Cray Wanderers 1-0 Thamesmead Town - I'm fortunate enough I've got some big characters in my dressing room, says Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Tuesday 29th September 2015
Cray Wanderers 1 – 0 Thamesmead Town
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 29/09/2015 20:00

Ryman League Division One North
Tuesday 29th September 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell hailed the characters within his ranks for stretching their winning home run to thirteen games after winning this top-of-the-table clash.

The Wands eased four points clear of second-placed AFC Sudbury at the top of the Ryman League Division One North table on 29 points from 12 games after leaving it very late to inflict Thamesmead Town’s first league defeat on their travels.

The game was destined to peter out into a disappointing goal-less stalemate until James Duckworth finished off a counter-attacking move from 20-yards – with the goal timed at 50:42 at the end of the game.

As a result of their second league defeat of the season, Thamesmead Town slipped underneath AFC Sudbury, AFC Hornchurch and Bury Town in the pecking order on 23 points from 11 games.

“To be honest with you, I stood on the line with about 20 minutes to go and I’d take a point,” admitted Russell after his side’s ninth league win of the season.

“The boys are dropping like flies, I’ve never known anything like it!  Ben Payne texted me at half-past-five telling me he’s stuck at work, he won’t be getting here until half-eight, so I had to change it all around again.

“With Malik (Ouani) out, (Leigh) Bremner out and Andre (McCollin) out and then the game starts and then Ade (Osifuwa) gets a kick on the Achiles and he couldn’t feel it, it literally went a bit numb and Karl Dent aggravated his ankle, an old ankle injury, so they’re just dropping like flies.

“Baring Sudbury away, I’ve not had, it’s the only time I’ve had everyone fit and available. We’re 12 games in, it’s crazy, absolutely crazy. I can’t remember the last time I done a tactical sub, it’s all enforced.

“The good thing is we’re still winning when we’re going through this.  I generally do think 100% when everyone gets fit and we’ll get going, we’ll be a lot better.

“It showed that we didn’t have a forward on the pitch because we controlled the game until the final third and we had no umph in the final third.”

Thamesmead Town manager Terry Spillane was bitterly disappointed with the outcome.

“Obviously disappointed to lose in the last five seconds after working so hard all night,” he said.

“From my point of view a draw would’ve been a fair result. I’m pretty sure Tony would’ve accepted that as well – that’s football!

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow. You can come out with all the old clichés. At the end of the day we’ve come here put a good show on, had a game plan that the boys stuck to really well and it’s a disappointing way to lose.

“We’re attacking one minute on the edge of their box where I feel we should’ve done better in possession and we’ve lost possession, straight up the other end and they’ve scored.”

Kick-off was delayed for 16 minutes due to a floodlighting problem at Hayes Lane, but it was Thamesmead Town that should have taken the lead after only 20 seconds.

When asked about the floodlighting issue, Spillane replied: “That happens in football, it’s one of those things.  It’s just water off a ducks back.  Eight o’clock, quarter-to-eight, who cares?  We’ve got the game on and that’s the main thing.”

A bad clearance from Nick Blue heading towards his left-back Dean Carpenter was intercepted by Mead’s lone striker Theo Fairweather-Johnson, who cut inside but his left-footed angled drive was gobbled up by the goalkeeper, diving low to his right.

Spillane said: “We did say to him, we felt Michael Uwezu was in a better position there but Theo’s in a good run of form at the moment so you can’t blame him for taking that one. Good save from the keeper but maybe that would’ve been a good start to the game.”

Russell said: “It was just a bit of sloppiness from our point. Delayed kick-off, everyone’s sitting around.

“You’ve seen Bluey enough, he’s like a tracing bullet. He just picks people out for fun so when he does it, I’m glad he made amends!”

Karl Dent, who was later forced off through his troublesome ankle, unleashed a 35-yard drive, which flashed past the far post after only 75 seconds.

Dent and Duckworth linked up for Cray Wanderers before playing the ball inside to Sean Roberts, the midfielder almost scoring against his former club from 25-yards, but for a diving low save from Andy Walker, with two minutes and 43 seconds on the clock.

Russell said:”Listen, Walks is a great goalkeeper. He played here didn’t he? I think he made some really good saves late on as well. He’s a very, very good goalkeeper, very experienced.  You could see he settled for a point after 5 minutes, the time he was taking those goal-kicks but I don’t blame him. He’s a wise head. He talks very well. I didn’t expect nothing else from him. He’s probably one of the better goalkeeper’s in this level.”

Spillane added: “I thought he was fantastic tonight Walks when called upon, he’s thrown his body on the line.  He made a fantastic save just before they scored in between two good chances for us at the other end. He’s disappointed like the rest of us, I thought he was superb tonight.”

Russell handed a debut to Gillingham midfielder Michael Frieter, 19, and he was deployed as an emergency lone striker due to striker pairing, Andre McCollin (knee), Leigh Bremner (groin) and winger Malik Ouani (hamstring) were all ruled out through injury.

On-loan Frieter knocked the ball down to into Dent’s path, but his dipping right-footed volley from 30-yards screamed just wide of the right-hand post.

Nick Reeves came out of Cray Wanderers defence to hit a speculative right-footed drive sailing high over the Thamesmead Town crossbar from 35-yards.

After those flurry of chances inside the first ten minutes the game started to die down, with both side’s defences coming out on top.

Cray Wanderers’ central defender Grant Basey produced a couple of sublime 60-yard diagonal passes to pick out Duckworth down the right but Thamesmead held firm defensively.

Cray Wanderers, though, were always a treat from set-pieces.

Duckworth swung in a free-kick from the left towards the near post but Lea Dawson directed his header past the near post.

Duckworth swung in a corner from the left towards the far post where Dawson rose above Ibrahim Kargbo at the far post to plant his header wide.

Adetayo Osifuwa was then given space to float over a cross from the right but Dawson’s looing header from sixteen-yards dropped wide.

Thamesmead Town created an opening in the 35th minute when winger Michael Uwezu’s angled drive deflected off Basey and went behind for their only corner of the game.

Right-back Osifuwa then gave the ball away to Thamesmead’s Jay Porter close to the by-line but the left-back produced an excellent low cross which flashed across the face of goal but no-one was in a green and white hooped shirt was there to tuck the ball home.

Cray Wanderers were almost gifted the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Basey, 26, swung in another quality free-kick from the right towards the far post and Thamesmead midfielder Lewis Dark’s header cannoned back off his own crossbar.

Spillane joked: “He don’t get many so he’s disappointed with that!

“Anyone who knows anything about Cray, that’s one of their aces up their sleeves, their fantastic with set-pieces, so we got away with that one!”

Russell said: “Basey’s got a very good delivery from set-pieces. The defender sort of found himself in an awkward position. He went round the back of him and he had to deal with it.  He had people behind him so he tried to get it up and over the crossbar and didn’t get it high enough.

“We probably needed something like that. If he had scored that, I’d probably put a seven-dayer in for him with that heading ability!”

Both managers’ were asked their thoughts at the break.

Spillane said: “We done exactly what we came here to do, which was frustrate them, not get their fluid passing game going, try to frustrate them and hit them on the break and we’ve done that all night – just disappointed right at the end.”

Russell said: “I just said, I thought the two wide players were too isolated. They were just standing out there. I said if we were to score goals we’ve got to get round Michael, he’s got a lovely touch and we can see he’s a good footballer but we can’t keep isolating him.

“We spoke to the wide players to open the pitch up and come off their wing and join in, interchange and link-up.

“The boys felt we were controlling the game. I thought we had control of the game.  They had a little spell towards the end of the first half when it went 100% miles per hour, head tennis and I thought they came in to it on the back of that, so we said to them make sure we play it at our tempo and turn it into a football match and try to dictate it.”

Goalkeeper Walker shut the gate on one of his former clubs, after only 73 seconds into the second half.

Osifuwa progressed down the right before floating over a cross towards the far post and Duckworth hooked the ball back in from a tight angle but Walker made the block with his legs at his near post.

Porter swung in a free-kick from the left which was cleared out to Dark, who blasted his 30-yarder over the Cray Wanderers’ crossbar.

Cray Wanderers had a great chance to break the stalemate on the hour-mark.

Basey’s left-footed free-kick some 35-yards from goal was met at the far post by Ben Payne, the substitute defender planting his header across Walker, who dived low to his right to hold on to the ball on his goal-line, before being clattered by Dawson.

“I thought he should’ve scored, if I’m honest,” Russell said of Payne’s header.

“I thought it was a bit of a weak header. It’s a good save. I’m going to try to give some sort of alibi to Daws. He thought he was going to spill it. It looked a little bit late, it’s a booking. To be fair to Daws he wouldn’t go in to smash anyone. He’s as honest as they come and he thought the ball was genuinely there but it was a booking.”

Spillane explained why he left six-goal striker Tyrus Gordon-Young on the bench and he had a great chance to take the lead seconds after coming on for Aaron Jeffrey.

Dark released Gordon-Young, who spun his marker to burst into the penalty area and with only Blue to beat he drilled his left-footed angled drive over the bar from 15-yards.

“He was banned for the last game when we played Harlow. The boys done really well and I don’t change winning teams unless I have to,” explained Spillane.

“He should’ve scored. He had two chances and should’ve scored! Maybe it came too early for him when he just came on but I think he’s got to score there.”

Russell added: “He’ll be disappointed with that because he ain’t a bad finisher. I think maybe when he just come on, in a way he could say it came to him a little bit too early, he’d not long been on, but he’ll be disappointed with that and I suppose Terry will as well.”

A mistake from Payne gifted Gordon-Young with a second chance in the 70th minute but he powered his header across Blue and past the far post.

Thamesmead Town were awarded a free-kick in a central position 35-yards out but Porter’s left-footed effort dipped over the top of the right-hand post.

With 32 goals to their name – the highest in the top eight divisions of English football – Cray Wanderers looked like they were going to be shut out by a resilient Thamesmead defence, well-marshalled by former Romford captain Jack Barry.

Cray Wanderers won ten corners tonight and they should have scored from their ninth in the 86th minute.

Duckworth’s kick sailed across to Payne at the far post, who knocked the ball down and the ball dropped onto Reeves’ right-foot, who clipped his shot over the bar from eight-yards.

But Cray Wanderers kept going and created three chances inside stoppage time.

Sunday’s two-goal hero, assistant manager Ray Powell, 35, released the otherwise quiet Frieter through on goal and his left-footed dink was destined to nestle inside the bottom far corner, but Walker came off his line and used his left leg to make a smart block.

Spillane said: “Brilliant save! He’s been doing that all season for us to be fair. He’s a top drawer goalkeeper. He’s been there and done it and bought the t-shirt and we’ve come to expect that from him but it’s still nice when you see him do it.”

Duckworth then played Powell in behind the Thamesmead Town defence but Walker moved smartly and quickly off his line to make another fine block.

Russell said: “Walks is a good goalkeeper, you have to smash it. There’s no freebies with Walks, he’s been doing it for a long time. 

“I think Michael played in Duckers and he faked his shot and reversed it and (Razor) should’ve took a touch but Walker is off his line in a flash. It was a good save but Razor knows he should’ve scored really. It was actually a good move and he’ll be disappointed with that, especially after he ain’t stopped going on about his two goals (in Sunday’s 5-0 home win over Redbridge). The club video them so he keeps showing everyone the video.”

Russell added: “We had a bit of a wobble up with about 25 to go. I thought they were going to nick it. We looked like we had gone.  The good thing we’ve got some good character here. I don’t know if you picked it up but I could hear Basey, Dawson and Sean (Roberts) and they were all just revving each other. 

“We talk about game management to them. When the game goes flat can you influence it? From their point of view as a group they won that game. It’s not me and Razor had any input.

“When the game was flat and if you were putting your last pound on, you would probably picked Thamesmead to go on and win it.

“I could hear them rallying each other and then we started to come again and then we probably looked more dangerous. We had our best chances of the whole game in the last 20 minutes because all of a sudden it turned into a bit of a basketball match, you attack, we attack and we looked like the ones who were going to do it.”

But Cray Wanderers snatched the victory at the death through Duckworth’s second goal for the club.

Thamesmead Town attacked down the left in search of a winner themselves but the move broke down and Dawson ran towards the halfway line with the ball before stroking the ball out to Frieter down the right.

Frieter sprinted down the flank with the ball and once in the final third he played the ball inside to Powell, who cut the ball back for Duckworth to drill his right-footed shot into the left-hand corner of the net from 20-yards.

Spillane said :”We’re on the edge of their box and we’ve three or four players forward. If we made the right choice of pass, which we didn’t, we’re in with a go ourselves. Unfortunately the move’s broken down, they’ve moved forward really quick and that’s what they do to teams if you let them play like that. They’re capable of doing that and we’ve let our guard down and they’ve got the three points.”

“You know what?” said Russell.  “I was talking to one of the owners on Saturday, they were talking about Duckers and he’s done alright and I said this club hasn’t seen the real Duckers. For me I know how good he is. He’s a fantastic player. For some reason this season it just hasn’t happened for him. Today, as well, for 80 minutes he was really frustrating. You could sort of sense it and then he put in a lovely couple of crosses .

“The ball’s gone down the wing and Mike’s picked out Razor with a lovely little ball into his feet. Razor’s set, Duckers come in and one touch away from the defender and I was right behind it – beautiful! It was clean as a whistle straight into the corner. That was a great feeling to watch that one go in, I must admit.”

League titles are won on nights like these and Russell heaped praise on his players for snatching a vital victory.

“If you try to do anything in the game you need characters. I know that as a player. That’s why one thing I always make sure I get around me is players with character, good eggs, as we call them in the game and I’m fortunate enough I’ve got some big characters in my dressing room.

“I think it was evident on the cold light of day, a draw was probably a fair result.

“I feel sorry for Thamesmead to lose in that way, if I’m honest but I’ve been involved in football long enough, we’ve played really well and lost. It’s swings and roundabouts.

“Looking at it I thought we just edged it – just – a draw would’ve been about right but we just edged it but it’s a victory I’ll gladly take mate.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Adetayo Osifuwa (Ben Payne 54), Grant Basey, Nick Reeves, Dean Carpenter, Lea Dawson, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent (Ray Powell 69), Michael Frieter, James Duckworth, Reece Deakin (Dane Moore 65).
Subs: Jack Lodge, Sam Faulkner

Goal: James Duckworth 90

Booked: Lea Dawson 61, Dane Moore 79, Grant Basey 88

Thamesmead Town: Andy Walker, Michael Aziaya, Jay Porter, Lewis Dark, Jack Barry, Farai Hallam, Richard Butler, Ibrahim Kargbo, Theo Fairweather-Johnson, Aaron Jeffrey (Tyrus Gordon-Young 62), Michael Uwezu.
Subs: Bode Anidugbe, Ainsley Everett, Mark Gorbell, Aaron Omand

Booked: Lewis Dark 28, Ibrahim Kargbo 43

Attendance: 170
Referee: Mr Scott Williams (Hackney, London E8)
Assistants: Mr Sikiru Idris (Camberwell, London SE5) & Mr Orville Bentley (Brixton, London SW2)