Tuesday 20th April 2004

It's crunch time at the top of the Go Travel Kent League

Cray Wanderers' manager, Ian Jenkins' finally got his hands on the Kent Senior Trophy, when Ian Rawlings' 89th minute winner saw his side defeat Hythe Town 1-0 at Ashford Town's Homelands ground on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

Jenkins, whose side lost the previous two finals to Thamesmead Town and Maidstone United, said: "The conditions were shocking to be honest with you.  The wind was blowing and the pitch wasn't as good and in a right state.  It was a good leveller for both sides and no football was played."

He admitted: "Hythe had the better chances in the first half with the wind behind them, but we came out stronger in the second half and we were the better side.

"With the wind behind us we put them under a bit more pressure and to be honest a draw and extra time would have been fair, but my skipper Ian Rawlings' headed home the winner."

Currently in third place, Cray Wanderers travel to league leaders VCD Athletic, their final game of the season, on Saturday.  

However, after this, Cray have three games to play, and have an advantage over the Vickers, who groundshare Lordswood's North Dane Way, ground in Walderslade, Chatham, and second placed Thamesmead Town, who finish off their campaign the following weekend, with a home game against Hythe Town.

Hythe Town come to Hayes Lane to face Cray on Monday evening, and depending on the weekend's events, victory for Jenkins' side could have the victory sewn up with two games to spare.

Defending champions, Cray, finish their season off with a double header against Maidstone United.  They play away at Bourne Park in Sittingbourne on Saturday 1st May, before playing the Stones at Hayes Lane on May Bank Holiday Monday.

Speaking about Saturday's clash against VCD Athletic, Jenkins insisted: "We mustn't lose the game.  A draw would be a good result - a win would be fantastic!"

Unlike Premiership giants Arsenal, Cray Wanderers are still on course to land a unique treble, as they face Thamesmead Town in the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division Cup Final at Folkestone Invicta's Cheriton Road ground on Saturday 8th May (3pm).

The last Kent League side to complete the treble were Herne Bay in 1997.  Managed by current Dartford boss Tommy Sampson, the Winch's Field outfit won the Kent League, Kent League Cup and Kent Senior Trophy in the same season.

Jenkins said: "We are in a good position to win the treble, as we are still involved with the other two competitions.  It's up to us", he said:

"If we can get a good result at VCD Athletic on Saturday and beat Hythe Town on Monday - then the league is ours!", he said proudly.

However, VCD Athletic manager, Martin Ford admits it's his side's last chance in they are to get their hands on the Kent League championship.

His side are four points ahead of Cray, and if successful, Ford thinks it will be tough for Jenkins side to claw victories against an in-form Hythe Town side and Maidstone United to overtake his side.

Ford said: "For VCD's point of view it's our last chance to win the league.  Anything less than a win will make Cray Wanderers favourites.  If we draw, Thamesmead Town can only finish second at best, so we are going out for an all out win and setting our stall out for three points."

If VCD Athletic fail to win, then Thamesmead Town have a chance to land the trophy, but will need to beat Hythe Town at Bayliss Avenue the following weekend.

It's just a shame that, not for the first time, the Kent League season isn't finishing at the same time for all clubs.  Last Saturday, Slade Green and Lordswood, who aren't involved in the promotion race, finished off their 32 league game campaign, some teams finish this weekend, but Cray and Maidstone finish off their league season on Monday 3rd May.

VCD Athletic  vs  Cray Wanderers, Go Travel Kent League Premier Division, Saturday 24 April, 3.00pm, @ Lordswood FC, North Dane Way, Walderslade, Chatham, Kent