Cray Wanderers 1-4 Tooting & Mitcham United - We're showing no signs of going on a run and going up, admits Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Wednesday 22nd February 2017
Cray Wanderers 1 – 4 Tooting & Mitcham United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 22/02/2017 19:45

Ryman League Division One South
Wednesday 22nd February 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell admits his side have fallen out of the promotion race after being played off the park by league leaders Tooting & Mitcham United.

Cray Wanderers suffered their third defeat on the bounce and remain in tenth-place in the Ryman League Division One South table on 56 points, while Frank Wilson’s side remain three points clear of Dorking Wanderers with 80 points with 11 games left to play.

Russell admitted post-match tonight that being eight points adrift of fifth-placed Hastings United with 12 games left to play is a tall order to grab a place in the play-offs.

Tooting & Mitcham United tore into a poor Cray Wanderers defence that struggled to cope with playing with three centre halves and two wing backs as Grant Basey and Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram gave visiting right-winger Dan Clements the freedom of Hayes Lane for the 29 minutes that Basey was on the pitch before he was hauled off as Russell switched to a 4-1-3-2 formation.

Basey was at fault for Tooting & Mitcham United’s opening goal, slotted in by Clements after only 194 seconds, which set the tone for a painful night for the small band of Cray Wanderers supporters.

Cray Wanderers grabbed a lifeline five minutes to go before the break courtesy of Lee Prescott’s stunning 30-yard drive, to score his eighth goal of the season.

Cray Wanderers keeper Nick Blue was heavily criticised by Russell during the post-match press conference for gifting Tooting & Mitcham United right-back Ashley Robinson the killer second goal on the stroke of half-time.

Central midfielder Chace O’Neill scored his eighth of the season early in the second half before Clements headed in a fourth goal with the last action of a game that Tooting & Mitcham United were miles better.

“I think it’s quite a sad day,” admitted Russell, after suffering a bad night in front of the club's largest crowd of the season (214).

“I said to the boys it’s sad because when you stand there and you’re not going to make the play-offs, that’s pretty evident. It’s sad for myself because I thought I’d assembled a side that could really challenge and I thought we’ve done really well. The money got cut in the summer but we haggled and we wheeled and dealed and I look across the board, one-to-11 and I thought I put a really good side together but for whatever reason, I don’t know, it’s just not worked.

“It’s not just today, it’s just not worked. We’ve had glimpses where we’ve had games where we’ve shown flashes but it’s just not worked.

“I think the first two (Tooting & Mitcham) goals probably sum up our season.  We’ve had so many of them.  The one on half-time, that killed us, because I thought we would go on and win the game.  That took the wind out of us.

“It was the same on Saturday (losing 2-1 at Carshalton Athletic), Bluey (goalkeeper Nick Blue) had a mare on Saturday.  I love Bluey, he’s played for me for a good few years and I’ve never known him to make so many mistakes. It’s just not Bluey like and I don’t know why that’s happened but it’s cost us.  I love Bluey, I think he’s a great goalkeeper. We all have spells as players when it doesn’t work but this season it’s just not worked for him for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked for him.

“Right on half-time, the two goals we’re pub football, they were pub football!”

Cray Wanderers created the first opening after only two and a half minutes when Karl Dent swung in a corner from the left and the ball came out to striker Luke Medley, who drilled his first time left-footed shot over the crossbar from 25-yards.

But it quickly went downhill for a poor Cray Wanderers side as Tooting & Mitcham United opened the floodgates with their first chance.

Left-back Peter Wedgeworth’s crossfield pass should have been dealt with by Basey, playing the left side of a three-man central defence.  But the 28-year-old, who was playing like a slow 38-year-old, allowed the ball to run underneath his foot to put Clements in on goal and the impressive winger slotted his right-footed shot into the bottom far corner from 14-yards.

“There was no one around him, the ball just got rolled to him and he just took his eye of it and it rolled under his feet and the guys gone through and scored,” added Russell.

“The talk before the game was ‘let’s stop shooting ourselves on the foot’.  We had a man (Prescott) sent off after 22 minutes on Saturday and the second time that we’ve had a player sent off in the first half.  Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot and then you do that! What do you do?”

Tooting & Mitcham’s left-back Wedgeworth whipped in a cross towards the far post and Clements’ poked shot forced Blue into diving low to his right to make a save.

Wedgeworth found himself in acres of space on the right-hand side to float in a cross which was poked past the foot of the near post by Quincy Rowe, who had come up from the back for the corner.

Cray Wanderers weathered that early storm and right-wing back Ben Mundele raced down the line, cut inside and played a pass inside to quiet striker Danny Haynes, who scuffed his deflected shot into Kyle Merson’s hands from 20-yards.

Mundele was the only shining light during the chaotic opening exchanges with his pacy wing-back runs down the right.

Russell said: “He done well. He done really well. He’s only just turned 18, he’s a good player. You get that inconsistency, he can be a little bit up and down. He’s done really well.  He’s come to us as a winger, we’ve converted him and done some work on him. He’s a lovely lad and he done well.”

Cray Wanderers’ night was littered by mistakes and poor performances all over the pitch – and Tooting & Mitcham United were keen to exploit them.

“I dug Jay Siva out at half-time because Siva is an experienced player and that right there is what sums it up,” said Russell. 

“We’ve got boys in there that have played at good levels, are good players, but are just not performing for whatever reason.  I don’t know why. It’s just not worked for some reason, it just hasn’t.” 

Wands’ Midfielder Lea Dawson slid the ball back to the impressive Clements, who hit a rasping right-footed drive from 22-yards, which stung Blue’s fingers as he plucked the ball out of the air above his head.

Billy Dunn played the ball into his strike partner Mike Dixon, who played the ball out wide to Clements, who put the ball across the face of the penalty area for Dunn to sweep his first time shot bouncing into Blue’s hands for a comfortable save from 20-yards.

Cray Wanderers were given a massive let-off halfway through the first half.

Once again embarrassing defending from Basey and Sivapathasundaram allowed Clements to whip in a cross from the right, which was knocked down at the far post by Dunn and the ball dropped nicely to left-winger Sandy Cunningham, who was given acres of space inside the box to pick his spot.  Somehow, his drive bounced off the foot of the right-hand post then kissed the foot of the left-hand post and Cray Wanderers survived.

“We were all over the place,” admitted Russell. 

“I’m a little bit shell-shocked if I’m honest.  It was poor. It was poor.  I’m standing on the line thinking what do I do? It just wasn’t working!”

Even Robinson tried his luck with a 30-yard drive, which flashed just past the foot of the near post.

Russell could see a nightmare unravelling in front of his eyes and Basey’s embarrassment was ended so Sivapathasundaram slotted in at left-back and winger Brandon Scott came off the bench.

“I thought the first half of the first half until I switched it after 29 minutes and from that moment on, I thought it was us,” said Russell.

“I think the formation wasn’t working because we’ve done some work on it and we know we’ve got to use it. 

“They could’ve score more and then once I switched it back I thought we were decent.”

Cray Wanderers’ performance improved and Medley threaded the ball through for Scott to drill his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Tooting & Mitcham United had another chance to increase their lead that their dominance and quality football deserved in the 34th minute.

Dawson lost the ball down the wing and Wedgeworth broke free down the line to whip in another excellent cross and this time Clements’ diving header sailed across Blue and past the far post from 10-yards.

Cray Wanderers grabbed an equaliser with 39 minutes and 14 seconds on the clock and boy did they need it!

Scott’s pace saw him reach the by-line and he managed to wrap his foot around the ball to put over a cross, which Dent flicked across goal at the near post.  Sivapathasundaram retrieved the ball and cut the ball back and Prescott drilled a first-time 30-yard right-footed shot, which crashed off the top of the right-hand post, before bouncing over the line.

Russell said: “I just thought the momentum had swung. As soon as we switched it back we clicked back in. We just started to pin them in and I thought all off a sudden everything had clicked back and we pinned them in and I thought here we go.

“It was a great strike. He cut across it. All off a sudden we’re back in the game and I think here we go, you know.”

This screamer sparked Cray Wanderers into life and Mundele released Scott down the right, who beat his man with skill and trickery but he produced a poor finish, rolling his left-footed shot into Merson’s hands for a comfortable save from 20-yards.

But disaster struck Cray Wanderers as Tooting & Mitcham United were gifted the lead – 62 seconds into stoppage time.

Wedgeworth swung in a corner from the right and Blue should have punched the ball towards safety but instead he flapped at the ball, failed to deal with the curling delivery and Robinson was lurking at the far post to hook his volley into the bottom near corner from 10-yards.

“Do you know what, I went in at half-time and I asked him that exact same question,” fumed Russell.

“He said he tried to punch it. I think he pattered it down, that’s what I saw. He just pattered it down. I have no idea!

“Listen, I’m so reluctant to kill or dig Bluey out, but there was no-one around him, that’s what I asked him.  I generally didn’t know what he was doing! Out of nothing with no one around him, he just pattered it down and the guy hooked it in but I generally couldn’t tell you because I’m standing there myself thinking what has just happened there?!”

It should have been three right on half-time but Blue – who was wearing Bromley’s green number 23 goalkeeper shirt as both clubs had a purple goalkeeping strip - made amends for his blunder by keeping his side in the game.

Dunn played Clements in behind the sloppy Wandering defence and the winger only had Blue to beat, but the keeper rushed off his line to block using his legs.

“I went in there and it’s as flat as a pancake. All the wind just got taken out of us,” admitted Russell when asked about the mood in the home dressing room at the interval.

“We can’t be letting silly goals in like that! We’ve worked so hard to get ourselves back into the game.  We had the momentum and all off a sudden our tails are up and we just do that!

“That there today is a story of our season. If ever a game sums us up it’s that. We’ve huffed and puffed and shot ourselves in the foot!”

Tooting & Mitcham United striker Dunn produced a 40-yard run when he turned his man on the half-way line and burst forward, cut inside and drilled his right-footed shot wide from 20-yards.

But Tooting & Mitcham United deservedly gained a two-goal lead as early as the 51st minute.

Jordan Wilson played the ball inside to his central midfield partner O’Neill, who placed his right-footed drive from 25-yards nestling into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Blue getting his right-hand to the shot.

Russell said :”We can argue, I didn’t think it was a foul if I’m honest.  I thought he got the ball. 

“I thought second half we were poor if I’m honest. Fair play to them, they were much the better side second half and we never got going.

“They’re on this little crest of a wave, good luck to them.  Everyone’s come into this league and there’s a lot of fancied teams and they were too good for us.  They’ve sort of come from nowhere, fair play to them. We’ve played them twice now and they’ve scored eight past us, 8-1.”

Dixon ignored Wedgeworth on the overlap to have a shot himself, on the turn from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by Blue.

Cunningham played the ball into Dunn, whose searching pass released Dixon, but Blue rushed out to kick the ball away.  Clements’ first time chip sailed over the keeper’s head and dropped down for Jay Leader to clear his lines from inside his six-yard box.

Dixon turned Paul Lorraine in midfield, raced towards the edge of the Cray Wanderers’ penalty area, but drill a low shot past the foot of the post.

Cray Wanderers’ 26-goal striker Haynes should have done better with his 66th minute chance.

Mundele’s over-hit pass was retrieved by Medley, who swept his cross into the penalty area but the ball bounced off Haynes’ shoulder and the ball bounced harmlessly across goal instead of in it.

“There’s loads of things like that that happened in the second half,” admitted unimpressed Russell.

“We kept going into feet and Medley kept losing control of it or the pass would go astray. Credit to the boys, they never gave in.  We switched the formation three times during the game and I made three subs. I couldn’t do no more from the line.   The boys were there in terms of effort but lacked a bit of quality but no-one gave up.”

Robinson looped a quality ball forward up to striker Dixon, who brought the ball down under his spell with some magical skill only to scuff his poor shot past the left-hand post from 18-yards.

A ripple of applause appreciated a quality move from Tooting & Mitcham United with 15 minutes left.

Robinson played a one-two with Cunningham down the right and cut the ball back to Dunn, who swept his shot towards goal from 15-yards, forcing Blue to grab hold of the ball.

If only Cray Wanderers had 10 other Leigh Bremner’s as the 69th minute substitute striker always shows desire to the cause when most of his team-mates failed miserably.

Bremner shrugged off Sol Patterson-Bohner, cut inside from the left but dragged his low shot past the foot of the near post.

“He done alright, Brems is Brems. He comes on and gives everything that he’s got,” added Russell.

Tooting & Mitcham United smashed one final nail into Cray Wanderers promotion coffin by scoring their fourth goal with 48 minutes and 22 seconds on the second half clock.

Frank Wilson’s side were playing keep ball as the clock ticked down but Cunningham had seen enough, burst into the penalty area, cutting in from the left and clipped the ball towards the near post where man-of-the-match Clements headed into the bottom near corner from inside the six-yard box.

“By then the games finished. It was one right at the very end. It was a good goal.  You just want the whistle to go and wrap up and get out of here,” admitted Russell.

“Listen, they’ve come here, they’ve deserved it, no complaints whatsoever.  They were the better side.”

Russell was asked whether he feels the club will make a managerial change if he fails to finish in the top five at the end of the season.

“There’s a lot to look forward to as well, the bigger picture. I’ve got to look at that and end of March, early April we find our finally about the ground. There’s been some really positive messages but I’m not about coming to football and getting beat 4-1.  It’s not what I’m about and how I do things so the quicker I can turn that around, the better.

“I’m generally very shocked. I don’t remember having that season when we’ve got nothing to play for.  I’m always either going for promotion, fighting relegation (with VCD Athletic), or a Cup Final.”

Cray Wanderers travel to fifth-from-bottom side Chipstead on Saturday, before hosting sixth-placed surprise package Corinthian-Casuals next Wednesday, 1 March.

Russell said: “I just want effort and show a bit more quality. I don’t want to have a season when we just wind down. We’ve got to keep trying and if that means having youngsters in, I don’t know.  I need to talk to them and have a chat with them and get on the same page and we’ll make that decision but I need to do what’s best for this football club.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to go on an amazing run. We haven’t done it all season so I’ll be surprised if we start doing it now!

“We spoke before the game and we built it up ‘this is a must-win, we can’t afford to not win, we can’t keep on losing and think we’ll still make the play-offs.’

“I hope they prove me completely wrong and go on an amazing run and we get up. No one will be more happy than me.  Sometimes you have to be realistic.  We’ve talked up these players’ all season, we’ve given  them big gee-ups, how good they are, we think they’re the best side in the league and they’ve not delivered so there comes a time where you go that ain’t working and we’re showing no signs of going on a run and going up.

“We need to come up with something else what’s best for this football club, it’s as simple as that. We’ve got some very good players, maybe the way I’m doing it is holding them back? I don’t know. It just looks like it’s going to be tricky to get promotion.”

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Grant Basey (Brandon Scott 29), Lea Prescott, Paul Lorraine, Jay Leader, Lea Dawson, Karl Dent (Zak Henry 65), Danny Haynes (Leigh Bremner 69), Luke Medley, Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram.
Subs: Dane Luchford, Jai McKinlay

Goal: Lee Prescott 40

Tooting & Mitcham United: Kyle Merson, Ashley Robinson, Peter Wedgeworth, Jordan Wilson, Sol Patterson-Bohner, Quincy Rowe, Dan Clements, Chace O’Neill (Kevin MacLaren 78), Mike Dixon (Jack Mazzone 81), Billy Dunn (Claudio Hoban 89), Sandy Cunningham.
Subs: Tenny Adebowale, Bashiru Alimi

Goals: Dan Clements 4, 90, Ashley Robinson 45, Chace O’Neill 51

Booked: Quincy Rowe 64, Billy Dunn 89

Attendance: 214
Referee: Mr Damith Bandara (Pease Cottage, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Mark Pond (Romford, Essex) & Mr Rhys Battye (Braintree, Essex)

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