Cray Wanderers began a tough February schedule with a gutsy and hard earned victory against Horsham at Hayes Lane to make it seven unbeaten and remain 3rd in the Isthmian Premier despite playing for 77 minutes with 10 men.  

Against a strong Horsham side who began the game 4th and a point behind Cray, the Wands certainly had to do things the hard way when after 13 minutes, Ben Mundele was sent off after picking up two cautions.   

Cray though showed great character to regroup and went ahead in the 24th minute from the penalty spot after Joe Taylor converted his 28th goal of the season following a handball offence.  Three minutes later things got even better for Cray when Rhys Murrell-Williamson curled home a superb strike from just inside the box to make it 2-0.  Horsham though fought back and in the 29th minute replied when Lee Harding tapped in to set up a dramatic last hour of the game. 

The second half saw Cray having to put up a rearguard action to repel Horsham’s attacks and nine minutes from time had the chance to level when Lea Dawson was upended in the box but from the penalty spot, Harry Mills’ spot kick was turned round the post by Lewis Carey.  Cray then stoically held on and picked up a big win against another playoff contender.  

The game began with Horsham looking confident and certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and had the first shooting chance when Jack Brivio found Lee Harding down the right of the area whose shot was well fielded by Lewis Carey.  Then a Harvey Sparks cross was headed over by Mitchell Nelson and from one of a vast number of corners during the game, Alex Kelly’s cross was flicked on by Harry Mills towards goal by Brivio knocked the ball wide. In the 7th minute Greg Cundle was fouled by Ben Mundele down the left of the penalty area for a rather soft yellow card.  

Then Horsham came closest yet when Brivio’s cross came to Rob O’Toole down the left of the area and his shot was pushed over the bar by Carey.

A tough start to the game for Cray was added to in the 13th minute when Cundle just outside the area was brought down by Mundele and was dismissed to leave Cray a man short for a large chunk of the game.  From the free kick, O’Toole’s shot came back off the wall and behind for a corner. 

Cray though appeared rejuvenated by the red card setback and played their way into the a game and the excellent Rhys Murrell-Williamson down the right showed good pace to play a ball into the box to Federico but his drive was blocked by the Horsham defence.  Then, Jay Leader broke forward and found Pritchard who played a ball through to Joe Taylor who finished well but the flag was raised for offside.

Cray though didn’t have to wait too long to get their chance to go ahead when from a free kick out on the left, 20 yards from goal, Murrell-Williamson’s ball into the box towards Leader came back off the hand of Dylan Merchant and a penalty was awarded.  From the spot, Taylor stroked home the penalty for his 28th goal of the season and give Cray the lead.

Three minutes later, Cray added a second when Nelson hit a fine ball up to Taylor who chested the ball down, turned and swept the ball out to Murrell-Williamson down the right who cut inside and from just inside the box curled an unstoppable finish into the top left hand corner for his second goal in four matches.

There was barely time to draw breath when Horsham pulled a goal back when a Sparks’ cross from the right looked to be over hit but Cundle got to the ball before Charlie Allen to play the ball into the area and Harding was able to tap home from about 4 yards to make it 2-1.

Cray threatened to score again when Taylor was fouled just outside the area and from the

free kick, Murrell-Williamson curled his shot over the bar but Cray lead 2-1 at the break.

In the second half Cray had to withstand pretty concerted pressure being a man down but defensively the Wands were excellent with Leader, Nelson & Geofrey Okonkwo outstanding. Horsham pushed forward and must have won about 12 corners in the second half and from a left wing corner kick, Alex Kelly’s ball across was missed by Carey and went all the way through and back off the right post and the follow up shot from Cundle was blocked by Nelson on the line.

Horsham began to work Cray harder in the last 20 minutes and Chris Smith set up ex-Wands skipper Lea Dawson who hit a shot from 25 yards which was well held by Carey.  Then Smith was put through by Cundle who as Carey came out of goal, went round the keeper but sliced his ball across and eventually came out to Cundle who shot wide.

Then substitute Taurean Roberts found space just outside the area to loft a shot towards goal which Carey tipped over the bar.

With nine minutes to go, it looked like Horsham would be rewarded when a cross into the box from Joe Shelley from the left found Dawson who was bundled over by Karl Dent and a penalty was awarded.  From the spot, Harry Mills’ shot was well struck but Carey made a fine stop pushing the ball round the right post.

The Hornets still had one more good opportunity when Roberts found Kelly who from 25 yards hit a sweet strike which was pushed behind well by Carey.

Cray though had battened down the hatches well and held on for a big win against a playoff contender for the second straight week and breaks the 50 point barrier for the season keeping the Wands in 3rd place.  February gets even tougher next Saturday when Cray visit league leaders Worthing and with visits to Folkestone and East Thurrock to come this month it will be a big test but one which Cray will meet head on with character.        

Cray Wanderers:  Lewis Carey, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams (Capt.), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp (Karl Dent, H/T), Charlie Allen, Bradley Pritchard, Jerome Federico (Geofrey Okonkwo, H/T), Rhys Murrell-Williamson (Joel Rollinson, 84), Joe Taylor:  Subs: Palace Francis, Aaron Rhule

Att: 193