Third time lucky for Cray Wanderers
Experienced skipper, Rawlings' gives Cray Trophy success at third time of asking
Cray Wanderers 1-0 Hythe Town
Kent Senior Trophy Final
Saturday 17 April 2004
Jerry Dowlen reports from Homelands
Club captain Ian Rawlings headed the 89th minute goal that brought the Kent Senior Trophy to Cra Wanderers, a story of "third time lucky" for the Wands after they had been losing finalists in 2002 and 2003.
On a bobbly and heavily-sanded pitch at Ashford Town where the bounce was high and the swirling wind often took the ball away from its intended destination, the first half was extremely scrappy as most players took the risk-free option of booting the ball first-time.
Ross Lover, whose influence on the game was to grow massively the longer it went on, and a player who was not afraid to take a touch and to create moves, set up Cray's first half-chance on 8 minutes. Ricky Bennett couldn't make contact with his cross at the near post, but the loose ball came out to Andy Silk only for him to shoot well wide.
A long free-kick from Rawlings was seized by Bennett on 13 minutes but Nick Day dived to his left to hold the Cray striker's shot.
Bennett threatened again on 25 minutes when he reacted first to control a long high-bouncing through ball, only to see his shot clip the top of the crossbar with Day beaten.
Hythe's first corner saw Lover kick a goalbound shot off the line, and then came a Hythe breakaway on the half-hour when Roy Godden zoomed in on goal but his low cross-shot from the right was fingertipped round the post by Cray 'keeper Micky Simmons.
Jason Brazier twice drifted away from his marker as the Cray defence nodded alarmingly, but he fluffed both of the opportunities to hit the target for Hythe.
Although the second half did not noticeably bring any improvement in the players' mastery of the windy conditions, a pattern gradually developed of Cray making the running, with Hythe being restricted to breakaways.
Bennett was crowded out after a promising run, and Jamie Kempster volleyed wide from a Rawlings cross on 57 minutes but for all their pressure it was Cray who nearly fell behind on 72 minutes when Simmons threw himself to make a double-save that prevented Hythe forcing the ball home from an awkwardly inswinging corner-kick.
The introduction of Sam Wood on the left made a telling impact for the Wands who began to steamroller their tiring opponents and to show that even on this pitch they could reproduce some flashes of their trademark flowing football.
Richard Dimmock, whose close-control and battling strength was a thorn in Hythe's side all afternoon, took Wood's pass and carved out space for a shot that crept wide of the far post after 84 minutes.
Hythe's desperation could perhaps be measured by the tally of five players booked, to Cray's none, as the seasiders increasingly resorted to some clumsy tackling to keep the Wands at bay.
Cray's pressure was rewarded in the 89th minute when Lover's corner-kick was met by Rawlings for a header that Day couldn't keep out, the ball dropping into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
When Cray last won the Kent Senior Trophy, defeating Whitstable Town 1-0 in the 1993 final, their goal was headed in from a corner-kick too. On that day, the corner-kick came in from the left. But, with Michael Howard in the crowd at Homelands, as the guest of Hythe Town for whom he is the Member of Parliament, it was surely fitting that Cray's winning goal in the 2004 final should come from a corner-kick from the Right!
Cray Wanderers: Simmons, Whelan, Rawlings, Gray, Evans, Taylor, Lover, Kempster, R Dimmock, Bennett, Silk (S Wood)
Hythe Town: Day, Wamsley, Thomas, Holmes, Ransley, Porter, D Fisk, Hayes, Godden, Brazier, Widnall
Man of the Match: Ian Rawlings (Cray Wanderers)