Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 5-0 Seven Acre & Sidcup - It looked like it came together today, says Paul Gross

Friday 17th July 2015
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 5 – 0 Seven Acre & Sidcup
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 19/07/2015 13:30

Pre-Season Friendly
Sunday 19th July 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY’S player-manager Paul Gross says things are coming together in only his side’s second game of pre-season.

The Millers, who finished in seventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League in Gross’ first season in charge last season, dominated a poor Seven Acre & Sidcup side that were playing their third warm-up game.

Cray Valley’s summer marque signing, Luke Harvey, got the ball rolling with his second goal in two games, as The Millers went into the half-time break only a goal up.

A string of fine saves from visiting keeper Charlie Martin in the first half kept the score down, before The Millers went goal crazy during the second half.

Seven Acre & Sidcup’s target man, Anthony Fenech, suffered a disappointing day by slicing the ball into his own goal early in the second half, before later being booked for dissent by referee Ben Bowles, who had an excellent game.

Adam Marsh scored goal of the season when he smacked a right-footed volley into the top far corner from 35-yards, before the Kent Invicta League visitors wilted in the heat.

Substitutes Alwayne Jones and Troy Abbey both came off the bench to score inside the final twenty minutes, by which point Seven Acre & Sidcup had lost interest in the game.

After drawing Kent Invicta League side Meridian 4-4 in their first warm-up, Paul Gross was naturally delighted with his side’s display.

He said: “It’s good to get on a grass pitch! We had a friendly last week on a 3G pitch and it just didn’t feel right from start to finish so although it was pitch two it was nice to get on a pitch and work with the lads.

“We haven’t been back long really before Meridian. We’ve worked on no pattern. We threw five or six players together, training Tuesday and Thursday, worked on a bit of pattern and I thought it worked today well.

“Without being disrespectful (dominating) is what I would want against lower league opposition. We kept getting caught short last year. We raised our games against the top sides and then we would lose to the lesser sides.

“Again, I don’t want to be disrespectful but I put together some players that won’t let that happen. They’re winners, they want to win whether they are playing Meridian away, Seven Acre & Sidcup away or a bigger team in The FA Cup.

“I asked them to go out and dominate the game, which they should be and no arguments, they done that.”

Seven Acre & Sidcup manager Lee Hill sent out assistant manager Steve Arnold for the post-match interview and his response to the thrashing was inevitable.

Former Lordswood coach Arnold said: “Obviously it’s a pre-season game. Results don’t mean too much. Most teams are trying out players that you’ve got coming in pre-season, which is building up so we’re going to be ready for the kick-off for the season at the beginning of August.

“We’ve got a few players away, the same as most teams at the moment. It’s players getting minutes on the pitch and we’ll take some good points out of it and a lot of work on the training ground.”

Cray Valley attacked down the slope on the club’s second-pitch at their Badgers Sports Ground – and Seven Acre & Sidcup could not live with them.

But a big kick straight down the heart of The Millers’ defence was pounced on by striker Josh Patrick, but Cray Valley’s stand-in keeper Colin Barnes came off his line to punch the ball away after 52 seconds.

Cray Valley then created the first of many chances inside six minutes.

Left-back Adam Gross swung in a free-kick with his left-foot towards the far post where central defender Joe Matthews cracked a volley towards goal, which was hacked off the line by Fenech.

Marsh and Rory Hill (a signing following the mass summer exodus from Ryman League Division One North side Cray Wanderers) linked up and Ben Healy whipped in a cross from the right but Jim Doherty swept his shot into Martin’s gloves.

Martin made a great save to frustrate Cray Valley in the 12th minute.

Seven Acre & Sidcup switched off as Healy threw the ball to Harvey, who played the ball inside to Marsh from inside the penalty area, but Marsh’s shot from ten-yards was tipped around the post by Martin, diving to his right.

Marsh rolled the ball inside to Doherty, who fed the ball through to former Faversham Town striker Harvey, who turned Michael Dillon, and his drive was spilt by Martin at his near post.

Yet another chance came Cray Valley’s way when Marsh was released down the right and he whipped in a cross towards the far post where Doherty out-jumped Harvey to plant his header over the bar from six-yards.

Seven Acre & Sidcup failed to cope with Cray Valley’s high tempo game and they were guilty of giving the ball away in midfield instead of putting their foot on the ball and setting up attacks of their own.

Arnold said: “They had quite a bit of possession. We did break up quite a few of their attacks but unfortunately once we did break it up we were trying to play the ball too quickly, instead of giving ourselves a little bit of time on the ball to build things and relax on it. We were a bit too rash for my liking.”

Only Martin - and fellow goalkeeper Joe Ainsley - and winger Sam Bailey and striker Josh Patrick can come out of this game with any credit.

Patrick charged into the Millers’ penalty area before playing the ball out to Bailey, who took a touch and curled his shot just over the top of the far post.

But Cray Valley deservedly opened the scoring with 23 minutes on the clock through Harvey.

Central midfielder Frankie Warren split open Joe Woodcock and Ricky Hardie with a sublime low through ball to put Harvey through on goal.

Harvey glanced to his right – assistant referee Chris Howard kept his flag down – after shrugging off the last defender, skipped past the advancing Martin, took a touch and had the composure to steer his right-footed shot into the bottom far corner of an empty net from a tight angle from four-yards.

“Listen, Luke played last week, he must have missed seven or eight chances, scored the last chance he had of the game,” reflected Gross.

“He’s gone on today, would a striker have that in their mind and snatched at the shot early?

“He didn’t. He held off the defender, rolled it over the keeper on not the best of surfaces, took a chance and he scored it. It’s all you want from a striker.”

Arnold added: “Luke’s played a lot higher level than this, good player. He’s been around for a long while.

“Again, from our point of view, we’ll look at that as it was when they broke it up in midfield. It was a mistake by us trying to play across midfield and a nice easy ball. If we cleared our lines that does not happen!

“The difference today is they capitalised on our mistakes. Unfortunately we made more than five but five that we did, they took advantage of them.”

Cray Valley’s central midfielder, Greg Moorse, was to be denied by another smart save from Martin, who stuck out his right hand to push over his right-footed drive from 22-yards.

“Charlie’s a great shot stopper. He’s been at the club a few years now. You know what you’re going to get out of Charlie,” said Arnold.

“Second half we changed it with the other lad, he’s come along pre-season so it’s always good to have two goalkeepers in your squad, just in case of injuries or whatever.”

George Horne went close for Seven Acre & Sidcup with a right-footed drive, which screamed past the far post after cutting in from the right and unleashing a shot from 30-yards.

Warren played his second fine pass to put Hill through on goal but Martin raced off his line to make the block and his left-back Woodcock got back to clear their lines before the ball could roll into the back of the net.

Horne produced a quality cross from inside The Millers half of the pitch towards the far post where Fenech rose to glance his header into the side netting from four-yards.

Martin didn’t have it all his own way, as in the 35th minute he dropped Adam Gross’ stinging, curling 30-yard free-kick from the left, which the keeper collected at the second attempt.

Within a minute, Harvey ghosted past Woodcock to play in Hill, who shrugged off Bailey but also slammed his left-footed drive into the side netting.

Seven Acre & Sidcup went close when Billy Skinner played the ball into Horne, who released Bailey, who skipped over a strong challenge from Moorse before cutting in and unleashing his left-footed drive from 35-yards, which took a deflection before sailing wide of the far post.

Arnold was full of praise for impressive Bailey, saying, “He’s just come in from Welling. He’s done well in the games that he’s featured. He’s still got a lot to learn. He’s still only a young lad, I think he’s 17, but there will be a part for him to play this season for us. Obviously he’s got his strengths and got his weaknesses as well.”

Martin pulled off yet another fine save as the first half came to a close.

Warren rolled the ball to Doherty who laid the ball to Marsh, who drilled his right-footed drive towards goal from 22-yards, but a diving Martin got a strong right hand to push the ball around the post.

But Seven Acre & Sidcup almost capitalised on a mistake from Cray Valley central defender Lee Craig on the stroke of half-time to grab an equaliser, but Barnes rushed off his line to deny Patrick and the keeper made a comfortable save from Bailey’s bouncing follow-up shot.

“Colin’s helped me out this morning. He played down here at half-past-ten this morning for a Sunday League side,” said Gross.

“We have no Stevie Sutton today so Colin stepped in. We know Colin, he was quality for us last year. It was a shame he had to leave due to work commitments. 

“I thought he pulled off a couple of, not saves, but blocks and tackles when it was sort of 50-50. We know what Colin’s all about so we thank him for stepping in today and helping us.”

Arnold said of Patrick’s chance, “We spoke to him about that at half-time. He just couldn’t get onto that one. He just couldn’t get his toe to just poke it past him.”

Goalkeeper Martin was replaced at the break with Joe Ainsley taking the gloves, while Paul Gross brought on two players, former Faversham Town defender Aiden Sherlock and left-winger Uche Ibemere.

But Cray Valley were given a helping hand with their second goal in the 51st minute.

Hill swung in a corner from the left, which was flicked on by both Ibemere (at the near post) and Sherlock (at the far post) and Fenech sliced the ball over Ainsley’s right shoulder into the corner of his own net from six-yards.

Gross claimed: “I think it was on his way anyway, that’s what Aiden’s telling us!

“If you’ve seen the delivery - we’ve got from the boys like Adam and Rory, Jimmy Rogers, when he’s here, Greg Benbow (a signing from Chatham Town) when he’s playing – we’ve got great delivery and it winds me up when we don’t get on the end of more of this!  I think we don’t go in and want to get hurt enough but yes, a goal from a set-piece, so nice.”

Arnold, meanwhile, was far from impressed with the goal.

He said: “Again, you could say they had two or three flicks in there. That was down to poor marking. That shouldn’t have happened!

“The first you can understand for a player to be beaten to the first flick but to have another couple of touches before unfortunately Fenechie slices it into his own net – again, that’s not acceptable really and that’s something that we need to look at from set-plays.”

Despite being outplayed throughout, Seven Acre & Sidcup were unlucky when a brilliant shot hit the post after 56 minutes.

Patrick outmuscled Sherlock, who lost his footing, and the striker cracked a rasping left-footed drive from 25-yards, which flew over Barnes and bounced off the top of the left-hand post.

Arnold said: “Josh was unlucky where he had a battle with one of their centre halves, left him laying on the floor and hit a great shot and unfortunately it hit the post! We’re talking four to six inches!

“Josh plays with his heart on his sleeve. He gives you 100% all the time. He runs from the first to the last whistle so Josh is a great asset to us.”

Gross added: “Screamer as well – best shot of the game to be fair!

“He (Patrick) was in and out of the game but when he was in the game he done well, but again I’m not taking anything away from them, but it was a mistake by us! It wasn’t created so I’m not worried on that. Some people are going to make mistakes coming in, changes etc but it didn’t go in at the end of the day, so I’m not too worried.”

Cray Valley swiftly regained control of this one-sided encounter and Ainsley was called into action just past the hour mark.

Hill’s crossfield diagonal pass released Ibemere down the left, who cut inside and his right-footed shot was palmed away by Ainsley, diving low to his left to push the ball to safety.

The game soon went downhill for Seven Acre & Sidcup as Cray Valley scored their third goal in the 67th minute – with the goal of the season!

Poor defending from Michael Dillon allowed Marsh to watch the ball drop over his right shoulder before cracking a stunning right-footed volley into the top far corner of the net from 35-yards, which left Ainsley rooted to the spot and the crowd in raptures.

Gross said: “He’s got that in his locker! He was getting frustrated. He had a few ten yards out and it was just not falling for him but to put away one’s dropped 35-yards out over his shoulder. I’ve seen him to that before to be honest but when he’s on his game, if we can get him fit, he’ll be a good striker for us.

“I know what Marshie’s all about. He needs to get fit hence why he got the 90 minutes today and he looks like he wants to get fit. When we get them both (Marsh and Harvey) clicking, hopefully that will be a good partnership.”

Arnold added: “The lad took it well. From our point of view a poor defensive header from Michael Dillon. He’s gone to clear his lines, he hasn’t. The ball’s popped up nice. Fair play to the fella. It’s great technique. He’s took the goal well.”

It was 4-0 in the 70th minute as Arnold started searching for characters in his ranks, which were clearly missing today.

He said: “Once you go three or four goals down you’re now looking around to see who is rolling their sleeves up rather than asking the referee how long is there to go!

“Again, you learn a lot of your players like that. We spoke to them about it after the game. That’s not the attitude that we’re looking for. We are looking for people to roll their sleeves up.”

Ibemere collected the ball on the halfway line and was given the space to dance forward as the Seven Acre & Sidcup defence parted like the Red Sea and once on the edge of the box the winger laid the ball to Jones, who took a touch and bent his left-footed shot across the keeper to find the far corner.

Gross said: “Another great finish! Uche left Cray Wanderers yesterday, he’s still struggling to come to terms with injuries so he’s rung us up and asked if he could come down here. You don’t knock a player like him back.

“You see he took four or five players’ out of the game with one run across the pitch and unselfishly lays it off to Alwayne, a great finish!”

Reflecting on the piece of embarrassing defending, Arnold said: “The fella’s taken the goal well. He’s shaped up well onto his left foot and bent it into the far corner of the keeper’s post. He’s taken the goal well but again we’re looking at that – should he run that far? Should the guy been given enough room to shape up a shot?

“So again, defensively, a lot of work to be done!”

Warren almost capped off a fine display by scoring himself, but his speculative cross-come-shot from 30-yards bounced on top of the crossbar with the keeper beaten.

Jones played the ball inside for fellow substitute Abbey, but forced Ainsley to dive to his left to push the ball around the post for a corner with thirteen minutes left.

And The Millers rattled in goal number five with virtually the last kick of the game.

Marsh was given space down the right flank to whip in a cross, which found Paul Gross at the far post.  The boss’s free-header brought a fine save from Ainsley, parrying the ball to his left but Abbey poked the loose ball into the back of the net.

When asked whether he wished he had got himself on the scoresheet, The Millers’ player-boss replied: “My days are… -  I’m glad that someone else got the credit. Good forward play. Forwards’ following up.

“He got recommended to me Thursday, he’s been at Fisher with Billy (Walton) and I think Erith Town before that.

“He showed glimpses of being capable but that’s what you want strikers to do, if the keeper makes the save.

“Unfortunately in the first half we kept on running past everything and everything their keeper saved they managed to react to. Good positioning from Troy and he got himself a goal.”

Arnold added: “He can’t really miss but again where was everybody else? You’re looking at the keeper’s done as much as he can. You can’t really fault the goalkeeper’s for any of the goals. Again, the keeper’s made the save and he’s been left on his own!”

Reflecting on the heavy win, Gross said: “It’s just about getting the boys’ bonding more. We haven’t done a pattern of play before this week.  We went for a pattern of play.  We went through set-pieces. We’ve scored a couple from crosses and set-pieces what we asked for them and in general they stuck to what we trained on this week.

“We’ve still got to get to know each other. It’s a new changing room and a new environment for some of them. Once their personalities come out and they get to know each other, I’m hoping it will be a good group.”

Arnold added: “Take nothing away from Cray, they’re a decent side. They’ll probably do well again in the SCEFL but from our point of view, we look at our players and we look at the defensive duties of the players and we think we could have done a lot better.

“We’ve still got enough friendlies in there. We’ve had quite a few players come along this year because we’re running two teams as well.  Now is the time we’re actually going to split the squad’s so we’ll be concentrating on the first team squad as what will start the season.

“We’ve got another six chances for us to actually get things right. Come the start of the season things will be sorted out and hopefully we’ll be back to how we finished the season (in good form to finish sixth-place).”

Meanwhile, the Southern Counties East Football League will publish this season’s Fixture Lists on their website at 09:00 tomorrow morning.

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Colin Barnes, Ben Healy, Adam Gross, Frankie Warren (Paul Gross 79), Joe Matthews, Lee Craig (Aiden Sherlock 46), Rory Hill (Troy Abbey 62), Greg Moorse (Uche Ibemere 46), Adam Marsh, Luke Harvey (Alwayne Jones 62), Jim Doherty (Gem Temkuya 68).

Goals: Luke Harvey 23, Anthony Fenech 51 (own goal), Adam Marsh 67, Alwayne Jones 70, Troy Abbey 90

Seven Acre & Sidcup: Charlie Martin (Joe Ainsley 46), Tony Hill, Joe Woodcock (Brad Marshall 54), Billy Skinner, Michael Dillon (George Cummings 73), Ricky Hardie, Sam Bailey (Colin Justin 85), George Horne, Anthony Fenech, Josh Patrick, Anthony Collins.

Booked: Anthony Fenech 83

Attendance: 54
Referee: Mr Ben Bowles (Rochester)
Assistants: Mr Jamie Paternoster (Bexley) & Mr Chris Coward (Swanley)