Cray Wanderers match report
match report by Rupert Cane
Almost exactly six months ago, on the opening weekend of the 2019/20 season, Kingstonian and Cray Wanderers played out a goalless draw at King George’s Field. The match report that day started as follows:
‘Gale-force winds, inexplicable refereeing decisions, inspired goalkeeping: non-league football is back.’
In many respects little has changed, only it’s only gotten wetter. On Saturday, Storm Dennis certainly had its say at Hayes Lane, the ground Cray share with Bromley, but credit must go to both teams for navigating the elements and producing a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle.
K’s had the wind in the first half, and with it the better of the play against a side who had won six and drawn two of their last eight in the league, including a victory at league leaders Worthing a week ago.
Eddie D’Sane had the first shot in anger, deflected for a corner which Kenny Beaney whipped into the net with the aid of the wind. The referee spotted an infringement and ruled the goal out.
Beaney’s corners - and indeed Cray’s in the second half - looked the most likely source of an opening goal. That the experienced midfielder can use both feet to take them only added to their threat before the break, as he switched from one side of the pitch to the other to curl dangerously goalwards.
Cray boast the league’s topscorer in Joe Taylor, but with the home side’s only real chance in the first half he shot wastefully over on his left.
K’s had a strong shout for a penalty with 25 minutes played, as a neat move culminated in Dan Bennett seeing a shot blocked by what appeared to be an arm. Again the decision went in Cray’s favour.
Dan Hector and Bennett had shots blocked in quick succession, and then in first-half injury time combined for what seemed set to be the opener. Hector’s cross reached his fellow wide man, but Lewis Carey sprawled to save; the ball bounced around agonisingly close to the goalline, but both Dans couldn’t quite force it in as a cluster of home defenders surrounded it.
Hayes Lane has seen major redevelopment since K’s last visit to this corner of south-east London. The shiny new Glyn Beverly Stand was not open, however, and so the sizable travelling contingency – bar a hardy/mad four who braved the wind and rain in the side terrace – stationed themselves behind Rob Tolfrey’s goal.
Much has been made of the excellent brand of football Hayden Bird’s side have produced this season, and the ‘impressive commitment to keeping the ball on the floor’ displayed on the opening day has maintained and intensified. What has perhaps been spoken about less is the defence, now the second meanest in the division. At close quarters, K’s fans saw just why.
Harry Osborne and Simon Cooper were immense in the middle, the full-backs diligent as ever, and the experienced central midfield pair protective. Perhaps the star performer, though, was Tolfrey. He twice denied Taylor early in the second half, and then sprung to his right to sensationally keep out Rhys Murrell-Williamson, once of this parish, late on. It was a breathtaking save, and one worthy of preserving a point.
All the while K’s did their best to keep the ball and try and make inroads upfield, as tough a barrier as the wind was. Fabio Saraiva’s sweetly-struck effort from the angle of the box was matched by Carey, who got fingertips to divert it onto the bar. No wonder Bird surmised afterwards we had witnessed the best two keepers in the league. Carey had also been excellent on the opening day.
If that goalless draw in August ‘occasionally felt like no more than a pre-season friendly’, this was anything but: an excellent game of Isthmian Premier Division football between a pair of good sides. The bizarrely high volume of yellow cards shown was not befitting of a fair, well-contested match-up.
Unfortunately, a point doesn’t do a great deal for Kingstonian’s increasingly slim play-off prospects. But it is worth looking at the bigger picture. In our last 16 league fixtures we have suffered a solitary defeat, and have remained unbeaten in that time in the nine games against sides currently in the top 10. K’s fans saw yet again on Saturday that this is a team to be seriously proud of.
Cray Wanderers: 1 - Lewis Carey, 2 - Barney Williams, 5 - Mitchell Nelson, 4 - Ehizojie Onoabhagbe, 11 - Ben Mundele, 14 - Karl Dent, 15 - Bradley Pritchard, 16 - Rhys Murrell-Williamson, 19 - Charlie Allen, 20 - Joel Rollinson, 9 - Joe Taylor.
Subs (none used): 3 - Tom Carlse, 7 - Jerome Federico, 8 - Lee Lewis, 12 - Palace Francis, 17 - Stefan Abatan.