BY MARK DOIG
Bostik South East champions, Cray Wanderers proved their credentials with a professional performance to win at Three Bridges.
Although the title has already been claimed, Cray manager Tony Russell expects his players to keep performing until the end of the season as he looks to prepare for next season in the league’s premier division.
They remained true to their game plan, playing patiently from the back, defending obstinately, passing quickly in midfield and clinical in front of goal.
However, Russell did take the opportunity to experiment a little and he gave midfielder Tom Phipp a try-out at centre back and a debut to Charles Etumno. You only needed to see the players on the bench to see the quality in the entire squad and those that didn’t start are likely to be in the eleven that faces Sevenoaks Town on Easter Monday.
On the hottest day of the year so far, Cray were surprisingly slow out of the box. Ibby Akanbi was off target when well placed in the first minute then Lee Hall created a chance for Andrew Sesay that was blocked. Akanbi was first to the rebound but headed wide.
After that, Cray started to show their credentials when captain Barney Williams attempted to mark his return from a lengthy injury with a goal. Three Bridges goalkeeper, James Shaw, was equal to it and made an excellent save pushing it round the post.
Shaw then saved from Archie Johnson after he raced onto Mitchell Nelson’s defence splitting through ball. Nelson then headed into the net from a Freddie Parker free kick but was flagged offside.
Parker twice fired over before putting the champions ahead just before the break. The outstanding Nelson played another excellent through ball but it was Johnson’s delightful flick that sent Parker clear and he fired home via the far post.
Ten minutes into the second half Cray again showed their skill in playing out from the back. Goalkeeper Nick Blue was inch perfect in picking out Williams and he drove down the wing and found Joe Clarke. He, in turn, picked out Taylor and he finished clinically.
Akanbi might have pulled one back but his shot came back out off the near post before Johnson was thwarted by an excellent tip-over save by Shaw. Blue then made a good save from John Lansdale’s free kick.
In the closing minutes Blue beat out Brannon O’Neill’s free kick and then recovered to claim Connor French’s follow up.
Cray Wanderers: Blue, Williams, Carlse, Phipp (Mundele 84), Nelson, Etumnu, Roberts, Parker (Pritchard 76), Taylor, Clarke, Johnson. Subs not used: Federico, Dadson, Dent.
PICTURES BY DAVE BUDDEN