Cray Wanderers 2-2 Billericay Town - We're under no expectations to win the league or get promoted, says Cray Wanderers assistant Ray Powell
Cray Wanderers 2 – 2 Billericay Town
|Location||Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF|
CRAY WANDERERS 2-2 BILLERICAY TOWN
Tuesday 28th July 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane
CRAY WANDERERS’ assistant manager Ray Powell says there are no expectations to win promotion at the end of the season.
Manager Tony Russell (who missed tonight’s game because he is on holiday) and Powell departed VCD Athletic at the end of last season despite winning their last six league games to keep the Crayford-based club in the Ryman Premier League to drop down a division to take charge of Cray Wanderers.
Despite losing their first game in charge of the club, a pre-season friendly 2-0 defeat at Sittingbourne, the pair have remained unbeaten against Tunbridge Wells (3-3), Holmesdale (6-0), Glebe (4-2) and Lordswood (2-0) and claimed a deserved draw against Billericay Town, who finished in eighth-place in the Ryman Premier League last season.
Referee Quincy De Bailey awarded three first half penalties, the first taken by Billericay winger Loui Hazelwood which crashed against the crossbar, before Cray Wanderers’ marquee summer signing, Andre McCollin, 30, gave his side the lead from the spot.
Cray Wanderers’ defender Nick Reeves gave away his second penalty of the night and this time Hazelwood converted, before former Ebbsfleet United striker Onome Sodje acrobatically volleyed home to give the Essex side the lead.
But Cray Wanderers claimed a morale boosting draw when home-grown midfielder Jack Lodge fluked in a cross from the right during the second half.
“Well, we started off slow, if I’m honest with you. The way we try to play our football, it is pre-season, tried to set our stall from the start,” said Powell, after only 49 fans watched their first outing at Hayes Lane.
“At the moment we’re not starting the way we should be starting. There’s still players we need to bring in, one or two to fit in the way we’re playing but all in all, I thought the second half we started moving forward.”
Russell and Powell have enticed eight players to join them from VCD Athletic, although another couple, central defender Ben Payne (work commitments) and striker Leigh Bremner (holiday) were unavailable tonight.
Dean Carpenter floated a deep free-kick into the Billericay Town penalty area but the angle was too tight for Lea Dawson to get his header on target.
But Billericay Town squandered an excellent chance to open the scoring with four minutes and 15 seconds on the clock.
Hazelwood won a penalty following Reeves’ challenge and the winger stepped up and smashed his resulting right-footed effort against the crossbar, high over Nick Blue’s left shoulder.
“Nick Reeves gave way the penalty, gave away both penalties,” said Powell.
“I thought he took the penalty quite well but Nick shouldn’t be diving in again but yet again the player will learn. Today he gave away two penalties for diving in.
“He made contact. I asked him if he made contact both times? He made contact with the player so any player will tell you if you’re in the box and someone makes contact with you they will go down so nine times out of ten you will get a penalty out of it.”
Tricky winger Hazelwood cut towards the left by-line to hit a ball across the face of goal but Blue easily caught Shane Stamp’s header back across goal at his near post.
Cray Wanderers created a chance inside seven minutes when winger Malik Ouani was released down the right and he centred low for McCollin, who drilled a low shot past the near post from ten-yards.
Ouani then played a one-two with Karl Dent – who at the time was playing behind lone striker McCollin – before drilling his shot into the foot of the side netting.
But Cray Wanderers were awarded a penalty, which McCollin, who was playing Vanarama Conference football for Aldershot Town last season, converted after 25 minutes.
James Duckworth released his former VCD Athletic team-mate Dent through on goal, who was the meat in the middle of a Billericay sandwich and the referee deemed George Beaven’s tackle to be illegal and after a period of hesitation after the defender received treatment for an injury, awarded a penalty.
McCollin stepped up and sent goalkeeper Mikhail Kharshiladze (who often punched crosses away rather than catching them) the wrong way, by hitting his left-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.
Powell said: “If I’m honest with you, I think it’s one of them. I think the ref tried to square it all up because their bench did not think it was a penalty. I didn’t think it was a penalty. It was no way a penalty! The only thing I thought where it was, the player was holding Denty down.
Powell claimed: “I asked the player when he came off when he was injured and he went ‘no, the referee said I did not win the ball!’
“But the referee took about five minutes to blow up.”
When asked about McCollin, Powell replied: “He’s going to be some signing but Andre’s Andre. He’s here to score goals and he’s scored goals.”
Billericay Town’s equaliser arrived in the 31st minute when Hazelwood sent Blue the wrong way from the penalty spot, clipping his shot halfway up in the right-hand corner of the net after Reeves sent Jamie Guy tumbling to the ground as he cut in towards the by-line.
Powell added: “Same again really. Reevsie should be staying on his feet. He made contact, that one was Jamie Guy, so an experienced striker goes down.”
Powell was full of praise for Blue as he kept Cray Wanderers in the game by pulling off a fine save.
Hazelwood was given time and space down on the right to float over a cross into the penalty area to pick out the unmarked Sodje, whose right-footed volley from 12-yards was expertly tipped over by the former Vickers’ keeper.
“You know as well as I know what Bluey is all about – that’s why he follows us if we go anywhere, he’s our first signing,” said Powell.
“The way he can strike a ball and he’s willing to learn as well so I back him.”
But Powell pointed the finger of blame at his goalkeeper as Billericay Town took the lead for the second time after 37 minutes.
Striker Guy, 27, a summer signing from Witham Town, played the ball from inside the box out to right-back Ola Williams, who whipped in a cross towards the near post for Sodje, who with his back to goal cracked an acrobatic hooked volley over his shoulder from four-yards, which was helped in by the Wands keeper.
“I spoke to Bluey because I was disappointed with Bluey,” said Powell.
“We’ve had him three seasons now and he’s never thrown one in like that before!
“He said he went one way and it was like a Shane Warne spin, which it spun and it went in off of him so I accept that.
“It’s still not good enough because I think he should have done better – but I accept it.
“It’s not an own goal, it’s one of them. He should have saved it. He should have got his hands to it but I expect him to do better. I expect Bluey to do better all together.”
Billericay keeper Kharshiladze was forced to back-peddle to palm over a speculative cross-come-shot out on the right by Ouani towards the end of the first half.
Billericay Town boss Craig Edwards made five changes at the interval, while Powell explained why Lodge came on for central midfielder Dawson, who missed the first three league games of the new season.
He said: “Just trying to keep a settled side, that’s what we try and plan to do, keep a settled side for as long as we can. There was no thinking to it really.
“We had to get the ball moving a lot quicker than we have been. That is a problem at the moment. We’re not moving the ball quick enough. The tempo’s not quick enough but it will come!”
Billericay Town substitute Sam Baffour sped past Cray left-back Timi Osibodu down the right and whipped in a cross towards the near post where fellow sub Lewis Manor looped his weak header into Blue’s hands after 55 minutes.
Lodge certainly staked a claim for a starting place in midfield on the opening day of the season by grabbing a lucky equaliser after 63 minutes.
Long-haired Lodge played the ball out to Ouani on the right and continued his run down the right hand channel before receiving the ball back from his team-mate.
Lodge whipped in a cross which sailed across the keeper and caressed the netting inside the far post.
“Jack has really impressed us in pre-season,” said Powell.
“Not only he can play in central midfield, he can play centre half as well so yes, we’re looking at him because Lea Dawson is suspended for the first three games of the season.
“Jack’s one to watch and one to keep an eye on. I think he’s worth something.
“These days it’s very rare (to move up the ranks to play for that club’s first team). When we first came to Cray we had a meeting. We offered all the players who turned up at the meeting to come and invited them to pre-season and Jack was probably the only one.
“Jack put his head down and cracked on with it and he’s taken his chances and I’m really impressed with him.”
Only right-back Helge Orome is a survivor from Tommy Warrilow’s side that pulled off The Great Escape with a club record ten wins on the bounce at the end of last season to retain their current league status.
Powell said: “Helge’s only had the last three games with us. He hasn’t started pre-season with us so he’s come in and he’s trying to earn a deal out of us, if you want to call it that. There’s a lot of work to do with him.”
Cray Wanderers created chances to go on and win the game.
McCollin twisted and turned his man down the left before cutting towards the by-line before getting his foot wrapped around the ball to float over a cross but Ouani rose and planted his header against the crossbar from four-yards.
“Malik should have done better with his header,” said Powell.
“I was really impressed with Malik tonight, he done well. We had him with us at VCD last year on loan from Welling. He had ankle ligament problems so he’s gone away strengthened that up in the summer and he’s come back strong so he’s one to look forward to.”
Billericay Town also struck the woodwork with seventeen minutes left as three of their substitutes combined as Teddy Nesbitt and Baffour linked up and the ball was played inside to Larrieux Menga, who curled his shot from 20-yards against the crossbar.
Kharshiladze made a comfortable catch to deny Grant Basey clipping in a left-footed free-kick from 28-yards, but the Kent side should have won it in the final three minutes.
Duckworth swung in a corner from the left and Reeves rose above his man to plant his downward header, which struck a defender on the line and the loose ball fell at Lodge’s feet but Kharshiladze grabbed hold of the ball on the line to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Powell added: “Jack should have done better when it fell to him in the six-yard box. Semi toe punt but didn’t get enough on it so it made the keeper look like it was a good save but to me it was a bad finish.”
Reflecting on his side’s promising performance tonight, Powell said: “Well, against a strong Billericay side – I know they’ve got a few out – but it’s against a Prem side just to see where we’re at. We’re not far from it if I’m honest with you. There’s still a lot to do on the training pitch.”
The Wands have two more warm-up games on the road to play before the start of the season.
“Cray Valley on Thursday and then we travel up north (Droylsden) for another game on Saturday so yes, two tough ones. I know Cray Valley have got a few experienced players down there, some players from Cray last year who will look to impress as such so yes, looking forward to them.”
Cray Wanderers open their league campaign with a trip to relegated AFC Hornchurch on Saturday 8 August.
Powell said: “At the end of the day, you have to play all teams. If you go to Hornchurch first game or last game of the season there all going to be tough.
“We know what we have to do. We just play the way we can play and go from there.
“The aspirations are to build a solid base. We all know where Cray want to be in the next few years so this season is to consolidate for the first season. We’re under no expectations to win the league, get promoted. It’s all about the future with Cray Wanderers, moving back home. We’re all looking forward to that, but in the meantime we have to get it right on the pitch to move on.
“The club wants to move on and be a big club. We’ve got to be a big club on the pitch.
“When you’re always going to a new club, it’s going to be tough at the start. We try to implement our own style of play. We want to do our own stuff. We’ve been told they want to be a big club, so we’re going to act a big club.”
The Cray squad looks a little too small for the season ahead but Powell said: “We’re only looking at one or two (players’) but I think we’ve got enough to work with what we’ve got at the moment, but yes we’re looking at one or two so hopefully by the kick-off, by Thursday, if not, latest Saturday, we’ll have one or two (more new players in the squad).”
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Helge Orome, Timi Osibodu (Dean Moore 60), Nick Reeves, Grant Basey, Dean Carpenter, Malik Ouani (Cherno Mendy 75), Lea Dawson (Jack Lodge 46), Karl Dent (Junior Appiah 53), Andre McCollin, James Duckworth.
Goals: Andre McCollin 25 (penalty), Jack Lodge 63
Booked: Lea Dawson 32
Billericay Town: Mikhail Kharshiladze, Ola Williams (Sam Baffour 46), Alex Stephenson (Teddy Nesbitt 46), Lorenzo Burla, Joe Ellul (Lance Akins 78), George Beaven, Loui Hazelwood, Tomasz Carrccioli, Jamie Guy (Larrieux Menga 46), Onome Sodje (Lewis Manor 46), Shane Stamp.
Sub: Jack Giddins
Goals: Loui Hazelwood 31 (penalty), Onome Sodje 37
Referee: Mr Quincy De Bailey (Bromley)
Assistants: Mr Valentine Anekwe (Bromley) & Mr James Hughes (Bromley)