Cray Wanderers moved back into the playoff places for the first time since February and made it seven games undefeated after winning a dramatic eight goal thriller at Herne Bay.  The match had implications at both ends of the table and Cray moved above Enfield Town in 5th place with the win while Herne Bay now need to win their last two games and hope Bowers & Pitsea and Kingstonian both lose to avoid the drop.

The game got off to a flyer with both teams needing to win and came out of the traps very quickly.  Cray had a couple of dangerous crosses played into the area but the first chance fell to Herne Bay in the sixth minute when the lively Mason Saunders-Henry broke into the area down the left and his shot was saved by Shaun Rowley.  

Then Nyren Clunis and Sam Wood had shots blocked and an appeal for a penalty for handball when Anthony Cook’s ball across looked to have hit the hand of Jack Parter but nothing was given.

At the other end, a swift break saw Michael West set up Marcel Barrington but his shot was again saved by Rowley.

Cray though were playing well and in the 14th minute won a free kick to the right of the penalty area and from the free kick Clunis hit the ball round the wall and into the top right corner of the net.

Five minutes later it was 2-0 and another terrific strike from Clunis who was found by Golding and finding space just outside the area fired in a shot which hit the underside of the bar and into the net and gave the Wands a perfect start.

For Herne Bay a free kick from West took a deflection off Tom Derry for a corner and from the corner the ball came to David Ozobia who shot over.

The Wands continued to play with confidence and Jalen Jones shot over from distance and the impressive Harrison Sodje set up Clunis for a shot blocked.  However Cray kept possession and in the 31st minute made it 3-0 when Jephte Tanga was found by Golding down the right and showed great skill to sway past Parter and laid the ball across which was flicked across by Derry and to the far post where Sam Wood made no mistake to slot in to the net with great precision.

Cray came close to a fourth when Sodje’s ball across from the left went across goal and was put behind for a corner.

Herne Bay though could have waived the white flag at this point but stuck at their game and should really have pulled a goal back when Ozobia got through and his lob was well saved by Rowley but the follow up was headed against the bar and came back to Ozobia but the bounced off him and wide.

That was a temporary let off and in the 43rd minute Saunders-Henry was played through but did look a tad offside but was waived on and fired into the net to reduce the arrears.

Herne Bay then had their tails up and shots from Ozobia and Sammoutis went just wide of goal but at the break the Wands had a 3-1 lead.

The next goal in the match looked to be crucial for the ultimate destination of the match and Herne Bay perhaps started the second half the livelier and Barrington saw a shot blocked. For Cray, Dajon Golding cut in from the right and shot over the top

In the 56th minute Herne Bay were right back in the game with a second goal which came via more quality wing play from Saunders-Henry down the right and his ball across into  the six yard box for Barrington was turned into his own net by Jones.

A minute later Rio Campbell came on for Yahaya Bamba and came close to making an instant impact when down the left he set up Harrison Sodje who looked to score his third goal of the season but placed his shot fractionally wide of the right post.

In the 72nd minute Destiny Oladipo came on for Derry and two minutes later both sides came close to scoring within a minute.  First for Herne Bay a Parter corner down the left was accurate to the far post and Connor Dymond got ahead of West to steer a header towards goal which Rowley did superbly to turn the ball over for a corner.   From the corner Cray broke away and Clunis on a hat-trick unselfishly laid the ball out to Golding who stroked the ball just wide of the right post.

Ten minutes from time, Cray restored their two goal advantage following the award of a free kick down the right, and Cook’s ball into the area missed the head of Golding but fell at the far post for Jones to tap in from close range for his third goal of the season.

Herne Bay to their credit refused to go away quietly and first West fired a free kick over and then in the 87th minute pulled another goal back once again created by Saunders-Henry and his pass found substitute Daniel Ogunleye who finished well to set up another nervy finish.

Cray though showed sufficient composure in the closing minutes and a minute into four additional minutes Campbell completed the scoring with another fine piece of finishing cutting inside from the left and stroked home his second goal in two substitute appearances to finally end the Bay resistance and win the game for Cray.

With Haringey Borough scoring an equaliser at Enfield Town in the seventh minute of injury time to earn a point, Cray overtook Enfield in the league table to go 5th on 70 points and are a point ahead of Enfield and two in front of Lewes who won impressively at Bognor Regis Town to go 7th with Horsham in 8th on 66 points and Hastings 9th on 64 but do have a game in hand.

Cray along with league leaders Bishop’s Stortford were the only teams in the promotion pack to win both matches over Easter and although the outcome was more in doubt than hoped after such a thrilling start a win is a win especially against a Herne Bay side who look a lot better than their lowly league position suggest.  Herne Bay in 20th place on 33 points must win at Wingate & Finchley and at home to Bishop’s Stortford in their final game and hope Cray beat Kingstonian on Saturday and lose at home to Hornchurch who also have to play 19th placed Bowers & Pitsea this Saturday.

For Cray it has been a patient game to get back into the playoff places and have hit good form since the start of March and scored five goals three times in the last seven games and won six and drawn one to keep the possibility of a piece of history and an Isthmian Premier playoff place for the first time in the club’s history.


Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Jephte Tanga, Jalen Jones, Freddie Carter, Harrison Sodje, Sam Wood (Taner Dogan, 83), Anthony Cook, Nyren Clunis, Yahaya Bamba (Rio Campbell, 57), Dajon Golding, Tom Derry (Destiny Oladipo, 72):  Subs:  Danny Bassett, Marcus Sablier


Att:  479


Att: 479