Cray Wanderers 3-1 Molesey - We're pleased with the progress that we've made today, says Keith Bird

Saturday 30th August 2014

The FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 30th August 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Keith Bird says he wants his struggling side to kick on now that they avoided slipping up on a potential FA Cup banana skin against unbeaten Molesey.

Only Spelthorne Sports separated the two clubs in the pecking order going into this Preliminary Round tie at Hayes Lane, but Cray Wanderers comfortably eased past ten-man Molesey to pocket the £1,925 prize money and to earn another home tie in two weeks’ time.

The Wands went into the game sitting at the foot of the Ryman League Division One North table with only three points from their opening six league games.

Molesey – who thrashed Haywards Heath Town 11-0 in the Extra Preliminary Round at Walton Road two weeks ago – were in second place in the Combined Counties League Premier after winning all of their five league games.

But Irishman Ian Daly, 24, eased the pressure on Bird after tapping home from close range with only five minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Molesey faced a mountain to climb when they lost left-back Marlon Rodney to a straight red-card after 29 minutes, within a couple of minutes before picking up the first of four yellow cards for the Surrey side.

Daly, the former Manchester City, Bromley and Dulwich Hamlet striker, curled a deflected looping shot into the far corner to give Cray Wanderers a 2-0 lead.

Molesey striker Matt Baxter squandered an excellent chance to bring his side back in the game early in the second half when his penalty was saved.

But Adrian Stone – who came in for the suspended Shaun Welford – lashed in a third before just 113 seconds later Molesey scored a consolation through James McShane’s eighth-goal of the season.

“We haven’t had the best starts,” admitted Bird, who was under fire from a section of the club’s fan-base before the game.

“There’s a lot of things that we had to work on.  Today I think it was important that we respected Molesey. 

“Even though they’re in the league below, they’re second in their league and we knew they were very competitive.  We knew they would give us a competitive game and we had to respect them.

“I think in some ways we changed a few things and to some extent I would rather play tough opposition in the FA Cup ironically, even though we wanted to go through.

“But it was great to have a real tough game today because that puts us in good stead for where we’re going onwards now for the rest of the league, which we turn our attention to.”

Bird revealed that he done his homework on Steve Webb’s side and knew what to expect.

“We took them very seriously, so much so we’ve had them watched.  We had two different reports on them.  I’ve done some research on them myself. We’ve spoken to a lot of people that have played against them so we took them very seriously today and I think if we hadn’t taken the game seriously and given the respect that they deserved, it could have been a banana skin.”

Bird made five changes to the side that suffered a 2-0 defeat at Thamesmead Town on Bank Holiday Monday.

Central defender Nick Humphrey, who was making his second appearance after signing from Ryman Premier League side Canvey Island, kept a Molesey side, that have scored 31 goals in six games before today, quiet.

Cray Wanderers needed an early goal to ease their nerves and it almost came after only 79 seconds.

Keeper Darren Behcet pumped a free-kick towards the edge of the Molesey penalty area where Stone knocked the ball down and across towards Daly, who hooked his left-footed volley over the bar from 20-yards.

But Cray Wanderers were in front with their next attempt after hitting Molesey on the break.

Gary Beckett played a long diagonal pass to release winger Ishmael Welsh down the left, who glided past Tom Windsor to cut into the penalty area where he cut the ball back from the by-line towards the far post where Daly stabbed his left-footed shot into the net from two-yards.

“We worked on that in training actually because we knew they played quite narrow,” revealed Bird.

“We knew they tended to play through the middle, although they do mix it up a bit and with build-up play but we knew they didn’t have much width so we worked on that in training and delighted to see.”

Despite scoring goals for fun, Molesey lacked any goalscoring threat and Windsor found himself unmarked inside the Cray Wanderers penalty area but the ball skimmed off his head and sailed harmlessly wide.

The home side went into the game leaking seventeen league goals and Humphrey scooped the man-of-the-match award for keeping free-scoring Molesey at bay.

Moles striker Stafford Palmer held the ball up before playing a reverse pass to put through Windsor who danced past Steve Springett but Humphrey made a well-timed sliding tackle inside the D to prevent a goalscoring opportunity.

Bird said: “We realised that we were having problems at centre back and we needed to shore that up and what we needed was a bit of experience in there and I think Nick’s a great signing and we’re delighted to have him.”

Molesey wasted a decent chance in the 21st minute when Windsor’s through ball saw keeper Behcet come out of his penalty area to clear the ball away to Ross Chalke, who lost composure and sent his right-footed shot sailing over the empty goal from 25-yards.

But Molesey did themselves no favours when Rodney was shown a straight red card by referee David Spain for a challenge on Beckett right in front of the home dug-out.

Bird said: “I thought it was the right decision. The referee got that right. It was a clear sending off. It was a second yellow but if he wasn’t booked before it would have been a straight red so I think the ref got that spot on.”

That was the shot in the arm that beleaguered Cray Wanderers needed to go on and win the game to put a smile back on the faces of their fans in the small crowd of 87.

Bird’s side doubled their lead in the 38th minute thanks to Daly’s fifth goal of the season.

Giannoulis Fakinos clipped a fine diagonal ball from left to right to find Daly lurking on the corner of the penalty area and he cut inside before cracking a left-footed drive towards goal from 20-yards.

The ball took a deflection off his marker and curled and looped over goalkeeper Liam Allen into the top far corner.

“I think today the pleasing thing was the goals we scored came from good build-up play and a good team effort,” added Bird.

The Wands went in at the break with a 2-0 advantage, which pleased the former Bromley reserve team manager, who suffered relegation as the Ryman Premier League’s worst side last season.

“We said we’re not really going to change the plan because we knew at 2-0 they were going to be dangerous and come out.  They had nothing to lose and we needed to keep the shape across the middle. That was important.

“We needed to keep the full-backs up at the same time. We wanted to keep them turning because they do tend to bring their full-backs up quite high so the thing was to not change the plan because 2-0 it was far from done.”

Molesey were given a lifeline when the referee spotted that Cray central defender Max Fitzgerald pushed Moses Spencer after Craig Lewington swung in a corner from the right.

Five-goal striker Matt Baxter stepped up and stroked a weak right-footed penalty towards the bottom right-hand corner, but well informed Behcet dived to his left to make a vital save, clutching on to the ball, with 2 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

“I think it was a penalty from where I was standing,” said Bird.

“My view was a little bit blocked but I think it was a penalty. I think Max got the wrong side of him and probably put too much on his back so I think it was a fair penalty.”

Bird must take credit because he done his homework on Baxter prior to the game.

“We’ve been watching all of his penalties and we knew exactly where he was going to put it so that was helpful,” said Bird, who revealed that he’s watched match recordings over the internet and Molesey in the flesh.

“That could have turned the game. We’ll be back in there 2-1 so it shows that kind of homework (paid-off).”

Behcet almost blotted his copy book when he almost gifted Molesey a goal in the 56th minute.

Right-back Fakinos played the ball back to the keeper, who inexplicably kicked the ball straight at McShane inside his penalty area, but the stopper made amends to smother the ball at the midfielder’s feet.

Bird said: “I think Bech was not too happy with the angle of support our left-back Steve Springett gave him. He made it a very difficult pass for him but Bech is very experienced and probably should have cleared that one away in that situation so thankfully he more than made up for it!”

That missed chance, however, seemed to knock the stuffing out of Molesey and Cray Wanderers went on to comfortably win the game.

Daly floated over a cross from the left touchline where an unmarked Stone looped his header into Allen’s hands.

The home side created another chance when Fakinos’ throw went to Daly, who swept the ball out to substitute Jordan Bird, who controlled the ball with his first touch of the game before blasting his left-footed drive over with his second touch from 35-yards.

But as the game edged towards the final fifteen minutes, Molesey’s players began to lose their discipline with three of their players going into the book within an ugly three minute period.

Humphrey’s solid performance at the back could have been rewarded with a headed goal but his towering header sailed over after Bird swung in a free-kick from the right.

Daly was to be denied his hat-trick when his left-footed drive from 20-yards was tipped over the bar by young goalkeeper Allen after a move involving Fakinos, Daly, Beckett and Stone.

Bird said: “It would have been nice for that to have gone it and it would have been a lot more relaxed. We thought we needed another goal, just to relax a little bit.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been ahead in a game that much with ten minutes to go and I think the lads got a little bit nervous.  They were going in to a new territory so that’s a good new experience as well that we’ve learnt how to win a game and kill it off in the last ten minutes.”

But Stone’s hardworking performance as the target man paid off as he put much-needed daylight between the two sides in the final seven minutes.

The ball was played up to the Bromley-based striker, in between the two centre backs and he lashed his right-footed drive into the net from sixteen-yards.

“What he does very well, he holds the ball up,” said Bird.

“They’ve got two very good centre backs. We felt we knew how they played and they’re a good team, a very good team throughout.

“They’ve got good quality. You can see why they’re second in their division and also very physical.  They’ve got that side of it as well.

“We felt we knew how to play the two centre backs and Stoney executed that brilliantly today. It was more what Stoney did, in terms of introducing other players.

“Stoney’s good for the squad as well. He’s one of those players that he wants to play but he understands he’s going to not be involved as much as he likes to be but he’s very professional and whenever he comes in, he comes with the right attitude.”

Stone’s first goal of the season was well-timed because Molesey scored a deserved consolation soon after.

Windsor dinked a sublime defence splitting pass to put McShane through on goal and the impressive midfielder slotted his shot across Behcet and the ball nestled into the bottom far corner.

Bird said: “That was a warning for us, a bit sloppy for us. We’ve been very, very tight at the back apart from the penalty and the mistake that Bech made.  Up until that point they didn’t have a clear chance on goal but I thought they deserved that goal. 

“They worked very, very hard. They were trying extremely hard to get back into the game and I thought it was a very good goal as well.  The build-up to the goal with some intricate passing, a little chip over the top. I thought it was a great goal and they deserved it.”

Cray Wanderers almost scored a flattering fourth deep into injury time when Stone swept a first time right-footed volley towards an empty goal from 50-yards, which bounced before caressing the inside of the left-hand post and Allen survived.
Bird said: “I felt sorry for Stoney. He had his great effort at the end where the goalkeeper came out but we knew their keeper comes out and sweeps very quickly. That was another thing that we looked at. He’s a young keeper but he’s very quick off the mark. He reads the game well and he comes up high to sweep up and we knew that if he does that we told the lads to look out for that. If he made a mistake, try and take advantage of it.

“Stoney showed great class to try to chip him but unfortunately it just hit the underside of the post and came back out again.”

Cray Wanderers will welcome either Tooting & Mitcham United (Ryman Premier) or Three Bridges (Ryman One South) in the First Qualifying Round. Those two sides played out a goal-less draw.

Bird is delighted to have scooped the prize money today.

“We need every pound that we can get. People think we’re a bigger club than we are just because we are playing at Bromley FC but we don’t get big gates, we don’t get the revenue of the bar and the food.   We have no hospitality or conference facility.

“Literally the income of the club is the little bit we get through the gate and a bit of sponsorship so we rely on this kind of prize money if we can get it.

“The long term plan for the club is to have our own stadium but everyone knows how much that transforms a club. Hopefully we can get that done at some point in the next few years and that will transform the club.

“Until then we have to make do with the little bit of gate money we’ve got at the moment.”

Cray Wanderers need bigger gates than the one that they attracted today.

Bird added: “The fans that we have got, whilst not big in numbers, are very passionate and we really appreciate the support they give us.”

The club’s small fan-base would love to see a similar performance when Maldon & Tiptree visit Hayes Lane for a League game on Tuesday night.

Bird agreed, saying, “Yes, exactly! We’re hoping this is it now. We’re hoping we can kick on from there. I think the first thing is to not lose games right now. In terms of Tuesday night I’ll be hoping to come away with a point. Anything more, it will be a bonus.”

When asked whether today’s FA Cup win eased the pressure on him, the manager replied: “No one puts more pressure on us than ourselves as a management team.

“We’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made today. We lost more games than we should have done. Out of the games we’ve lost there’s two that we deserved to lose and the other games all could have gone either way so it’s not been a complete disaster but based on results it’s not been good enough so it’s good to get a result today and hopefully we can move on from there.”

The players in their squad are too good to be struggling at the foot of the Ryman League Division One North table for the rest of the season.

Bird added: “We’ve done well to build this squad, put a lot of effort into it and we try to be as professional as we can on and off the field and now if we can move on and the players’ can perform a little bit better, then it will all come together nicely.”

Cray Wanderers: Darren Behcet, Giannoulis Fakinos, Steve Springett, Danny Lye, Nick Humphrey, Max Fitzgerald, Gary Beckett, Pat O’Connor (Tom O’Connor 46), Adrian Stone, Ian Daly, Ishmael Welsh (Jordan Bird 64).
Subs: Dan Stubbs, Martin Dynan, Hussein Isa, Nick Taylor

Goals:  Ian Daly 6, 38, Adrian Stone 83

Booked:  Adrian Stone 76, Ian Daly 90, Tom O’Connor 90

Molesey: Liam Allen, Luke Elliott, Marlon Rodney, Craig Lewington, Ollie Robinson, Moses Spencer, Tom Windsor, Ross Chalke (Ashley Charles 73), Matt Baxter (Peter Songs 83), Stafford Palmer (Jamie Linegar 73), James McShane.
Subs: Dre Grobler, Andrew Harewood

Goal: James McShane 85

Booked: Marlon Rodney 27, Craig Lewington 75, Tom Windsor 77, Luke Elliott 78

Sent Off: Marlon Rodney 29

Attendance: 87
Referee: Mr David Spain (Westfield, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Michael Barnes (Heathfield, East Sussex) & Ms Katie Wilde (St Leonards, East Sussex)