Isthmian Premier Division Sat 4 December The Crucial Environmental Stadium
  • Pearce (32')
  • Barker (43')
Cray Wanderers

Injury robbed Manager Adam Hinshelwood of the services of midfielder Dean Cox, who took up co-commentating duties alongside Pete “Motty” Vale on Rebel Yell Live and Marvin Armstrong started amongst the replacements. Their places were taken by Luca Cocoracchio and full debutant Ollie Starkey, with the returning Callum Kealy also named amongst the subs.

On a somewhat “warmer” afternoon, compared to last Saturday’s arctic conditions at least, the hosts were looking to return to winning ways after suffering two defeats in their last three outings.

Ten minutes in, the first chance to do that was created by the trusted left foot of Jesse Starkey; his free-kick met by the stooping head of Aarran Racine but the Captain could only head into the arms of goalkeeper Jack Turner.

Almost midway through the opening period, Starkey Senior was the source once again, when he delivered into the danger zone where Ollie Pearce was just unable to get a clean contact.

A short time later and a neat build-up presented the home side with the best opportunity so far of ending the stalemate. Reece Myles-Meekums laid the ball back for Dajon Golding to blast over the bar from marginally inside the penalty area.

Then, a little more than half-an-hour into proceedings, Pearce made the breakthrough by getting on the end of Myles-Meekums’ low cross into the box almost off the left-hand byline, following the alert Golding pouncing on a loose ball in midfield as Cray tried, unsuccessfully, to break.

Golding had a go himself not long after that when, despite the close attentions of Dean Beckwith, the visiting Skipper still couldn’t stop the number nine getting a shot in which Turner saved by his near post. The chance coming about thanks to Pearce’s interception of Beckwith’s attempted pass out from the back and subsequent supply to Myles-Meekums, who in turn set Dajon free.

Meeky came close to doubling the advantage with an improvised and, indeed impish backheel flick to divert Jesse’s touchline set-piece goalwards, less than a minute further on into the encounter. However, he could do no more than watch it flick off the outside of the front stick and rebound behind for a goal-kick.

There was no stopping Starkey’s next ball into the box, after Myles-Meekums had taken a corner on the right and Jesse had come out to meet it; turning and sending it towards the back post for Danny Barker to pounce and head home his first Woodside strike of the season from close range, two minutes before the break.

Early into the second forty-five, Myles-Meekums swivelled and fired narrowly wide of the target after the guests struggled to clear Pearce’s right wing delivery.

Less than thirty remained on the clock when Starkey (J) dispossessed Freddy Barton in front of the Cray dugout and allowed Reece M-M to scamper away, penetrate the ‘d’ then tee-up Pearce to draw a low save out of Turner.

New loan signing Kealy was introduced to the action and didn’t take long to get involved; robbing Richie Danquah in a central position and spreading out to Myles-Meekums on the right. The mercurial winger broke into the box and led Kasim Aidoo a merry dance, only for Turner to gather his fizzed cross, at his left-hand upright, at the second attempt.

Armstrong had also been brought on at the same time as Callum and was soon scurrying down the left flank, after he’d latched onto a long, measured punt from (well) inside his own half by Starkey the Older. Surging into the eighteen yard box, he was, upon reaching the six yard area, met by the onrushing Parker who denied him from point-blank range.

Little was seen of the amber-clad away side, as the home team continued to take the game to their struggling opponents.

That was never better emphasised thanks to a sliding Barker bringing their efforts at playing out from the back to an abrupt halt and releasing Myles-Meekums in the process. He spotted Pearce to his right and the ten’s high, deep delivery picked out the incoming Kealy who too slid in, got a touch though unfortunately not a decisive one and Beckwith booted clear.

A rare opportunity to salvage something from the match presented itself to Cray in the dying embers of the contest.

Anthony Cook located the dome of substitute Jamie Yila, after he’d drifted in the direction of the near stick, risen above the rest but glanced off target.

Yila then nearly gave Aidoo the chance to put the cat among the pigeons, though sadly the pair were on differing wavelengths, as the left-back failed to run onto a forward pass which simply ran out of play for a goal-kick and was immediately met with a shrill blast of the referee’s whistle.

Signalling the end of what can satisfyingly be described as a routine three points.