harlow Town) because you can not play well and simplify the game as much as possible, it’s who gets the ball in that net at the end.

“If I can nick a goal out of nothing, any cross will only look good as the forward makes it so he got across the front of the centre half but if he doesn’t and stands out the other side like a winger and the centre half clears it you say that’s a rubbish cross!  But it looks like a great cross because of his movement.

“There’s still more to come. I don’t think he was unbelievable today but he didn’t have his most spectacular game, he worked hard, he defended for us and then he scored a goal, now you look at it as a decent performance.”

Rhule almost produced a perfect solo goal when he skipped past a couple of challenges and rifled his left-footed shot over the crossbar when he only had the keeper to beat.

“Listen Aaron Rhule is very much a work in motion.  If he could do that last bit he wouldn’t be playing for Cray Wanderers,” admitted Russell.

“He goes past people like they’re not even there. He’s a powerhouse as a kid. He's got a wand of a left-foot but what he does lack is composure when he gets in the final third and we’re working on that.

“I want him wrapped around me, he’s got plenty of bad habits, his discipline is not good enough but he’s a lovely kid. He’s not a bad egg, he just does stupid things when he gets tired. His fitness is not good enough.

“What we want to do is get him in for next season, get him as fit as possible, keep working him in training and I think he’ll go onto whatever level he wants.  I really think he’s that good.  He doesn’t show it enough for me. He lets himself down but that’s how highly I potentially rate him.  He needs work and he’s had a lot of clubs. He’s got to stop doing that now and just settle down.”

Henry’s inside pass set up Dawson, whose right-footed deflected drive from 20-yards flashed just past the foot of the near post before Horsham pulled a goal back with virtually the last kick of the game.

Williams pulled down Nwachukwu on the right to stop a breakaway and settled for a booking and a free-kick.

Substitute Matt Axell swung in the resulting delivery towards the far post for Hyde to steer his header over Blue from six-yards.

“They did nothing second half, you now look at the score at 4-3 and think that was a thriller, it wasn’t,” admitted Russell.

“Literally as they scored I went to the ref ‘how long?’ and he went ‘two seconds’.

“They just broke, Barney got the wrong side of his man, committed a foul and the free-kick, if he didn’t score there were two behind him who were going to score.

“It’s hard because I don’t want to have a go at them too much. We’ve been on a rough old road. In seven games we’ve lost five games. It’s been rough but we’ve come out of it with two wins in a row.”

With seven league games remaining, Cray Wanderers must come away from Corinthian-Casuals with a win on Saturday to keep their promotion bid on track.

“What I will say is on a cold old day, the snow was coming down, it was a grim weekend. The wind and snow picked up in the second half.  It was grim.  It’s a Sunday as well, they don’t want to play on a Sunday but we got the three points and that was the main objective.

“I call it Sally Gunnell. She wasn’t the prettiest but she always gets the job done, we got the three points.”

A win in Tolworth will put the Wands above Corinthian-Casuals in the Bostik South table.

“We’ve put so much effort into this season, we’ve put so much work in, the boys have been brilliant, but why give it away now?

“We’ve won on Wednesday, you’ve now got a chance to get some real momentum.  We questioned certain players’ desire and we asked them what do they want to do this year or do you want to do something this year? We have to do something this year because if we don’t get automatic promotion what we do need to do is finish as high as possible so we can get home advantage (in the play-offs).

“There’s no one in this league who would fancy coming here and playing us on here (3G pitch). What we need to do is just win games and I said that to the players’ – go out there and perform, do the basics well and win games.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Lea Dawson, Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Junior Dadson, Zak Henry, Charlie MacDonald (Michael Power 76), Karl Dent (Kyron Farrell 74), Brandon Scott (Aaron Rhule 60).
Subs: Marcus Evans, Tiwa Fujimade

Goals: Charlie MacDonald 21, 37 (penalty), Karl Dent 40, Junior Dadson 75

Booked: Karl Dent 59, Barney Williams 90

Horsham: Josh Pelling, Steven Metcalf, Bailie Rogers, Hakeem Adelakun (Matt Axell 83), Lewis Hyde, Joseph Shelley, Tony Nwachukwu, Ryan Worrall, George Landais, Alfie Rogers (Curtis Gayler 57), Darren Boswell (Josh Street 68).
Sub: Henry Watson

Goals: Alfie Rogers 42, George Landais 55 (penalty), Lewis Hyde 90

Booked: Curtis Gayler 90

Attendance: 164
Referee: Mr George Warren (Wandsworth, London SW15)
Assistants: Mr Alexander Bradley (Brighton, East Sussex) & Mr Ciaran Fidler (Brighton, East Sussex)

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