Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 2-1 AFC Wimbledon - The players' are looking forward to another great occasion for the club, says Cray Valley assistant Bradley Sandeman

Thursday 16th March 2017
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 2 – 1 AFC Wimbledon
Location DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 16/03/2017 19:45

London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) Quarter-Final
Thursday 16th March 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from DSG Marine Stadium

CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) assistant manager Bradley Sandeman says celebrating their maiden victory against a Football League outfit is great for the club.


The Millers reached the Semi-Finals of the London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) for the third time in four years after beating a youthful side from League One outfit AFC Wimbledon.

Cray Valley goalkeeper Jordan Carey, 18, put in a heroic man-of-the-match performance by making a string of saves, including saving a first half penalty from Reece Williams-Bowers.

Cray Valley striker Ben Francis lit up an uninspiring first half by smacking in a stunning volley to give his side the lead, scoring his 12th goal for the club.

Alan Reeves’ side grabbed an equaliser through substitute Egil Kaja in the 88th minute as the tie looked destined to go into a penalty shoot-out.

But Cray Valley snatched the victory inside injury time through Ryan Fowler’s composed penalty.

James Collins’ side will now host promotion chasing Dulwich Hamlet or holders Tooting & Mitcham United the Semi-Finals, looking to reach the Final for the first time, the venue being Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill Stadium on Wednesday, 3 May.

“I thought it was a good game, obviously they were a young side.  I thought at times we looked good, other times we had to dig in a little bit but overall it was a good game,” said Sandeman, who made over 200 Football League appearances for Northampton Town, Maidstone United, Port Vale, Rotherham United and Hereford United.

“It’s great for the club, great for the supporters that we’ve got and everyone on the committee so it’s a really good day.

“It was quite a cagey game to start off with, not knowing what they’re all about and seeing how they play and everything.  I thought we came into the game and then we got the goal with Ben Francis.  We had a couple of half chances after that. It was a fairly decent first half.”

Cray Valley’s set-piece specialist Jason Thompson whipped in a free-kick towards the top far corner, from the right channel which sailed over the right shoulder of New Zealand born goalkeeper Nik Tzanev, the ball nestling on the top of the roof of the net inside the opening three minutes.

Thompson knocked the ball down for Fowler to unleash a right-footed half-volley from 35-yards, which bounced just past the foot of the right-hand post after 11 minutes.

Thompson then delivered a free-kick from the left which went straight down Tzanev’s throat during a cagey first half.

AFC Wimbledon took 31 minutes to create their first opening as right-back Nicholas Akoto fed winger Antonio Walker-Bhutl down the right and he cut the ball back for Nathan Wood to hit his shot over the crossbar from 16-yards.

Cray Valley’s central defensive injury curse struck again when they lost Aaron Sekhon through a head injury and he was replaced by Ashley Sains.

“Aaron Sekhon has gone to hospital, expects to have quite a few stitches in his head,” revealed Sandeman.

Goalscorer Francis was withdrawn three minutes into the second half and Sandeman revealed: “Ben has got a bit of a dead leg. We have a game on Saturday so we decided to give it five minutes but he was struggling a little bit so hopefully he’ll be fit on Saturday for us.”

Referee Hossain Tavakkoli awarded the first of three penalties of the night when Millers’ right-back Alastair Gordon tripped AFC Wimbledon’s left-back Seth Owens as he cut inside him.

Carey jumped up and down punching the crossbar three times before diving to his left to block Williams-Bowers’ right-footed 34th minute penalty with his knee.

“You can’t seem to get Jordan out of the limelight at the moment. He’s a typical goalkeeper, a big crazy, but he’s a very good goalkeeper,” said Sandeman.

“For all his charging out the goal area when he shouldn’t be but overall shot-stopping and stuff like that was superb.”

Cray Valley took the lead with 37 minutes on the clock through Francis’ beautiful finish.

Right-back Alastair Gordon delivered a cross from down the right-hand channel and Francis smacked his hooked right-footed volley into the bottom right-hand corner from 25-yards.

“He does well for us Ben, he’s a good lad. He’s from Dartford, he’s been taught the right way. We had him last year at Lordswood but this year he’s got that little bit more strength on him and his movement’s a little bit better and obviously he knows where the goal is.”

Carey pulled off his second fine save when he dived to his right to push away Callun Phillips’ dipping low right-footed drive from 35-yards, which bounced in front of the keeper, after the central midfielder received the ball from Owens.

Carey then flew to his left to prevent AFC Wimbledon’s right-back Akoto drilling in an right-footed angled drive towards the top near corner from 25-yards, palming the shot behind for another corner.

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Sandeman said: “Pretty much, play the same way really. I thought at times we looked good. We told them we need a few more crosses in.  I didn’t think they dealt with crosses very well.  I thought we needed to do that a little bit more so first 10-15 minutes I don’t think anybody listened to what we said because they didn’t put one cross in, but that’s the way it goes sometimes at our level.

“Hopefully when they start listening to us a little bit more with the game plan and everything, we start to play quite well but when they sometimes go off the cuff, it’s not how we want it.”

Cray Valley were given a glorious chance to double their lead inside the opening seven minutes of the second half.

Thomson swung in his fifth corner of the night from the right and the ball fell at Sains’ feet in the middle but all the defender could do was stab his shot straight into Tzanev’s grateful hands.

“It’s just one of them. It drops in the box. It could’ve gone anywhere. You’d like to think we should really finish it but I don’t think Ashley’s scored this year so it’s probably not the best person to drop to,” admitted Sandeman.

AFC Wimbledon winger Nathan Wood swung in a free-kick from the left towards the near post where Toby Sibbick came up from the back to poke his shot wide of the near post while being put under pressure.

Carey blotted his performance when he ran from his penalty area to get involved in a spat involving Akoto and Enoch Adjei, putting his hand through a melee of men and then picking up his sixth booking of the season along with Akoto.

Flashpoints like this and headbutting the post three times when Adrian Stone scored past him for Ashford United recently will not get him a dream move up the leagues – but making a string of saves will.

Sandeman said: “That’s the ugly side of Jordan unfortunately. We want him to concentrate. When he concentrates on his game, goalkeeping and doing all the right things, he looks like he could do very well in the game. When he does those stupid little things and that’s what scouts look at, they look for the temperament of a goalkeeper. He’s only 18 but you can only say it so many times to him. If he drops all that stupid side of his game out he could do very well in the game.”

Cray Valley were to be denied again when Jamie Miller’s pass went to winger Denzel Gayle, who cut inside to drill a left-footed angled drive towards goal from 25-yards, the keeper mindful of the bounce in front of him to hold.

AFC Wimbledon went close through Owens’ half-volley from 30-yards, which dipped just over the crossbar at the halfway point.

Carey pulled off another brilliant save in the 70th minute diving to his left to push Neset Belliki’ left-footed drive onto his left-hand post after the winger cut in from the right and unleashed a shot from outside the box.

“I thought in the second half especially, he made a couple of really good saves, especially in the last 15-20 minutes to keep us in it. He’s a very good goalkeeper,” added Sandeman.

Belliki went close with his left-footed free-kick from 27-yards, which dipped and only just cleared the top of the far post.

Cray Valley were solid in defence with a back four and sub Tom Fitzgerald and Miller sitting in front of them to offer them protection.

Sandeman said: “I’d like to think we’re a pretty well-organised side.  The back four, we drill them quite well in training. Unfortunately, we have a lot of centre half issues at the moment.  We seem to be swapping left, right and centre but overall it’s pretty good.

“I thought the attitude of the players and was very good, even though we were playing a young side, they were organised, they were very sharp, which you expect from a professional side and I thought as a team we defended really well.”

Cray Valley went agonisingly close to increasing their lead in the final eight minutes.

Miller fed Gordon down the right and the right-back played a low cross in to the box for Gayle to turn brilliantly on a six-pence to stroke his shot across the keeper and agonisingly against the foot of the far post from 16-yards.

Sandeman said: “I thought Denzel worked really hard today. Sometimes his end product is not quite as good as you want it to be but overall his game, he works so hard for the team and does everything. He’s such a team player and he was very unlucky with the shot there.”

Fitzgerald escaped from his defensive duties to venture forward and he drilled his angled shot against the foot of the side netting.

AFC Wimbledon seemingly thought that they had forced a penalty shoot-out by levelling things up with 42 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

Belliki fed Kaja and he was fouled inside the box by Taylor McDonagh and Kaja stepped up to steer his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Carey being so close to getting his hand to the ball.

“We were just a little bit unfortunate with the penalty decision at the end,” said Sandeman.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty. I don’t know what you thought but it didn’t look a penalty from where I was.  I thought he just got a touch on the ball but unfortunately some of the referees aren’t the best at our level and unfortunately for them he made it up for us.  It was a good penalty, a good finish, you expect people to put penalties away.”

Cray Valley showed great character to win it at the death.

Substitute right-winger Chandler Kasai sprinted down the slope and was fouled by Owens in the box.

Fowler kept a cool head and his right-footed penalty nestled into the bottom left-hand corner to score the winner 31 seconds into stoppage time.

“Ryan stepped up, great composure, good finish,” said Sandeman.

“He’s a very relaxed kind of player so he was the perfect person to put it in for us.”

Former Brentford keeper Carey should be playing a lot higher than the ninth tier of English football and he pulled off a world-class save to frustrate AFC Wimbledon again.

They increased their tempo and desire for the first time inside stoppage time and Belliki and Akoto linked up and Walker-Bhutl lashed his right-footed drive towards the top right-hand corner and Carey flung himself high to his left to push around the post.

Sandeman said: “He’s an absolutely superb shot stopper and he did exactly the same on Saturday. He played very well on Saturday for us at Croydon as well. He’s made crucial saves at the crucial time for us. He’s done well for us tonight.”

Dulwich Hamlet (seventh-place in the Ryman Premier) host Ryman League Division One South leaders Tooting & Mitcham United on 6 April to see who will travel to Cray Valley in the Semi-Finals.

Cray Valley, the lowest ranked club left in the competition, stunned Welling United 3-1 at Park View Road and will be keen to spring another Cup upset to reach the Final against either Metropolitan Police or Haringey Borough.

“It will be another great occasion for the club and the players and we’re looking forward to it,” said Sandeman.

“Playing against teams at a higher level, it’s great to see them and how the play and what they do and it’s good for us to play against that.

“It all depends on what sort of team they put out. We’re a Step Five team and when you play against a Dulwich or Tooting & Mitcham they’re going to be a good side so it will be interesting when we play.”

Cray Valley host Hollands & Blair in the League on Saturday.  The Millers are in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division, while their Gillingham-based opponents are in fifth. Both clubs have bagged 57 points.

“It will be a tough game for us. They’re a good side. They’re well-organised. We’re fortunate, not fortunate, we beat them at their place so it should be a good game. If we can consolidate fourth, it will be even better for us.”

The Millers confirmed tonight that they will be in their light blue strip for the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final against Ashford United on Sunday 9 April.

“We’ve got three games before that,” added Sandeman.

“It all depends on how many injuries we get, we seem to be racking up the injuries.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Jordan Carey, Alastair Gordon, Laurence Collins, Jamie Miller, Taylor McDonagh, Aaron Sekhon (Ashley Sains 29), Enoch Adjei, Ryan Fowler, Ben Francis (Tom Fitzgerald 48), Jason Thompson (Chandler Kasai 71), Denzel Gayle.
Subs: Cem Tumkaya, Nick Harvey

Goals: Ben Francis 37, Ryan Fowler 90 (penalty)

Booked: Jordan Carey 61, Taylor McDonagh 88

AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Nicholas Akoto, Seth Owens, Judah Chapman, Toby Sibbick, Sean Bird, Antonio Walker-Bhutl, Callun Phillip (Dan Gallagher 68), Toyosi Olusanya (Egli Kaja 63), Reece Williams-Bowers, Nathan Wood (Neset Belliki 68).
Subs: Jack Wingate, Paul Kalambayi

Goal: Egli Kaja 88 (penalty)

Booked:  Nicholas Akoto 61

Attendance: 125
Referee: Mr Hossain Tavakkoli (Sydenham, London SE26)
Assistants: Mr Chris Dodd (Eltham, London SE9) & Mr Leo Mansell (Bromley)

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