Cray Wanderers 1-1 Whyteleafe - Cray are the best side we've played so far but I thought we matched them today, says proud Whyteleafe boss Harry Hudson

Wednesday 26th September 2018
Cray Wanderers 1 – 1 Whyteleafe
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 26/09/2018 19:45

Bostik South East Division
Wednesday 26 September 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

WHYTELEAFE manager Harry Hudson says he was full of praise for his players after being the first side to take points off leaders Cray Wanderers this season.

The Leafe opened the scoring through Bentley Graham’s drilled free-kick inside the opening five minutes but their lead was short lived as winger Jerome Federico lashed in the equaliser just 109 seconds later at Hayes Lane.

Both sides finished the game with 10 men as referee Peter Cruise gave out second yellow cards to Cray Wanderers centre-half Mitchell Nelson and then Whyteleafe’s central midfielder Graham.

Cray Wanderers were without eight-goal leading scorer Michael Power (slipped disc in his back), midfielder Karl Dent (recovering following a hand operation) and winger Aaron Rhule (ankle).

A crowd of 140 were treated to a delicious game of football where both sides played an eye-catching brand of carpet football on the artificial pitch.

Cray Wanderers went into the game with a 100% record in the Bostik South East Division after six games, while Whyteleafe were in the top five with 12 points from their opening five league outings.

“I thought it was a very good advert for non-league football, a great advert for our league especially,” said former Croydon manager Hudson during the post-match press conference.

“I thought they probably edged it in the first half and in the second half I thought we definitely edged it and we had some really, really big chances right at the start of the second half and towards the latter part when they went down to 10 men.  I thought we could’ve edged the game at 2-1 but it was a great game.”

Cray Wanderers assistant manager Joe Vines was sent out to do press duties post-match and he was full of praise for Whyteleafe.

“I think they’re a good side.  I think they’ll do well this year.  I think they had a lot of energy, they’ve obviously got two very good coaches in charge there and they want to play the game the right way.  I was really impressed by them.  We knew they were a good side, we knew about them beforehand and I thought that they proved it.”

Hudson gave Wilson a free-role all over the pitch and he offered Cray Wanderers a warning when he swung in a free-kick into the box for centre-half Nathan Campbell to steer his header across goal and past the far post after only 90 seconds.

But Whyteleafe opened the scoring with only four minutes and 12 seconds on the clock as the defensive wall failed to do its job.

Graham drilled his right-footed free-kick from 30-yards through the wall and goalkeeper Nick Blue dived low to his right at his near post but failed to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom near corner.

“You couldn’t ask for much more than that,” said Hudson.

“Good strike from Brad. We were setting up for a free-kick – I think they’ve had us watched and they knew what we were doing – and Brad caught them off guard. It’s gone through the wall so I’m sure they’ll be a bit disappointed but a clean strike and what a start from us.”

Vines added: “Nothing on Bluey, the wall broke, it didn’t do its job. I don’t know who was on the end of it but we’re disappointed in the goal.  I think they had plenty of other opportunities to score goals. It was just a cheap goal really.”

Cray Wanderers responded and equalised with six minutes and a second on the clock.

Bradley Pritchard, who was on fire for the first 35 minutes before he was halted in his tracks following Graham’s heavy tackle, played the ball inside to left-back Archie Johnson and the 20-year-old drilled a low drive from 35-yards, which forced Whyteleafe keeper Tyler McCarthy to dive full-length to his left to parry and Federico smashed his left-footed drive into the roof of the net from 20-yards to score his second goal of the season, emulating Graham’s stats.

“He’s taken it really well, left-foot. He is a right-footed player Feds but he’s comfortable with both feet and he’s drilled that into the roof of the net,” said Vines.

“At that stage you could say we were deserving of it. It was so early on in the game. It probably should’ve been 0-0, that’s how early it was!”

Hudson added: “Great finish from him but I’m really, really disappointed.  When we scored we had them on the ropes and you just want to settle down with that lead and unfortunately we really didn’t and it’s a bit of a soft goal for us from our point of view. We weren’t best pleased with it.  When it’s come back to him he’s absolutely leathered it and it’s gone in off the underside of the bar so it’s a good finish.”

The game then became even before Cray Wanderers started to dominate after 20 minutes.

Pritchard rode Graham’s sliding tackle inside the final third and skipped past Matthew O’Donaghue, before Graham came back for more and fouled Pritchard within the channel.

Pritchard floated in a quality free-kick with his right-boot and striker Freddie Parker nipped in front of his man to plant his header just over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

Vines offered a 10 word reply to that miss.  “If it was a school report we should do better.”

Barney Williams threw the ball in from the right and the ball sat up for Pritchard to smack a right-footed volley towards goal from 30-yards, which forced McCarthy to use his outstretched right-hand to tip the ball over his crossbar in the 21st minute.

“We had periods all of the way through, we expect that, we’ve got a good side, we’ve got good players,” said Vines.

“We’re imbedded, I think when we’ve got control of it we should punish teams a little bit more. We’ve still not clicked into gear fully just yet.”

Hudson said: “I can’t remember how it came about, it might be a multi-ball system from their dug-out, fair play.  I think Tyler came out of his goal to clear the ball and they gave another ball straight away. They threw it in and it came to Bradley, who tried to catch him off guard but fair play to Tyler, he’s a very agile goalie and he made a good save.”

Pritchard swung in the resulting corner from the left and the ball came out to Jay Leader, the centre-half striking a left-footed drive just over the Whyteleafe crossbar just inside the penalty area.

Pritchard pressed Helge Orome into making a mistake before putting Parker through on goal but his right-footed shot bounced off the foot of the near post from 16-yards after 27 minutes.

Vines said: “He’s done well to find a little bit of space, struck his shot well enough and unfortunately it’s the wrong side of the post, not more can be done.”

Hudson added:  “I think they had a decent spell. We dropped five or ten yards deeper and allowed them to play to pick up second balls.”

Whyteleafe built-up well down the left with Wilson, striker Eddie Dsane and Dan Hector and Wilson wriggled towards the corner of the box to roll a weak shot into Blue’s hands for a comfortable save.

In an attempt to play the ball out from the back, Leader drove forward with the ball at his feet before he lost the ball to Graham, who released Marvin Armstrong down the right channel and quiet Harrison Carnegie, who didn’t hog the line like he did for Sevenoaks Town, couldn’t apply the touch as he ghosted in unmarked at the far post.

Cray Wanderers stopped ticking after Pritchard received treatment inside the final 10 minutes and Hudson was pleased with the way his passing side finished the half.

“I thought we had a really good spell towards the end of the first half.  We had some really big chances.  I was really happy to get in at 1-1 because they had the ascendancy for the last part of the first half, on the flip side we did have some good chances,” said the Whyteleafe boss.

“I was proud of them for the first part.  We had a game plan that we worked on and initially it worked but we took our foot of the gas a bit. We weren’t quite brave enough with our defensive structure so we spoke about being really brave and the main thing we spoke about was going forward quicker and by doing that I thought we made them retreat.”

Reflecting on his half-time thoughts, Vines said: “We probably finished the first half reasonably well. We had a chat at half-time, we spoke about the areas where we could improve. The unfortunate thing is we didn’t have an opportunity to work on any of their shape in training, we literally take one game at a time with the timeframes involved so unfortunately we didn’t have an opportunity to work on them. We spoke it through, we worked it better in the first half than we did in the second.”

Nelson released Federico charging down the right wing and he cut the ball back for Pritchard, who struck a first time right-footed drive over the crossbar from 25-yards, before Federico scuffed a low shot from similar range which was meat and drink for keeper McCarthy on the stroke of half-time.

Whyteleafe started the second half on the front foot and with better quality in the final third then they would have won the game.

Some sloppy defending from the home side let in Dsane who teed up Hector outside the penalty area but he failed to keep his shot down inside the opening four minutes.

But Blue was called into action in the 52nd minute following Whyteleafe’s third corner of the game.

It was a clever corner routine. Wilson’s corner from the left bounced towards the edge of the six-yard box and Graham’s flicked shot was parried by Blue before the ball was cleared towards safety.

“It’s something from the training ground,” revealed Hudson, who was praised for the passing game that he produced during his only season in charge of Croydon last season.

“I think Bentley should’ve scored and he’ll think that himself.  I thought we had two or three corners that build-up a bit of momentum and I think that was the pinnacle of the chances we created.  It’s a shame one hasn’t gone in because I think at that point we would’ve had the ascendancy.”

Vines said: “I thought it was pretty comfortable on the whole. What I will say is I thought they looked a danger from their corners. I don’t think we defended particularly well because they play that corner into the front space along the floor or at least a bounce before it gets there and then they just do a simple step-over.  We’ve talked about it, we knew it was coming and we still didn’t handle it very well and that’s where they looked really dangerous.

“In open play they’ve got a lot of pace and youth and exuberance and I think at times because they’re unpredictable because they don’t know what they’re going to do with it so that brings a threat.”

Pritchard floated in a corner at the other end and Nelson rose to loop his header over.

Whyteleafe’s now left-back O’Donoghue did a better job to keep Federico a lot more quieter after the interval.

“I thought Matt was unbelievable second half,” said Hudson.  

“The kid is 18-years-old and he’s playing against an experienced player at this level who is probably on the budget I have and I thought second half Matt was absolutely fantastic and I can’t praise him enough.”

Good play from Cray Wanderers right-back Barney Williams down the right-channel, saw him cut the ball back for Tom Phipp to drill a low angled drive flashing past the far post from 20-yards in the 65th minute.

Phipp gave the ball inside his own half and Nelson produced a strong challenge that took him through Dsane inside the D and the ball came out to Graham, who drilled his first time shot screaming just past the right-hand post.

Federico escaped from O’Donoghe’s grip in the 66th minute and cut the ball back for Pritchard to sweep his first time shot into McCarthy’s hands for a comfortable save from 14-yards.

Vines simply added: “Not a good enough connection on it, good play but nothing at the end of it, unfortunately.”

Hudson added:  “I think in that situation I felt in relative control at the time.  I think the pattern of the game reversed second half.  They had a bit more control in the first half and we were dangerous on the counter and I think second half it kind of flipped a little bit.”

Campbell came up for a Whyteleafe corner in the 70th minute and swept his right-footed shot on the turn past the far post after meeting Hector’s deep corner in from the right.

Referee Peter Cruise booked Nelson and just 129 seconds later pulled out a second yellow card for the Cray Wanderers centre-half for what appeared to be a strong challenge to win the ball from Armstrong on the edge of the penalty area in the 85th minute.

But Vines explained: “What he did was Mitchell fouled in the build-up but the referee allowed it so the initial tackle was a foul. The referee let play go on, Mitchell has made a clean tackle, which the referee has given for a foul because they took the set-piece from that spot.

“The second challenge was a yellow card. Having already had a yellow card it was a second yellow card and was a sending off and that was the correct decision made by the referee.

“He (Graham) got away with a few (fouls) during the course of it.  I don’t know him particularly well - and he got caught out and took a second yellow.”

Wilson had a glorious chance to win it but all he could do was stroke his right-footed free-kick into Blue’s midriff for a comfortable catch.

“Brad’s got to hit it, not pass it back to him,” said Hudson.

“I think Brad was making sure that he hit the target but that pretty much set-up an attack for them. It was a great opportunity, a great position to have an offensive free-kick and unfortunately we didn’t quite capitalise on it.”

Vines added: “Powder-puff, he tried to go over the wall but there was no strength to it.”

Cray Wanderers also missed a glorious chance to win the game just 25 seconds later as Blue’s kick landed at Phipp’s feet inside the Whyteleafe half and his low pass split open their two centre-halves (Orome and Campbell) and put Parker through on goal but McCarthy rushed off his line to make a vital low save.

Vines said: “Freddie is 18-years-old, you look at him, he looks like a man. His attitude is spot on. He’s done everything right. Tyler’s done well enough to get out and spread himself and it’s hit him more than he’s saved it but he’s saved the day. It was a really good chance. It’s fallen to the right man, it’s fallen to the man you wanted it to fall to. If it happens again on Saturday, I want it to fall to Fred and I’m sure he will put it away.”

Hudson heaped massive praise on the former Thamesmead Town and Beckenham Town stopper.

“Massive save from Tyler! It was lazy defending on our part. We spoke about there was no need to step-up when they were that deep in our defensive third. We tried to play offside, it was the only mistake we probably made in the whole game defensively and it was a big mistake and when those things happen you’re asking for your goalkeeper to save you and massive credit to Tyler because second half I thought he was pretty much a spectator and to pull off that save at that stage of the game was massive for us.”

Whyteleafe missed a great chance to win it at the death when Armstrong floated in a cross from the right towards the near post and only substitute striker Lauris Chin (who Hudson brought with him from Croydon) can tell you why he didn’t bury his free header into the net from a couple of yards out, glancing his header across Blue and past the far post instead.

“I thought it was a great spectacle of football but I honestly thought we were going to nick it and as the game went on, we had some big chances,” said Hudson.

“Two yards out, free header and he’s shut his eyes and all he has to do is connect with it and it’s a goal!”

Whyteleafe also finished the game with 10 men when deep into injury time Bentley picked up his second booking of the night for a sliding challenge on substitute left-winger Ben Mundele, who tried to break from midfield.

“I think they are both two yellows so in that regard I don’t think they can be any complaints from either side,” said Hudson.

“I don’t really want to talk too much about officials but for me Bentley’s first yellow card was for dissent for a foul that was never a foul.  I’m pretty side their guy got two yellows for two cynical challenges and when I compare the severity of the two then I feel slightly hard done by but on a caution and the challenge Bentley puts in, it is a second yellow so I prefer not to get two involved with the officials.”

Cray Wanderers remain at the summit with 19 points on the board from seven games and the four play-off places are occupied by Hastings United (15 points from six games), VCD Athletic (15 points from seven games), Whyteleafe (13 points from six games) and Hythe Town (13 points from seven games).

Cray Wanderers travel to Crayford to play VCD Athletic in the league on Saturday, while Whyteleafe welcome Bowers & Pitsea in The Buildbase FA Trophy Extra Preliminary Round to Church Road.

Hudson said:  “I can’t praise the boys enough, it’s a shame we couldn’t get the three points. I’m so proud how they’ve done it. I’m proud of the fans how they were supporting the boys tonight.

“I’ve got to give Cray a lot of respect. Anyone who tries to play football at this level because everyone tells you, you can’t, everyone tells you, you have to go long and that’s brilliant.

“It’s a good advert for the game and if Cray are the best side in the league, listen they’re the best side we’ve played so far, but we haven’t played a lot of teams around us.

“I thought we matched them today. I thought it was a good game of football and if Cray are the best team in the league and for what I’ve seen so far they are, then we should have no worried about getting into the play-offs and in play-off games anything can happen.”

Full report and reaction to follow later

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams, Archie Johnson, Tom Phipp, Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Junior Dadson (Ben Mundele 70), Sean Roberts (Zak Henry 77), Freddie Parker, Bradley Pritchard, Jerome Federico (Marcus Evans 87).
Subs: Ifeanyich Onwuachu, Malik Solebo

Goal: Jerome Federico 7

Booked: Sean Roberts 59, Bradley Pritchard 76, Mitchell Nelson 83, Jay Leader 84

Sent Off: Mitchell Nelson 85

Whyteleafe: Tyler McCarthy, Matthew O’Donoghue, Ricardo Thompson, Bradley Wilson, Nathan Campbell, Helge Orome, Dan Hector, Bentley Graham, Eddie Dsane (Lauris Chin 69), Marvin Armstrong, Harrison Carnegie.
Subs: Bradley Kayzeni, Arif Hattabi, Oliver Milton, Nkiambi Lukuni

Goal: Bradley Wilson 5

Booked: Ricardo Thompson 26, Bentley Graham 62

Sent Off: Bentley Graham 90

Attendance: 140
Referee: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester)
Assistants: Mr David Lunani (Bromley) & Mr Tolga Inanc (Streatham, London SE16)