Cray Wanderers 3-2 Sittingbourne - I was jumping around like an 11-year-old at Christmas just because we got out of jail, admits Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Wednesday 13th December 2017
Cray Wanderers 3 – 2 Sittingbourne
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 13/12/2017 19:45

Bostik South Division
Wednesday 13th December 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell admits his side played their get out of jail card to steal a victory away from ten-man Sittingbourne.

This game proves that supporters should never leave a game before the final whistle because you just never know what’s going to happen.

Sittingbourne threatened to smash Cray Wanderers unbeaten home league record as they deserved to be 2-0 up on the hour mark, courtesy of goals from Kane Rowland and winger David Smith.

But central defender John Coker, who has enjoyed an excellent season, shot his team-mates after being sent-off in the 73rd minute.

Jay Leader came up from the back to give the home side a lifeline just five minutes later and Sittingbourne went into the 90th minute hanging on to a 2-1 lead.

Former Gillingham midfielder Michael Frieter, 21, who wears golden boots scored a golden goal, a sublime 35-yard free-kick into the top left-hand corner, to grab an equaliser with 46:01 on the clock.

Super-sub Freddie Parker committed a night time robbery when his winner trickled over the line with 47:21 on the clock, before referee Damith Bandara blew his final whistle after 10 minutes and 27 minutes of added on time.

Cray Wanderers remain in fourth-place in the Bostik South table after tonight’s win on 44 points from 21 games.  They are only four points behind leaders Lewes, with a game in hand, and only one point behind second-placed Corinthian-Casuals, with a couple of games in hand.

Sittingbourne, meanwhile, remain in eighth-place with 36 points from their 22 league outings and are more than capable of grabbing a play-off place this term.

“I think we dodged one there if I’m honest.  I think it was the worst performance of the season but funnily enough I think we’ll get more from that than what we have for the rest of the season because we know we can play,” admitted Russell during the post-match press conference.

“That was the first time we’ve been dragged into the trenches a little bit.  I don’t really celebrate goals that much but I was jumping up and down and going mad.

“I feel a little bit for Nick, whose a friend, now the game’s finished because they’ve done more than enough to win the game but that’s football.”

Sittingbourne boss Nick Davis who is doing an excellent job at Woodstock Park this season, was inconsolable.

“Frustrating!  I thought we carried out our game plan to a tee.  I’ve said it before we played them at home and they’re probably the best side we’ve seen so far in the games that we played.  We knew we were in for a really tough evening,” said Davis.

“Until the sending off I though we were absolutely outstanding and we restricted them, I thought.

“When we were 2-0 up and there was only one winner but decisions turn games don’t they and that’s exactly what’s happened today. Still, with 10 men I expect us to defend a little bit better than we did. We panicked a little bit, too many youngsters, I’m not sure.

“I’m so disappointed but I’m so proud of the lads. We played against a top side there and we stopped them playing and our game plan was working to a tee but unfortunately we’ve not seen it through but it is what it is, unfortunately.”

Sittingbourne executed Davis’s game-plan expertly and made Cray Wanderers look poor for the first 80 minutes of the game.

Sittingbourne created a half-opening inside the opening nine minutes when the excellent Mobolaji Dawodu picked up a loose ball and fed Kane Phillip and the winger hit his right-footed drive sailing over the crossbar from 35-yards.

Nothing was going right for Cray Wanderers as Frieter’s driven free-kick from inside the D was blocked by the Sittingbourne wall, much to Russell’s frustration.

“We weren’t at it today, first half we just weren’t at it, we just wasn’t at the races,” said Russell.

“We questioned the players at half-time. We were fuming. We were so sloppy all around the pitch!

“I didn’t see it coming! Sometimes you get a gage in training or the warm-up. We were brilliant (beating Hythe Town 4-1) on Saturday.  Whether you give Sittingbourne credit for that, I don’t know but we were just so far off it today, the first half particularly.”

Frieter then swung in a free-kick with his right-foot from the left and Mitchell Nelson came up from the back to sweep his shot on the turn past the near post from eight-yards after 18 minutes.

Both sides were cancelling each other out as Sittingbourne put in a great shift in defence and snuffed out Cray Wanderers’ 23-goal machine Michael Power’s threat.

Sittingbourne squandered an excellent chance to grab the lead when in the 28th minute Miles Cornwell broke down the right and reached the penalty area before cutting the ball back for Dawodu, who struck his right-footed drive screaming just over the crossbar from 15-yards.

“He’s leaned back and he should’ve hit the target. It was a good opportunity. He was disappointed that he didn’t score but we were catching them on the break during the first period,” added Davis, who then spoke about the midfielder’s horror injury later on.

“Bola’s head is split in two and he’s had to go to hospital.  I don’t know what’s happened. Something’s gone on off the ball and it doesn’t look good. He’s going to have quite a few stiches in that.  We’re all bitterly disappointed with what’s happened there.  Somebody’s had to drive his car home and he’s had to go straight to hospital. It was quite a nasty one. I thought Bola was outstanding.”

Frieter then swung in his second corner of the night and Dawodu headed the ball clear to Power who was lurking on the very edge of the box but he steered his right-footed drive through the crowd of players and flashing past the far post.

Sittingbourne deserved their lead when it finally arrived with 31 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Central midfielder Ben Davisson, a recent signing from struggling Ashford United, drilled his right-footed free-kick low and towards the bottom right-hand corner from 35-yards.

Goalkeeper Nick Blue dived to his left superbly to parry, he then produced a world-class save to tip Dawodu’s rebound onto his crossbar but Cray Wanderers’ static defence were punished when Rowland steered his low shot into the back of the net.

Davis said: “Was it a missed opportunity or was it a good save? I’m not entirely sure but fair play to Kane, he’s scored. Great, we’re 1-0 up, we’ll see it out until half-time. That was my thought at the time.”

Russell said: “The goal itself summed up our first half so first of all the ball into Lea Dawson, it took him three touches, he got robbed, pulled the guy down. 

“Then the shot, goalie saved it, the guy reacts quicker than our guy, our goalkeeper pulls off an absolutely world-class save to push it onto the crossbar, their guy reacts quicker and not only he’s got time to react quicker, he has time to run around the ball and knock it in the net.  The whole time my team are just standing there watching it! If any a goal summed up our first half performance, it was exactly that!”

Sittingbourne goalkeeper Jordan Carey was called into action in the 39th minute.

The home side hit Sittingbourne on the break through Power down the middle, who flashed the ball out wide to winger Aaron Rhule on the left and he cut the ball across for Frieter, whose left-footed low drive from 18-yards was parried by Carey, diving low to his left before the highly-rated keeper pounced on the loose ball.

Russell said: “We had Jordan here for a couple of games when Bluey was away, he’s a very good goalkeeper.  He’s got all the tools to be a very, very good goalkeeper and I’m glad he’s found a club now, a good club in Sittingbourne, so he’ll do very well.  I really liked him as a person and he’s a very good goalkeeper as well and that was an excellent save.”

Davis added: “They caught us on the break, they’ve got pace out wide.  They’re a good side, they’ve scored a lot of goals lately.  Jordan’s not had a great deal of saves to make tonight but it was a good save down to his left.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Russell revealed he had a lot of work to do inside the home dressing room.

“The players have done so well to put the club in this position, why give it away now? Why throw that in? that’s what we couldn’t understand! Why play so well all season and just turn up and put in that performance as a group?

“It wasn’t just one or two but as a group, we’re talking eight or nine here! It was everything we’re not.  There was no commitment to it, it was all very safe, it was all very slow. It was all very predictable. There was no people going past people or raking passes or movement or bravery. It was everything we’re not!”

Davis added: “Keep going, keep going as we are.  The game plan worked. We were trying to prevent them playing as much as they normally do.  In dead-ball situations and during transitions if we get our two banks together and make us hard to break down and when we do get the ball try and keep it, get it into Miles Cornwell and he can hold it and get runners off him and it worked and we continued to do that in the second half.”

Frieter’s fourth corner was headed away by Coker and Jerome Frederico leaned back and his right-footed drive sailed over from 25-yards, which summed up how bad Cray Wanderers were.

Sittingbourne squandered an excellent chance to kill off the hosts on the counter-attack.

David Smith, who was originally named as a substitute on the team-sheet, got a late call-up when Tyrone Guthrie was dropped to the bench after realising he had left his football boots at home when he got to Hayes Lane, before jumping in his car to collect them and hitting the traffic and missing kick-off.

Smith operated on the left-wing and his pass released Cornwell, who raced from the halfway line towards the edge of the box. He easily cut inside last-defender Nelson and instead of shooting he teed-up Phillip, who hit his left-footed shot over the crossbar.

Davis revealed: “Tyrone Guthrie forgot his boots, shot home, he lives not far from here and he got caught in traffic so I had to make a decision four minutes before the kick-off. Guthrie would’ve started so Dave Smith took his place.”

Sittingbourne were in dreamland when they swiftly doubled their lead just 36 seconds after Phillip’s wasted chance.

Smith was left in acres of space some 35-yards from goal and he saw Blue was out of position so he unleashed a low left-footed drive across the keeper, the ball nestling sweetly inside the bottom far corner of the net, much to the delight of Sittingbourne’s excellent vocal fans.

“That’s his eighth goal of the season for us, again he’s got a great strike on him,” said Davis.

“We played him in an unorthodox wide position because we’ve lost a couple of players. Tom Loynes will be out for four or five weeks with a hernia and we lost Gil Carvalho before that, so we need to bring in another one out wide.

“David can do that, it was a good strike. He’s got that strike in him and he’s got that ability and if we can get him to do that for over 90 minutes, he struggles at 18 years of age to play 90, unfortunately.”

Russell said: “It was a good goal. We were getting picked off. We were getting stretched and it was a good goal, right in the corner.  Initially, I thought Bluey could’ve got it but it skidded off (the wet 3G pitch) and it was a good goal.”

When Cray Wanderers substitute Dean Carpenter cut into the Sittingbourne box on the right-hand side and dinked his shot across Carey and past the far post close to the halfway mark, there was no sign of what was to come, or was there?

“Do you know what, funnily enough, the moment it was 2-0 it sort of freed everyone up, it was weird,” explained Russell.

“I was feeling very frustrated but being 2-0 down I was looking at the bigger picture, thinking lets go down fighting.  I was trying to encourage the players, I didn’t want it to be a knock on for the next game so we’re not going to win this one, let’s just finish on the front foot and it all starting becoming positive.”

Coker committed footballing suicide when referee Mr Bandara pulled out a straight red-card in the 73rd minute for his foul on Carpenter.  Coker took a while to leave the pitch and with it went Sittingbourne’s chances.

Davis said: “I’ve got to watch it back, I’m not sure. He’s gone over the ball and gone through him.  Was it a red? I don’t know, it’s difficult, generally difficult.

“Without a doubt how good has John been for us? He’s been outstanding for us, he’s the rock, him and Ben Gorham have been outstanding.

“To lose him, it changed the complete complexion of it and it swung in their favour, it definitely swung.”

“From my position I think he’s gone for the ball but he’s missed it. It’s not a great tackle to be fair,” added Russell.

Russell unleashed right-winger Brandon Scott off the bench and he twisted and turned down the channel but Rhule failed to poke his shot on target at the far post from close range.

Cray Wanderers grabbed the lifeline, however, appearing to be a scant consolation at the time.

Frieter swung in his sixth-corner of the night, in from the right.  Carey went for the ball at his far post and crashed to the ground without catching the ball and despite having a crowd of players in front of him, Leader took a touch to drive his right-footed shot over the line from eight-yards to score his third goal of the season.

“The moment that goes in, then I believe,” said Houdini, sorry Russell.

“It just changed the mood and then you start, then you think maybe? Football’s not always fair but what we were good at we had a killer instinct. The moment we scored or drew blood that was it and you could see it.  There was only going to be one winner the moment we scored.  I don’t know how it came across, we were hungry the moment we scored.”

Davis, who sacrificed Phillip for tall defender Lex Allen after the sending-off, said: “I told Jordan he’s in no-man’s land there. He’s come for something that he’s got no right to get, back stick.  He’s fallen to the ground and the lad scored, he’s made his mind up for him.

“We’ve given them the incentive, we’ve made a mistake and they’ve punished us for it.

“I knew they would come at us, they’re at home, they’ve scored so many goals here so we knew what we were up against today.  We’ve been our own downfall today. I don’t think we’ve lost this football match today because we’ve been outplayed.  Tony said we didn’t deserve that today.”

Sittingbourne went agonisingly close to wrapping up the victory with 43 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock.

Substitute Chris Elliott, who replaced Dawodu, who suffered a horrific cut to his head in the 84th minute, could have been the hero.

His angled drive from the left from 25-yards swerved and Blue pulled off a brilliant save to palm the shot against the top of his near post.

Davis said: “Oh my god! It’s moved, I’m behind it and the keeper’s made the save and its hit the underside of the bar and that’s 3-1 and probably good night, who knows?

“Chris has got it in him. He’s got the technique in him to do that. He was disappointed that he didn’t start tonight.  I just felt with their pace out wide can he play 90 minutes on that surface?  He’s a threat and it was a good save from the keeper as well.”

“It was straight at him but he got out of the way and got in the way,” said Russell on Blue’s vital intervention.

“At that stage it’s carnage! We’re going for it, I’ve gone two up and we ‘re going for it, we were all out.”

Cray Wanderers produced a David Beckham-esque England v Greece free-kick moment as Frieter brought his side back from the dead.

It was brilliant! Frieter stroked his right-footed free-kick over the wall from 35-yards, turning away to celebrate after watching the ball dip over the diving Carey to arrow into the top left-hand corner.

Russell admitted: “Do you know what, he has had his worst game. His corners and set-pieces are unreal, we work on our corner routine and he sticks them on a sixpence but today they were all over the place! He was atrocious!

“Then he’s picked that one out and fair play to him because he took some stick from us at half-time about his delivery.  To have the inner confidence to do that. Listen, he’s 21, he was a professional at Gillingham, got released and lost his confidence and lost his way.  He’s just starting to come good. He was brilliant against Hythe but he wasn’t very good today but the difference is in those moments, quality, that free-kick was sheer quality, no goalkeeper is saving that!”

A shell-shocked Davis added: “It was a good goal wasn’t it. I think that’s one where you just go hats off to him. It was a fantastic finish, nothing you can do about that!

“You think you’d hang on for a draw, hang on for a draw. We’ve been absolutely outstanding today, it wasn’t to be.”

Sittingbourne should not have lost this game, that was the simple fact and Cray Wanderers stole the victory in dramatic style.

Rhule burst into life, sprinting past Sittingbourne right-back Chris Webber down the left, reaching the by-line, before cutting the ball back for Parker, to sweep his shot towards goal at the near post, the ball trickling over the line to break Sittingbourne’s hearts.

Russell said: “I don’t remember celebrating a goal as much as that in a long time! I’m not one to celebrate goals, I’m quite chilled but I was jumping around like a 16-year-old, an 11-year-old at Christmas just because we got out of jail!

“You’re going to have games like that during the season. There’s games when you just don’t play well and we didn’t play well today but what you have to do is find a way of winning, whatever way that may be.”

Davis felt Webber should have taken one for the team during the build-up to the sucker punch.

“I’m thinking when Webber’s running down with Aaron Rhule down the side take him out, that’s what I’m thinking! As a player I’m not going to get near him, he’s so quick!

“He’s put it in an area, goal, it’s difficult to see where we are, they’ve put it in an area and scored from it.”

Like Dawodu before him, Leader suffered a head wound inside time added on as he home side also finished the game with 10 men on the pitch.

Russell takes his side to midtable Whyteleafe on Saturday, while Davis takes Sittingbourne to sixth-placed Greenwich Borough.

Russell said: “Make no bones about it, Nick will be gutted about that and so will they. We didn’t deserve to get three points. We didn’t deserve one point and he’ll be distraught.  I usually speak to him but I might leave him alone for a couple of days.  I think he’s going to be a hard one to take.

“Whyteleafe will be a hard game. I’ve got a report on them and I’ll look at it tomorrow. It’s another big game. We’ve just come off the back of Carshalton away (1-1), Hythe at home and Sittingbourne, three really good sides.  What we’ve certainly got to do is play better than what we did tonight. If we turn up like that again, there’s only so many times you can go to the well.”

Reflecting on coming so close to beating a quality side in Cray Wanderers, Davis said: “We’re showing we’re not a bad side. I’m disappointed we lost. I’m gutted we lost but I’m so proud of the lads as well. We’ve come such a long way.  You’ve got to realise how far we’ve come. 

“We’ve played arguably one of the best sides in the league, if not, the best side and our game plan worked to a tee and it’s down to those lads.  They have got the heart and desire to work as hard as they do and stop a top side playing like that.  We always knew we’ve got a chance to break but at 2-0 we’ve got to see it out!”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Zak Henry (Dean Carpenter 61), Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Aaron Rhule, Lea Dawson (Freddie Parker 89), Michael Power, Michael Freiter, Jerome Frederico (Brandon Scott 70).
Subs: Ralique Lawrence, Marcus Evans

Goals: Jay Leader 78, Michael Frieter 90, Freddie Parker 90

Booked: Lea Dawson 32, Jerome Frederico 70

Sittingbourne: Jordan Carey, Chris Webber, Salvyn Kisitu, Mobolaji Dawodu (Chris Elliott 84), Ben Gorham, John Coker, Kane Phillip (Lex Allen 74), Ben Davisson, Miles Cornwell, Kane Rowland, David Smith (Tyrone Guthrie 64).
Subs: Laurence Ball, Harry Brooks

Goals: Kane Rowland 32, David Smith 60

Booked: Salvyn Kisitu 27, Kane Phillip 29, David Smith 51, Tyrone Guthrie 90

Sent Off: John Coker 73

Attendance: 127
Referee: Mr Damith Bandara (Pease Cottage, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Stuart Marriott (Ashford) & Mr Harry Phillips (Dartford)

Coverage Sponsored by: