Cray Wanderers 3-1 Ashford United
Cray Wanderers 3-1 Ashford United

Cray Wanderers secured the win that finally saw them over the line and crowned Bostik League Division One South East champions with a 3-1 win over fellow promotion hopefuls Ashford Utd at Hayes Lane on Saturday afternoon.

Cray started the game well, but it was Ashford who had the best early chance when Sam Corne set up Danny Parish, but his shot was well saved by Nick Blue from close range.

The Nuts & Bolts were gifted another chance soon after when Blue’s goal kick fell to Bodi Anidugbe who played in Jay May, but The Wands keeper dived bravely at the striker’s feet and tipped the ball wide for a corner amid protests from the visitors for a penalty.

Cray looked a little nervy and struggled to get their passing game going for a spell, but once they did Ashford broke and Parish was again denied by Blue at his near post.

Archie Johnson and Joe Taylor had wayward efforts for the home side, but as The Wands started to play the chances came, Taylor was narrowly wide, Karl Dent put a free kick just over the bar before the breakthrough finally came just after the half hour. Sean Roberts played the ball out to Tom Carlse who cut into the box and was brought down by Afolabi Coker for a penalty. Taylor stepped up and despatched the spot kick to make it 1-0 to The Wands and settled the fans anxiety.

With Cray now playing with confidence and belief it was soon 2-0 when Dent’s corner found Mitchell Nelson who powerfully headed home from six yards out in a crowded area. Late in the half Tobi Ajala went close with a free kick for Ashford, but it was the home side who went in two up at the break.

The second half started with Ashford looking to get back into things, Parish had a free kick brilliantly tipped over by Blue, but just as they were on top they suffered a huge set back when Lee Prescott was sent off against his old team for a late challenge on Tom Phipp. The game drifted for a while with neither side settling, but then it opened up again. Dent crossed for Taylor who fired wide at one end while Parish saw another shot saved by Blue at the other.

Taylor had a goal ruled out for offside and Jake McIntyre put a shot across goal and just wide of the far post for Ashford. Mundele hit a powerful drive that was deflected wide for The Wands, before Ashford pulled a goal back on 78 minutes when Parish finally got the better of Blue to make it 2-1 from ten yards out, finishing off a good move down the right.

Both physios were kept busy as the game kept a physical edge, but it was Cray who finally put any doubts to bed with three minutes left when after great hold up play by Taylor, former Ashford player Carlse smashed the ball home from six yards following a scramble in the box. From there Cray saw the game out and were able to celebrate clinching the title at the final whistle.

This success is richly deserved by manager Tony Russell, his management team, the players and all involved with the club who have worked so hard to get to this point. With the club now starting work on a new home ground and Premier Division football to look forward to next season, it’s a great time to be connected with the club.

Cray: Blue, Mundele, Johnson (Lewis 89), Leader, Nelson, Dent (Frederico 70), Roberts, Pritchard, Phipp, Carlse, Taylor. Subs Not Used: Clarke, Etunmu, Parker.

Ashford: Mott, Aboagye, McIntyre, Prescott, Anudugbe (Mendy 77), Kamara, Coker, Corne, May, Parish, Ajala. Subs Not Used: Woodcock, Wisson, Mumyama, Williams.

Goals: Borough – Wands – Taylor 32pen, Nelson 41, Carlse 87mins. Ashford – Parish 78mins

Att: 268

Ref: Mr Paul Johnson