Our aim, and I am pretty sure Lewes will feel the same, is to gain automatic promotion, says Cray Wanderers assistant Joe Vines

Friday 19th January 2018

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell prepares for his biggest game in charge of the club when his side host Lewes in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table at Hayes Lane tomorrow.

The Wands reached the top of the Bostik South table after humiliating Ashford United 9-1 at Hayes Lane on Wednesday night.

They are a couple of points clear of Lewes with 65 points in the bag from 30 games, while Lewes have a game in hand.

Darren Freedman’s side are the only side to beat Cray Wanderers in a league game this season and Russell’s men are eight games unbeaten and 23 league games unbeaten, while Lewes come to Bromley with six wins on the bounce.

“We've had a really good week on the whole,” said assistant manager Joe Vines, who saw his side come back from Guernsey with a 1-0 win last Saturday.

Ashford United arrived at Hayes Lane on a five-match unbeaten run and it was former Greenwich Borough manager Gary Alexander’s first game at the club as Jason Whitmore's assistant.

“We put in a professional performance in Guernsey after a really early start and a long journey against a side that set out to frustrate us.

“The Ashford game could have been a banana skin for us as they have had a lift in form more recently and having recently announced the appointment of Gary Alexander to their staff and the return of their goalkeeper (George Kamurasi) we knew we had to be at our best,” said Vines.

“There was only one difference between that performance than against Walton Casuals or VCD and that was that we were clinical with our chances.

“We racked up 25 shots against Walton and 23 against VCD and scored two and four whereas we had seven shots in the first half against Ashford and scored five goals!”

Vines, who works on set-pieces was delighted, with Karl Dent’s deliveries in midweek.

He said: “Our set pieces were excellent. I think Karl Dent's deliveries were of an extremely high standard and we were unforgiving in front of goal. It was a great result and a strong performance and it came at a time when we need to be as confident as we can moving into the business end of the season.”

Cray Wanderers have scored an amazing 77 league goals, compared to Lewes’ 58 and Russell has persuaded his chairman Gary Hillman to bring in Harlow Town striker Junior Dadson for an undisclosed transfer fee from the Bostik Premier Division club.

The Wands have even had the luxury of leaving 25-goal hit-man Michael Power on the bench.

“We've added Junior Dadson to the squad from Harlow when it became evident earlier in the week that Harlow were prepared to let him go. We enquired about his availability earlier in the season and it seems that with them having little to play for Junior was interested in playing a part in what we are trying to do at Cray and it made sense to us to bring in a player that scored 30 goals in the league above last season. He will be a good addition both as a player and as a character.

“Our attacking line-up is strong and we have depth now. Shaggy (Power) had been the focal point in the early stages of the season and the ridiculous Christmas football schedule really took a lot out of him. The fourth game in eight days at Greenwich Borough was a slow, arduous match and we picked up two injuries so it proved to us that the squad could benefit from reinforcements.

“The situation at Greenwich meant that Charlie MacDonald became available and he is someone that I have known for years so it was a no-brainer. Charlie has a Football League pedigree but he has played in non-league and he has added experience.

“Aaron Rhule has returned to fitness early which is a huge boost for us. Brandon Scott is in phenomenal form and with rest, Shaggy will come into the last third of the season refreshed and with renewed hunger to score goals.

“Junior will bring all of the things that we value to the side, power, pace, goals and a winning mentality.”

Cray Wanderers have been praised in many quarters for the carpet football that they play and tomorrow’s game is one to watch for the purist.

“Everyone knows how we play, we pass and we are direct up top but what you can't see from the outside is the togetherness in the dressing room and the strength of character,” added Vines.

“Being top at this stage is not our concern at present. We have set ourselves specific milestone targets throughout the course of the season so far. We are slightly behind where we need to be and if we are honest we should have won more games than we have.  Our form in the last six to eight matches has not been where we had hoped it would but the last two games we are pleased with.

“The expectations have risen now but the pressure we are feeling is from Carshalton in third (58 points with a game in hand) rather than the pressure to come out on top.

“Our aim, and I am pretty sure Lewes will feel the same way knowing Darren and Ross (Darren Freeman and Ross Standen), is to gain automatic promotion.

“To be involved for so long and to miss out by a whisker is much more damaging to the morale of the team and to then be able to lift the players to perform at a high level in a play-off situation is a very difficult task.

“We do not want to finish third, that is the key driver for us.

“Not to downplay the Lewes game but if we win Saturday we will still have to play another 15 games? If we lose, we will still have to play 15 games! There are so many points up for grabs that we cannot and will not get ahead of ourselves.

“The most important thing at the moment is that we are playing the game in the right way, our way. There has been talk all season about the brand of football that we play and I personally don't feel that we have received the credit we deserve for being brave and trying to pass when other teams start with a "philosophy" and then discard it when the going gets tough.

“We didn't start the season as well as we had hoped and it would have been easy to look to hit longer balls and get bodies around the second ball but we made changes with personnel and stuck to our guns. That is what I am most proud of at this stage.”

Visit Cray Wanderers’ website:  www.cray-wanderers.com

Cray Wanderers  v  Lewes
Bostik South Division
Saturday 20 January 2018
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF