Cray Wanderers six game unbeaten league run came to an end as Hastings United took all three points from a tense game at Hayes Lane on Wednesday evening with a goal fifteen minutes from time from Ben Pope.  

In a game of few chances it looked like one goal would prove decisive and it came for Hastings United when Sam Hasler’s shot was pushed out by Shaun Rowley but not far enough to clear and Pope stroked the ball in from eight yards for Hastings first away goal of the season.   The visitors had to play the last few minutes with ten men after substitute Lloyd Dawes was sent off for two bookable offences but hung on fairly comfortably for the win which moved them up to 8th while Cray stay 6th in the table.

The match pitted the only two clubs to have won the Isthmian South-East and both were coming into the game with decent league form with Cray undefeated in six and Hastings in three.

Cray were looking to hit the ground running and did have the ball in the net in the 4th minute through Michael Ademiluyi but a handball in the build up from Tom Derry led to the goal being disallowed.

Two minutes later Hastings threatened for the first time with Pope hitting a shot from 20 yards which may have been slightly deflected through to Shaun Rowley who made a comfortable save. 

In the 9th minute the ball was worked down the right by Pope to Tom Chalmers and his cross-shot clipped the top of the crossbar and went over the bar.

From here the game became something of a stalemate and both sides seemed to cancel each other out.   Ademiluyi received the ball down the right and in the box played the ball to the near post and keeper Louis Rogers gathered the ball.

Before half time, Cray won a corner down the right and Sam Wood’s ball into the box deflected off the head of Jalen Jones and behind and not really a chance but at the break it goalless. 

The second half began with more purpose especially from Hastings and down the right, Jake Elliott’s cross to the far post was fired into the side netting by Kane Penn.

Two minutes later Penn found Knory Scott just outside the area and his shot was deflected wide of the right post for a corner.  From the corner, Hasler’s cross was cleared out to Sam Adams who fired well over the top.

Cray looked to inject some pace and Dan Bassett lashed over the bar from distance and Mitch Chapman was introduced in place of Roman Charles-Cook.

Cray’s best opening of the game came in the 57th minute when down the left, Bassett found Billy Crook who found some space to make a run towards the edge of the area and played the ball to Sam Wood who shot wide of the left post.

Sadly for Cray, Sinn’kaye Christie who had had a good game looked to have picked up a leg injury and had to go off and was replaced by Ben Krauhaus just after the hour.  Tom Derry had to forsake his attacking instincts to fill in as centre half in the absence of a central defender on the bench.

After that early flurry of activity the game then returned to type and became scrappy although Krauhaus showed some great pace to run from half way but was scythed down by Jack Dixon.

The decisive moment of the game came in the 75th minute when Hasler who had an impressive game in midfield hit a shot 25 yards from goal which Rowley got down to save and pushed the ball out but only as far as Pope who scored from eight yards and notch Hastings first away goal of the season.

Cray huffed and puffed to get back into the game and showed plenty of urgency and endeavour but couldn’t create a chance or find that killer ball to trouble Rogers in the Hastings goal.

In the 90th minute, Hastings substitute Lloyd Dawes who had only been on four minutes was booked for kicking the ball away and then shortly after fouled Derry and was shown a red card.  

Before the end, Gil Carvalho’s shot was parried by Rowley but the follow up was flagged offside.  With four minutes of added on time there was still no way back for Cray and in the end Hastings picked up the three points, their first win away from home this season and end Cray’s unbeaten home league start. 

Cray now move on to a tough trip to league leaders Hornchurch on Saturday and will hope to return to winning ways and also look to recover from the injuries picked up in last few games but there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic after the start to the season.


Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Roman Charles-Cook (Mitch Chapman, 53), Jalen Jones, Sinn’kaye Christie (Ben Krauhaus, 62), Sam Wood, David Ijaha, Billy Crook (Sam Skeffington, 80), Anthony Cook, Michael Ademiluyi, Dan Bassett, Tom Derry:  Subs:  Alex Bentley, Jargal Enkh

Att: 237