Cray Wanderers continued their impressive recent form with a professional performance to win at Brightlingsea Regent to move up into 3rd place in the Isthmian Premier table.  A brace of goals in two minutes from Joe Taylor in the first half made it seven without defeat in the league and remain unbeaten away from home in the league this season. 

The Wands were looking for a third straight win following wins at home to Cheshunt and at Wingate & Finchley on Tuesday night.   Cray were the dominant force in the first half and came close to scoring through Bradley Pritchard and Lee Lewis in the first quarter of an hour.  A goal was on the cards and came in the 24th minute when Taylor turned the ball in from close range following up Jay Leader’s header.  Two minutes later, Ben Mundele was upended in the area by Fahad Nazor and Taylor stroked home his 21st goal of the season from the spot.  Brightlingsea’s chances of a comeback were dashed when Nazor was sent off in the 58th minute and Cray saw out the remainder of the game. 

On a murky but dry afternoon on the Essex coast Cray began the game in enterprising fashion and Brightlingsea without a win in eight in the league were having a hard time getting possession of the ball and keeping it.  Cray in the eighth minute created their first opening of the game when Barney Williams found Joel Rollinson down the right of the area who set up Bradley Pritchard who pulled a shot wide of the left post from 14 yards.

The Wands continued to play the ball around impressively and came close again in the 13th minute when Lee Lewis found space to fire in a shot from outside the area which keeper Charlie Turner did well to push behind for a corner. 

Cray just needed a goal to have something to show for their dominance and it came in the 24th minute when from a free kick down the left, Pritchard floated an accurate ball to the far post where Leader arrived to divert a header into the six yard box where Taylor was on hand for a poachers goal from three yards.

Two minutes later, Cray went two nil up when Ben Mundele received the ball just outside the area and his run into the box saw him upended by Fahad Nazor.  From the spot, Taylor calmly slotted his 21st goal of the season of an impressive campaign.

In the final action of a half which flew by very quickly, Brightlingsea looked to reduce the arrears when down the right Jake Turner found Reece Dobson who turned inside the area and his shot was comfortably held by Carey.  Then for Cray, Pritchard, Rollinson and Taylor looked to set up Charlie Allen whose shot inside the area was hit off target.

At the start of second half Cray continued to play on the front foot. Firstly, Mundele made a run forward down the left and his shot was blocked and went behind for a corner.  From the corner, Pritchard’s cross to the far post was met again by Leader and his header was cleared almost off the line and came to Mitchell Nelson but turned the ball wide.  Then down the right, Williams found Taylor who from a tight angle fired over but Cray were looking very assured.

Any hopes that Brightlingsea had of getting back into the game were dealt a blow in the 58th minute when Nazor was sent off when Mundele was brought down and the full back kicked the ball towards a prone Mundele’s head and was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.

Cray looked to threaten and Pritchard who had a great game alongside Allen in midfield saw a shot blocked inside the area and then Mundele found Taylor, seeking his second hat-trick in three games but his shot was held by Turner.

The nearest the home side came to scoring came in the 81st minute when from a free kick, Jake Turner played a ball into the area and a smart flicked header from Billy Hunt forced Carey to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.   From the corner, the ball came out to Jake Could and his cross was fired over by Hunt.

Cray had done more than enough to win the game and had wound down the second half efficiently and secured three straight wins to maintain their early playoff push and moved above Hornchurch into third place on 31 points. 

Tony Russell’s side now have a brief break with no match next weekend due to Hornchurch being in the FA Trophy and resume on 30th November with a mouthwatering game at Carshalton Athletic.    

Cray Wanderers:  Lewis Carey, Barney Williams, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Lee Lewis (Charles Etumnu, H/T), Bradley Pritchard, Charlie Allen, Ben Mundele, Joel Rollinson (Andre Coker, 78), Joe Taylor:  Subs:  Tom Murphy, Geofrey Okonkwo, Grant Hall

Att: 157