It was honours even at Hayes Lane as playoff contenders Cray Wanderers and Hornchurch fought out a 1-1 draw in a superb, end to end game where football was the winner if neither of the sides could quite manage it.

With a minute to go in the first half, Hornchurch went in front when from a George Saunders corner, the ball was flicked goalwards by Jordan Clark but the ball was diverted into the net by Joel Rollinson.  Cray though came back into it after Saunders hit the crossbar for the Urchins when Mundele unleashed a thunderbolt from 25 yards to level the scores and despite Cray having the better of the last 20 minutes couldn’t find a winner.

The teams came into the game level on points and in 6th and 5th place respectively and once the game started were equally evenly matched.  Cray began the game confidently and brightly and from an early free kick out on the right, Bradley Pritchard’s ball into the box was aimed for Jay Leader and was deflected off Cunnington and behind for a corner.   Then shortly after, Ben Mundele cut in from the right and his shot from 25 yards was well held by Joe Wright.

Cray had the first real chance of the game when Bradley Pritchard and a deft Joe Taylor flick set up Rhys Murrell-Williamson down the left of the penalty area but pulled his shot wide of the left post.

Hornchurch though looked strong going forward and came close when George Saunders right wing cross looked to be touched in at the far post by Chris Dickson but good defending by Mitchell Nelson knocked the ball behind and off goal.

Then in a similar move, a flick header from Jordan Clark found Dickson and his cross to the far post for Cunnington was also diverted behind for a corner by Lewis Carey.  Meanwhile at the other end, Mundele found Murrell-Williamson down the left of the area and his shot was well blocked by Ricky Hayles.

Cray though were indebted to Carey who made an excellent save when Charlie Allen was dispossessed by Dickson and he played a pass to Cunnington down the right of the area and Carey did well to save with his legs.

Then a rare stray pass from Pritchard was intercepted by Dickson and was through one on one on goal but Carey did superbly to turn his shot round the right post from 12 yards.

For Cray from a free kick down the right by the touchline, 20 yards from goal, Murrell-Williamson fired in a shot which only narrowly went past the left post.

Still Hornchurch threatened and a shot from Dickson down the right of the area was fielded by Carey.  Then a shot from 25 yards from Matt Johnson was deflected behind for a corner.

With a couple of minutes showing before half time, Hornchurch ended the half well and Saunders and Dickson combined to set up Ronnie Winn whose shot from the left of the area was pushed out well by Carey and following up the ball was put behind for a corner.  From that corner in the 44th minute, Hornchurch broke the deadlock.  The left wing corner from Saunders towards the near post was helped on by Jordan Clark into the area and in a crowded goal mouth the ball went into the net off Joel Rollinson.

Cray were not too downhearted at being a goal down and were still very much in the match and early in the second half a corner from Pritchard down the right was met by Leader who got under the header and the ball was claimed by Wright.

Hornchurch came close to adding to their lead when a ball in from Johnson into the area found Dickson who did well to turn and find space in the area but pulled his shot wide of the left post.  For Cray, following a corner down the left the ball came out to Lee Lewis who let fly with a terrific shot from 30 yards which went just wide of the right post.

For the visitors though, they came closest yet when a ball forward by Wright was headed on by Cunnington to Saunders who from the on the left edge of the area lobbed the ball goalwards but came back off the crossbar.   Then, Saunders found Clark who made a run into the area and his near post shot was parried away by Carey.

Another goal in the game was overdue and it came for Cray in the 69th minute and was well worth waiting for.  There seemed to be nothing on when Pritchard’s ball in midfield found Mundele down the right who picked up the ball, made a run from just inside his own half down the right, cut inside and unleashed a crashing shot which beat Wright and hit the top left hand corner for his second goal of 2020.

Cray’s tails were now up and shortly after down the right, Taylor won the ball and set up Murrell-Williamson who shot wide of goal.  Cray then had good possession and applied pressure with Williams and Rollinson combining for Mundele once again but this time from a similar position shot well wide. Meanwhile, for Hornchurch, Mickey Parcell fired well over the top.

However, despite their best endeavours and pressure Cray couldn’t find a winner and in the end a draw was probably the right outcome as both sides played well and hopefully can still be in the playoff contention when the sides next meet on 18th April.  The point for Cray keeps them sixth in the Isthmian Premier table while Hornchurch moved up one place to 4th on goal difference.

Cray Wanderers are next at home on Saturday, 18th January when Lewes are the visitors to Hayes Lane, 3pm.

Cray Wanderers:  Lewis Carey, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Lee Lewis, Charlie Allen, Bradley Pritchard, Joel Rollinson (Aaron Rhule, 87), Rhys Murrell-Williamson (Jerome Federico, 77), Joe Taylor: Subs: Karl Dent,  Geofrey Okonkwo, Grant Hall

Att: 210