Cray Wanderers began a run of four consecutive away league games with defeat at a chilly Bognor Regis Town as the home side scored twice in three minutes from Dan Gifford to turn around a match which the Wands led from the 18th minute with a terrific Gary Lockyer strike.

The Wands continued to lead going into the second half and Bognor missed the chance to level in the 67th minute when Gifford missed from the penalty spot.  However, Cray were hanging on and Gifford levelled three minutes from time and then just as the game entered stoppage time turned the ball in from Harvey Whyte’s cross.

Both sides went into the game in decent league form and Cray were looking to build on some encouraging home displays over the festive season and came into the match in 15th place.  Neil Smith named an unchanged lineup for the side which drew with Lewes on Saturday. 

Bognor are a good footballing side especially at home and on the fine playing surface at Nyewood Lane began the match on the front foot pinning Cray back early on but the dependable David Ijaha and Cameron Black were able to repel the early pressure.

For Cray, Tayo Oyebola won a free kick down the right and Frankie Raymond’s ball into the box was punched out by Ryan Hall and the ball came to Tom Beere whose cross was cleared away.

Then for the home side, following a corner the ball came to Calvin Davies who fired a shot wide of goal.

Cray were now beginning to settle and in the 17th minute almost took the lead following a free kick down the right and again Raymond’s delivery was excellent and his ball towards the near post was met by the head of George Porter just outside the six yard box and Hall tipped the ball over the bar.

A minute later, Cray were in front when from a throw in down the left the ball was hoisted into the area and knocked on towards the far post where Gary Lockyer controlled the ball superbly to turn and crack home an unstoppable finish.

The game became an end to end affair and Bognor had a great chance to level in the 25th minute when Lucas Pattenden down the right set up Dan Smith who turned the wide of the left post.  Then another Pattenden ball into the area for Smith was gathered by Rowley at the second attempt.

Cray though were dangerous on the counter and almost went two nil up when Oyebola did well down the right to work an opening and saw his shot saved well by Hall who turned the ball aside.

Before half time, Bognor continued to cause problems and Pattenden who had a great game down the right set up Smith who shot wide and then from a corner placed a header on target and was gathered by Rowley.

There was a blow for Cray at half time when the hugely influential Lockyer had to go off and was replaced by Anthony Cook.

The match continued to be played at a quick pace and for the Wands, Raymond swung in a free kick that was well claimed by Hall while at the other end, Dan Gifford set up Ben Anderson for an effort that was cleared off the line by Ijaha.

For Cray, from a free kick in a decent, central position outside the box, Tom Beere saw his shot deflected over for a corner.

On the hour, the Wands were indebted once again to Shaun Rowley who made a fine save to deny Smith who hit a goal bound strike and was blocked by Rowley’s legs.  Then, Pattenden’s cross was headed over by Isaac Olaniyan as Bognor continued to press.

In the 67th minute it looked like their pressure had told when Pattenden was harshly adjudged to have been brought down in the area by Jamie Mascoll.  However, from the spot Dan Gifford fired over the bar.

Cray looked to break away and George Porter set up Beere who shot wide off the right post and in the 77th minute, substitute Yahya Bamba was unlucky not to score when he got to the ball down the left of the area and Hall made a flying stop to turn the ball aside with the side of his face.

Ten minutes from time Bognor almost levelled when Olaniyan fired over the top after a Smith layoff and for Cray down the right, Ellis Brown set up Alfie Evans who drove a shot across goal and wide.

With three minutes to go, Bognor finally made their pressure tell with an equaliser and from Harvey Whyte’s right wing cross was met by Gifford, Rowley looked to clear under pressure from Smith and following up Gifford turned the ball into the net.

Both sides pressed for a winner with Bamba firing wide for Cray but in the 90th minute Bognor turned the game around with a second goal when Cray couldn’t clear their lines and another fine cross from Pattenden was turned in from close range by Gifford.

Cray threw everything in trying to grab a point in five minutes of added on time with Ellis Brown down the right had time to get a shot in at goal but perhaps lacked sufficient power and Hall was able to claim the ball.

Then a ball in from Bamba found Porter who beat the offside trap to get a header in on goal which Hall did superbly to turn behind and was perhaps the Wands last chance to grab a point.

In the end, Bognor held out for the win and Cray who had had to soak up a lot of pressure especially in the second half once again just fell short late in a game as against Lewes on Saturday and this time came away from the long Tuesday night trip with a defeat.

Cray dropped one place to 16th in the table onto 25 points while Bognor moved up to 9th and could be a serious challenger for promotion if their away form can match that of their home results.

The Wands have been battling hard and maybe missed the influence of Lockyer who was superb in the first half during the second but are maybe just defending a little too much in games and took its toll at the end.

Cray next head to another promotion contender in Billericay Town on Saturday and look to get back to winning ways and continue to edge away from the relegation places


Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Emmanuel Kwatchey, David Ijaha, Cameron Black, Jamie Mascoll, Tom Beere (Alfie Evans, 75), Frankie Raymond, Ellis Brown, George Porter, Tayo Oyebola (Yahya Bamba, 61), Gary Lockyer (Anthony Cook, H/T): Subs: Sam Wood, Charlie Paye


Att: 434