Grier's Guide to Cray Wanderers
When: Saturday 19 September, 3.00pm
The town: The name comes from the twin villages of St. Mary Cray and St. Paul's Cray, both centuries old but long swallowed up by sprawling London. However since 1988, when they weren't allowed to install floodlights at their own ground, they've shared in Bromley. They've now finally got the go-ahead for a new ground and hope to move in next season.
The ground: Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent, BR2 9EF. Perhaps the most characterful stadium in the league, Hayes Lane retains an old-school charm that is largely lost in modern non-league grounds. There are good sized, steep concrete terraces on the far side and behind one goal - you can imagine excellent atmospheres for big FA Cup ties back in the days when the competition drew truly big crowds. The other end used to have wooden benches at the top of a similar terrace, although that's now been replaced with a modern all-seater stand that was closed for our visit last season.
Ticket prices: £10 adults, £5 for under 16s and over 60s.
Covid security: With Hayes Lane's large, open terraces, this will probably be one of the easiest games of the season to keep your distance from others. Cray are encouraging fans to buy e-tickets online before the game at https://www.cray-wanderers.com/tickets/. At time of writing, it's not clear if tickets will be available on the turnstile.
Directions: By car it's in theory no longer than an hour but that very much depends on the traffic, with routes either across South London or round the M25 both prone to heavy traffic. You can park at the ground. It's about a 15 minute walk from Bromley South station, reachable either direct from Victoria or with changes at Wimbledon and Herne Hill. A brief ride on any of the 119, 146 or 314 buses can cut down the walk a bit.
Our record there: Last season we played out a goalless draw, a good result given that Cray were one of the strongest sides in the league. Our most memorable visit was in the FA Cup in 2005, when we lost 4-1 and both sides were reduced to 8 (eight) men. Ks saw Mick Brady, Mazin Ahmad and Damien Panter all sent off, the latter for an altercation with Tony Russell, who is now Cray's manager.
Players to watch: Joe Taylor was the league's top scorer last season with 26 by the point the campaign was curtailed, plus another six in cup competitions. We might have been hoping that would earn him a move to a higher level but sadly not, so he's sure to be a threat. Winger Jerome Federico had a short spell at Ks.
Recent form: Cray were second in the league when it was called off, so this is a tough start to the season for Ks. Friendly results have included a win over National League South side Welling United.
Crowd: 30 years of ground-sharing isn't ideal for building a big support - a cautionary tale for Ks - and despite their impressive form last season, their average crowd was just 219. With landlords Bromley still unable to admit fans though, they may be likely to get some of their fans along.
Drinking: The ground is in a residential area but with a bit of a detour you can go via The Bricklayers Arms, a Shepherd Neame pub with food, Sky Sports and a small outdoor seating area. It's next door to a micropub, The Bitter End, which has a focus on cask and craft ale, gin and, more unusually for a micropub, prosecco. The easiest place to go to is The Richmal Crompton, a large Wetherspoons opposite Bromley South station.
Food: Again there's not a lot around the ground itself but if coming by train the station is at the bottom end of the High Street so there's plenty of choice.