Cray Wanderers 2 Bury Town 1 (17/04/2011)
An offer of a lift allowed me to make an unplanned trip to Bromley’s Hayes Lane, Cray’s temporary home in the middle London’s of expensive-looking south east fringes.
Cray Wanderers are the second oldest club in the world, and are celebrating their 150th year. In honour of this landmark the club has reverted to their original colours of chocolate with yellow stripes for the season. Limited edition replica shirts were available, but at £45 each, I was not tempted.
Rather like those better known extremely old clubs of Sheffield FC and Hallam, Cray Wanderers have never scaled any heights, and the current position in the Rymans Premier is their highest ever, so they can’t complain groundsharing has held them back too much. Bromley’s not a bad ground for this level either. A side and an end have about 15 steps of terracing with an assortment of crush barriers that’d be completely inadequate to allow the terracing to be ever used to anything like its true capacity. The other end of the ground is the same size, but has been converted, decades ago by the looks of things, into bench seating. Each bench space is individually numbered, which is an act of folly even for the hosts who get 600 at their games, but at least somebody had made the effort. At this level any work carried out at the ground is often a labour of love by volunteers. If somebody, while giving the benches a fresh coat of black paint, likes to dream of a day when crowds would necessitate allocated seating, who am I to get in his way?
The small main stand is functional, smart, but a little dull, while the open terracing down the side gave the opportunity to watch an amateur match taking place on a field next door, should interesting moments in the Cray match dry up.
On paper Bury Town were the favourites, coming into the weekend in 2nd place. They played, however, like a team who knew their hopes of automatic promotion were as good as over, and it was no surprise that Cray took a deserved lead halfway through the first half. It got worse for Bury Town with a double blow just before half time. First, just after going close themselves, they conceded a second when a shot across the keeper found the far corner. Then, just before half time, a clash in midfield involving ex-Ipswich/Leicester/Coventry/Crystal Palace/Leyton Orient striker James Scowcroft ended in him receiving a red card. I missed the actual challenge, but a loud comment from one Cray player of (to paraphrase) “I’ll think you’ll find that may have been an elbow Mr Referee” hinted at the reason why.
The second half was very scrappy, not helped by the referee, revelling in his new star billing, giving the crowd of 302 every chance to appreciate his excellence with the whistle.
Bury Town did pull one back deep into injury time, but never seriously, or even humorously, threatened to make it 2-2. It’s perhaps not Cray’s best win in 150 years, but it did push them another step nearer their best position.