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Margate give Cray the Christmas blues
Margate filled their Christmas stocking with the three points as they outgunned Cray 4-2 in the all-Kent holiday derby at Hayes Lane.
The free-scoring Kwesi Appiah added to his growing reputation with a display of sharpshooting that began in the first minute with a Christmas cracker of a shot that cannoned back off the bar with Cray 'keeper Andy Walker well beaten.
Cray opened the scoring on five minutes when Tommy Whitnell's inch-perfect cross from the right was tucked away by Jack Clark with an assured finish.
But Cray were shocked to find themselves trailing 2-1 just seven minutes later, as Margate struck in the 11th and 12th minutes.
Curtis Robinson thundered in a header from a right wing cross and Appiah left Walker clutching thin air as he turned outside the box and fired a low shot past the Cray 'keeper's right hand.
The home defence were given a torrid time and were fortunate not to concede more goals as Craig Cloke headed against the bar, Appiah had a shot deflected wide, Cray skipper Aaron Day blocked a rasping shot from Mark Corneille, and Dan Stubbs shot wastefully wide after Appiah was gifted the ball on the edge of the penalty area.
Cray rallied as the interval approached, and Sam Long's 25-yard free-kick shaved the top of the bar.
It was 2-2 in added time before the break, thanks to Lewis Perkins crowning an excellent game for Cray with a first-time shot that whistled past Simon Overland after a run by Danny Phillips had led to a big scramble on the edge of the penalty area.
A dramatic start to the second half saw a four-minute hold-up before Margate defender Laurence Ball had to be replaced after a clash of heads with Tommy Whitnell.
Cray had been first to press on goal, but Margate took control of the game with a dominant period of play.
Appiah finished like a striker on the top of his form when cutting into the box from the right and giving Walker no chance with a clinical shot into the far corner in the 51st minute.
Tom Bradbrook nearly scored an instant fourth for Margate, but the away supporters in the 369 crowd were able to sense victory for sure when Stubbs, arriving late in the box, met a curling left-wing cross to shoot past the exposed Walker on 67 minutes.
Having resorted to the long ball game with no success against the big Margate defence, Cray reverted to passing the ball through midfield, but despite raising their game and enjoying plenty of possession they couldn't get back on terms.
Appiah, the key difference between the two sides, was replaced on 71 minutes but his team mates stayed determined not to lose their lead, and there was nearly a fifth for Margate on the counterattack when Bradbrook's shot was blocked by Tyrone Sterling on the line, after Walker had clawed away an effort from Stubbs.
Cray: Walker, Long, Bentley (Fray 75), Day, Young, Sterling, Whitnell, Perkins, Bremner, Phillips, Clark. Subs not used: Dolby, Hall, Vines, Power.
Cray are at home to Concord Rangers on Saturday 31 December - kick-off at 12 noon.