Town’s Year Ends With A Whimper

Cray Wanderers 2-0 Enfield Town

Enfield Town’s run of three straight league wins came to a dismal halt on Friday evening as they ended 2023 with a 2-0 defeat to Cray Wanderers at Hayes Lane.

Town had James Richmond (rib injury) and Obi Onyeagwara (illness) sidelined, though still named ten of the eleven which had started Boxing Day’s victory away at Cheshunt; Josh Okotcha the single change for Richmond in central defence. They arguably started the brighter, too. Marcus Wyllie had found some early joy down the left and with barely two minutes gone his squared pass fell into the path of Mickey Parcell, but his effort was snuffed out and cleared. Town were pressing high and recycling the ball well enough in the opening stages yet lacked a final product; minutes later Scott Thomas pounced on an errant pass and fed Dylan Adjei-Hersey whose deep cross looped narrowly beyond the far post.

Their best chances of the half – in truth their best of the entire match – arrived on 11 minutes as a fleet-footed counter down the left flank saw Ollie Knight and Sam Youngs exchange passes before Youngs’ guided shot was well parried by Shaun Rowley; Reece Beckles-Richards not quite close enough to turn in the rebound. The resulting corner was attacked well by Okotcha, only for his goalbound header to be nodded off the line by Frankie Raymond, who was well-positioned all game.

An injury to Cray’s Jack Holland on 20 minutes required a lengthy stoppage, and perhaps this disrupted the flow of Town’s game. Perhaps the change of intensity from Boxing Day’s local derby had rubbed off on Enfield. Not that either would have been any excuse to Gavin Macpherson who was seething at the aimlessness of Town’s play for the remainder of the match. Likewise at the manner in which Town ultimately fell behind. A cheap free kick was conceded down the inside-right channel, with Raymond’s flighted ball into the centre met by debutant Tayo Oyebola, glancing his header over a stranded Rhys Forster and in.

Enfield looked to respond in kind as a long ball released Beckles-Richards who could only shank the bouncing ball into the grasp of Rowley from the edge of the box. He was soon involved again but neither he nor Youngs could convert Ollie Knight’s inswinging cross. A stoppage time snapshot from Marcus Wyllie down the throat of Rowley was the only other effort of note as Town’s approach became increasingly direct, playing into the hands of their hosts who had the physical advantage throughout.

Half Time: CWFC 1-0 ETFC

The second half began as the first had ended; Town seeing plenty of the ball but failing to muster any kind of cutting edge, resorting to long passes which were mopped up with relative ease by the Wands defence who were beginning to spring some rapid counters of their own. Gary Lockyer had flashed an effort narrowly wide of the mark before he turned provider for Cray to double their lead on 58 minutes in route one style; Lockyer knocking down his goalkeeper’s punt upfield for Ellis Brown to hammer into the left-hand corner on the half-volley.

Enfield introduced Lewis Taaffe and Jonathan Hippolyte for Adjei-Hersey and Beckles-Richards, yet the pattern continued as Town’s build-up veered between the direct and the desperate. Youngs scuffed an effort straight at the goalie and Hippolyte’s close-range header nicked off a defender before the hosts went close to a third as Sam Wood and Alfie Evans tried their luck from distance. A game of precious little quality had precious little of note as it ebbed away, with Cray seeing out five minutes of stoppage time to record their first league win in six weeks; their first home win over Enfield Town at the sixth attempt.

This was a result which contradicted both sides’ league positions, and a sharp reminder for the Towners of the performance levels required to sustain a challenge for the top five, let alone top spot: “A dreadful game of football but we were the worse team out there”, said boss Macpherson. “It was long ball after long ball… we weren’t brave enough to get on the football today and we shrunk, in truth. Aimless balls down the centre-halves’ throat were never going to work and that wasn’t what was asked of them.”

“That’s probably the poorest we’ve played… unrecognisable from our point of view.
“The only thing we can do now is look forward to Monday and putting it right.”

Town: Forster; Parcell, McKenzie, Okotcha, Payne; Thomas, Youngs, Adjei-Hersey (Taaffe 61’), Knight; Beckles-Richards (Hippolyte 64’), Wyllie

Attendance: 307