Boro suffered only their second defeat of the season as Cray came from behind to claim all three points in front of a season’s best crowd of 415 at Coles Park.
Jamie O’Donoghue’s injury forced one change to the starting line up from Tuesday’s FA Cup win over Bracknell with Macca starting in his place.
Boro lined up: Miles, Olufemi, Richards, Mitchell, Michael O’Donoghue, Dombaxe, Durojayie, Aresti, Bawling, Percil, McDonald. Subs: Leblond (GK) Akindayini, Sambu, Vilcu, Djamas
Both sides started positively creating a chance each in the first few minutes, Murrell-Williamson shooting wide for the visitors before Percil shot straight at the keeper for Boro. But it was still a little unexpected when Boro scored after 12 minutes.
Percil harried and distracted the Cray central defender as he tried to carry the ball out from the back. Quick as a flash Aresti nipped in and robbed the ball. As he raced towards the edge of the box he slid a ball to Bawling who sidefooted in. It was almost two a minute later as Durojayie played a sumptuous pass over the full back’s head for Bawling who fired into the Cray keeper’s, Carey, chest from an angle.
Miles was soon called into action and produced a great double save, first low to his left, then diving right to push a shot from the edge of the box out for a corner.
Both sides looked threatening in attack. Percil had a shot blocked at source when well played in by Olufemi and a Cray free kick near the corner of the area was dragged wide.
But Cray would get a second free kick just outside the area on 27 minutes, and this time made it count. A fiercely hit drive could only be parried by Miles as it moved in the air and it fell to Pritchard 8 yards out who had no problem stabbing the ball in.
For the remainder of the half Boro looked the more dangerous. Almost vstraight from the restart Dombaxe brought a good save from Carey, and Percil couldn’t quite connect with an ambitious overhead attempt. All square at half time.
Boro began the second half unchanged and forced the early pace. Macca couldn’t quite keep his feet in the area as he tried to get into a crossing position, Percil curled just wide and Bawling forced Cray’s keeper into a fine save after good work by Aresti. From that save Cray broke, only to be stopped by an O’Donoghue foul as the counter got near the edge of the area. O’Donoghue was booked but the free kick came to nothing
Chances were traded until around the hour mark. Boro were nearly caught out playing out from the back but were able to recover the danger. Olufemi had a shot blocked and another chance fell to Bawling after more great approach play by Percil. His control and slightly underhit shot giving Carey time to get across his goal to save.
As much as the game had been an even affair, the next 15 minutes were almost all the visitors. Boro found possession and territory in short supply. Cray found a way to get the ball into their central strikers, hold it up and create pressure. When they took the lead with 20 minutes to go though it almost came from nowhere Cray full back Mundele strode forward from the right. As he approached the area he spotted a gap at Miles’ near post. A seemingly slow motion toepoke later and Miles had left himself a little too much to do as Boro fell behind.
Sambu was introduced for Macca but within a couple of minutes the deficit was doubled. Murrell-Williamson was played in behind O’Donoghue and crashed a shot high across Miles into the top corner.
When Dombaxe shot at Carey with 10 minutes to go it had been Boro’s first real attempt in 15 minutes.
Akindayini and Vilcu were brought on for Dombaxe and Mitchell as Boro began to have more attacking threat. Carey flicked away a Sambu header as Akindayini followed up but nothing clear cut was forthcoming.
A seemingly awkward landing meant led to an injury to Mundele and 5 minutes of added time. Boro worked to get an opening but the best they managed was Vilcu’s header that was easily saved. Cray could have made it 4-1 after a short backpass was intercepted. But as Miles forced the forward wide he could only turn the ball onto the post.
So, Boro fall to 6th, now one place behind Cray, but only 3 points of Worthing in first.
It felt like Boro could have got something from the game had they taken chances, but Cray’s pressure midway through the second half was the telling period of play.
Next Match: Saturday 24th October 2020, Maldon & Tiptree v Haringey Borough, FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round, 15:00, Maldon Stadium, CM9 5JQ.