Cray Wanderers made it four games unbeaten over Christmas/New Year and one defeat in ten league games but had to be content with a hard fought point from a draw with in-form Lewes at Hayes Lane.

Cray were looking to build on some solid performances and had picked up points against promotion contenders Enfield Town and Hastings United at home and Lewes had moved up to ninth in recent weeks to pose another challenge for Neil Smith’s side.

From the team that drew with Hastings United on New Year’s Day into the team came a new signing, Tom Beere who comes to the Wands from Carshalton Athletic into midfield and George Porter in place of Anthony Cook and Sam Wood.  

The game was played in dry conditions and a touch chilly but a perfect early January afternoon for a good game of football.

The Wands began on the front foot and in the 4th minute, Jamie Mascoll played a good ball through to Gary Lockyer who hit a well struck shot down the left into the midriff of Luke Harvey.  

Then a minute later from a free kick down the left from Frankie Raymond into the box the ball fell to Tayo Oyebola who held the ball up as Harvey came to meet him and found George Porter who turned the ball over the top.

Lewes were looking to get into the game and Ola Ogunwamide down the right set up ex-Wand Bradley Pritchard for a shot that was blocked.

The Rooks had the best early chance of the game in the 22nd minute when Arthur Penney played the ball out to Ogunwamide down the right who set up Archie Tamplin in the area and he smashed a shot against the right post and the ball was cleared.

The match then became a little bit scrappy but Cray worked their way back into the game and in the 38th minute took the lead. The Wands won the second of two corners and down the left, Raymond’s ball to the far post was nodded across by Lockyer for Oyebola to head in from four yards.

Shortly after, Lockyer cracked a shot from 25 yards wide of the left post but Lewes ended the half positively and Jake Elliott headed wide of the left post from a Tamplin free kick. Then right on half time, Ogunwamide tested Rowley with a shot from 30 yards but at half time the Wands held the edge.

The second half promised to be an exciting half for Wands fans and early the hard working Ellis Brown saw a shot blocked.

Lewes though were moving the ball around quickly and were causing problems and in the 53rd minute came close when the lively Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala down the left put a ball across to the far post for Sanchez Ming who saw his shot blocked by the legs of Shaun Rowley.

Then Ming set up Chris Whelpdale whose shot was parried away well by Rowley and came to Lumbombo-Kalala whose follow up was deflected over the bar for a corner.

The match continued to be played at a brisk pace and Cray had a rare chance to break and substitute Anthony Cook and Ellis Brown combined to set up Raymond down the left and his shot was held by Harvey.

Still Lewes pressed forward and Lumbombo-Kalala was a constant threat and saw his drive pushed out and following up Marcus Sablier who had a loan spell with Cray last season saw his shot held.

From a corner down the left from Ryan Gondoh, Rowley punched the ball out and came to Sablier who shot wide.  Then Ming set up Gondoh who curled over and Tommy Wood was played through but shot over despite claims the ball was deflected over.

As the half neared the end Lumbombo-Kalala set up Gondoh for a shot wide and Cray had defended stoically going into the final five minutes.

However, the Wands defence was finally breached in the 85th minute when from a free kick down the left of the area, Lumbombo-Kalala hit a sweetly struck free kick over the wall and into the net.

Towards the end, Lewes almost won the game when Gondoh shot wide when well placed and near the end a ball across from Jake Elliott down the right to the far post for Lumbombo-Kalala was blocked behind by Rowley.

At the end Cray had picked up another valuable point as the Wands look to climb away from the relegation places and now have 25 points and remain 15th in the table. The Wands have shown a lot of resilience and character over the last few games with injuries and suspensions and have proved a lot harder to beat and have been working hard.

Cray now go on to four successive away games starting at Bognor Regis Town on Tuesday night and will be another test of character.

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Emmanuel Kwatchey, David Ijaha, Cameron Black, Jamie Mascoll, Tom Beere, Frankie Raymond, Ellis Brown (Yahya Bamba, 87), George Porter (Anthony Cook, 53), Tayo Oyebola (Sam Wood, 82), Gary Lockyer:  Subs: Alfie Evans, George Brooke)

Att:  343 

Over the Christmas & New Year period, Cray began the festive season with a 0-0 draw against Margate on Boxing Day.  It was a game of few chances but was stopped short of official time due to a serious concussion injury to the Wands Yahya Bamba in stoppage time.  The result of 0-0 stands after originally being abandoned.

On Friday 29th December, Cray defeated 3rd placed Enfield Town 2-0 with a goal in each half from debutant Tayo Oyebola and Ellis Brown. This was Cray's first win since November 11th and a big morale booster ahead of the New Year clash with Hastings United.

The Wands picked up another point against a strong Hastings side with a 0-0 draw and was a resolute and determined performance.  The points gained over those three games edged Cray up the table to 15th place.