Tuesday 27th April 2004

They have all been star players, says Hillman

CRAY WANDERERS chairman Gary Hillman, who has served the club since 1995, is still undecided about his future at the club, writes Stephen McCartney.

He was a delighted man when his side retained the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division championship at Hayes Lane on Monday night.

Cray are now on course to land a unique treble, to emulate Tommy Sampson, now manager at Dr Martens League side Dartford, who managed Herne Bay to the honour in 1997, when they won the Kent League, Kent League Cup and Kent Senior Trophy.

After beating Hythe Town in the final of the Kent Senior Trophy, thanks to Ian Rawlings' heading home an 89th minute winner at Ashford Town's Homelands home, the Wands face local rivals Thamesmead Town in the Kent League Cup Final at Folkestone Invicta's Cheriton Road ground on Saturday 8th May.

Cray retained the title with two games to spare, and face a double header against Maidstone United, away on Saturday, and at home at Hayes Lane on Bank Holiday Monday, knowing they are the best team in Kent League football.

Hythe Town, however, tried to spoil the championship winning party on Monday, and they took the lead in the 38th minute.  Jason Brazier's corner kick was met at the far post by a powerful header by Julian Holmes, who had come up from his defensive duties for the flag kick.

However, Cray responded as only champions can.  David Gray thought he had scored from a header, which was disallowed for offside, before the home side equalised inside injury time when former Maidstone United midfielder, Jamie Kempster, nodded home from close range after Hythe failed to clear Ross Lover's corner.

Ten minutes after the break, Jamie Wood's penalty, drilled into the bottom right hand corner gave Cray the lead, before the championship was sealed on the hour mark when Kempster headed home following a superb cross from the left.

Speaking after the game, Cray chairman, Hillman, was asked which championship was the sweeter? He replied: "They are all sweet aren't they!  This one was a lot more comfortable and with less tension than last year obviously.  Last season was a bit tense, and this one was more relaxed, you could enjoy it a bit more."

Last season, Cray needed to beat Lordswood on the final game of last season, and did so in a tense game, winning 2-0 at Hayes Lane.  They left it late, David Gray scoring after 77 minutes and a last minute strike from Richard Dimmock, gave them the Kent League title for the first time since 1980-81.

Hillman is looking forward to next season, hopefully the club will be placed in a higher league, and he admitted it would be good for local non-league football if his club were involved in the new mix-up.

"I am really looking forward to next season.  I know I said I wouldn't be here, but I don't know yet." he revealed.

"It will be a good league next year, it's going to be really good in this local area with all the local teams that attract good support, and it's going to up the standard of non-league football around this area." he predicted.

Hillman knows he must sign two or three new players for their assault at a higher level of football, but admitted it was to early to talk about this at present.  He did, however, praise the back-bone of his team for landing their second successive league title, and for being a good bunch of lads.

He said: "I know it's a bit of a cliché, but I think they have all been star players.  We've got a good squad, they're twenty good players. 

"Micky Simmons in goal, right the way through the team.  Micky said he was going to retire at the end of last season, but he has had a blinding season.  People have voted him player of the season.

"You've got Ian Rawlings, David Gray and up front Ricky Bennett, Richard Dimmock and Jamie Kempster - they are all good - and have a beautiful team spirit" he boasted.

There is no doubt, if Cray can keep on having more nights like the one they enjoyed at Hayes Lane on Monday, Hillman can be persuaded to stay and carry on with the outstanding work as they build a platform for success at a higher level of football.

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