Cray Wanderers 1-1 Ware - It's about staying in the league now, admits Gary Abbott

Sunday 14th December 2014

Ryman League Division One North
Sunday 14th December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS joint-manager Gary Abbott admits his side are involved in a relegation dog-fight but says he is very confident they can avoid suffering back-to-back relegations.

The Wands finished rock bottom of the Ryman Premier League last season, collecting 26 points (seven wins) from their 46 league outings and the club are eight points adrift of safety, sitting second-from-bottom in the Ryman League Division One North table with 16 points from 22 games tonight.

Cray Wanderers have 24 games left to save their bacon, otherwise they’ll be playing in the Southern Counties East Football League – for the first time since 2004 - in August.

Cray Wanderers grabbed the lead against the run of play after 39 minutes through Laurent Hamici, before sixth-placed Ware levelled through Albert Adu’s tenth goal of the season nine minutes after the break.

Ware, who had to win to leapfrog over Thurrock in fifth-place in the Ryman League Division One North table, were reduced to ten-men when midfielder Finnbar Robins was sent-off for an x-rated challenge with nineteen minutes left.

However, Hamici turned out to be the villain when his last-gasp penalty was saved and Cray Wanderers, with three wins to their name, face a mountain to climb to avoid the drop.

“First of all, it was a tough game to go into,” said Abbott, 50.

“Ware, in the last three or five games, are on a good little run and it’s something that we tried to do today.

“We’ve been playing teams off the park the last month but we’re just not getting any luck and it happened again today.

“It could’ve ended up five-all today.  They’ve missed chances, we’ve missed chances.  I think we’ve missed chances at crucial times.  We go 1-0 up, we should’ve gone 2-0 up. We’ve given a silly goal away and they went down to ten men and we should have won it last minute with a penalty.”

Abbott, who works alongside Michael Paye, added: “We’ve done well today against a good team. They’ll probably be in the play-offs at the end of the season. We’ve got to take the positives out of that.

“We can’t go in there and start arguing who could’ve taken the penalty.  It could have gone either way.”

Ware were a dominant force and camped themselves in the Cray Wanderers half for large chunks of the first half.

Ware’s impressive left-winger Murat Karagul cut the ball back to midfielder Adu, whose right-footed angled drive from 20-yards brought a comfortable low save from goalkeeper Darren Behcet.

Ware left-back Alaa Oudji clipped the ball down the line to Karagul, who whipped in a cross.  The ball wasn’t cleared by Chidi-James Williams-Agunabor at the near post and Ware’s lone striker Kieran Bishop (with his back to goal) back-healed his shot straight at Behcet from eight-yards.

Ware went close to scoring in the sixteenth minute when Khale Dacosta whipped in a corner towards the near post where Ajet Shehu came up from the back to glance his header across goal and past the far post from four-yards.

Dacosta threaded the ball in between defenders Nathan Simpson and Max Fitzgerald and Bishop drilled his left-footed shot towards the top near corner, which Bechet rose both of his arms to block.

Abbott said: “I’ve just spoken to him (Bechet), I’m trying to think how many (saves he had to make).  I don’t think he had more saves than their goalkeeper had to make.

“We’ve not started the best.  I think after ten minutes, once we got settled into it. I thought it was quite even.”

Dacosta whipped in the resulting corner from the left and Adu glanced his header across goal and the ball trickled past the far post.

“They’ve had a couple of free headers,” said Abbott.

“We’ve literally got three or four players who would go and head the ball and there’s other players who not really can do that job, go and win headers in our own box.

“We’ve got Shaun (Welford) and Max (Fitzgerald), probably two of the best headers of the ball in our side.

“We’ve got away with that as well, really it should’ve ended up five-all really.”

Cray Wanderers’ first chance of the game arrived in the 22nd minute.

Behcet launched a big kick straight down the heart of the pitch, which was flicked on by Shaun Welford but Hamici’s right-footed chip dropped wide of the right-hand post from 20-yards.

Welford was frustrated with his strike partner on more than one occasion during the game and is not the strike partnership that will get the club out of relegation trouble.

“We should’ve scored, Laurent should’ve lobbed the keeper, which he did and missed the target,” agonised Abbott.

Ware skipper Shehu gave the ball away and Alex Stavrinou clipped a sublime 50-yard diagonal pass but a stretching Hamici steered his shot past the near post from a tight angle.

Poor defending from Cray defender Fitzgerald and a poor clearance from Behcet was not punished by Robins, who screwed his shot wide from 25-yards.

Ware created another decent chance to open the scoring when right-back Charlie Yexley played the ball to Karagul, who clipped the ball into the penalty area where Adu ghosted into the penalty area to hook his right-footed shot past the far post from six-yards.

But Cray Wanderers were to grab the lead, against the run of play.

Behcet’s long kick sailed over the Ware defence and Hamici got the better of two defenders to stroke his right-footed shot across goalkeeper Rhys Madden, which rolled into the bottom right-hand corner.

Abbott said: “It took a little bit of time to come out. He had a bit of a dribble up. I thought it should’ve been left-foot, but he won’t kick with his left foot and he just done it with the outside of his right and it’s rolled in the corner. Great, great finish.”

Cray Wanderers squandered a chance to double their lead just 65 seconds later when Welford outmuscled a couple of Ware defenders but could only poke his shot straight at the keeper.

Abbott added: “Two minutes later Shaun’s had one. If he hits it earlier before the keeper sets himself, I think we go 2-0 up.

“We’ve had chances to get two or three goals today, but then so have they!”

Ware created the last chance of the first half when Robins cracked a 30-yard drive, which deflected off Stavrinou and bounced into Behcet’s grateful hands.

When asked about his thoughts at the interval, Abbott replied: “It was just carry on doing the same thing really.  The main thing was let’s make sure we start right, let’s put it on them first ten, get them turned but it didn’t work out like that.”

Cray Wanderers got the second half underway, but Ware went close to equalising after only fourteen seconds.

Stavrinou lost the ball to Karagul, who strode forward before teeing up Robins, whose right-footed drive flashed just past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Abbott said: “It all started with Stavs giving the ball away, he could’ve popped it off, it’s not the pitch to go and run with it, especially in the centre of midfield, so he held his hands up with that but they could’ve gone and scored that time there so that could’ve killed us.”

But Ware equalised following a good move, nine minutes into the half.

Karagul’s reverse pass released Oudji down the left channel and he cut the ball back to Adu, whose right-footed shot deflected off Fitzgerald and sailed into the far corner from fifteen-yards.

Abbott pointed the finger of blame at midfielder Hussein Isa.

He said: “It was a sloppy goal. Isa’s, the midfield player, I’m shouting from the side, ‘watch the boy on the edge of the box’ who actually got the shot in and we just don’t react quickly enough and we’ve been saying that all season as well!

“If he sees that first time - he’s looking at him - he’s on his own on the edge of the box.  I’ve got to close him down. If he thinks two seconds earlier he don’t get the shot in and they don’t score and we end up winning the game 1-0!”

The game then turned into a midfield scrap – both sides packed the middle of the park and Cray Wanderers played the first hour without any width.

Cray Wanderers forced keeper Madden into making a comfortable save in the 68th minute.

Substitute Tyrone Berry put in two poor crosses into the penalty area from the right but the ball was cleared at the near post and fell to Hamici, whose first time drive with his right-foot from 20-yards was saved by the keeper low to his right.

Ware were reduced to ten-men with nineteen minutes remaining when Robins deservedly picked up a red-card for his x-rated challenge on Cray Wanderers’ right-back Fakinos in midfield.

Both players slid in but Robins’ challenge was disgraceful and it was a miracle that Fakinos didn’t break his leg being on the end of a forceful tackle, but he managed to get back onto the pitch after treatment.

Ware’s website confirms that Robins, 20, has been booked five times already this season and now faces a suspension for the horror tackle.

“We’re over the other side of the pitch,” said Abbott.  “There were a few dirty fouls today. I’m not going to say they were all from them. I suppose there were a couple from us.

“But that one was studs up and we thought Cesc had broken his leg, but he’s managed to come on and stay on the pitch and play. He just got up and got on with it but obviously he got sent-off. The ref can do no more than that. It was a bad tackle and he got punished for it.”

Dacosta went close when he cut in from the right wing and flashed his right-footed angled drive narrowly past the foot of the near post.

Cray Wanderers received a slice of luck inside the final ten minutes of the game.

Karagul’s through ball was missed by Williams-Agunabor and Bishop cut into the penalty area, but his right-footed shot bounced off a couple of divots and Behcet made a low save to his right.

“They’ve got some sharp players in their team,” said Abbott.

“They’ve got some good pace in there.  He’s gone through and as he’s in the area it’s hit a nice divot, which we were glad to see, but then you’ve got to give credit to CJ, he’s 18-years-old and he’s come back and made two or three last ditch saves.”

Stavrinou floated over a free-kick from the left wing which was met on the volley by substitute Tyrone Berry, which he lashed over the near post.

“It wasn’t a simple chance,” admitted Abbott.  “He’s hit it on the volley, you’ve got to get over those.  You hit them in the floor, nine times out of ten, you score a goal, but he’s not really a goalscorer so we ain’t going to blame it on him.”

But the game ended in dramatic fashion when Cray Wanderers really should have claimed their fourth league win of the season.

Hamici released substitute Kery Kedze down the left and he was brought down in the box by Gareth Madden and referee Elliott Kaye point to the spot.

Hamici stepped up and stroked a poor right-footed penalty straight down the middle of the pitch for keeper Madden to block with 47:16 on the clock – and Hamici couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and teed up Fakinos to drill the rebound high, high over the crossbar.

Abbott admitted he would have tucked away the penalty had it been him out on the pitch.

“I’d like to think so yes,” he said.

“We’ve had a bit of an argument who should’ve taken it. Shaun Welford usually takes the penalties but he hasn’t played for the last two weeks so Laurent took one Saturday, which is what I said to Laurent.  When you’ve taken a penalty and you’re playing a team the next week, you’ve got to think. They’ve probably watched us Saturday and he’s smashed it down the middle and he’s done the same again today.

“The keeper saves it, but then again he should’ve put the rebound in! Cesc has smashed it, he’s had time to touch it and put it in the corner. That little bit of a panic up there on the rebound as well so whether you look at it, we should’ve scored it!

“We’ve had a penalty last minute, you’ve probably got to put it away with 30 seconds to go. We should win the game 2-1 – but we never!”

Something has gone seriously wrong if Cray Wanderers are battling against relegation with the players that they’ve got in their squad.

“We shouldn’t be where we are at the minute,” admitted Abbott, whose side welcome ninth-placed Dereham Town to Hayes Lane on Tuesday night (8pm).

“Everyone says how good we are but we just need that little luck. We’ve got a penalty, whoever takes it let’s put it away and then we go onto Tuesday, everyone’s buzzing and I think we go on a little run but at the minute we just can’t get a win.

“Tuesday’s massive again. They’ve got a long trip down here so we’ve got to get at them early and hopefully if we play like that we get three points.

“It doesn’t look good. I’m confident we’ll stay up. We just need that first win. Today would’ve been massive.  If we got three points and I think we go and win Tuesday that’s six points so we cut it down straight away with two games in hand.

“We’ve got 24 games to play for so there’s enough points there. It’s literally about staying in the league now.  Five or six games ago we were looking to get fifth spot but if you look at the teams and the points, for us to do that we’ve got to win every game. Obviously that’s not going to happen but we’ll try our best and that’s all we can do.

“If the boys fight like they did today, yes, I’m confident we’re going to stay up. I’m very confident we’re going to stay up, as long as we keep the squad together.”

When asked whether his players acknowledge the trouble they are in, Abbott replied: “I don’t know. We’ve sort of said that to them. We haven’t said we’re in a relegation fight but they should know that. I’m sure they look at the league table and look at that, but yes, of course we are.

“We are in a dog-fight now. The points don’t lie, the table don’t lie. We’ve got to get that win. We are so gutted in that changing room that we haven’t for that win today.

“Look at the players we’ve got, but you’ve got to do it on the pitch.  People are playing us and looking at what players we’ve got and they’re up for it because of the players’ that we’ve got.

“It’s a cup final every week now and we’ve got to treat it like that. We’ve got to win Tuesday. Yes, it’s a must-win Tuesday now.”

Cray Wanderers: Darren Behcet, Giannoulis Fakinos, Nathan Simpson, Chidi-James Williams-Agunabor, Max Fitzgerald, Alex Stavrinou, Michael Phillips, Adrian Stone (Kery Kedze 63), Shaun Welford, Laurent Hamici, Hussein Isa (Tyrone Berry 63).
Subs: Dmitri Larin, Ben Hunt, Gary Beckett

Goal: Laurent Hamici 39

Booked: Max Fitzgerald 48

Ware: Rhys Madden, Charlie Yexley (Ryan Wade 87), Alaa Oudji (Samir Bihoutine 83), Albert Adu, Ajet Shehu, Gareth Madden, Murat Karagul, Ryan Hervel (Ayodeji Olujoga 58), Kieran Bishop, Finnbar Robins, Khale Dacosta.
Subs: Jack Fowler, Jermaine Osei

Goal: Albert Adu 54

Booked: Kieran Bishop 45, Khale Dacosta 48, Alaa Oudji 67, Charlie Yexley 87

Sent Off: Finnbar Robins 71

Attendance: 111
Referee: Mr Elliott Kaye (Loughton, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Paul Greenfield (Eltham, London SE9) & Mr Sikiru Idris (Denmark Hill, London SE5)