Cray Wanderers remain eight points clear at the top of the Isthmian South-East after a dramatic finish to the first league game of 2019 as Archie Johnson’s thumping strike in the sixth minute of injury time clinched victory against a tough, in-form Three Bridges side who played the last twenty minutes with ten men.

Cray had laid siege to the Three Bridges goal for most of the second half and came close on a number of occasions to score but had to leave it late during a long spell of injury time when Johnson’s cracking shot settled the game.

The Wands began well and Mitchell Nelson turned the ball wide from a Karl Dent corner and Dent then fired over the top.  Cray though were dealt an early blow when Aaron Rhule had to leave the field with injury. 

Cray came closest in the first half in the 18th minute when from a free kick just outside the area, Dent’s shot came back off the angle of right post and crossbar and following up Bradley Pritchard’s shot was saved by the legs of keeper James Shaw.

The best chance for Three Bridges came when Ibby Akanbi saw a shot blocked well by Nick Blue and before half time Jay Leader headed wide for Cray.

The second half was for the most part one way traffic and Dent hit a shot which stung the hands of Shaw and Nelson headed wide from a free kick.

Opportunities continued to fall Cray’s way and Joe Taylor shot wide of the left post from Daniel Uchechi’s pass and then Taylor set up Dent who drove a shot over the top from ten yards.

Three Bridges were defending well but almost took the lead when Akanbi put George Gaskin through who burst into the area and dragged a shot just past the right post.  There hopes though were dealt a blow in the 71st minute when Connor French was sent off for two bookable offences.

The latter stages saw Cray lay siege to the goal and from a Pritchard corner, the ball was flicked towards goal by Freddie Parker but was cleared off the line by Joe Tennent.  Then from another Pritchard corner down the left, Nelson helped the ball on and Parker’s shot was saved well by James at the left post.

Into the sixth minute of added on time and the breakthrough finally came and it was well worth waiting for when Uchechi found Pritchard who intelligently laid the ball to substitute Archie Johnson who let fly with an arrow of a shot from 20 yards which flew into the top left corner of the net and a great way to win any game.

Cray next go to East Grinstead Town on Saturday looking to keep the momentum going of three straight wins and an eight point lead at the top.

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Bradley Pritchard, Tom Phipp, Karl Dent (Archie Johnson, 77), Joe Taylor, Aaron Rhule (Daniel Uchechi, 12), Jerome Federico (Freddie Parker, 73):  Subs: Sean Roberts, Marcus Evans

Att:  156