Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3-0 AFC Croydon Athletic - Corinthian are in the best position absolutely, they’ve got the points on the board. If they go on and win every game they deserve to win the league, says Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson

Wednesday 27th February 2019
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3 – 0 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 27/02/2019 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 27 February 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY (PAPER MILLS) manager Kevin Watson says Corinthian hold the advantage in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title race.

The Millers are now in third-place in the table with 58 points from 26 games and are seven points adrift of Michael Golding’s side with 12 games remaining after beating seventh-placed AFC Croydon Athletic courtesy of three second half goals.

It took 53 minutes to make the breakthrough with a quality strike from Anthony Edgar, before two goalkeeper errors from Danny Carpanini allowed Chris Edwards and Edgar to add to the tally.

“Firstly, I don’t think people realise how difficult it is to win games – we have to win games and it’s not that easy,” said Watson following his side’s 17 league win of the season, 11 of those were away from home.

“What was pleasing tonight, the boys didn’t get over frustrated.  I think they possibly thought the management team would have a different reaction at half-time because we wasn’t happy with the way it was going but we have to recognise why we’re not happy with it.

“I’m really pleased with the result.  They’re a tough team to play. I watched them against Chatham Town (a 1-0 away win last week) and we lost to them on the first game of the season.

“Their forward line is very dangerous. Moments change games. They had a good couple of chances in the first half but we had a bit more possession and territory but didn’t really have any clear cut chances in the first half but we the game went on it opened up a little bit and we showed good quality at the right times.”

AFC Croydon Athletic manager Kevin Rayner added: “I thought we played alright first half, contained them quite well and we had the better chances but didn’t take them and as soon as they scored the only time we let Edgar get free in the second half and it was a good strike.

“After that we fell apart a little bit and lost our shape a bit and we gave away a couple of poor goals.”

The Rams players formed a guard of honour for their counterparts after Watson’s men reached The Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Finals with a 3-1 win over Willand Rovers in Devon at the weekend.

The Millers face a two-legged showdown against their league rivals Canterbury City to see which Kent club play Northwich Victoria or Chertsey Town at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 19 May 2019.

Cray Valley played a direct brand of football during the first half and they struggled on a bobbly playing surface that both sides struggled to control a ball bouncing all over the place.

“We have to be at times on certain surfaces. It is a difficult surface but we don’t use that as an excuse, it’s the same for both teams. We’ll play on a nice surface (at Beckenham Town) on Saturday, won’t we,” added Watson.

Cray Valley produced a sweeping move inside the opening three minutes when left-wing-back Danny Smith played the ball into Edgar, who swept the ball out to right-wing-back Edwards who hit a first time shot across Carpanini, who dived to his right to palm the ball behind for a corner.

“A good strike, the keeper’s done well. There wasn’t many clear cut opportunities in the first half,” added Watson.

Rayner added: “I can’t remember them having too many chances in the first half, probably the only one they had.”

Edgar swung in the resulting corner from the left and Edwards took a touch before hitting a half-volley screaming past the far post from the edge of the box.

AFC Croydon Athletic centre-half Jamie Thoroughgood fouled Francis Babalola 30-yards from goal but Edgar drilled his right-footed free-kick high over the crossbar.

AFC Croydon Athletic almost grabbed the lead in the 19th minute when winger Nahum Green cut in from the right wing and drilled a left-footed angled drive from 35-yards, which clipped the top of the far post and went behind for a goal-kick.

Green suffered a dislocated finger later in the half and his team-mate Abbas Agoro spent a while trying to click it back in before both physios treated the winger before being substituted.

“A great strike. He was a threat. He’s got a nice left peg, nice and strong, cuts in, good effort. Unfortunately it didn’t quite go in and I think if we’d got in front if might’ve been a little bit different and given us something to hold onto but it didn’t happen,” said Rayner.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t get his finger back in and it looks like he’s dislocated a couple of places which was unfortunate. He’s always a threat and we lost that little bit of threat after he came off but I thought first half we played ok. Second half, as soon as they scored, we lost our shape a little bit.”

Watson added: “It’s a good strike from the lad.  I said all of their forward line is dangerous, Nahum Green, Joe Nwoko and Dominic Ogun.  They are good players, they cause problems but it’s clipped the outside of the post.”

Cray Valley striker Babalola cut the ball onto his right-foot and swept his 25-yard shot into Carpanini’s hands for a comfortable save.

AFC Croydon Athletic striker Dominic Ogun rifled a left-footed free-kick sailing over the Millers’ crossbar from 35-yards on the half-hour mark.

The game livened up during the final five minutes as Edwards hit a long ball towards Thoroughgood’s head and his clearance was poor and let in Babalola, who brought the ball under his spell and tried to find the bottom near corner but his shot was tipped around the post by Carpanini, diving to his right.

Watson said: “A couple of goals have come from those sort of shots, those low ones like that. It’s hard, it’s bobbling a little bit and he’s got a decent connection on it.”

Rayner added: “It was a decent save. They didn’t have much else in the first half I thought we did quite well but we didn’t get our noses in front.”

The Rams created a couple of late chances when Jordan Greaves and Agoro linked up in and around the penalty area and teed up Ogun, whose left-footed shot on the turn from 15-yards towards the bottom far corner was held by Andy Walker, diving low to his left.

Rayner said: “He didn’t quite catch it Dom. He’s got a good strong strike and he gave the keeper a chance to save it.  The keeper done well with it but he didn’t quite catch it which was unfortunate.”

Watson added: “It’s inevitable that teams have chances right, but look Walks is a goalkeeper and he’s done his job with a clean-sheet.”

Thoroughgood hit a long ball over the top and Ogun struggled to bring the ball under control through the heart of the pitch but when he did he played the ball over to Koroma, who dinked his shot into Walker’s midriff from a tight angle.

Rayner added: “We had some good chances. Bankole should’ve scored. He was trying to be too clever really, instead of putting his laces through it. I’m sure he would’ve scored, it’s the way it goes.”

Holding midfielder Jordan Knight swung in the resulting corner and Ogun’s planted header forced Walker to push the ball away high to his left whilst under pressure underneath his own crossbar.

Watson admitted his side didn’t have enough quality in the first half.

“A little bit of quality (was missing).  Like we said at half-time no-one was playing poorly but nobody was playing anywhere near their potential but you have to be realistic with expectations.  Games are going to be like that, a little bit tight.

“We were confident we would improve our performance in the second half and we would be looking to get a result out of it and I think when we showed a bit of quality we wore them down and then the game opened up.

“We didn’t have a go at them (at half-time).  They probably thought I would have a little bit of a go at them but sometimes you have to keep level headed with things. It was just not to get too frustrated.”

Rayner said: “We should’ve nicked it, we should’ve been one up at half-time. We had the better chances. I thought we contained them well. The aim was to stop Edgar getting on the ball. I don’t think he touched it in the first half and I can’t remember any of their three in midfield getting on the ball.  We stopped them playing and it was surprising they were very direct.”

Cray Valley ditched their direct style and took the lead through a quality move with seven minutes and 56 seconds on the clock.

Edgar sprinted forward and slipped the ball through to Babalola who teed up Edgar, who drilled a sweet first time right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards.

“That’s what I mean about those moments of quality. We have players on the field, lots of them, that can create moments of quality and that certainly was one,” said Watson.

“Paul Semakula has done a nice turn and played it out wide. It’s come back inside, so it’s those moments.  Everybody will go Anthony Edgar has got that but we almost expect that from him.  The set from Francis is a good weight and allowed him to strike it. The strike is excellent and he’s hit two like that.”

Rayner added: “Good strike, good give-and-go, give him that.  But leading up to it we were trying to pass the ball in a ridiculous tight area. We didn’t really clear our lines four or five times. They’ve broke and we were all over the place and Edgar’s free and that’s what happens. We didn’t have any of that first half.”

Smith sprinted down the heart of the pitch and was tripped by Koroma in an attempt to win the ball on the edge of the box and the ball ran through to Greaves and the winger’s dink flew into Walker’s midriff for another comfortable save.

Cray Valley produced another fine move on the hour-mark when Gavin Tomlin, Edgar and Smith linked up well down the left and the ball was played inside to Paul Semakula, who swept the ball out to Edwards in space and he rifled his right-footed shot towards the roof of the net from 35-yards, which was pushed over the crossbar by Carpanini’s outstretched right-hand.

“Chris has got a great strike on him,” said Watson.

“He’s a lovely boy, great attitude. What I’ve got in there is good people and I say that all along. When I sign people, it’s a judgement on character.”

Rayner said: “He done well with that one but the second and third goal, Dan could’ve done a little bit better but we could’ve done a lot better defending it!”

AFC Croydon Athletic created their only chance of the second half at the halfway point.

Winger Greaves made progress down the right and whipped in a low cross for Agoro, who controlled the ball on the edge of the box and his second touch brought a fine diving save out of Walker, low to his left.

Rayner said: “Good save. We could’ve done with that going in but it was a good effort and a good save from the keeper.

“We didn’t quite get going in the second half. As soon as they scored they had a spring in their step and we got beat too easily. We lost our concentration, which is unlike us, but we’ve had a couple of games in the last six when we’ve not been at it and fair play, if you’re not at it in this league you get beat!”

Watson added: “It was a good save. Walks does a very good job, that is why he’s the captain.  Against Rusthall the other week he saved a penalty at a vital time. He’s a great lad, a manager’s dream in a sense. He doesn’t cause me any problems. These are the sort of people why the cup run success is important because they do the right things week-in-week-out.”

The introduction of Denzel Gayle inside the final 15 minutes proved to turn the game into Cray Valley’s favour.

Walker launched a big kick downhill, which was bouncing all over the place and Gayle brought the ball under control and played the ball inside to Tomlin, who dragged his right-footed shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Despite the former Dulwich Hamlet striker having a quiet night, Watson replied: “I think sometimes in Gavin’s performances people have to understand what we ask of him to appreciate what he does so whilst you say he was quiet, he didn’t score, he didn’t have a lot of efforts on target but it’s an unselfish performance.”

The Millers doubled their lead with 33 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock following their sixth of seven corners.

Edgar cut the ball back from the left and an unmarked Edwards drove his right-footed shot towards the bottom far corner and the keeper got down low to his left and let the ball slip through his arms to nestle inside the bottom far corner of the net.

Watson said: “The game opened up. We started to get a foothold and get better possession. We wear teams down. That’s why it opened up.  It didn’t go our way for no reason.  I think it’s easy to just assume it just went our way but I think people were doing the right thing for a sustained period of time. Then you almost earn that right for the game to open up.

“Again, it was a nice strike. We’ve got goals in the team. If you look at the distribution of goals in the team we haven’t got one player on 30 odd league goals but we’ve got a lot of chipping in with goals. We’ve got people at the back scoring goals for the team, full-backs and midfielders scoring goals.”

Rayner added: “It’s just a poor goal all round. We wasn’t concentrating.  I think Abbas was injured so we lost concentration and didn’t pick up and it’s really one he should be saving.”

Cray Valley scored their third goal of the night just 95 seconds later and it was a similar goal to their second.

Rams’ right-back Kazzeem Richards lost possession in his half and Edgar capped off an impressive night to score his 24th goal of the season.

He cut in from the left wing and stroked a right-footed shot towards the bottom far corner from 30-yards, which went underneath Carpanini on the same blade of grass and the ball nestled into the bottom far corner again.

“It was very good technique to strike the ball like that. I think that’s underestimated on pitches like that and I’m pleased for him because he was another one that didn’t get frustrated. I think he’s come a long way since he’s been here, not in terms of his ability, but his application to the game,” said Watson.

Rayner added: “Again before that we’ve taken the kick off played it out wide. Our right-back has gone past the midfielder, got the ball, gave it away, opened up, goal. It should’ve been saved. Danny could have done better with that but we haven’t done well in front of him as well.”

Carpanini made amends, however, when he produced a flying save to his right to push Edwards’ right-footed free-kick from 28-yards, which sailed over the wall and dipped towards top bins.

Rayner said: “At that moment for 10 minutes we lost our shape and was all over the place. It was disappointing. I thought we were pretty much in the game for the hour and we just let ourselves down to 10 minutes and that’s it.”

Watson said: “We’ve got a couple that can take a decent free-kick, Chris Edwards, Anthony Edgar and Danny Smith. It was the right distance for Chris. It’s hard. He got decent dip on it and it was a good save by the goalkeeper.”

Cray Valley travel to sixth-placed Beckenham Town on Saturday, while AFC Croydon Athletic host Glebe at Mayfield Stadium.

Becks are 14 points adrift of Corinthian, while Glebe are in fourteenth-place with 34 points on the board with 11 games left.

Corinthian lead the way with 65 points from 27 games and have extended their impressive run of form to 13 wins and are favourites for the title.

Fisher are second with 62 points from 29 games, followed by Cray Valley, Chatham Town (56 points from 26 games); Sheppey United (53 points from 29 games) and Beckenham Town.

“If you look at the games we’ve got to play, I do think we’ve got a difficult run-in,” admits Watson.

“We’ve got Chatham, Beckenham, Sheppey, Canterbury, we’ve got some really tough games.

“I can’t affect other results. I can’t affect Beckenham, Sheppey, Chatham, Corinthian, Fisher, unless we’re playing them so I don’t focus on it.  Chatham might win all of their games and go and win the league.

“This is almost like a cup competition, that’s because you have to win games to stay in it. Corinthian are doing absolutely fantastic. I’m pleased for other managers and teams whilst I’m frustrated because we want to go on and do well, Corinthian have been brilliant.

“Corinthian are in the best position absolutely, they’ve got the points on the board.  If they go on and win every game they deserve to win the league. The league table doesn’t lie. We’re chasing, Chatham, Fisher, Beckenham and Sheppey are chasing.”

On their trip to Beckenham, Watson added: “We had a tough fixture against them here and they’re a good team.  The pleasing thing is we’re playing on an unbelievable surface. They’ll be up for it. They’re still in with a shout in the league and they want to beat us and we want to beat them so we’ll just see.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Chris Edwards, Danny Smith, Ashley Sains, Brad Potter, Cem Tumkaya, Lea Dawson, Paul Semakula (Josh James 80), Gavin Tomlin (Calum Willock 84), Francis Babalola (Denzel Gayle 75), Anthony Edgar.
Subs: Tyler Myers, Ryan Flack

Goals: Anthony Edgar 53, 80, Chris Edwards 79

Booked: Francis Babalola 45

AFC Croydon Athletic: Danny Carpanini, Kazzeem Richards, Danny Bada, Jordan Knight (Abbas Odunco 87), Jamie Thoroughgood, Rob Carter, Jordan Greaves, Abbas Agoro, Dominic Ogun, Joe Nwoko (Jonathan Paoluccio 69), Nahum Green (Bankole Koroma 29).
Subs: Oscar Guana, Joe Hill

Booked: Jordan Knight 60, Rob Carter 85

Attendance: 45
Referee: Mr Paul Agboola (Walworth, London SE17)
Assistants: Mr Daniel Blades (Wrotham) & Mr Joshua Gilham (Welling)