Cray defeat is a reality check for the club
Cray Wanderers two wins in their first three games under new management could have led to a false sense of security among the fans. But losing 4-1 to Hendon FC at home on Saturday in the FA Trophy nipped any complacency in the bud.
There was no doubt that Hendon deserved their win though the final scoreline did flatter slightly. From the kick-off they pressed Cray and it was their number 9, Jefferson Louis, who made their intent clear when he fired a shot just over the crossbar.
So it was against the early run of play when Cray took the lead. Jack Clark’s corner kick eluded everyone including Hendon keeper, Berkley Laurcin, and nestled in the back of the net.
Hendon continued to press but it was a counter-attack that nearly doubled the home side’s lead when Alex Stavrinou had a fierce shot turned onto the bar by Laurcin.
Cray Wanderers were exhibiting some good controlled football. Instead of defenders hoofing the ball upfield for the forwards to chase they were playing their way out from the back. In particular Helge Orome, Carlos Talbot and Aaron Day looked solid in defence and chased down the Hendon forwards.
It was from a Day interception that led to ball being played behind Hendon’s defence. Cray’s Shamir Mullings sprinted towards goal leaving defenders trailing in his wake. Had his control been a little more assured he could have punished the visitors.
The game now settled into the kind of end to end exciting play that, given wider coverage, would surely entice more people to watch non-league football soccer.
Aaron Day again proved his worth in defence with a goal line clearance and there was hope that Cray could hold out until half-time. It wasn’t to be.
A lofted ball into a crowded penalty area was met with the fist of young Cray keeper Charlie Grainger, on loan from Leyton Orient. In clearing his lines he clattered into Cray’s Dmitri Larin and while they were both sprawled on the turf Hendon’s Tony Taggert picked up the loose ball and fired home from the edge of the area.
Up until then it looked as if a mistake was the only way Hendon were going to score but with their tails up they began to press looking for a second goal.
It came in the 40th minute when Hendon’s Chris Seeby found himself in Cray’s penalty area with the ball at his feet. He stabbed the ball home and Hendon were in front for the first time in the match.
Thing got a little heated just before half-time when the linesman denied Hendon a third goal for offside. The red mist descended on Hendon’s defender Casey MacLaren who received a yellow card for persistent arguing.
The second half started as the first half had finished with Hendon on the attack. Charlie Grainger pulled off some excellent saves but he couldn’t stop Hendon adding a third in the 47th minute. From a corner the ball was met by the head of Hendon’s Jefferson Louis who steered it into the back of the net. Cray were now 3-1 down and chasing the game.
Hendon’s keeper fumbled a Cray Wanderers free kick and Dmitri Larin’s follow up shot rattled the Hendon’s crossbar. But that was as close as Cray came to scoring.
Tactics were changed with a double Cray substitution. As they pressed forward they left space which they were slow to close down. This allowed Hendon to pass the ball around more much to the delight of their travelling fans.
Further changes of personnel followed but Cray just couldn’t find the net despite threatening on several occasions.
The icing on the cake for Hendon came in the 87th minute when Jefferson Louis rounded the keeper to get his second and Hendon’s fourth of the game.
Though beaten Cray can take a lot of positives from this game. Despite the scoreline their defence is much tighter than it has been for a long time.
Throughout the side players were looking for each other and moving into space to receive the ball.. And if Shamir Mullings can harness his runs he will cause any defence major problems.
This is very much a work in progress but that work is beginning to take shape.
Cray Wanderers next home game is in the Ryman Premier League on Saturday 26 October against Bury Town.
Video highlights available here