Cray Wanderers 3-1 Hythe Town
Go Travel Kent League Premier Division
Monday 26 April 2004
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane
CRAY WANDERERS' were crowned champions of the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division for the second successive season, after coming from behind to beat Hythe Town at Hayes Lane tonight.
Just like they did on Saturday at league leaders VCD Athletic, a goal down, Ian Jenkins' players came back to score three goals.
Hythe Town, without manager Paul Fisk who was away, were led by their assistant Lee Palmer, and he saw his side take the lead seven minutes before half-time.
But a disallowed goal for the home side three minutes later, sparked the defending champions into life, going in at the break on level terms, before finishing the job off inside fifteen minutes of the second period.
It took Hythe only five minutes to issue the home side a warning, that they weren't at Hayes Lane just to make up the numbers, when, from an acute angle, four yards from the by-line, Marc Pollard's effort clipped Micky Simmons crossbar.
Four minutes later, pint-sized Cray front runner, Jamie Wood, saw his seventeen-yard effort, after latching onto a long clearance from his goalkeeper, flash wide.
Hythe's Jason Brazier delivered a corner kick from the right hand side for Pollard to send a downward header from seventeen yards wide of the left upright.
Seconds later, at the other end, Ross Lover, the home side's outlet from set pieces throughout this special occassion, delivered a free kick for an unmarked David Gray, who headed wide from six yards.
Not afraid facing the champions-elect in their own back yard, Hythe's Dean Widnall drilled a twenty-four yard shot wide, after he latched onto a headed clearance from Cray defender Danny Whelan.
Just past the half-hour mark, the home side used their long ball ploy to good effect when Danny Evans sent a long ball out of defence sending Kempster down the left. The former Maidstone United midfielder escaped appeals for handball before exchanging a low pass from Ricky Bennett before Kempster's sweet shot from twenty-yards flew wide of the far post.
Hythe's shot-stopper was almost left red-faced from Kempster's wicked bouncing cross, where he was forced to touch it wide of the far post, at the last second.
Hythe took the lead in the 38th minute when Brazier's flag kick from the right hand side was met by a powerful header at the far post by Julian Holmes, who came upfield for the set-piece from his normal defensive role.
However, Cray responded almost immediately, when Lover delivered a free kick from the left. Although it appeared Holmes had headed the ball back towards goal, David Gray nipped in to head the ball home and started his celebration but the goal was ruled out for an offside flag.
The three minute delay put Hythe out of their stride, and they were punished inside injury time when Cray hit back.
Lover's corner kick was touched on at the near post and a Hythe defender cleared the ball off the line. However, Kempster reacted and nodded home the equaliser inside the left post from close range.
Hythe goalscorer, Holmes' volleyed over from twenty-five yards out and his goalkeeper Day, saved from Jamie Wood. Ian Rawlings' played a long ball out from the back and Bennett's first touch sent Kempster on his way before setting up Wood who tested the goalkeeper.
Ten minutes into the second half, Cray were given a helping hand by Referee Mr M Rogers, when they were awarded a penalty kick, and people in the stadium couldn't really see why.
Speaking after the game, the man in black gave his reasons why he awarded Cray the penalty - which was the turning point in the entertaining game.
Rogers said: "Hythe's number five (Dan Porter) grabbed the shirt of Cray's number four (David Gray) stopping him going for the ball as the free kick was taken."
Cray had one hand on their championship trophy as Jamie Wood drilled the penalty left-footed inside the bottom right hand corner sending Day the wrong way from the spot.
Cray were in party mood on the hour when they scored their third goal and wrapped up the title, when Kempster headed home at the far post following a peach of a cross from the left.
Two long range shots from Kevin Clifford and Ian Hayes could have put the visitors back into the game, but from the formers shot, was too comfortable for the experienced Cray goalkeeper.
Widnall's cool control with the ball allowed him to strike a half volley wide of the left post from 24 yards.
A minute later, Hythe defender Scott Thomas was left for dead by speedy Wood, who raced down the right flank. Thomas did manage to follow the striker, who cut inside, before blasting over the crossbar from twenty-yards.
Cray goalkeeper Simmons made one step to his right to save Brazier's 25-yard free kick and then made a fantastic save from Widnall's half volley from 30-yards, from a central position, which was heading for the top left hand corner of the net, but was denied by a flying save from the goalkeeper who pushed the ball out.
After six minutes and five seconds of stoppage time, Cray Wanderers were champions for the second time in two season's and Ian Rawlings was presented the trophy by Kent League vice-chairman, David Skeel, and more importantly, Ian Jenkins' side have been given the key to unlock defences in a higher level of football next term.
Cray Wanderers: Micky Simmons, Danny Whelan, Ian Rawlings, David Gray, Danny Evans, James Taylor, Ross Lover, Jamie Kempster, Jamie Wood, Ricky Bennett (Matt Woolf 80), Sam Wood. Subs: Andy Silk, John Mayall, Grant Hall (GK) Adam Heaslewood.
Hythe Town: Nick Day, Kevin Clifford, Scott Thomas, Julian Holmes, Dan Porter, Gavin Ransley, Dean Widnall, Ian Hayes (Frank Fisk 73), Roy Godden (Darren Walmsley 51), Marc Pollard, Jason Brazier. Sub: Terry King
Referee: Mr M Rogers
Assistants: Mr R Woods & Mr R Preedy