PREVIEW TO THE BIG MATCH
Saturday 17 January 2004
FA Vase Fourth Round
West Allotment Celtic vs Cray Wanderers
Cray ready for their biggest game in 23 years
Go Travel Kent League Premier Division leaders, Cray Wanderers are set to play their biggest game for twenty-three years on Saturday when they travel to North Tyneside to meet West Allotment Celtic in the fourth round of the FA Vase, writes Jerry Dowlen.
last reached that stage of the FA Vase in 1980-81. Player-manager Ian Jenkins
and the Wands' team know that it will be tough to overcome their Northern
Alliance opponents on their own turf on Saturday and go through to the last
sixteen of the competition.
But the Wands go into the game on the back of a formidable record that sees them top of the Kent League table at the turn of the year, and also through to the Kent League Cup quarter-final, the Kent Senior Trophy semi-final and the London Senior Cup 4th round.
Cray lost a good few of their record-breaking 2002-03 "double double"
winning squad to higher status clubs, some wondered if the 2002-03 season would
be a one-hit wonder for the Wands. That truly remarkable season saw both the
first team and the reserve team win their respective League championships and
anything, Jenkins has assembled an even stronger squad this season 2003-04, as
evidenced by their eight-point lead at the top of the table and their
astonishing tally of 97goals scored in all competitions to date. The defence has
meanwhile established a reputation for being hard to break down.
the run-up to Saturday's big game in the Vase, the Wands have repeated in
the first week of 2004 the same winning form that they displayed throughout
2003. The two close-fought wins against Erith Town (1 - 0) and Ramsgate (2 - 1)
in the Kent League weren't always pretty to watch but they have led to some
speculation as to what the starting line-up will be for the Vase game.
Jenkins has been rotating his team selection for the last few games, and although he and coach Joe Francis will keep their thoughts a closely-guarded secret, there is certainly plenty of competition to get a shirt for the game.
"Ian Jenkins Amber & Black Army" contains a strong blend of
experience and youth. Phil Turner, the skipper, played in the Deal Town FA Vase
winning team of 1999-2000, as did striker Ricky Bennett and midfielder Jamie
Kempster who is Cray's leading goalscorer this season with 23 goals. Cray's
'keeper Micky Simmons was an FA Vase quarter-finalist with Ramsgate in
Jenkins has not been afraid to give youth a chance too. Ross Lover and Sam Wood,
aged 17, have both been preferred on occasions to the more senior players and
have justified Ian's faith in them by making vital contributions. Wood's arrival
as substitute helped to turn the game when the Wands overcame Great Yarmouth
Town 3 - 2 in the Vase 3rd round, and Lover struck the dramatic winner in
extra-time when his free-kick flew into the net.
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