Cray Wanderers returned to winning ways after three games without a win to ensure a ten point lead at the top of the Isthmian South-East at Christmas with a 2-1 win against Sittingbourne at Hayes Lane.

Cray who were beaten for the first time in the league at Horsham last Saturday produced a good performance with a goal in each half from Bradley Pritchard on 22 minutes and Ben Mundele in the 73rd minute before a late strike from Chris Webber for Sittingbourne reduced the arrears.  The Brickies saw Lex Allan receive a straight red card for a foul tackle in injury time and Cray were able to see out the three points and complete a league double over Sittingbourne.   

Cray started the game well and the first real effort on target came after quarter of an hour when Junior Dadson found Joe Taylor whose ball in from the left touchline was met by the head of Bradley Pritchard from seven yards and brought a diving save from Patrick Lee at the left post.  This was followed a couple of minutes later from a right wing corner, Karl Dent’s cross to the far post found the head of Jay Leader whose effort was saved by Lee and the ball was cleared. 

On 22 minutes Cray did take the lead when down the left Dadson did well to cut into the area and his short ball across found Pritchard who from five yards did well to control the pass and fire into the bottom right corner for his fourth goal of the season.

Cray nearly scored a second on the half hour when Ben Mundele’s pass found Jerome Federico who cut to the left byline and his ball across found Taylor who fired over from six yards.

Sittingbourne looked to respond and had an opportunity with a free kick, 20 yards from goal from which ex-Wand Dan Parkinson’s shot came back off the wall and following up volleyed  wide.  Then from a similar position from a free kick, Henry Woods hit his shot through the wall into the arms of Nick Blue.

On the stroke of half-time Cray almost doubled their advantage when from a Dent free kick out on the left his ball into the six yard box was nicked off the back of Taylor’s head and against the right post from a couple of yards.

Ten minutes into the second half Cray came close to a second when after a patient passing move Federico put across a high quality cross to the far post when Taylor’s goal bound effort was kept out excellently by Lee pushing the ball behind.

The visitors had their best chance when from a left wing corner, Parkinson’s ball into the area was glanced over by Lex Allan as Blue came to meet the ball.

The Wands just needed a second goal to give themselves breathing space and it duly arrived on 73 minutes when Dent down the left found Pritchard who from just outside the area saw a low shot pushed out to the right by Lee and following up the predatory Ben Mundele was on hand to steer home from four yards for his sixth goal of the season.

With eleven minutes to go, another opportunity came to the unlucky Taylor when after a classy passing movement down the left, Dent’s superb cross found the ex-Sittingbourne forward who saw his shot come back off the right post.

Sittingbourne managed to find their way back into the game with three minutes to go when from a Parkinson’s corner the cross was headed away but the ball came to Chris Webber some thirty yards from goal who let fly with a cracking shot which flew into the top left hand corner of the net to leave perhaps a nervy final few moments.

A bit of that pressure was released as the game entered stoppage time when a Blue kick forward found Taylor who advanced to very edge of the penalty area and was adjudged to have been brought down by Allan who was shown a straight red card.  Then in the closing moments, Taylor was denied a goal when down the right powered in a fierce cross shot which was pushed away well by Lee and no-one could follow up.

Cray though saw out the remaining minutes and next go to Sevenoaks Town on Saturday 29th December looking to end 2018 on a high.

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Bradley Pritchard, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent (Zak Henry, 90+2), Joe Taylor, Junior Dadson (Archie Johnson, 30), Jerome Federico (Aaron Rhule. 83): Subs: Freddie Parker, Marcus Evans

Att: 259