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Smith delighted as Cray battle
Smith delighted as Cray battle

After an uncertain start, Cray Wanderers had too much for East Thurrock United in their relegation six pointer leaving manager Neil Smith delighted.

The three points, combined with their superior goal difference means that something extraordinary would have to happen for the Wands to drop out of the Isthmian League Premier division. Manager Neil Smith has only been in situ for a short period but has already started to turn the team around.

“I’m delighted for the club and the boys.” He said. “We came in three weeks ago and Gary (Hillman) asked us to do our very best, to not to just stay up but to try and build the club. We took the challenge, we knew it was going to be a tough one, and to be fair we probably should have got results in the first two games. I’m absolutely delighted for the players, because they’ve worked hard in training, for the supporters and for the owners of the club.

“It was a must win.” He continued. “You saw the results from the weekend and we knew that we had to win today. We didn’t want to put pressure on the boys but if you don’t win, it’s a tough ask to go and win at Bishop’s Stortford.” 

In the early stages, Cray struggled to impose themselves. Smith admitted “The first fifteen minutes you could see a lot of nerves, a lot of people making mistakes, As soon as we got the goal you could see the nerves drop and then we got the second one. But I’ve seen so many games here and nothing’s over until it’s over.”

Chris Dickson claimed two goals and an assist. “Dicko was outstanding today.” He beamed. “We had a little bit of a deeper role for him to try and help the young guys around him. There’s some good players there. They should be better than where they are so I’ve got to ask the question, why are they there.”

All four Wands goals were good, but Smith really enjoyed the fourth. He said “That last goal, what an absolute brilliant goal. If that was last night against Man United and Liverpool scoring it, they’d be absolutely hoo-hawing about it. Sam Wood was outstanding again. He’s been absolutely immense since he’s come into this club.”

Smith confirmed that the victory didn’t just happen. “We had the boys in training last night. It wasn’t a case of just rock up after the weekend. We’ve been working on things in training. We’ve been working on patterns, on shape, on set plays and I think you saw that organisation in the boys.

“I’ve always tried to play. Sometimes on the surfaces in this division, you’re not going to be able to  because they are going to be a little bit bobbly but you’ve got to know when to play and how to play and I thought that the boys took on every bit of information that we gave them today. To a man I thought that they were absolutely outstanding today.”

When Smith agreed to take the reins at Cray, it was back to Hayes Lane which they share with his previous club Bromley. Smith laughed “I said it when I walked in. It’s so ironic that I left a year ago. You think you might come back but I’ve come back and I’m walking into the home dressing room and I thought that would never happen again after everything that happened so it was a bit strange.

“I’ve got Jack Holland turning up tonight, George Porter turning up, Frankie Raymond. All the old boys, Bromley supporters to join in with the Cray supporters who have been absolutely fantastic with me coming in. They’ve really welcomed me with open arms. Tonight was really humbling and it was quite emotional to see so many familiar faces getting behind Cray and myself.”

As far as the upcoming weekend is concerned, Smith doesn’t want to rest on his laurels. “I’ll set up exactly the same way.” Smith confirmed. “Bishop’s Stortford are cemented in the play-offs. Do they rest players? My players are running on empty at the minute so I might have to freshen it but I don’t want to go there after a night like this and not try and win again. I want to finish on a high and at least not get beaten.”