Cray Wanderers 3-1 Phoenix Sports - There's a lot more to improve on, says Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Wednesday 04th October 2017
Cray Wanderers 3 – 1 Phoenix Sports
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 04/10/2017 19:45

Bostik South
Wednesday 4th October 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell says there’s a lot more to improve on despite comfortably beating Phoenix Sports at Hayes Lane.

The Wands climbed up into seventh-place in the Bostik South table with 19 points in the bag from 10 games after winning their fourth game on the bounce, while Steve O’Boyle’s Phoenix Sports extended their winless run to seven games and remain in fourteenth-place with 12 points from nine league outings.

Cray Wanderers dominated the first half and were 2-0 up inside the opening 27 minutes, courtesy of Michael Power’s brace, taking his goalscoring tally for the season to seven goals.

A serious injury to Phoenix Sports’ central defender Tony Robinson held play up for around eight minutes in the second half and this killed off any momentum.

But the game sprung to life late on and the home side added a third through substitute Kyron Lightfoot, who scored his first goal for the club, before Phoenix Sports pulled a goal back through Ashley Probets’ sublime free-kick with virtually the last kick of the game.

“I thought we were good first half and I thought we were really poor second half and we lost our way a little bit,” said Russell.

“Nick Blue’s not had a shot, their first shot was the goal so in terms of that I  think we can be a little bit better.

“At half-time we said we can go out there and put them to the sword a little bit but I suppose you’ve got to credit Phoenix but from our personal point of view we wasn’t happy with that second half.  It’s not what we’re looking for.”

O’Boyle sent out his assistant Paul Bryon for press duties post-match so he could “speak to his players,” following their poor performance.

“We didn’t start well. We gifted them two goals, we didn’t clear our lines,” said Bryon.

“First half I thought the difference between the two teams was they were a lot braver on the ball, everyone wanted the ball.  At times we were watching the game rather than getting involved in it and affecting it, so we spoke to them at half-time and said whatever you do be brave and get on the ball, play a bit of football and I thought second half, in spells, we did a lot better.

“We had a nasty injury that stopped the game for a while. We changed our formation, we went three at the back, which we’ve done a few times in the last few weeks and it’s helped us.

“We had a 20 minute spell where we were ok, at least we were matching them and the last 10 minutes they got on top again, got the third goal as we were pushing high up the pitch.

“I’ve got to be really honest and say on the night the better team won. We were disappointed with our decision making in the final third. We didn’t create and we didn’t test the keeper.  I think they defended very, very well at times but the opportunities we did have and we weren’t clinical enough in our decision making and passing and it just ruined a day at the office.”

Cray Wanderers, a side that play out from the back, created their first opening inside the opening nine minutes.

Right-back Barney Williams played the ball into Power in the final third and he flicked his pass inside to Karl Dent, who played the ball back in front of Power and his right-footed angled shot from eight-yards was comfortably saved by Steve Phillips at his near post.

But Cray Wanderers took the lead with 10 minutes and 8 seconds on the clock, following their first corner.

Dent swung in a deep corner from the right and the Phoenix defence switched off and failed to mark Jay Leader, who from the edge of the box sent his free-header towards the near post. Phillips didn’t deal with it and allowed Power to nod the ball over the line from very close range.

Russell praised his assistant manager Joe Vines for the goal.

He said: Credit to Vinsey, since he’s come in he’s so big on set-plays so every training session we’re either talking about them or working on them.  We’ve scored a lot of set-plays this year so he’s really brought that to us and Vinsey always gets excited when we score a set-play.”

Bryon added: “The fellas pulled off, he started on the penalty spot, pulled right at the far post and it’s a free header and when you’ve got a free header and everyone’s watching and then it gets in that area anything can happen.

“We didn’t learn from that because it happened four times in the second half as well.  Luckily it didn’t turn into a goal. We’ve got to learn that we have a job to do in there, first phase and second phase and we didn’t do the first phase or second phase for the first goal.”

Dent and Power linked up well in another attack and Power was crowded out on the edge of the six-yard box and the ball was cleared out to Lea Dawson, the holding midfielder’s drive from 25-yards was held by Phillips.

Phoenix Sports created their only chance of the first half in the 24th minute.

Probets swung in a free-kick with his left-foot from the left and Richard Seixas ghosted in unmarked to plant his far-post header over the crossbar from 10-yards.

“At the end of the day he’s met it well he’s met it with power but those headers should go down to the ground. He didn’t hit the target which was disappointing but the positive from that is we created a chance,” came Bryon’s reply.

Russell added: “That’s what we were speaking about, you can control a game and dominate a game, you can just switch off and that can be a game changer.

“Boylie will be disappointed he didn’t hit the target there.   We had something similar with Jay Leader when he put it over and he had to score.

“When you’re in that much control of the game, it’s those silly little errors, switching off.  It must be hard to switch off when we’ve got the ball and we move it about and in that much control but our biggest killer is complacency. It’s always been our biggest killer and unfortunately we’ve seen that a little bit in the second half.”

It proved to be a costly miss as Cray Wanderers deservedly doubled their lead with 26 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Goalkeeper Nick Blue went direct with a big kick upfield, Power’s touch took him past Danny Young and once inside the box he drilled his left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 14-yards.

“It’s a great finish,” said Russell. 

“They were trying to press us out so it allowed that ball in behind and he’s picked the ball up, he’s still got a lot to do.   I think he’s got a centre half in front of him as well, so he’s done a step-over and he’s rifled it left foot into the bottom corner.

“Shags is Shags, he’s two-footed. Phoenix will know about him, he scored a few goals for them.”

Bryon added: “I feel we had a chance to deal with that. It went to Michael Power, we know him well, he was with us last season.  He’s clinical in front of goal but we said to Danny if he gets a run on you just push him out wide and make sure we cut off the cross. He shot across goal. It went in at the near post, which he shouldn’t have done but we’ve got to deal with it earlier than that and we can’t let him get his head up and have a sight at goal.”

Dent was pulling the strings during a wonderful first half performance from a player that should be playing at a higher level of football.

His sublime pass split Probets to find debutant winger Jerome Federico on the right, the former Kingstonian man cut into the box and stung Phillips’ fingers at his near post with a powerful drive from eight-yards.

“I think he looked a bit rusty. He hasn’t played for a couple of weeks and I think it showed,” admitted Russell on his new signing.

“I thought he could’ve done a little bit better. I thought he done ok. I thought he could’ve hurt them a little bit more than he did but he done alright.  I think there’s a lot more to come from him.  I think he’s a lot better than tonight.  I think there’s more to come. I hope that game blows the cobwebs out and he can move forward from there.”

Bryon praised his goalkeeper for making the save.

He said: “Look, they’re a good side and they’re going to create chances and that’s when you need your keeper. Steve has been our best player this year so far. We rely on him. A team is 11 people and a keeper is one of those. If you think you’re going to go through the game without having to make saves then there’s no point having a keeper.”

Phoenix Sports were poor during the first half and Young met Probets’ deep cross with a towering header at the far post, which bounced down and past the near post in the 34th minute.

At half-time, Russell warned his players about “complacency.  We spoke about the only way they we’re going to score was from a set-play and we told them to stop giving free-kicks away and if we’re defending from set-plays make sure you’re switched on and make sure it’s not your man that scores.

“We just wanted a continuation of what we’re doing and not to get complacent. Don’t get drawn into a basketball match and get stretched. It was very relaxed, it was a comfortable half for us. We were 2-0 up and everything’s going well.  I was trying to talk about Phoenix’s threats and visualise 60 minutes from now, imagine walking in here drawing 2-2 how would that feel?”

Bryon wanted more from his side in the second half.

He said: “We weren’t brave enough on the ball. We were sitting off them a little bit. There were times when we could’ve pressed them higher.

“We were scared off Karl Dent getting in the hole. If you squeeze the space there’s no hole there for him.  We said to get on the ball, be braver on the ball and when they get the ball in their third let’s get at them under a bit of pressure and make them panic.  A team of quality like that, if you let them pass the ball they’re going to pass it around you and that’s going to hurt you.”

Phoenix Sports’ lone striker Jack Barham had a frustrating night and his only opening arrived 139 seconds into the second half.

Kweku Ansah turned his man on the left and swept the ball inside to the edge of the penalty area but Barham drilled his right-footed shot past the right-hand post.

Bryon said: “It was hard for Jack tonight. We’ve been playing 4-4-2 all season and we went with one in the hole, one in behind, just one forward and he was working away up there.  We hoped that the player that we put in there, we put Richard Seixas in there, he’s a good footballer and he can see a pass. The idea we had was to slot at him, it didn’t really come off. They defended against him well.”

Robinson went down inside a crowded Cray Wanderers penalty area after Probets swung in their fourth corner in the 58th minute and screamed in pain as he was treated and put on a stretcher and later taken to hospital by ambulance that didn’t arrive until at least 30 minutes after the end of the game.

Bryon said: “Absolutely feel for the lad, Tony’s a warrior. He’s come in from the reserves this season and he’s started every game now. He’s a superb, very versatile player. He plays centre half, right-back, right-midfield. We’ve put him in centre half for the last four games and he’s one of our best players. He’s so consistent but he’s brave as a lion.

“I didn’t see the incident because it was in a melee from our corner and he’s gone down. We’re getting the results from the physio. Our thoughts are with Tony and hopefully it’s not as serious as they think and he can get back. He’s going to be a big miss.”

Russell added: “It looked a nasty one. Players’ don’t like seeing other players’ getting injured, no-one does so any player leaving on a stretcher is always worrying. We hope he’s not as bad as first feared.”

The game died down after Robinson’s injury and the next chance arrived in the 70th minute when another free towering header at the far post from Leader sailed over after Dent’s corner from the left.

“I think that’s as guilt-edged as their one.  It’s gone over the goalkeeper and he’s just got to head it down. He’s got too much on it,” said Russell.

Seixas, who was playing in the number 10 role behind Barham, swept the ball out to Onoriode Ogboe, who cut inside but his drilled shot from 30-yards was woeful and hit harmlessly wide of the goal with 15 minutes left.

Dent had a couple of shots with both feet from 25-yards, which were both comfortably saved by Phillips inside the final five minutes as the game found a new level.

“He got into the final third a lot, maybe that final pass and shot could’ve been better from him,” added Russell.

“He’s had three shots and he’s not worked the goalkeeper once.  He’s got good ability and I would’ve liked him to have affected it more because it’s all well and good getting in the final third and doing those lovely passes in and around the corners but scoring goals and assists is where you make your money.

“We got into some good areas today and I thought he could’ve hurt them more than he did.  He had a good game but I thought he could’ve done a little bit better.”

Dawson played the ball into Dent, who dragged his left-footed shot across goal and past the far post from the edge of the Phoenix penalty area.

The otherwise quiet Aaron Rhule swept a fine 60-yard diagonal pass out to Lightfoot, who hit a right-footed drive from 12-yards, which was pushed around the post by Phillips.

“We were picking them off all of the time. We got in a good few times. We’re breaking on them and we should’ve made better of them,” said Russell.

“I thought Rhule is a very good player, he didn’t have his best game for us. He done a nice pass to put Kyron in on goal. 

“We’ve scored three, the goalkeeper’s saved two one-on-one and missed a clear header. It’s a satisfying night’s work, no more, no less. Happy that we’ve won but t here’s a lot more to improve on, I think.”

Bryon added: “We went three at the back and with 10 minutes to go and you’re 2-0 down you’re going to take risks and taking risks they’re going to get a few chances and that’s what happened.

“There’s 11 players on the pitch and Steve Phillips is one of them and when we go three at the back we’ve got four at the back because we’ve got a keeper and he did a good job.”

Cray Wanderers grabbed their third goal, timed at five minutes and 24 seconds into time added on.

Their three substitutes combined on the break as Michael Frieter released Freddie Parker down the right wing and he pulled the ball across goal for Lightfoot to sweep his shot into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards.

“They threw the game plan out of the window and came at us. We picked them off and it was nice, good movement by Freddie and he’s seen Kyron in the middle and squared it and it’s job done.

“This game will probably won’t live long in my memory but it’s three points, it’s done now and we can all move on.”

Bryon added: “That was us pushing high and leaving gaps at the back. They exploited it at that time and they had four forwards against our three. It went down the right and then put it across into the middle of the goal and he had an open goal.

“That’s going to happen when you’re pushing forward to get something out of the game. We knew that was the risk we were taking but we’re not here to stop them winning 3-0 when they’re 2-0 up. We’re here to get something out from the game but it wasn’t to be.”

Phoenix Sports scored a flattering consolation goal, timed at 52:44 on the clock.

Barham won a foul from Cray’s left-back Dean Carpenter a yard outside the box and Probets whipped his left-footed free-kick over the four-man wall, the ball arrowing into the top left-hand corner.

“The boys are fuming,” revealed Russell.

“We’ve got an excellent defensive record this year. It was a cheap foul, it was a foul, no complaints and to be fair to Ash he’s got a wand of a left-foot. I’ve seen no surprise that going in.  He’s got an excellent dead ball. The boys are angry about that but what we just spoke about, that we’ve gone through the game never getting out of third gear and we need to push a little bit more than that.”

Bryon said: “He’s a dead-ball specialist Ashley. His left-foot is excellent. We know whenever we get a free-kick in and around that area he’s at least going to test the keeper and he didn’t let us down. It’s too little, too late.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams, Dean Carpenter, Zak Henry, Marcus Evans, Jay Leader, Aaron Rhule, Lea Dawson, Michael Power (Freddie Parker 90), Karl Dent (Michael Frieter 90), Jerome Federico (Kyron Lightfoot 75).
Subs: Joe Vines, Anthony Adesite

Goals: Michael Power 11, 27, Kyron Lightfoot 90

Booked: Aaron Rhule 89

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Conrad Lee, Ashley Probets, Stefan Wright, Danny Young, Tony Robinson (Frankie Sawyer 66), Onoriode Ogboe, Jack Hopkins, Jack Barham, Richard Seixas, Kweku Ansah (Dajon Golding 81).
Subs: Zak Bryon, James Fitchett, Terry Murray

Goal: Ashley Probets 90

Attendance: 118
Referee: Mr Steven Scott (Balham, London SW12)
Assistants: Mr Caspar Vick (Wandsworth, London SW18) & Mr William Davis (Earlsfield, London SW18)

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