In a six-point relegation, Cray Wanderers managed to complete another season of Isthmian Premier football next season with victory against East Thurrock United at Hayes Lane. Although safety was not fully assured, Cray gave themselves a chance to beat the drop with three points against an East Thurrock side who, at the start of the match, were one place and two points ahead of Cray.
Cray moved up to 19th in the table with 36 points with East Thurrock back on 35 in 20th place. Merstham and Leatherhead sit bottom two in the league and embark on a final day to survive the fall by avoiding defeat at Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday and hoping that East Thurrock and Kings Langley in the Southern League Premier South do not pick up more only one point in their last matches.
There was a distinct air of tension around Hayes Lane at the start of the game and East Thurrock perhaps started with a little more confidence and had the first chance to shoot in the 5th minute when Oli Coker fired well over. above 30 meters.
Cray’s first chance came in the 11th minute when, on the right, Jamie Yila’s ball at the far post was assisted by Chris Dickson and came to Sam Wood who fired wide from the left post.
Three minutes later, East Thurrock had the first real chance of the match when, from a left-hand corner, Coker’s ball at the near post was headed in by Oliver Miles.
Cray threatened again soon after when Wood played a superb ball into the box where Kader helped the ball towards the right post where Dickson got to the ball but keeper Arthur Janata did well to come and claim the ball. Then Kader shot wide with a volley from outside the box.
In the 24th minute, Cray took the lead when Kader found space to pass a ball past Dickson to the right of the box and when Janata came to meet him he slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to his 11th goal of the season.
Suddenly the first strings died down and soon after Dickson came close again with a close range header down the left which Janata did well to hold.
Cray went further in the 29th minute with a quality finish from Kader which marked his second in successive matches when Anthony Cook’s fine pass from midfield put the Bromley striker on loan on the right and smashed a shot past Janata into the net. .
The Wands had an element of control before half-time and a fine cross from Cook from the right was nodded by a defender and towards Wood who fired wide past the right post.
After the nervous start to the first half, the second half was much more open and went from start to finish in the early stages with Cray coming closest to Yila who was becoming increasingly influential in the game. inside on the left and curled a cross shot through the goal and wide.
From a free-kick down the right, Tom Hanfrey’s ball into the box was headed by Yila for Wood to hit a first volley wide which Janata set about saving.
The next goal would prove crucial in the game and it arrived for Cray on time as Cook found Yila on the right who cut into the box and his shot returned from a post perhaps via a deflection from Janata and in the way of Dickson who controlled the ball and fired a shot high into the roof of the net.
East Thurrock showed their quality after the third goal and nearly reduced the arrears when from a corner the ball came to Johnny Ashman whose header was saved well by Nathan Boamah and the ball was cleared off the line.
For Cray, Kasim Aidoo down the left played the ball at the far post when Cook fired wide on the volley.
East Thurrock continued to press and Coker’s cross was headed in by Ashman, then provider down the left and his ball was headed in by Nana Ardakwa.
In the 72nd minute, East Thurrock pulled a goal back with another quality finishing piece from Coker who won the ball just outside the penalty area and did well to place an unerring shot high into the top corner straight.
Cray managed to take some of the sting out of the game with the nearer East Thurrock scoring again thanks to a shot over the bar from Ben Wyss.
With four minutes remaining, Cray scored a fourth goal which worked well after Boamah did well to claim a cross and played the ball forward which Kader assisted Dickson who kicked a backheel to the pressed wood that pierced the center of the defence. and slotted the ball past Janata with great economy and sealed the victory.
There was still time for more chances as the game lost form and Kyel Reid just seconds after arriving saw an instant shot parried by Janata. Then at the other end the superb Boamah brilliantly deflected a well-struck shot from Wyss on the right with one hand.
Aidoo’s last chance of the night came in added time after a shot from Reid was blocked and fired a slightly wide cross shot from the right post.
In the end, although Cray ended a satisfying night’s work with three well-deserved points against a durable and capable East Thurrock side who will always be keen to stay out of trouble in their final home game of the season against Horsham Saturday.
For Cray though, it was a must-have game and know now that with a greater goal difference than Leatherhead and Merstham surely cannot finish in the bottom two and although they have a tough game against second-placed Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday ahead, they can enter the match with a boost of confidence after the last two parries. The other team in the equation is Kings Langley in the Southern League Premier South who are contesting the bottom club third tier among the three Step 3 leagues and are at Salisbury on the final day.
Cray Wanderers: Nathan Boamah, Kasim Aidoo, Ethan Kaiser, Richie Danquah, Tom Hanfrey, Jedd Smith, Anthony Cook, Sam Wood (Luca Albon, 89), Jamie Yila (Denzel Williams, 89), Saul Kader (Kyel Reid, 90) , Chris Dickson:
Subs: Cameron Brodie, Narcis-Florin Filip