Cray Wanderers picked up their first league win of the 2023-24 season and did so in some style to end Chatham Town’s 100% winning start to the season.  

Cray had been playing better than the early league results suggested and made it ten goals in two matches following the FA Cup victory against Newhaven last Saturday with a clinically efficient performance on a baking hot afternoon by the Medway.

On an exceptionally hot day and in front of an impressive four figure crowd the Wands were looking to build on the FA Cup win and included up front new signing Gary Lockyer who started last season with the club in place of Tom Derry who has joined Bishop’s Stortford.  The other change saw Cameron Thompson start in place of the suspended Yahya Bamba.  

The game got off to a sedate start which wasn’t surprising considering the heat with Cray looking to threaten through Nyren Clunis who fired a shot wide.  Then for Chatham, Evans attempted an audacious lob from 25 yards which just drifted over the bar.  This was followed by Lockyer slicing a shot wide from Will Wood’s cross.

However, in the 14th minute Cray took the lead for the first time in the league this season when down the right of the area, George Porter was brought down by Evans and Frankie Raymond notched his first Wands goal from the spot.

Chatham forced a handful of corners but weren’t getting much joy out of the central defensive partnership of Cameron Black and Tom Penfold and aside from a low Yila shot claimed by Shaun Rowley restricted Chatham’s attacking threat.

Cray came close to a second in the 25th minute just after a water break from a free kick just outside the area and Lee Lewis was unlucky to see his shot finger tipped onto the crossbar by Ben Bridle-Card. 

In the 34th minute Cray extended their lead with a quality piece of finishing from Cameron Thompson who was found by Porter and from outside the area lifted a great chip over Bridle-Card which dropped into the net superbly.

Shortly before half time Clunis who had an excellent game fired a shot wide but at the break with Cray looking confident and resolute at the back, Neil Smith’s side went in 2-0 up and a chance to cool down.

In the 53rd minute almost out of nothing Cray earned a second penalty kick of the afternoon after Clunis won the ball and broke into the box before being sent crashing by Bridle-Card and a penalty was awarded but was deemed just a yellow card offence.  From the spot, Raymond stroked home his second goal of the game to give Cray a bit of comfort.

Chatham almost pulled a goal back two minutes later when Yila was denied by a good, blocked save by Rowley and Ollie Hebden saw a shot deflected behind for a corner.  Then a Yila cross was headed off target by Tommy Fagg.

The Wands almost scored a fourth goal when Clunis was unlucky down the right to see his shot pushed out well by Bridle-Card.

In the 76th minute the game was virtually done and dusted when from a Chatham attack, the ball came to Clunis down the right in acres of space and sped towards goal, cut into the area and placed a fine cross-shot wide of Bridle-Card and tucked nicely into the bottom left corner for his second goal of the season.

Chatham pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute with a strike from half time substitute Jack Munns with the former Hornchurch midfielder hitting a sweet shot which may have taken a nick and the ball went past Shaun Rowley into the net.

However, barely two minutes later it was 5-1 to Cray this time with the ball worked between two substitutes Anthony Cook who played a fine pass to set up Jamie Mascoll who slotted in from close range shortly after coming off the bench to set the seal on a fine away day performance and a match that was very well refereed.

Cray next return to the FA Cup on Sunday 17th September with the visit of Ramsgate which will be a tough game but most definitely now the Wands seem to have got a difficult August out of their system and beginning to really click into gear.

Cray Wanderers:

Shaun Rowley, Lee Lewis, Cameron Black, Tom Penfold, Will Wood, David Ijaha (Sam Wood, 85), Frankie Raymond, Nyren Clunis, Cameron Thompson (Jamie Mascoll, 83), George Porter (Anthony Cook, 73), Gary Lockyer.  Subs:  Archy Taylor, Jack Holland

Att: 1, 168