In a relegation six pointer Cray Wanderers went someway to achieving another season of Isthmian Premier football next season with victory against East Thurrock United at Hayes Lane.  Although safety hasn’t been totally secured, Cray gave themselves a chance of beating the drop with three points against an East Thurrock side who at the start of the game were one place and two points in front of Cray.

Cray moved up to 19th in the table on 36 points with East Thurrock back on 35 in 20th place. Merstham and Leatherhead occupy the bottom two league positions and go into a last day bid to survive the drop 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 any more than a point in their final games.

There was a distinct air of tension around Hayes Lane as the game kicked off and East Thurrock perhaps began with a bit more confidence and had the first shooting opportunity in the 5th minute when Oli Coker fired well over from 30 yards.

The first Cray opportunity came in the 11th minute when down the right Jamie Yila’s ball across to the far post was helped on by Chris Dickson and came to Sam Wood who fired wide of the left post.

Three minutes later East Thurrock had the first real opportunity of the match when from a corner down the left,  Coker’s ball to the near post was headed over by Oliver Miles.

Cray threatened again shortly after when Wood played a great 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 fired well wide with a volley from outside the box.

In the 24th minute, Cray took the lead when Kader found space to play a ball through to Dickson down the right of the area and as Janata came to meet him placed the ball into the bottom left corner for his 11th goal of the season.

Suddenly the early shackles were off and shortly after Dickson came close again with a close range header down the left which Janata did well to hold.

Cray went further ahead in the 29th minute with a quality piece of finishing from Kader who scored his second in successive matches when Anthony Cook’s fine pass from midfield put the on loan Bromley striker through down the right and smashed a shot high 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 out by a defender and out to Wood who shot wide of the right post.

After the jittery start to the first half the second half was much more open and went end to end in the early stages with Cray coming closest as Yila who was becoming more of an influence cut inside down the left and curled a cross-shot across goal and wide.

From a free kick out on the right, Tom Hanfrey’s ball into the box was headed back by Yila for Wood to hit a first time volley wide which Janata got down to save.

The next goal would prove crucial in the game and it arrived for Cray on the hour as Cook found Yila down the right who cut into the box and his shot came back off a post possibly via a deflection off Janata and into the path of Dickson who controlled the ball and lashed a shot high into the roof of the net.

East Thurrock showed their qualities after the third goal and came close to reducing the arrears when from a corner the ball came to Johnny Ashman’s 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 to the far post when Cook fired wide on the volley.

East Thurrock continued to press and Coker’s cross was headed wide by Ashman and then was provider down the left and his ball across was headed wide by Nana Ardakwa.

In the 72nd minute East Thurrock did pull a goal back with another piece of quality finishing from Coker who won the ball just outside the penalty area and did well to place an unerring shot high into the top right corner.

Cray did manage to take some of the sting out of the game with the nearest East Thurrock coming to scoring again was courtesy of a shot over the bar from Ben Wyss.

With four minutes to go Cray scored a fourth goal which was well worked after Boamah did well to claim a cross and played the ball forward which Kader helped on to Dickson who flicked a backheel through to the onrushing Wood who broke through the centre of the defence and tucked the ball past Janata with great economy and sealed the win.

There was still time for more chances as the game lost its shape and Kyel Reid just seconds after coming on saw a snap shot parried by Janata.  Then at the other end the superb Boamah did brilliantly to turn aside one handed a well struck shot from Wyss down the right.

The last chance of the night fell to Aidoo in injury time after a shot from Reid was blocked fired a cross-shot fractionally wide of the right post.

In the end though Cray completed a satisfying evening’s work with a well earned three points against a durable and capable East Thurrock side who will still fancy their chances of keeping out of trouble in their final game of the season at home to Horsham on Saturday.

For Cray though, it was a must win game and now know that with a superior goal difference to Leatherhead and Merstham can surely not finish in the bottom two and although have a tough game against second placed Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday to come can go into the match with renewed confidence after the last two displays.  The other team in the equation are Kings Langley in the Southern League Premier South who are vying for the third third from bottom club amongst 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

Att: 463