Cray Wanderers 1-2 Lewes - When you're playing these so-called big games you need your big players' to turn up, unfortunately we didn't have enough of them, admits Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Saturday 20th January 2018
Cray Wanderers 1 – 2 Lewes
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 20/01/2018 15:00

CRAY WANDERERS  1-2  LEWES
Bostik South Division
Saturday 20 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell says his side will give it everything to win automatic promotion at the end of the season after losing only their second league game of their campaign.

The Wands extended their unbeaten league run to 23 games after humiliating Ashford United 9-1 to rise to the summit of the Bostik South table on Wednesday night but they lost this top-of-the-table clash to Lewes in front of their largest crowd of the season of 516 fans at a wet Hayes Lane.

Cray Wanderers’ only previous league defeat came at Lewes back on 16 September 2017 when they had Bradley Stevenson and Mitchell Nelson sent-off in a 2-1 defeat at The Dripping Pan.

Darren Freeman’s men arrived in Bromley on a run of six wins on the bounce and are now a point clear on 66 points from 30 games, with a game in hand.

Lewes got off to a dream start as they took the lead after only 43 seconds through Omarr Lawson’s first goal for the club after scoring nine for league rivals VCD Athletic before his switch.

Referee Dean Skinner, who was being observed, awarded Lewes a penalty that wasn’t, which was tucked home by winger Jamie Brotherton after only 540 seconds.  It was his 15th goal of the season.

Cray Wanderers played much better during the second half and pulled a goal back through Frankie Chappell’s own-goal but Lewes maintained their unbeaten record over the Wands by hanging on to the win.

Two Cray Wanderers players picked up red-cards inside injury time as left-back Barney Williams and centre half Nelson were harshly sent-off.

“I’m disappointed to lose a game but I’m pleased with how the second half went,” said Russell.

“I wasn’t happy with the first half.  I thought our response was good.  I always say if you’re going to lose a game you make sure you lose it doing the right things. We were on the front foot and we pinned them in for most of that second half and we just didn’t have that extra quality to get the result we wanted.

“We spoke before the game. This is what you’re involved in football for to be involved in these games and enjoy it.

“I woke up this morning and I was right up for it.  I remember back to other times when I was in this position. This is why I want to do it.  I felt comfortable.

“I’m just so disappointed in the way we started because baring 15 minutes they haven’t done nothing to us and that’s going to really annoy me and in the greatest respect to Lewes I don’t think they’re a particularly amazing side!  But when you give any team a 2-0 head start, no matter who we’re playing, it’s going to be hard and then it allows them to make the game bitty and all off a sudden the game’s hand work.”

Lewes got off to a dream start as Chappell’s defence splitting pass wasn’t cut out and put Lawson in behind the back four and his right-footed angled drive from 14-yards flashed across Nick Blue and nestled inside the bottom far corner, just shading the foot of the post.

“It’s just a catalogue of errors,” admitted Russell.

“Denty’s (Karl Dent) nowhere near his man! The ball’s been slipped down the side. Zak (Henry) has just let his man run and Jay Leader is pointing to him and Lawson’s run through and he’s finished.  It’s an absolutely shocking goal from our perspective.

“I’m fuming! I said to them at half-time, Denty and all that and there’s a lot of words, big hype, words about being up for it, it’s a massive game and at the start of the game Denty doesn’t want to be tight to his man from a throw-in.  It just deflates everything and what’s the point?  If anything you expect him to foul the first couple because he’s too wound up but I’m disappointed.”

Russell handed Junior Dadson his debut after signing him for an undisclosed transfer fee from Bostik Premier side Harlow Town.

Dadson failed to impress out on the wing during the 66 minutes that he was out on the pitch.

“It’s hard on Junior because we play a certain way and we want him to do certain things and he wasn’t doing that,” admitted Russell.

“He’s coming inside and pinning the full-back, which is not really what we want him to do.

“I can’t have a go at him for that because we need to get him on the training pitch and we need to work with him on that so I can’t be too harsh on him. He needs to work, he’s a work in progress.  I thought he done ok without being brilliant.”

Dadson played in a low cross from the left and striker Charlie MacDonald turned his man inside the box before playing the ball to Brandon Scott on his outside but the winger steered his shot past the right-hand post with only 123 seconds on the clock.

Russell said: “That was a very good chance and we need that to go in.  Charlie rolled his man and Brandon just miss-hit his shot.”

Lewes central defender Lloyd Cotton was allowed to run through the heart of the pitch before slicing his left-footed shot past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Lewes pressed Cray Wanderers at the back and won the second balls during a first half that they bossed as dominating performances from full-backs Steve Brinkhurst and Leon Redwood kept Dadson and Scott quiet and Cray’s right-back Ben Mundele looked nervous.

Referee Dean Skipper awarded Lewes a controversial penalty after left-winger Jamie Brotherton ran into Nelson just inside the penalty area on the left.

Brotherton slotted his right-footed penalty past the diving Blue, the ball nestling into the bottom right-hand corner to give the home side a mountain to climb.

Russell said: “It was never a penalty! That Brotherton is very clever, very, very clever.  He’s just pushed it and then run into Mitch, everyone can see that.  Of course everyone can see it’s not a penalty but the guy’s clever and the referee’s naïve and there you are, we’re 2-0 down!

“I’ve never seen that ref and he didn’t have a great game if I’m honest.  It needed to be a strong ref today.”

Despite being 2-0 down, Cray Wanderers continued to play out from the back but they failed to live up to expectation during a poor first half by their high standards.

Central midfielder Ghassimu Sow drilled a shot which deflected off Nelson and looped over from 25-yards and Lewes will need to work on their shooting as Sow lashed his shot high and wide from 30-yards after Redwood’s corner from the right came out to him.

Mundele gave the ball away and James Hammond fed Lawson, who stroked his right-footed 22-yard drive towards goal in the 32nd minute, which was held by Blue, diving low to his right.

“It was quite a comfortable save,” said Russell.

“I don’t think Ben started well.  He’s only young, people forget that he’s only 18.  This is his first big game that he’s been involved in.  I thought he started like a rabbit in headlights if I’m being honest for the first 20 minutes.  He struggled a little bit, he looked a bit nervous and his decision making wasn’t great.  I thought from half-time onwards once he relaxed he was brilliant.”

Seventy-seconds later, Lewes should have increased their lead.

Brotherton released striker Billy Medlock down the left channel and the former Phoenix Sports man held the ball up before sweeping the ball inside to an unmarked Hammond, but the holding midfielder sliced his shot harmlessly wide from 22-yards.

“I was so disappointed with the first half generally.  I thought it was an even half in terms of possession but we just wasn’t at it,” admitted Russell.

“We played the occasion rather than our actual game. That’s disappointing because we’ve got enough good players’ out there to do that and all off a sudden we started doing things differently to what we normally do.”

Lewes built the play down the left with a slick move before Hammond fed Medlock, who rolled the ball for Brinkhurst, who cut past Williams and a poor touch inside the box allowed Blue to gobble up the ball at the right-backs feet.

Karl Dent was tripped by Hammond, who was the third Lewes player to be booked by the referee, but Dent’s right-footed free-kick from 25-yards drifted harmlessly over the crossbar.

“He was another one, he’s a big player for us,” Russell said of midfielder Dent.

“I didn’t think he had a great first half. He was very wasteful. We’re getting balls in areas and he would just overhit or underhit a pass and was just on the fringes of everything.

“When you’re playing these so-called big games you need your big players to turn up. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough of them. 

“Charlie MacDonald first half was very good. He was isolated. He held the ball up for us.”

Sow was allowed to run inside the Cray half before right-winger Charles Coppola cut inside but his left-footed shot from outside the box cleared the crossbar.

Cray Wanderers had to improve for the second half.

“I was fuming! I was not happy because I just want us to perform,” said Russell.

“I said I don’t care about the result. People get obsessed about results, I just want us to play and do what we do.

“Just be brave and pass the ball and get it wide and get past people and have some shots.  It was just too safe! I dug Denty for the goal and Zak. I don’t think Zak had a great game today. I took him off at half-time, I was disappointed with his performance.”

Redwood floated in a cross from the left and Coppola hooked his shot into Blue’s hands for a comfortable gather from eight-yards out as Lewes created the first opening inside the opening six minutes.

Cray Wanderers then started to click into gear and started the play the attacking football that they’re renowned for.

Mundele was his usual positive self after the interval and he whipped in a great cross from the right and MacDonald’s glancing header from 14-yards was tipped around the post by Winterton, diving low to his right.

“To be fair to the keeper he’s probably man-of-the-match. He’s made a couple of really good saves,” said Russell.

“He’s made some cracking stops.  He’s got a nice safe pair of hands and he’s probably a keeper to keep an eye on, he’s very good.

“He was quality, he made some fantastic saves and commanded his area well and he kicked the ball from hands as well.”

Lewes keeper Winterton had a great game.  He plucked out every single cross out of the air, only missing a couple.

Dean Carpenter, who came on for Henry at the interval, floated in a cross, which was dropped by Winterton but Lea Dawson guided his header back into the keeper’s hands from the edge of the penalty area.

Scott burst into life in the 57th minute when he played a one-two with Dent and from the edge of the D the winger curled his right-footed shot towards the far corner, only for Winterton to dive to his left to push the ball towards safety.

Russell said: “I was right behind it. I thought it was in!

“That’s what we want to do. We had a go in the second half. If we turned up like that (at the start of the game) we would’ve won the game easily.

“We brought Shaggy (25-goal striker Michael Power) on, we had young Ralique (Lawrence) on. We had a go and me and the players’ done everything we could second half to try to win that game.  First half we didn’t do that, simple as that.”

Lewes offered very little in an attacking threat in the second half but Cotton played the ball into Medlock’s feet but he was never going to trouble Blue from 30-yards.

Cray Wanderers scored their 78th league goal of the season with 22 minutes and 8 seconds on the clock.

Scott sent Mundele on his way down the right, cutting into the box before pulling the ball back towards MacDonald, only for former Folkestone Invicta defender Chappell to turn the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from inside his six-yard box for an own-goal.

“I’ve seen Ben, a lovely passing move, one-two with Brandon, put him in and I saw the cross coming in and I think our bench got up and I just seen the net go so I couldn’t tell you (who scored), I know they announced Charlie MacDonald, but I have no idea. I couldn’t answer who scored and who didn’t there.  I didn’t see.

“I must admit when we scored (I thought we would go on and score an equaliser) but we just lacked that little bit of quality in the final third, a little bit of spark, disappointing, disappointing.”

Cray Wanderers could now smell blood and their tempo increased as they went in search for an equaliser.

Russell added: “Me and Vinsey (assistant, Joe Vines) had a go at them at half-time and they had no choice but to just go for it!  When they’ve gone for it we were miles better and you could see it. We were by far better than them but you cannot turn up for the first 10 minutes and do that to win a game of football.”

Dent whipped in a free-kick, which was palmed away by the impressive Winterton, away to his right.

Hammond floated in a deep free-kick into the Cray penalty area, the ball was headed across goal at the far post by substitute Jonte Smith, Dawson cleared the ball out to Hammond, who stroked his left-footed shot wide from 25-yards.

Hammond put over a cross from the right for Smith, who rose to send his downward header into Blue’s hands for a comfortable save inside the final 10 minutes.

Carpenter launched a long throw in from the left and the ball came out to Scott, who drove his right-footed shot towards the bottom right-hand corner from 15-yards, only for Winterton to dive to his left to make another crucial save.

Jay Leader came up from the back to meet Williams’ deep corner with a free header, which he failed to get anywhere near target just a couple of yards inside the box as the game entered injury time.

Brinkhurst committed a foul throw so Williams though it would be awarded to his side and in an attempt to take the throw, the referee gave Brinkhurst a second chance and Williams reacted by slamming the ball down on to the pitch towards the perimeter fencing.

Russell, who normally does his press duties immediately after walking off the pitch after a team huddle out on the pitch, walked into the dressing room first before conducting his press conference duties for clarification from his players’.

“I’m on the other side of the pitch but the players’ tell me their guy’s done a foul throw and Barney’s went to take it and the referee went no they’ll have another one so like under 10s they have another go so Barney’s slammed the ball down and said “that’s f***ing s**t!”  Don’t get me wrong it’s swearing but he didn’t direct it at the referee.

“If the referee’s going to send off players every time they swear we’re going to have three-a-side because Frankie Chappell, when he took out Charlie (MacDonald) on the half-way line, he got up and he got booked he said “that’s b***ocks!”

“That’s why I said to the referee over there. He didn’t say that to you.  If you’re worried about kids in here then send him off as well, that’s my point!”

Nelson, who was earlier booked for dissent, was pushed further up the pitch for the final moments and he picked up a second yellow card for a harsh foul on Cotton, who bounced straight back up and was on the hunt for retaliation.

Russell added: “We pushed Mitchell up front.  A ball went up to him he’s won the initial flick, the ball’s gone up in the air, he’s looking at the ball and then he’s jumped and tried to back header it.

“He’s eyes are on the ball all the whole time so why are you booking him for? For What? That’s what I said to him. Alright, it’s a foul, he’s caught him but he’s eyes are on the ball – why are you sending him off for?  I’m generally baffled.”

Russell, who takes his side to Herne Bay next Saturday, wants his side to bounce back and collect enough points in their final 15 games to win automatic promotion.

“It’s 15 games to go, there’s plenty of games. We just have to do us, we’ll be fine, we’’ll be fine,” he said.

“We’ll give it everything we’ve got! All you can ever say is we’ll give it everything we’ve got. We’ll get in on Monday, we’ll watch a video of this game, we’ll front it out, we’ll work at what didn’t work for us.

“For whatever reason we just didn’t turn up for 15 minutes and we didn’t get into the game but I’m proud of the boys with their response in the second half and they gave everything that they’ve got.

“Until anyone tells me any different, I’m going for promotion, automatic promotion.  I’ll go into every single game trying to win, I won’t change anything.

“We didn’t get beat by a better team.  They weren’t better than us, they were more streetwise than us, that’s what they were but we’ve got a young side and they will learn so much from that, people like Ben Mundele, Ralique Lawrence and Brandon Scott.

“I know Lewes were excited and jumping around, but it’s a long way out to be doing that.  Football Karma, I believe in football karma.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Zak Henry (Dean Carpenter 46), Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Junior Dadson (Ralique Lawrence 66), Lea Dawson, Charlie MacDonald, Karl Dent (Michael Power 83), Brandon Scott.
Subs: Michael Frieter, Marcus Evans

Goal: Frankie Chappell 68 (own goal)

Booked: Mitchell Nelson 45, Dean Carpenter 79

Sent Off: Barney Williams 90, Mitchell Nelson 90

Lewes: Chris Winterton, Steve Brinkhurst, Leon Redwood, James Hammond, Frankie Chappell, Lloyd Cotton, Omarr Lawson, Ghassimu Sow, Billy Medlock (Jonte Smith 71), Charles Coppola (Harry Reed 75), Jamie Brotherton (Ronnie Conlon 55).
Subs: Bouwe Bosma, Matthew Hurley

Goals: Omarr Lawson 1, Jamie Brotherton 10 (penalty)

Booked: Omarr Lawson 17, Frankie Chappell 24, James Hammond 40

Attendance: 516
Referee: Mr Dean Skipper (Rainham, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Paul Stratton (Upminster, Essex) & Mr Andrew Simmonds (Grays, Essex)

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