This FA Trophy second round match was played at Hayes Lane, the ground of high flying Bromley FC of the National League, which Cray Wanderers currently play home games at, while their new Sidcup Stadium is being developed. Overnight there had been some light snow and the weather was bitterly cold.
Cray Wanderers play in the Isthmian League Premier Division, a league below Ebbsfleet United of the National League South. Cray Wanderers are in 20th place in the league after 14 games, just two places off the bottom. In contrast Ebbsfleet sit in second place in the National League South, just three points behind leaders Dartford, but with two games in hand.
Ebbsfleet have two high scorers leading their attack this season with Dominic Poleon (once a scorer for Leeds United in the championship) scoring 9 from 12 games and Rakish Bingham 7 in 10 matches. Cray Wanderers are now managed by Danny Kedwell, once of Ebbsfleet and he has worked hard in this his first season to change the style of play and to keep the players focused and calm.
This was my first ever visit to Hayes Lane, although having extensively read the works of Dave Roberts, author of “Home and Away” and “The Bromley Boys” amongst others, with the latter being made into a successful film, I feel like I really already know the place!
Dave is currently quite poorly in hospital, having had an operation, so I want to send him a message of support and best wishes, whilst hoping this report takes him a little closer to the ground he loves, whilst he is too unwell to visit himself, albeit not a Bromley match!
The ground has two decent sized seated and covered stands, as well as an open and covered standing terrace. The pitch is 3G and benefits from four stanchion style floodlights in each of the corners. The capacity is 5000, with 1300 seated.
Ebbsfleet took the pitch in front of a crowd of 366, in their red shirts and white shorts. Cray Wanderers played in their home strip, of gold and black shirts and gold shorts.
The game started with both teams having opportunities and equal amounts of possession. On 27 minutes a headed goal for Ebbsfleet was disallowed after some delay, much to the consternation of the away fans.
In the 35th minute everything changed with the first goal of the game. Jamie Yila followed up, after a well struck free kick from Fjord Rogers was parried by Haigh in the Ebbsfleet goal, striking the ball home to make it 1-0 to the underdogs!
Just two minutes later, Jamie Yila got his second, as Cray Wanderers went 2-0 up after a superb through ball from Uchechi. Ebbsfleet had chances to score in the remaining minutes, but at the break, the score was 2-0 to Cray Wanderers.
The second half saw more battling from Cray Wanderers. Then on 71 minutes Rakish Bingham, on as a substitute, pulled a goal back for Ebbsfleet.
Cray Wanderers looked to have held their defence tight but Ebbsfleet looked more and more dangerous. The Cray keeper, Turner, kept a number of good chances out. Then in the 90th minute Ebbsfleet got the equaliser they deserved through the excellent Will Wood, who fired home. with his right foot, to force the game to penalties.
The penalty shootout was high quality. After a single miss from Ebbsfleet’s West, it was down to Dickson to secure the 5-3 shootout win and send Cray Wanderers into the 3rd round for the first time in their history. The celebrations reflected the achievement of Cray from the Isthmian league, beating one of National League South’s top teams.