Greenwich Borough 0-0 Cray Wanderers - They wanted it more than us, admits Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Monday 01st January 2018
Greenwich Borough 0 – 0 Cray Wanderers
Location Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 01/01/2018 15:00

Bostik South Division
Monday 1 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

GREENWICH BOROUGH manager Gary Alexander says he is not in a position to bring in new players to help with their promotion bid.

Greenwich Borough and Cray Wanderers played out a goal-less draw on the first day of 2018 with these two heavyweights very much involved in the promotion race.

Cray Wanderers extended their unbeaten run in the Bostik South to 19 games and remain in second-place with 55 points from 26 games, two points behind leaders Lewes but with a game in hand, while Greenwich Borough are now in fourth-place with 52 points on the board from their 28 league outings.

“I think in the end it’s a fair result,” said Alexander, who very much had a depleted side for this local derby.

“We probably had the better of the first half, Cray were probably better second half but tactically we got it right.  We didn’t allow them to play how they normally play and we frustrated them.

“I watch a lot of Cray so I know how they play and I think we got it right in terms of how they play because if you allow them to play, individually they’ve got good players, very good players and they can hurt you as they’ve shown over the course of the season.  They’ve scored five-six-sevens on numerous occasions.  We had to give them full respect on that.  My boys have been fantastic today.”

Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell added: “I think it was about fair.  We started quite well in the first half.  I thought Greenwich Borough took over.  We got pinned in and we got dragged into that style. We got dragged into the trenches a little bit but fair play to them, they were much better than us.

“Gary will probably be disappointed that they didn’t come in one or two goals up at half-time.  We got away with it.  We looked like rabbits in headlights, we just couldn’t wait to get into half-time.

“I picked the same side. We’ve played four games in nine days and I was standing there thinking I shouldn’t have done that.  We looked leggy, they were all over us.  They were shutting us down, they were hurrying us off the ball and we couldn’t get our game going and credit to Greenwich Borough.” 

Cray Wanderers started on the front foot and created their first opening inside 15 minutes.

Jay Leader cut inside and drilled a shot towards goal from 30-yards which was blocked and Lea Dawson teed up striker Michael Power and his right-footed drive deflected just over the bar from the edge of the box.

Greenwich Borough linked up well on the right when Tom Beere played the ball inside to Sam Corne, who played Nathan Paul on the overlap and the right-back’s angled rasping drive was palmed away by Nick Blue at his near post.

Beere swung in the home side’s second corner of the game and Callum McGeehan came up from the back to loop his far post header into Blue’s hands.

Power was mainly kept quiet by the Greenwich Borough defence that was well marshalled by Mark Phillips but the 24-goal striker created himself a chance out of nothing in the 19th minute.

Power turned Phillips inside the Greenwich Borough box and flicked the ball up  before cracking a right-footed half-volley towards goal from 12-yards, which was gathered by George Kamurasi, the big keeper moving to his right.

“We were trying to get them on the break and soak it up the best they can,” explained Russell.

“If they go in, you’re delighted.  It’s not even a half chance but he’s created it himself. It’s a great bit of skill but quite comfortable for the goalkeeper.”

“Shaggy’s scored a lot of goals this season. We know what we had to do today to keep him quiet and we’ve kept him quiet,” added Alexander.

“I think that chance came from us gambling.  I think Michael Phillips, you can’t afford to get one side of Shaggy.  I think Mark tried to get one side of him, which allowed him to do it but other than that he was kept quiet.”

Greenwich Borough’s right-back Paul hit a speculative right-footed drive from 30-yards, which bounced comfortably into Blue’s hands for a routine save.

Greenwich Borough went close to breaking the deadlock in the 25th minute.

Beere drove forward and released striker Jack Barham running downhill, down the left channel and he whipped in a low cross and Beere’s near post shot was blocked by Blue and pinball inside the box saw Barham’s low shot towards the bottom far corner being cleared off the line by Leader.

Beere swung in the resulting corner and Travis Gregory flicked his shot on the turn just over the crossbar from 15-yards.

This was a good spell of pressure from the home side and the impressive Beere rolled the ball into Paul’s feet out on the right and he had time and space to whip in a cross but a quiet Chinedu McKenzie’s rising header sailed over the crossbar from 10-yards.

Blue was called into making a superb save on the stroke of half-time to keep the score goalless.

Bradley Pritchard got the better of Barney Williams on the right-hand side of the penalty area and the ball was cleared out to Corne, who hit a first time drive towards the corner, forcing Blue to claw the ball to his right to parry towards safety.

“He made a couple of good saves, we had a couple of efforts before that where he made good saves,” added Alexander.

“I watch them week-in-week-out and he does make saves. He’s very good with his feet, he’s a great shot-stopper. It’s a difficult game for us today and we’ve matched them and we have to move on now.”

Russell added: “They got on top. I was worried for a bit! I was standing there thinking we were so far off it. We looked half a yard off it and Greenwich Borough were snapping at our heels and really putting us under pressure.  Credit to them.

“Bluey’s kept us in it in the first half and made a couple of really good saves so we were delighted to hear the half-time whistle.”

Alexander said: “We’re disappointed not to come in with a goal but Cray will feel the same second half.

“First half we said if we stuck to our game plan it will work and we will get the odd chance and we did create some chances.

“I said at half-time to keep the information on board, now were tiring, keep it on because it’s quite easy to switch off as you get tired. 

“They worked that hard out there.  We didn’t have much, we only had Ali Fuseini on the bench but Ali’s been off ill for the last two weeks as well so it was difficult with two young lads on the bench to bring them into a game of that sort of standard.

“I think it was always going to be a tight, tactical affair, two good sides, two good sides up there.”

Reflecting on his words at the half-time interval, Russell asked for some “desire” from his side as their unbeaten run came under threat.

“I just said to them at half-time is anyone tired?

“If you’re going to lose a game – because if you have a second half like that you will lose eventually - there’s only a matter of time when you’re 18 games unbeaten there’s ways of doing it so let’s go down fighting, let’s have a go!

“If we’re going to give this up and come here and get beat then fight for it and give everything that you’ve got and have a go. It’s not the way we want to do it. 

“Joe Vines (assistant) and I are two men when we played that gave everything that we’ve got and if we played well or not you’re always in a game.

“We spoke about a couple of tactical things but we spoke about desire.  This was our last game of the Christmas period.

“Greenwich Borough shut us down, they wanted it more than us, they were lively and I thought they were very good.  I thought we were good for the first 15 minutes.”

Russell, meanwhile, blamed injuries to winger Aaron Rhule (hamstring) and midfielder Michael Freiter (quad) on their gruelling Christmas schedule.

“Those two injuries are from fatigue and that’s the annoying thing,” he said. 

“Frieter’s doesn’t look serious but Rhule’s one doesn’t look great.  He’s a big player for us, he’s been playing really well but that’s my fault. We’ve got Jerome Frederico and I should have shuffled the pack a little bit but hindsight is a wonderful thing but I’m angry with myself.  We were on a bit of a wave and I just wanted to keep rolling them out and today was maybe a step too far and that’s been proved with the two injuries.”

Greenwich Borough were knocking on the door during the early exchanges of the second half.

Paul fed Beere down the right and he played the ball inside to Barham, whose right-footed shot on the turn from 12-yards deflected just over Blue’s crossbar inside the opening eight minutes.

Paul then cut inside and laid the ball off to Gregory, whose left-footed drive on the turn from 18-yards was saved by Blue low to his right.

Russell added: “I thought second half we were a lot better.  That shot was pretty comfortable.  I was really happy with the response. It was the first time we questioned their desire. How much do you want to do something for this football club?

“You’ve got a side there who want to get in your face. What are you going to do about it? I thought the response was fantastic!”

Cray Wanderers almost won it with 62 minutes on the clock when the post saved Greenwich Borough.

Substitute Karl Dent whipped in a quality free-kick with his right-foot some 35-yards from goal and Lea Dawson rose just outside the six-yard box and glanced his header against the far post.

“The area we want to hit is the back post so everyone can get across the front and just glance it in and if everyone misses it they go in and this one’s hit the inside of the post,” said Russell.

Alexander added: “He’s got a good delivery, we said that from the off.  They’ve got quality players what are capable of producing moments of magic like that and putting great balls into great areas.  That’s the reason Michael Power has scored 24 goals.  They’ve obviously got quality delivery but we’re lucky it stayed out.”

Blue, who was the busier of the two goalkeepers, maintained a point when he dived to his left to push Beere’s curling shot from 25-yards around the post after his defenders cleared away Beere’s initial corner from the right.  For the record both sides won seven corners apiece.

Alexander added: “I wouldn’t say it was a clear-cut chance.  I think there were few and far between.”

Russell said: “Bluey’s a fantastic goalkeeper! I don’t know how many goals we’ve let in away from home, it’s something quite ridiculous! 

“Many times he has nothing to do but there are times when he needs to.  People get so carried away with his kicking, they stand there telling me how good he is at kicking, they don’t appreciate what a good goalie he is.  He wouldn’t play if he wasn’t a good goalkeeper.

“The one in the first half point blank was a really good save, we’re very lucky to have him!”

Cray Wanderers’ pair Power and Dawson just couldn’t force the ball over the line from close range after Dent’s corner came in from the left as both these promotion chasing sides cancelled each other out.

Alexander said: “Looking at the game, I think it’s a fair result. The first half was probably us, the second half was problem them on chances.

“You want to win every game but listen, we’re playing against a real quality side, one of the best sides in the league and not to get beat was the main aim.

“It was made difficult because we’ve got illness and we’ve got injuries and suspensions and the 11 boys that came in, I’ll give them credit, I can’t praise them enough.”

With Jack Sammoutis suspended for three games, Alexander added: “Charlie MacDonald has got this chest infection that everyone seems to have had. He got through it on Saturday (a 2-1 win at Ramsgate), we managed to get Charlie through but he was never going to be well enough for today so we had to leave him at home.

“Danny Fitzsimons has done his calf but we’ll get players back. We’ve got a week to recover.  This period is real tough two games in three days literally so it’s real tough and it takes its toll but I can’t praise my team enough, they were fantastic.”

Alexander revealed that he does not have the budget to bring in fresh blood.

He said: “You have to adapt and overcome sometimes.  I haven’t got nothing to bring in players.  People seem to think we’ve got this massive bubble and massive budget, which isn’t there!  We’re moving along.  I’m not looking to bring anyone in.  I can’t bring anyone in. We’ll go with the squad we’ve got and see where it takes us in 18 games.”

Cray Wanderers played more direct on the grass pitch today, instead of playing their impressive passing game that they do back at home on the 3G pitch at Hayes Lane.

“My theory is quite simple. You win your home games and you draw your away games you’re there or there abouts,” said Russell.

“We’ve still got to play Greenwich Borough at home (Easter Monday, 2 April 2018) and that will be a different game completely. We’ve come to their place on their pitch and we’ve not lost.

“Would I have taken that before the game? Probably not! I fancied us to come here and win but at the end of the game it’s not a disaster that we drew.”

Greenwich Borough: George Kamurasi, Nathan Paul, Becka-Kah Dembele, Sam Corne, Mark Phillips, Callum McGeehan, Travis Gregory, Bradley Pritchard, Jack Barham, Chinedu McKenzie, Tom Beere.
Subs: Cameron Reardon, Ali Fuseini, Femi Ogunbiyi

Booked: Becka-Kah Dembele 9, Tom Beere 48, Bradley Pritchard 61

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Zak Henry, Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Aaron Rhule (Jerome Frederico 40), Lea Dawson, Michael Power (Freddie Parker 79), Michael Frieter (Karl Dent 46), Brandon Scott.
Subs: Dean Carpenter, Marcus Evans

Booked: Zak Henry 35, Barney Williams 72

Attendance: 165
Referee: Mr Isaac Searle (Dover)
Assistants: Mr Jamie Macleod (Welling) & Mr Steven Perry (Bexleyheath)

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