Kingstonian 0-0 Cray Wanderers
Kingstonian 0-0 Cray Wanderers

Cray Wanderers marked their return to the Isthmian Premier by picking up a deserved point after a highly competitive and entertaining goalless draw at Kingstonian.

Despite at times the difficult, gusty conditions both sides set out in a positive manner looking to make the breakthrough with both goalkeepers in superb form and the two defences well drilled meant despite plenty of endeavours the scoresheet remained blank at the finish. Lewis Carey on his league debut for Cray Wanderers made three key saves during the match including a top drawer stop to deny Dan Bennett’s close range header while at the other end Rob Tolfrey excelled to keep out Karl Dent’s curling goal-bound cross-shot.

Cray arrived at King George’s Field confident at doing well but were without three key players in the starting lineup with Jay Leader, Bradley Pritchard and Charlie Allen unavailable. There were Cray Wanderers league debuts for Lewis Carey and wide players Tom Murphy and Andre Coker. Defensively, Tom Phipp slotted effortlessly alongside Mitchell Nelson providing a solid barrier with Lee Lewis in centre midfield with Freddie Parker and Karl Dent looking to get forward to support the hard working Joe Taylor up front.

The windy conditions meant the game perhaps was never going to be the high scoring affair expected but two good sides didn’t lack for trying. Kingstonian with a number of new arrivals at the club from Merstham alongside former Moatsiders manager Hayden Bird perhaps just shaded the early exchanges and Dan Bennett blasted a free kick well over. Then the first real opening game fell to the K’s in the 7th minute when the lively Louie Theophanous latched onto Reece Hall’s pass and turned a shot just past the left post.

Cray were looking positive going forward with Murphy lively especially in the first twenty minutes down the right and the pace of Coker out on the left looked to be causing the home side problems. The first shooting chance for Cray came when the superb Tom Carlse down the left found Coker whose ball across came to Murphy who curled a shot fractionally wide of the left post. Shortly after Murphy put a ball into the area which was headed out Sean Clohessy as far as Coker but his shot was well off target.

The Wands continued to go forward and Murphy again to the fore found Parker but his shot lacked sufficient power to trouble Rob Tolfrey too greatly. Then Cray were unlucky when Taylor latched onto a ball forward from midfield and from just inside the area lofted the ball just over the crossbar.

From here Kingstonian perhaps shaded the rest of the first half and came close to scoring when Theophanous’ run forward ended with him being brought down just on the edge of the penalty area by Mitchell Nelson. From the free kick, Bennett hit the ball over the top.

Defensively, Cray were excellent during this spell but were nearly breeched when Jerry Puemo found Theophanous whose shot was well saved by Carey with his legs and as the ball came out Bennett lifted the ball towards goal where Barney Williams perhaps hindered by the breeze hooked the ball across the six yard box and Fabio Saraiva couldn’t get enough of a connection to his volley and the ball went wide.

Before the break a free kick on the right of the area saw Saraiva’s shot come back off Tom Carlse and away while at the other end Coker shot wide from Parker’s pass but at half time it was level pegging.

Half Time: 0-0

The second half saw the conditions get considerably windier and for the first ten minutes of the second half neither side could really get the ball under sufficient control and the game understandably perhaps became somewhat scrappy.

Around the hour mark though the game picked up again with a lively few minutes of action. First for Cray, Lee Lewis found Karl Dent who played the ball out to Coker down the left, nipped into the area and put over a cross towards the far post where Murphy was unlucky to see his header go just wide of the left post.

Then after 62 minutes, Simon Cooper played a ball forward to Theophanous who held the ball up well against Nelson and from inside the area saw his shot pushed away brilliantly by Carey.

Straight up the other end Dent out on the right hoisted a viciously dipping cross-shot towards goal perhaps wind assisted but Tolfrey did superbly to get a hand to the ball to push the ball out. Then Dent tested Tolfrey with a shot from 25 yards.

It was looking like one goal would win this game with chances at a premium but Cray came close when Phipp set up Taylor who curled a shot just past the left post. Then at the other end Bennett shot wide from Tom Kavanagh’s layoff.

In the 73rd minute came a key moment when Saraiva’s ball into the box was met by a close range header from Bennett which seemed to be goal bound but for a brilliant one handed stop by Carey pushing the ball over the top.

The last quarter of an hour saw a real competitive edge to the game but never anything more than through the intensity of the game and never dirty despite a booking apiece. Both defences were proving even harder to break down and the last half opportunity for Kingstonian came in injury time with the award of a free kick down the right of the area but the ball into the area was cleared.

In the end the final whistle went and overall a justified result as both sides showed their qualities and Cray deserved to gain a point with a mature performance. Carey looks a great acquisition in goal while at the back, Williams, Carlse, Nelson and Phipp were excellent against a lively attack. The midfield held their own and Lee Lewis went about his work in a quietly unfussy manner and seemed to enjoy the game while Murphy and Coker had their moments out wide.

Dent and Parker worked hard as did Taylor who perhaps didn’t get too many sights of goal but put in a tremendous shift. It was also great to see Aaron Rhule come on for the last quarter of the game for his first appearance since January and despite the absences and the conditions a good start to the season.

Now Cray head to Hayes Lane for the next three league games starting against Folkestone Invicta who began with a 2-0 win against Worthing on Wednesday night but this afternoon it was great to be back in the Premier Division once again and roll on the next 41 games.

Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Sean Clohessy, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (Capt.), Jerry Puemo, Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett (Gus Sow, 77), Kenny Beaney, Louis Theophanous, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall: Subs: Dan Thompson, Calum Davies, Dan Hector, Lewis Pearch

Booked: Hall

Cray Wanderers: Lewis Carey, Barney Williams (Capt.), Tom Carlse, Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp, Lee Lewis, Karl Dent, Freddie Parker, Tom Murphy (Aaron Rhule 67), Andre Coker, Joe Taylor: Subs: Jerome Federico, Charles Etumnu, Joe Vines, Grant Hall

Booked: Nelson, Rhule

Att: 277

Referee: Michael Chard

Assistants: David Cox, Samuel Gregory

Att: 194

Pictures supplied by Jon Hilliger