Wednesday night football this week gave me a couple of opportunities for something a bit different and the chance to meet up with former Bromley boss Neil Smith.
With living down the road from the Hayes Lane ground Cray Wanderers share with Bromley it was an ideal time to catch up with Neil having worked out it’s been 18 months since we last got together so it was well overdue.
It was also going to be his first visit back to the ground and club where he spent 10 years before being sacked in March last year, probably better it was Cray to watch and not the Ravens.
Horsham were the visitors in town on the back of six straight wins and now looking up at the play-off’s instead of those below them. Having watched them eight days earlier at home dispatching Wingate & Finchley 2-0 it’s not often I watch the same side two games in a row but the chance to grab a game with Neil was an easy choice to make.
Cray are certainly in a transitional period under new boss Danny Kedwell, a man with a great reputation through the non-league game and whilst he runs Ebbsfleet Utd’s academy this is his time to cut his managerial teeth.
Results and performances have been hit and miss but looking at his squad there is a wealth of experience that should see them find their way to a decent run of form.
Both sides traded early half chances without threatening either goalkeeper, but with Cray starting to win the midfield battle with on loan former Bee Sam Skeffington pulling the strings alongside Cameron Brodie, another loanee from Dartford.
And it was Cray who opened the scoring on 16 minutes, a ball across the box wasn’t quite collected by Jamie Yila but fell kindly for debutant Kyel Reid whose left foot shot found its way past Sam Howes in the Hornets goal.
Yila thought he had doubled the lead just after the half hour mark but his free kick found the wrong side of the net. Horsham looked to work their best chances through Lucas Rodrigues but the winger was unable to provide the needed spark and with Rob O’Toole and Charlie Hester-Cook well marshalled by the Cray backline the home side went into the break with the lead.
As expected at the beginning of the second half the Hornets cranked up the pressure and for a good 10 minutes or so Cray struggled to both retain possession and get out of their own half.
Cray were close to a second on the hour, Reid’s left wing cross headed straight at Howes by Chris Dickson as the home side began to get a footing back in the game.
With Reid not pushing his full back towards his own goal Kedwell brought on Anthony Cook, just as the Hornets own substitute Lee Harding danced his way through the home backline and his rasping effort wasn’t far past Jack Turner’s post.
Just as it could have been 1-1, moments later the scoreline did change. Skeffington broke forward and fed Yila whose shot was saved by Howes; Dickson however was on hand to double the home side’s lead.
With Cook providing pressure on the Hornets midfield, the loose ball was picked up by Brodie who slid an inch perfect ball into the path of Yila who made no mistake to put the game beyond the visitors with eight minutes to play.
Just as Cray seemed set to claim a clean sheet to go with the three points Eddie D’Sane was fouled in the box and Charlie Harris claimed a consolation goal with a thumping penalty past Turner, but that couldn’t take the shine off a decent home performance.
A few around me were surprised at how there wasn’t more from Horsham given their current form, but with so much Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday over the last few weeks quite conceivable that the legs finally caught up with them, that’s also to take nothing away from Kedwell’s team who put together an impressive performance and one that hopefully starts off a good run for the side.
Great performance from young Brodie in the Cray midfield, reminded me very much of a younger Harry Taylor whilst Skeffers energy I know all about from his time at Barnet last season, as Neil pointed out too Kedwell made his substitutions at the right time, Freddie Barton also stood out well at right back.
Neil picked out Harding who tried hard to get things going for the Hornets when he came on, but the game was getting away from them as he entered the fray.
Great to catch up briefly after the game with Dicko, someone we’ve featured on our PNLP podcast a couple of times, and with Neil knowing everyone there were conversations with Dartford boss Steve King, Keds after the game and some great people at Cray, Gary Hillman the chairman and Sam Wright the CEO.
Got to also mention Charlie Bradford who puts together some fantastic reports from all the games he attends and nice to meet a couple of fellow Twitterati, Colin Head and Victor Klarfeld, an evening well worth the late night drive home………..