Rooks take points against battling Cray

Picture courtesy of Gareth Spinks

January has been great for Tuesday night football, very good when I haven’t been able to get to many Saturday games, I can’t remember the last season there were so many games to choose from early in the year, maybe it’s because I’m looking further afield and not just close to home.

Despite both Worthing and Littlehampton having top of the table clashes, the fact I’ve seen both sides a far bit this season kinda took them out of the equation, tempted also as well by the fantastic looking burger at Hampton & Richmond which I’m sure I’ll get to before the end of the season.

In the end Gaz and I settled on Lewes vs Cray Wanderers, his first visit to the Dripping Pan and my first look at the home side this season, the visitors I saw record a fine win over Horsham only a month or two back.

The ground is quite unique in the sense of beach huts for hire to watch the game from and whilst being able to watch the game from high level on one side you can’t watch at pitch level, but this kind of thing is what brings the romance if you will to grounds and to non-league.

With Lewes now managed by ex-Cray pair Tony Russell and Joe Vines I was keen to see as well if they could replicate the success and improvement they made at Wanderers and also see in action the highly rated and coveted Ollie Tanner.

On a pretty cold night in East Sussex both sides were quite tentative in their starts, the home side wary after allowing a two goal lead to slip at the weekend while the visitors conceded four but ran out 5-4 winners against Carshalton, maybe mindful they needed to be a bit more resolute in defence.

Whilst Wanderers looked the more composed going forward during the first half, it was actually the home side who looked the more likely to find the net with more efforts heading towards Bayley Vose’s net than Lewis Carey.

We thought Chris Dickson was going to open the scoring on the half hour mark but shot just over having escaped his marker for the first time, well marshalled by the Rooks defence until then. It was then chances for the hosts to take the lead, Will Salmon heading against the post and Tanner’s shot being kept out by a fine save from Vose.

Just as we thought we were heading for a 0-0 scoreline at half time the game changed a minute before the half time whistle. A corner swung in from the Lewes right hand side caused some confusion in the six yard box and Joe Taylor’s flick was pushed into the net by Vose for the opening goal with the whistle being blown straight after Wanderers kicked off.

With the wind in their sails the home side came out stronger in the second half as Cray struggled to keep possession and Lewes extended their lead nine minutes into the half, Razz Coleman De-Graft was given too much space and curled a lovely shot past Vose.

The home side then could have had another goal or two with better pass selection, but Cray held out and tried to influence the game with a couple of substitutions and while Lewes were more content to sit back on the lead Cray couldn’t break them down and were restricted to half chances from distance leaving the majority of the 517 crowd happy with a home win.

Those three points keep the pressure on at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division although the general consensus is it’s Worthing’s title to lose, the rest can only win their games.

Russell and Vines certainly do look as if they are building something good on the South Coast and should well feature in the end of season play-off’s, this is a club who once were a National League club or Conference as it was known then.

Cray are in a transition period again after parting ways a few weeks ago with Danny Kedwell and under Grant Basey and Gary Alexander they’ve shown signs they will pull away from relegation danger over the coming weeks.

Great to catch up with Wanderers Chairman Gary Hillman during the game and find out the latest with their new stadium plans and also to see Sam Wright plus a favourite of our Premier Non-League podcast Chris Dickson, that was the first of four games in seven days for me so plenty more blogs to come!

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