Cray Wanderers 0-0 Ramsgate - This shows how close we can be to be an excellent team in this division and our run of form probably suggests that, says Ramsgate head coach Lloyd Blackman

Sunday 25th November 2018
Cray Wanderers 0 – 0 Ramsgate
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 25/11/2018 15:00

Bostik South East Division
Sunday 25 November 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

RAMSGATE head coach Lloyd Blackman has challenged his side to build a platform after extending their unbeaten league record to eight games after coming away from the league leaders with a point.

Cray Wanderers had midfielder Tom Phipp sent-off for a horrible challenge on Jack Penny in the 37th minute and Ramsgate squandered several second half chances to become the first side to beat Tony Russell’s men in the Bostik South East Division this season.

This entertaining goal-less draw at Hayes Lane ensures Cray Wanderers extend their lead to 10 points on Hastings United – who have two games in hand, having collected 38 points from 14 games, while Ramsgate are in thirteenth-place in the table with 17 points from 12 games but only five points adrift of the play-offs.

“It’s a pleasing result, I would’ve taken that before the game,” said Blackman during the post-match press conference.

“Obviously when they’re down to 10 men I felt we probably could’ve imposed ourselves a little bit more on the game but over the course of the 90 minutes I was pleased with the result.

“We were strong and resilient and held out, which was pleasing. I think over the period of both sides having chances, I think it was an even result.”

Blackman certainly did his homework on Cray Wanderers, pushing Rory Smith on top of Jay Leader on the very edge of the penalty area as the home side played out from the back.

Blackman played with three centre-halves and two wing-backs and Ollie Gray had an excellent game sitting in front of the defensive line.  He signed for Eastbourne Town in the league below due to university but is back in a Ramsgate shirt as he has moved back to the area for a work placement and is back to his best.

“We’ve got two or three different shapes that we work on,” said Blackman.

“This is one that has been getting us results lately and to be fair they done their jobs. They know their roles and executed them well.  We know they’re a very good side and trying to press high when you get yourself set from the shape and the formation we did is very tough and challenging and they certainly executed their jobs right.”

Cray Wanderers assistant manager Joe Vines said: “I expect it was quite a good game to watch on the whole because it was very competitive.  Lloyd is a very good mate of mine and I know Lloyd very well and he came to try to win the game, which was fantastic.  They’ve been on a good run, we’ve been on a good run.”

Cray Wanderers started the game on the front foot. Bradley Pritchard and left-back Archie Johnson linked up well down the left and Pritchard floated in a cross.  Ben Mundele – who started in a forward role before slotting back into his natural left-back position in the second half – flicked his shot towards goal, which was blocked by Luke Watkins, who then used a strong left-hand to palm Pritchard’s left-footed drive over the crossbar in the 14th minute.

Vines said: “It will be interesting to see – we record the games – we’ll watch it back and we’ll see how many chances we’ve had and we’ll run the statistics but I would imagine it’s run into double figures easily today. We’ve got to start finishing our chances!”

Blackman added: “For the first period of the first half in particular our intensity wasn’t good enough and we were unable to stop their decent delivery into the box and we weren’t getting quite tight enough. They were able to put in or get in and around the box and they caused us a couple of problems.”

On-loan from Charlton Athletic, striker Wilberforce Ocran was released down the left and got in behind Jake MacKenzie and he whipped in a low cross, which found Pritchard unmarked at the far post. He took a touch before hitting a left-footed dipping drive just over the top of the far post from 15-yards.

Referee Alexander Emery awarded Ramsgate a free-kick in a central position in the 23rd minute.

Everyone was expecting Rory Smith to take a shot at goal from 25-yards but he played a dummy and  Penny, who was standing to his left, rolled the ball inside to Tom Chapman, whose low right-footed drive was comfortably saved by Nick Blue, dropping to his knees.

Blackman said: “It was a comfortable one. I’ve said many times to you that we do work on set-pieces and in actual fact that was one that was in a real good shooting position from a dead ball so it didn’t need to be touched or move.

“I give the licence if they see something and want to do it then by all means do it. It was a comfortable save in the end and maybe one that I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t test him a little bit more.”

Vines added: “I’ve just said to Bluey, I thought he was quite poor with his feet. His distribution was fantastic but he was Mr Safe Hands. He made some very good stops and he came out for a few crosses, he done really well.”

Ramsgate then hit the home side on a counter-attack when Smith released Chapman through the heart of the pitch. After his pace took him past Cray’s holding midfielder Sean Roberts, Chapman played the ball over to the right for striker Aaron Millbank, whose low right-footed angled drive from 16-yards, was held by Blue, getting down low to his right.

“I think that was one of the opportunities, especially in the first half,” said Blackman.

“We didn’t change the game plan, we wanted to go in at half-time but we certainly had an extra man in the overload in centre-midfield so we were able to break lines a little bit more and that’s what Tom Chapman did and we forced the keeper into a comfortable save but one that it was a relative good chance.”

The Wands then started to up their tempo and Phipp played the ball into right-winger Jerome Federico, who cut the ball onto his left-boot and stung Watkins’ fingers from 16-yards.

Mundele dinked in a cross from the left, which was palmed away by Watkins.  Pritchard put the ball back into the box, it struck Ocran’s shoulder and dropped for Mundele, who swept the ball past the near post from eight-yards out.

The referee had no option but to pull out a straight red-card and send Phipp off in the 37th minute for a horrible challenge on Penny and everyone on the Ramsgate bench got up on their feet in disgust.

Vines said: “Phipps held on to the ball too long, he got caught from behind and the ball ran away from him. I thought it was a foul in the first place and he’s over compensated and he’s gone in very, very strongly thinking the other guy is going in strong. He’s caught a bit of the ball but not enough of the ball for me and it was right in front of their dug-out. It was a whole cacophony of noises coming through and he’s (the referee) made his decision and shown him the red card but I don’t think we can argue too much about it.”

Blackman added: “It was right in front of us. His touch got away from him and he did leave the ground as he came in so I did think it was a red card I must admit.  I don’t think it was the nicest tackle that I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t surprised it was a red card.”

Gray drove down the heart of the pitch and slipped the ball through to Millbank, who drilled his right-footed shot from 17-yards over the crossbar. 

Ramsgate got in some good areas during the game but lacked composure and the killer touch inside the penalty area.

Blackman said: “They’re not getting the rewards for their endeavour. Having that little bit of composure and little bit of quality that’s the difference for these players that want to step up again.  They’ve got to take opportunities but it’s no fault of the players, they’ve just got to continue to keep working.”

Roberts played the ball into Mundele’s feet and he drove straight down the middle of the pitch before playing the ball out to an unmarked Federico, who floated in a cross towards the near post but substitute Freddie Parker couldn’t steer his glancing header on target and Ramsgate cleared their lines.

“It was behind him a little bit but it was a difficult chance,” admitted Vines.

“Fred came on and done really, really well, took on everything that we said to him at half-time. It was important that the ball stuck. I thought he occupied a couple of bodies. I thought he done fantastic young Fred.  He’s not played a lot of football recently and he’s had a blip in terms of his confidence because he’s had a few trials earlier on in the season that just knocked him back a peg or two but he was brilliant today.”

Cray Wanderers missed a glorious chance inside stoppage time but it fell to the wrong man.

Jay Leader played the ball out of defence and Federico played a sublime through ball along the deck to put Mundele through on goal but he lacked composure and drilled his left-footed shot over the top of the left-hand post when he only had Watkins to beat.

“I think he’s got to score, I think he’s got to score,” emphasised Vines.

“He’s scored a few recently but he’s a right-back. What more could he do? We need our front three to really come up wit the goods more than anyone.”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Vines added: “We had to make a couple of changes. We weren’t good enough playing the ball out from the back so we had to take Archie Johnson off. It wasn’t quite working for him.

“Denty came on and what we impressed upon him was that he had to be so good without the ball. Denty is a quality player but his more of a creative player than anything so with the ball we know he’s going to be get great quality but without it he had to work his socks off.”

Blackman added: “Very easy to think now you’re on the front foot when they’re down to 10 men, so it’s always the case especially at half-time that we have to earn the right with 11 men against 10 and they kept their shape as we thought they would do, the one that they finished the half with.  They were brave in the way that they play and we handled it at times very, very well and released us on the counter-attack.

“There were certain little elements that we addressed at half-time and we didn’t quite fulfil and I think that was the difference between us pushing on in the second half and getting a result and getting the three points but I can’t fault them, their work-rate was outstanding.”

Ramsgate also missed a glorious chance to take the lead just 105 seconds into the second half.

Chapman worked the left-wing and his pathway was blocked so he cut the ball back to George Crimmen.  The Ramsgate centre-half played a sublime pass in behind Mitchell Nelson to put Charlie Dickens through on goal but Blue made a vital block at his near post.

“Crimmo’s played a lovely little ball through and to be fair Charlie D has got himself into a great area. We knew we had an overload in the centre of midfield and we were able to break lines a little bit.  I don’t know if it just bounced up for Charlie and he’s got a great left foot and I’m disappointed, that was a real good chance for us and on another day we were confident we were going to stick it in!”

Vines simply added: “I thought Blue’s Mr Safe Hands today, I thought he was fantastic.”

Cray Wanderers brought on Karl Dent at the interval and he played the ball inside to Pritchard, who swept the ball out to Federico.  Williams joined in down the right and whipped in a great first time cross towards the far post which Parker steered into Watkins’ hands.

Mundele made a trademark run down the left and his initial shot was blocked by his marker but he had a second bite of the cherry to drill his low shot past the foot of the near post from just inside the penalty area.

Ramsgate missed a glorious chance to take a deserved lead in the 62nd minute.

Smith threaded a sublime angled pass in behind Leader to put Chapman through on goal but a poor first touch inside the penalty area gave keeper Blue to rush off his line to smother the ball at the striker’s feet.

“That’s the one,” admitted Blackman.

“I can’t fault Chappo. The boy works his absolute socks off and he deserves his opportunities through endeavour and quality and unfortunately it just went away from him and that happens.

“On another day he takes a touch and buries it into the corner, which he’s done many a time for us. It’s just unfortunate that at this time, in this moment against a team top of the league it’s just something that got away from us, as his touch did!”

Vines added: “They’re quite a young side, they’ve not got a great deal of resources down there so Lloyd’s operating with what he’s got and sometimes they over ran it a bit.  They’re enthusiasm over run their, not quality but their enthusiasm’s, the leading thing rather than a last bit of quality.”

MacKenzie delivered a deep cross from the right which came out to Penny, who cut the ball into his right-boot and Blue comfortably plucked the ball out of the air.

Ramsgate felt they had scored the winner in the final 20 minutes when Millbank drove a shot into the back of the net but the offside flag had already gone up after Penny’s cross was back-healed into his path by Chapman from inside the Cray Wanderers box.

“I saw the flag went up, everyone was celebrating. I don’t know if it was (offside) because I was on the opposite side of the pitch but I thought our movement was good in that phase of play and it was unfortunate that I saw the linesman’s flag because at that particular time I thought we deserved the lead,” said Blackman.

Vines added: “I saw the linesman standing there with his flag up about two minutes before the referee was so self absorbed that he didn’t have the gumption to look up and notice anybody else was involved in the game. It was offside!”

Millbank shrugged off the disappointment and went close with a dipping angled drive from just outside the corner of the penalty area over on the right-hand side, his deflected shot narrowly curling around the foot of the far post.

Ramsgate will need to work on their finishing at training this week.  Their passing and movement was good in the final third but their finishing not so.

Millbank’s diagonal pass split open the Cray Wanderers defence but Smith drilled his shot into the trees behind the goal at the car park end of the stadium.

Vines added: “I think it will be interesting to see what Lloyd says when he comes out but I think they lacked the final ball that last bit of quality to really hurt us in the end.”

Cray Wanderers weathered the storm and created three chances to snatch the victory inside the final five minutes.

Blue’s clearance was flicked on by Mundele and substitute winger Junior Dadson drove forward, cut inside and drove a left-footed shot towards goal from 16-yards, which was blocked by Watkins’ right-leg.

“Dadson is arguably the best finisher we’ve got,” said Vines.

“He divides opinion, I know that, but I’ve played against him and he’s an absolute nightmare. He’s got power, he’s got pace, he’s got trickery, he’s got guile and he can finish with both feet and unfortunately it didn’t come off. He’s kept his shot low, it’s hit the keeper’s legs as he’s gone down.”

Blackman added: “It was a good save. I know he’s had a couple of good saves earlier on in the game but he didn’t have an awful lot to do in the middle of the game if that makes sense?   What Watto does his concentration levels were first class and he was able to provide an excellent save at a critical time.”

And just 56 seconds later, Dent put it on a plate for Dadson but it would be fair that he has failed to replicate his impressive form for Harlow Town for Cray Wanderers as he smashed his left-footed shot at the far post just eight-yards from goal out for a throw-in from where the ball came from rather than to test the Ramsgate keeper.

Ramsgate substitute midfielder Tijan Jadama released Smith on the counter-attack through the middle but he chose the wrong option and his shot flashed wide of the left-hand post, when he should have passed it to a team-mate who was in a better position to score.

Cray Wanderers went close at the death. Dent swung in the home side’s sixth and final corner and Leader got in around the back and hooked his volley just over the crossbar from a tight-angle just six-yards out.

Ramsgate showed another example of falling apart inside the Cray Wanderers box when Penny latched onto Gray’s ball over the top and the left-wing-back’s poor touch allowed Blue to pick the ball up as it rolled towards him.

Cray Wanderers are without a game at the weekend and return to action on Saturday 8 December when fourth-placed Phoenix Sports visit Hayes Lane.

The Wands are 10 points clear of Hastings United but they do have a couple of games in hand, one of them a Tuesday night trip to eighth-placed Whyteleafe, the first side to take points off Cray Wanderers this season.

The Wands remain unbeaten from their 14 league games this season and Vines said:  “When you’re down to 10 men for 53 minutes, as Tony said you have to take your medicine.  You come away with a clean sheet and you’ve got to be happy with your days work on a whole.

“The shame of it is everybody dropped points yesterday, we sort of had one eye on that but you can’t argue with that. These boys don’t know when they’re beat – they don’t know what it feels like to be beat literally.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves, no ones ever won the league in November. It’s about continuing to pile the pressure on.  With Thamesmead now officially fallen away, Hastings have got an opportunity to gain points in the week against Whyteleafe, which I think will be an interesting game because they’re very similar sides and let’s see what happens.”

Ramsgate entertain tenth-placed Sevenoaks Town at Southwood Stadium next Saturday and Blackman’s side are only five points adrift of fifth-placed surprise package Haywards Heath Town.

“That’s eight unbeaten now,” said Blackman, who last tasted a defeat in the League on 25 September when Herne Bay came away with a 5-4 win.

“We’ve gone November in the league without a defeat so that’s pleasing. We’ve got four or five games now, again there’s no easy games in this league and we’re up against a side (today) that’s only drawn one previously to us. We know that they’re a benchmark and the best team in this league and to come here and get a result and on another day we probably get all three, I think shows how close we can be to be an excellent team in this division and our run of form probably suggests that.

“But it’s important for us now that we’ve got to take it into the next game and over the Christmas period coming up that we accumulate as many points as we possibly can.

“We have to use this run as a platform to build upon rather than something to look back on and say we’re doing ok.  You have to make sure you continue to progress and we’re certainly not trying to stand still.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams, Archie Johnson (Karl Dent 46), Sean Roberts, Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Bradley Pritchard, Tom Phipp, Wilberforce Ocran (Freddie Parker 40), Ben Mundele, Jerome Federico (Junior Dadson 73).
Subs: Malik Solebo, Zak Henry

Booked: Barney Williams 72

Sent-Off: Tom Phipp 37

Ramsgate: Luke Watkins, Jake MacKenzie, Jack Penny, Jacob Mensah, Luke Wheatley, George Crimmen, Tom Chapman, Ollie Gray, Aaron Millbank, Rory Smith, Charlie Dickens (Tijan Jadama 73).
Subs: Connor Sanders, Niall Salisbury, Wes Hennessey, Matthew Bone

Booked: Charlie Dickens 66, George Crimmen 80

Attendance: 246
Referee: Mr Alexander Emery (Rochester)
Assistants: Mr Samuel Ingrey (Putney, London SW15) & Mr David Joseph (Hastings, East Sussex)