Post Season Friendly – 4th May
Punjab United 5-1 Cray Wanderers XI
Charlie Bradford reports for the Non League Chronicles.
Tuesday 4th May 2021, 7.45 PM @ The Steve Cook Stadium @ Elite Venue
On a bitingly cold night in Gravesend, Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division side Punjab United beat an experimental Cray Wanderers side (of the Isthmian League Premier Division) to further enhance their preparations for the post-lockdown / Medway cup next month.
The hosts got off to a flying start in just the third minute when George Goodwin was allowed space and he made the most of this by going on a burst from the left-hand wing to the edge of the box before firing a shot away which crashed the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the goal line. Punjab’s number 8 however was Johnny-on-the-spot to tap the ball into the net.
Unperturbed by this, Cray Wanderers almost got an instant equaliser two minutes later when Cray’s number 11 found some space on the edge of the Punjab penalty area before firing a shot away which hit the top of the bar with the ball running out of harm’s way.
Both sides went close to getting the second goal in the game within the next ten minutes. Firstly Punjab’s number 11 produced a wicked low cross from the left to George Goodwin six yards out but Goodwin could not steer the ball onto target given the oncoming pressure from Cray’s centre half, with the ball finding the left hand side netting. Cray’s chance of this aforementioned 10 minute period fell the way of their number 8 when he won the ball back 30 yards from goal before running to the edge of the box and producing a daisy cutting shot which in the end was a comfortable save for Punjab’s goalkeeper as the shot went straight at him in the middle of the net.
Cray Wanderers however made Punjab’s goalkeeper work harder in the 25th minute to keep Punjab’s noses in front when their number 9 worked the ball onto his left foot following a marauding run and his powerful strike was met by an impressive save by Punjab’s goalkeeper who tipped the ball around the post for a corner.
Four minutes later came controversy. Punjab’s Luke Adams went sliding in for a loose ball with Cray Wanderers’ goalkeeper six yards out, with Adams just about avoiding serious contact. However, Cray Wanderers’ keeper did not respond kindly to this and stamped on Luke Adams whilst he was still on the floor, with the two then going tete-a-tete, with Cray’s number 6 then coming rushing in to push Adams away, causing a bit of a fracas! After a lengthy consultation with his assistants, the referee decided to book Luke Adams but send off Cray’s goalkeeper for the stamp.
With Cray not having a substitute goalkeeper on the bench, there was a lengthy pause as Cray decided who of the outfield players would see out the match in between the sticks. The decision was Cray’s number 5, and his first job was to try and save the resulting penalty that the referee correctly awarded to Punjab as the foul happened inside the penalty area with the ball still in play. A full 7 minutes after the incident, Luke Adams stepped up and blasted the penalty down the centre to double Punjab’s lead.
Clearly up against it a man down and without a recognised goalkeeper on the field, Cray gifted themselves a lifeline just a minute before stoppage time when Cray’s number 9 went over in the left-hand side of Punjab’s penalty area following a clumsy challenge on him. With the referee pointing to the spot, Cray’s number 9 picked himself up and dispatched the penalty coolly.
However, Punjab restored their two goal lead within a minute as a neat run by Punjab’s number 11 from the halfway line and down the left wing saw him eventually cut inside and produce a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner to no doubt make Chipie Sian’s half time team talk somewhat easier!
A third penalty of the game was awarded in the 53rd minute. Similar to Cray’s penalty earlier in the game, Punjab’s number 8 was tripped in the left side of the box. With the referee pointing to the spot, Luke Adams once again took the penalty for Punjab and once again he found the back of Cray’s net to all but seal the victory for the hosts.
Nine minutes later and Punjab themselves would have to put an outfield player in goal –definitely a rarity to see both teams have to do that in the same match! Punjab’s goalkeeper come off worse following a collision with one of Cray’s forwards and he groggily walked off to the dressing rooms, meaning George Goodwin had to don the gloves for the last 25 or so minutes.
With the wind now producing arctic like conditions (definitely not May springtime weather and more a night for a strong Bovril!), Cray continued to try and get themselves a goal back in the game and went close to doing just that in the 71st minute when their number 16 went on a jinking run before producing a low shot which went just wide of the right-hand post.
The 75th minute conjured up a chance for both sides. Firstly Cray’s number 8 had a long range effort end up well wide, and from the resulting goal kick, Punjab went up the other end and went close themselves when their number 10 took aim from the edge of the box with the ball ending up over the bar.
In the 83rd minute, Punjab won themselves a corner and the ball ricocheted around with Cray struggling to clear their lines before the ball eventually dropped to Pubjab’s number 2 around 10 yards out and he managed to stab the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to complete a nap hand for the hosts.
New Cray Wanderers player manager Danny Kedwell brought himself on for the final few knockings of the game and he nearly got himself on the scoresheet in the 87th minute when he had a go from the left side of the penalty area which Punjab’s stand in goalkeeper did well to palm down and save considering he isn’t a regular goalkeeper!
MOTM: Luke Adams (Punjab United) for his brace of penalties and for causing Cray’s defence problems throughout the game.
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