Thursday 01st September 2005

Cray remain top but suffer double injury blow

Tuesday 23rd
August 2005
Ryman League
Division One
Stephen McCartney reports from The Courage Stadium, Hayes Lane
Cray Wanderers 2 Michael Power 32
Terry Khan 83
Metropolitan Police 1 Craig Brown 47

Cray Wanderers maintained their position at the top of the Ryman League division one table with a patient victory over Metropolitan Police tonight, writes Stephen McCartney.

Striker Michael Power and former Fisher Athletic full-back Terry Khan got their goalscoring tally's off the mark with the winner coming seven minutes from time.

But midfielder Jamie Kempster (knee) and experienced striker Gary Abbott (hamstring) are expected to miss Saturday's FA Cup preliminary round tie at Steyning Town.

Both sides were forced to shoot from distance in the opening eighteen minutes.

The first chance fell to Power - who was put through by Leigh Bremner - but his fifth minute shot flew just over Stuart MacKenzie's crossbar.

Then Ross Lover - who picked the ball up in midfield - ran straight down the middle of the pitch towards the edge of the box before drilling a shot wide of the left upright.

The Police then issued the home side with a warning when a quickly taken free kick by Paul Barrowcliff set up a chance for Dave Newman and his 30-yard effort sailed just over.

Power then tried his luck from distance, firing wide of the right post.

Substitute Jamie Wood played the ball over the top of the visiting defence for Power to latch onto.  As the goalkeeper came rushing off his line, the former Thamesmead Town striker lifted the ball over him but was denied by some brilliant defending on the line by Newman.

But Cray took a deserved lead after 32 minutes courtesy of Power's 20-yard drive which gave the goalkeeper no chance.

Cray goalkeeper Steve Northwood, however, surrendered the lead inside the first two minutes of the second half.

His poor low clearance from the near side of the penalty area went straight at Craig Brown's feet just outside the penalty area on the other side of the box, and the impressive midfielder made no mistake with the gift, firing into an empty goal.

Northwood's blunder caused a poor spell for the home side with passes going astray, which frustrated the poor crowd of 134.

However, the game sparked back into life after 67 minutes when Northwood made up for his earlier mistake by palming Daly's rasping drive from 25-yards over his crossbar.

And two minutes later, at the other end, MacKenzie was called into action, tipping Power's header over the bar following Jamie Wood's flag kick.

Last season Cray drew too many matches in the early part of their campaign, which ultimately cost them promotion.

But tonight they managed to turn a 1-1 scoreline into three valuable points to lead the league table after two matches.

Lover sent in a free kick with seven minutes left from the edge of the centre circle, which was flicked on by Tony Russell.  The goalkeeper managed to block the header but the ball ricochet of Khan to find the back of the net.

But Joe Francis, Cray's assistant manager admitted it's too early to be talking about winning championships.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with after the game he said: "Little bit too early to talk about (being) champions.  We've won two out of two, that's it.

"That was hard tonight because the team was disturbed with two key players going off."

Francis, however, has high hopes for central defender Tony Russell, but only if he listens to the advice he is getting from the management team.

"He switches off too much," Francis said.  But he added: "He's a very good defender but he knows he has things in his game that he needs to work on and he'll be a better player for it - and he knows that.  But yes, defensively he's different class.

(He has to learn) "Not to argue with referees and while his arguing the game's going on around him.

"He could be such an excellent player and he could be so much better and he knows that.

"He knows what we think of him and he works on it in every game.  By the time we've played ten games Tony Russell will have eradicated these bad habits that he's got."

Francis went on to praise match winner Terry Khan, Ross Lover and Michael Power, and added: "I thought we should have come in three or four nil up.

"But we re-organised and let's bare in mind out there we had two or three returning players that haven't played for a while.

"That's a great win for us, because otherwise that would have meant Saturday was pointless if we didn't win tonight."

Cray travel to Sussex League side Steyning Town for a FA Cup preliminary round tie on Saturday and Francis knows the importance of a cup run to bolster club funds.

Chairman Gary Hillman has been joined on the board by John Woolf - whose son Matt plays for the club but work commitments has taken the black haired utility player to Ireland, thus hampering his appearances this season.

"It's another 90 minutes and we'll prepare correctly," said Francis.  "We know what it means to this club to earn a few quid for the chairman and John Woolf, so they get some money back in the coffers.  We know how important that is.

"John is helping Gary out on the board and he is most welcome as he is a football man and loves this club."

Although the club are sitting proudly at the top of the table, there is still a long way to go.

"We are looking good, we are happy and we are getting out what we're putting in," Francis admitted.

Cray Wanderers:  Steve Northwood, Dean Morris, Danny Harris, Tony Russell, Terry Khan, James Taylor (Capt), Ross Lover, Jamie Kempster (Adam Heaslewood 40), Gary Abbott (Jamie Wood 21), Michael Power, Leigh Bremner.  Subs: Jon Main, Drew Watkins, Ian Rawlings

Metropolitan Police:  Stuart MacKenzie, Paul Sears, Byron Brown (Rob Tarrant 90), Kori Davis, Dave Newman, Paul Barrowcliff, Craig Brown, Jon Daly (Capt, John Hamsher 68), Rob Haworth, Kevin Cooper (Michael Parma 76), Leon Johnson.  Subs: Chris Cottam, Robin Ruston

Attendance:  134
Referee: D Buck
Assistants: A Ajibola & G Blakeney