Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1-0 Cray Wanderers - That was way below the standard we acccept, says Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell

Saturday 21st July 2018
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1 – 0 Cray Wanderers
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 21/07/2018 13:30

Pre-Season Friendly
Saturday 21 July 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell has threatened to wield the axe this week if he sees another poor performance from his side.

Russell said after the game that he wants to win the Bostik South East Division title this season but they crashed to a 1-0 defeat to sixth-placed Southern Counites East Football League Premier Division finishers Cray Valley, who won an uninspiring pre-season game courtesy of Denzel Gayle’s bundled close-range finish.

The Millers have beaten Greenways (6-2) and Sittingbourne (5-1) but went down to a 2-0 home defeat to Bostik Premier Division side Folkestone Invicta in midweek and were without Cem Tumkaya, Sam Bailey and Tommy Osborne today.

Cray Wanderers thrashed Sporting Club Thamesmead 8-1, lost 2-0 to landlords Bromley and beat Welling Town (3-2) and Grays Athletic (4-0).  Jay Leader (ankle), Bradley Pritchard (holiday), Mitchell Nelson (holiday) and Freddie Parker (illness) didn’t take part.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say I was overly pleased or excited over that,” said Russell, who travelled up from a family break in Hastings.

“I thought from our own perspective, it was pretty poor. It was powderpuff, just passing it for the sake of passing it, no desire or quality unfortunately. 

“The game was just played out quite the same from both sides, no one had much creativity or flair and it was always going to take a bit of brilliance or a fluke and he’s mis-hit a cross and it’s come off the crossbar and that’s the difference between the two sides, which was disappointing.

“I was missing four, that’s no excuse. Credit to Cray Valley, they’ve done ok.  It was a game that lacked a bit of quality all round.  I don’t think it’s much to do with the weather. I just think maybe your mindset, how serious you take the game, what do you want to get out of the game?”

Cray Valley manager Kevin Watson added: “Another good test for us against higher opposition. This is the third team we’ve played against higher opposition.  They’re a nice team to play, they’re a good team, they’ll be successful in their league and we like to try to pass it, like they do so yes I thought it was a good game for both sides.

“It’s just getting the players’ understanding, we purposely had quite a small squad in pre-season. I haven’t had a lot of trailists. I always said we kept the ones we wanted to from last season so it was about cherry picking players to make us better and the ones we’ve brought in are capable of doing that.”

Cray Wanderers started the game on the front foot.  Right-back Ben Mundele, who travels up to Sky Bet League One side Barnsley tomorrow for a trial, having just returned from Southend United’s Spanish tour, linked up well with Jerome Federico, while left-winger Aaron Rhule was miles better than Cray Valley’s right-back Harry Cullum for the opening half-an-hour.

Watson said: “Aaron Rhule is a good player, Denzel Gayle gave Barney Williams a hard time. Barney Williams is a good player, Denzel’s a good player. You get a full-back versus a wide player, it’s a one-v-one situation isn’t it, so that’s going to happen throughout the season but like you say maybe it was nullified a little bit more in the second half.”

Cray Wanderers missed a glorious chance to open the scoring inside the opening eight minutes.

Cullum lost the ball to Rhule, who fed the ball into Karl Dent, who played in lone striker Michael Power, whose chip from a couple of yards inside the penalty area, sailed past the far post.

Watson said: “He tried to be clever, he is a clever player. He scores goals for being clever. Probably in a league game he’d probably have done something a little bit different. He would’ve side-footed it in the far post and probably have scored.”

Power, who has scored six goals in pre-season, didn’t impress Russell with that miss and the 34-year-old went missing during the second half.

“Shaggy goes clean through and just manages a stupid chip! I said to him at half-time, ‘I’ve never seen you do that,’ he just rolls them in.  Because it’s pre-season he’s flicking it up into the top corner and it just looks good. That annoyed me, I must admit.  I think it set the tone as well.

“He’s been really good in pre-season and he started the game well. It sort of went from there really when he missed that chance, his game went downhill. I thought second half is as poor I’ve seen him in terms of performance this pre-season but he’s set himself some really high standards this pre-season, he’s got himself nice and fit. If he goes through, it’s opened up, he’s going in on goal, just roll the ball in and we’re 1-0 up!”

Cray Valley created a chance in the 17th minute when Anthony Edgar fed the ball into Joe Nwoko’s feet.  Jake Rose played the ball out to left-winger Joe Flack, who cut into the box, ran in on the outside of Mundele, but flashed his angled drive past the foot of the near post.

“He’s scored from that sort of distance in one of the other friendlies. He’s got that in his locker to be honest to hit decent strikes from distance,” Watson said of Flack.

The impressive Edgar was tripped by Cray Wanderers’ holding midfielder Tom Phipp and Edgar’s resulting 30-yard free-kick crashed into the wall.  Gayle tried to bring the bouncing ball under control down the right-hand side of the box and Edgar’s cross was cleared and Josh James’ shot was blocked and Flack drilled his first time shot past the far post.

Mundele’s throw in caught Cray Valley’s defence asleep and Karl Dent cut inside to stroke his left-footed shot straight at Andy Walker at his near post.

Cray Valley scored the only goal of the game with 30 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

James played the ball up to Nwoko, who flicked the ball into Gayle, who held the ball up before spraying the ball out wide to Edgar down the right wing.  His cross was sailing towards the top near corner and Nick Blue used his outstretched fingertips to push the ball against the underside of the crossbar and Gayle showed more desire than Marcus Evans to bundle the ball over the line from close range.

“A great position for Denzel to be in to be honest,” said Watson.

“He’s ended up central so he’s still got to react to it so I’m pleased for Denzel to get a goal like that, he deserves that. His work-rate is very good and yes it’s a cross but it’s a cross with a lot of pace and it’s caused the goalkeeper a problem. That happens, you have to get into the area but no it wasn’t a shot!”

Russell said: “It was 100% a cross! It just rolled back to him.  The pitch is not the best, I don’t know what’s happened with all these tramlines everywhere, they’re quite deep when you get on there.  I think it’s bobbled up and he’s had a cross and he’s tried to whip it and it’s ended up too straight and it’s caught Bluey out. He’s pushed it onto the bar and bundled it in. It’s probably the only way one of us we’re going to score, I think, today.”

Blue suffered pain to his back and needed treatment after the goal but Russell insisted “he’ll be alright,” but the highly-rated keeper pulled off a great save on the stroke of half-time to prevent the hosts going two-goals up.

Rose played the ball into an unmarked Edgar, who had time to bring the ball under control before drilling a low right-footed shot towards the bottom left-hand corner from 30-yards, forcing Blue to dive full-length to his right to push the ball towards safety.

Edgar, 27, who is a cousin to Jermaine Defoe, impressed during the first half for Cray Valley.

Watson said:  “Good strike on target, a good save by the goalkeeper.  We’ve created an opportunity for him to shoot from just outside the box. It was a good save, it would’ve been nice for somebody to follow it in.

“He’s a good player, it’s the second game he’s played for us and he’s played at a decent level.”

Russell added: “I thought we lost our way in midfield. They were breaking on us, especially through the midfield., It’s rolled back to him and he’s let fly and it was a decent save.”

Both teams stayed out on the pitch during the interval.  Cray Valley got through five substitutes, one less than the Wanderers.

Watson said: “We went through a few points. Some of the movement in midfield, which was nice that they took into the start of the second half. I know we made some changes, we spoke defensively about our shape in terms of our midfielders but we was pleased with it. We didn’t want the changes to disrupt things too much.”

Russell knew where the game was lost.

“I thought the midfield three, without the ball, were shocking! I thought without the ball we wasn’t tight enough. We didn’t want to do the horrible side of the game. We just wanted to get on the ball and when we lost it we lost it and hopefully they’d give it back to us soon.”

Cray Wanderers created a chance inside the opening nine minutes but their former goalkeeper Walker made a comfortable save.

Rhule, Federico and Power all linked up on the edge of the penalty area and set-up a chance for central midfielder Matthew Carter, who hit a first time drive with his right-boot from 22-yards, which was held by Walker.

“I think that probably summed up our game. It was a nice little move but it just lacked a little bit of conviction and a little bit of oomph,” admitted Russell.

“I just said to the players out there, I didn’t really see the point of that (game) if I’m honest.  We’ve all come here, we’ve all got our of bed, I’ve come from my mum’s caravan in Hastings to come down here, let’s have a game, why didn’t we play?

“Credit to Cray Valley, I think they’ve got a very good side.  I think they’ll do well for themselves this season.  I like Kevin Watson and Kevin James, they’re good guys as well and we appreciate them inviting us down.”

Watson admitted: “They were missing players today so let’s be honest as well, they’re not at full strength!

“Neither team has gone and played what you would consider its strongest team.  I don’t know my strongest team at the moment, I’m starting to get a bit of an idea. We’ve got a few games left to work that out but the difference between this season and last season is possibly we’ll have strength in depth, which is important for us.”

That chance knocked the stuffing out of Cray Wanderers for the rest of the game as they laboured in the heat.

Mundele was withdrawn at the break to protect him, so Barney Williams slotted in at right-back, while former Lewes full-back Matthew George slotted in at left-back.

Kevin Lisbie came on at the break for the home side and he teed-up Danny Smith, who struck a first time drive, which was parried by Blue, who then caught the ball from Evans’ header back to the keeper.

The Millers won the midfield battle during the game and Lisbie fed Joe N’Guessan, who released Smith on the overlap and the left-back cut into the penalty area and Lisbie’s right-footed drive stung Blue’s fingers before gathering.

Flack swung in a poor corner from the left in the final 20 minutes for Ashley Sains to come up from the back to poke his shot off his marker and just past the foot of the near post.

Smith, Francis Babalola and N’Guessan linked up well on a counter-attack for the home side and a cross-field-pass allowed Gayle, to cut past George into the box but his low drive was blocked by Blue’s legs at the near post.

Watson can take positives out of creating chances against a better calibre of player.

He said: “The game opened up, it’s pre-season, it’s extremely hot. People are getting tired so chances are created like that. We made some subs, got some fresh legs on, so yes we did create a couple of chances which is something we didn’t do against Folkestone.

“I thought we played equally well against Folkestone but didn’t create enough chances but you’re limited to that when you play against better opposition like we have done today and against Folkestone.”

Russell said: “I think they had a couple of shots straight at Bluey. I don’t remember him sprawling around. I think they had one when Denzel cut in near post and the rest of them were at him. I don’t remember him making any saves.”

Rhule and Power struggled to make any impact during the second half as Cray Valley’s goalkeeper Andy Walker kept his first clean sheet of the pre-season.

Cray Wanderers travel to Gravesend on Tuesday to play newly-promoted Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division Punjab United and Russell demands better.

“The game had a lot of endeavour with not much quality from my players, which is a little disappointing,” said the manager who is expected to land the Bostik South East title this season.

“I’m suppose to say it’s pre-season but I’m disappointed!  I know most fans will say pre-season results don’t matter. I’m actually not worried about the results, it’s performances I’m worried about and I don’t think it’s gone well. This is the first game really that we’ve been poor.  This is the first game that I’ve come away and thought that wasn’t very good, that wasn’t very good today!

“There are one or two who are in the squad that we’ve signed but who are a little bit of a concern, who ain’t doing what we want them to do and the Punjab game becomes massive now.  There will be a point where I won’t accept it no more, even though the people have signed, we will let them go.  You come in and put a shirt on and there’s a standard we accept and unfortunately that was way below the standard we accept.  There’s been one or two that’s not hit that standard all pre-season and the next one is pretty big!”

Cray Valley play landlords Greenwich Borough next Thursday and Watson is satisfied with what he has in his squad.

“I think we’re there or there abouts with the squad,” he said.

“I doubt I’ll bring anyone else in. There’s still a few that I’m having conversations with about commitment in terms of signing but it’s important for us not to have a lot of trailists in, just to invest in the players that we’re going to be working with in the season. We’re happy with what we’re working with at the moment.

“I think we still need to work on certain parts of shape and set-pieces, which we haven’t done a lot of, which will be important in the season.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Harry Cullum, Danny Smith, Josh James, Ashley Sains, Liam Hickey (Jack White 61), Denzel Gayle, Jake Rose (Joe N’Guessan 57), Joe Nwoko (Kevin Lisbie 46), Anthony Edgar (Calum Willock 66), Ryan Flack (Francis Babalola 74).

Goal: Denzel Gayle 31

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele (Matthew George 46), Barney Williams, Tom Phipp (Sean Roberts 79), Marcus Evans (Alex Brefo 66), Dean Hamlin, Aaron Rhule, Xavier Vidal (Zak Henry 46), Michael Power, Karl Dent (Matthew Carter 46), Jerome Federico (Junior Dadson 66).
Sub: Tiwa Fujamade

Attendance: 70
Referee: Mr Wally James (Sidcup)
Assistants: Mr Toby Enstone (London) & Mr Ian Newman (Eltham, London SE9)