Rusthall 2-2 Cray Wanderers - I’m just really proud, all the boys should be really proud for everything that they’ve done tonight, says Rusthall joint-boss Andrew McKechnie

Wednesday 05th September 2018
Rusthall 2 – 2 Cray Wanderers
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 05/09/2018 19:45

(after extra time – Cray Wanderers win 4-3 on penalties)
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay
Wednesday 5 September 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

RUSTHALL joint-manager Andrew McKechnie says he is feeling very proud of his players after taking Cray Wanderers all the way during an epic FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay.

The Rustics hosted their first ever FA Cup tie at Jockey Farm Stadium and a crowd of 274 saw the amateur side that are sitting in the bottom three in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division with three points from their five games give second-placed Bostik South East Division Cray Wanderers, who have a 100% record from four league games, without conceding, a major scare.

Tony Russell’s side created 27 goalscoring chances during a dominant performance but Rusthall kept plugging away and improved their performance as the game went on.

Cray Wanderers took an early lead through Michael Power’s header and you expected the floodgates to open but wasteful finishing and a Rusthall side full of heart, desire and resilience kept themselves in the game.

Rusthall grabbed an equaliser on the hour-mark through an own-goal from substitute right-back Junior Dadson from 45-yards, which increased the home side’s belief.

With Rusthall keeper Callum Christie highlighting his status of being a very good goalkeeper, the game went into extra-time.

Power notched his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot, but Rusthall carried the fight to grab an equaliser on the stroke of half-time when super-sub Callum Gallie sparked wild celebrations by finding the bottom left-hand corner following a set-piece.

Rusthall practiced penalties on Tuesday night, Cray Wanderers didn’t but it was the Bostik League outfit that held their nerve from the spot in a nine-kick shoot-out.

Power, Barney Williams, Bradley Pritchard and Mitchell Nelson all scored for Cray Wanderers.

Peter Shaw blazed Rusthall’s first penalty over the crossbar, before substitute pair Stephen Camacho and Paul Butler scored, as did Robbie Bissett before Gallie’s left-footed kick brought a save from Nick Blue to finish the contest at 22:28.

Cray Wanderers will travel to Evo-Stik Southern Premier League side Metropolitan Police on Saturday in the First Qualifying Round, having banked £2,890 in prize money, while Rusthall’s FA Cup exploits have scooped £3,210.

“I’m very proud, very, very proud,” said McKechnie during the post-match press conference.

“I’ve said quite a few times we’ve got a young side, they’re learning. It is a bit of a journey for us but to take the might of Cray Wanderers, which is clear to see tonight how much of a good team they are, they haven’t conceded a goal in the league and over two games we’ve scored three goals against them, coming twice from behind, I think it’s an amazing effort and I think every single one of the players should be very proud what they’ve done.

“The first half almost felt like they were a little bit of nerves on us, a little bit of tension, which we’ve tried taking away all during the lead up to the game.

“I said at half-time ‘calm down and relax and enjoy yourselves’ and I think from half-time onwards we were far more of a threat going into the game.

“After the first 45 minutes the boys put on more of a show for the crowd and gave everything they had.”

Cray Wanderers assistant manager Joe Vines said: “We made hard work of that, we made really hard work of it!

“If we look at the two games the amount of chances that we’ve made is unbelievable, so wasteful at times.

“We’re in a good run of form on the whole, our league form has been brilliant but the chances that we missed tonight we could’ve put that to bed in the first 20 minutes, it would’ve been job done.

“The longer you dangle that carrot, they’re the underdogs, they’ve worked their socks off to get anywhere near us.  I think they were fantastic over the two games. They never gave up but I think if you give people an opportunity to stay in the game and we’ve spoke about this a lot, then they’ve always got a chance.

“I think a lot of their support will go home reasonably happy that they’ve put on a good performance and they’ve worked hard.

“On the whole scheme of things did they deserve a draw? Yes, they’ve made their own luck, the pitch was a bit bobbly, I think they’ve had some problems with the drainage so it was quite uneven, plenty of grass on it, very, very big pitch but fair play to them. It’s a lovely place and I hope they go onto bigger and better things. It’s a really nice club and really nice people.”

Cray Wanderers set the tone by creating their first chance of the night after 97 seconds.

Right-back Ben Mundele, who was withdrawn at half-time with a hamstring injury, played a long ball to release right-winger Jerome Federico, and he evaded a sliding challenge from Bissett and cut inside and dragged his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from a tight angle.

Vines said: “He was wasteful, he was wasteful tonight. He makes great runs, got great energy, unfortunately it’s that calmness and that almost ice cold ability to find a finish when he gets into good areas and that’s where he was lacking tonight.”

McKechnie added: “The right winger for Cray was a very good player. First 45 minutes he was very dangerous. Dan Kommu – again, another young player – it took him a bit of time to work it out when to get tight and when to drop off a little bit. After the first half-an-hour Dan nullified him for the rest of the game but he was very dangerous for the first half-an-hour.”

Cray Wanderers deservedly opened the scoring with 11 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.

During 120 minutes of football, the Wands won the corner count by 17-3, and they scored from their second flag-kick.

Dent swung the ball in from the left and Christie flapped at the ball and Power glanced his header into the far corner.

“I think it was a brilliant goal,” said Vines.

“Obviously there’s no accident. We work on a lot of set-pieces on the whole and certain moments and certain triggers. Shags has done brilliant and we deserved to go ahead at that stage.

“Then we knocked on the door for another 108 minutes or whatever it was. It was one of those, it was purely down to finishing our chances.”

McKechnie said: “I think there was probably not enough protection on our goalkeeper, especially in that first half.

“Power’s a good striker, he’s a big lad, but I feel there were quite a few occasions and I’m going to throw that one in the hat that I think our goalkeeper was impeded.

“From that point it’s just try to contain the game, get us a foot hold in there because at that point they were putting us under quite a lot of pressure.  I wanted us to just settle down again, see a bit of the ball and relax. The pressure was on them, it wasn’t on us, but we needed at that point to get more involved in the game.”

Rusthall left-back Dan Kommu’s inside pass intended for Ryan Waterman let in Power, who swept his first time shot into the keeper’s hands from 30-yards.

Centre-half Tom Phipp hit a long ball out of defence to release Federico down the right channel and his low cross was dummied by Power inside the box and Pritchard’s first time drive screamed over the crossbar when he only had Christie to beat in the 16th minute.

Dent’s deep corner from the right found Phipp in space and Christie dived to his left to push the ball away towards safety, in another act of dominance from Cray Wanderers.

Dent’s fifth corner of the game was met by Phipp’s downward header at the far post and a combination of post and Christie ensured another chance went begging.

Rusthall created just the one chance during the first half and they should have grabbed an equaliser ten minutes before the break.

Central midfielder Callum Ridley released Regan Corke in behind Phipp but he failed to take the glorious chance, flashing a shot across the keeper and agonisingly rolling past the far post.

“Regan, again, he’s another young player. I’ve got to stop saying they’re young players! He’s learning his trade,” said McKechnie.

“He’s made a really good run, it almost felt like he might’ve just had enough to take it round the keeper but he ended up putting a touch past it and it was unlucky. He’s beaten the keeper but just put it a little bit wide but it was a very intelligent run.”

Reflecting on both side’s chances, Vines said: “There’s a lot of historic football rubbish around, heading the ball down. As far as I’m concerned, what I try to instil with the boys is head the ball in. Phipp’s new to the club, he’s bedded in lovely. He’s a great lad, very experienced, very, very capable, he’s just got to get used to our way of thinking.

“Phipps has got himself over the ball and headed it down and hit the foot of the post and they’ve gone straight at the other end with an opportunity.”

Dent drilled a free-kick into the Rusthall penalty area but Sean Roberts glanced his free header across goal and sailing harmlessly wide of the far post.

Pritchard skipped past two Rusthall players and played a fine diagonal pass along the ground to put in Federico, who cut inside and dragged his right-footed angled drive across the keeper and past the far post.

Rhule battled to win the ball with the ball stuck under Tom Cameron’s feet and he then skipped past the right-back and Alex Carey to race down the left, cut into the box and putting the ball on a plate for Pritchard, whose left-footed chip sailed just over the crossbar.

The outstanding Luke Stratford was harshly penalised by referee Alex Bradley for handball and Dent bent a right-footed free-kick towards the far corner from 20-yards, forcing Christie to dive to his left and use a strong hand to push the ball behind for a corner.

“Luke Stratford was immense tonight, he was immense. He’s actually one of our far older players in the team but he was in as captain tonight and he was brilliant,” praised McKechnie.

“I didn’t have a clear view of that free-kick but I felt it was a little bit harsh, I don’t know, you might’ve had a better view?”

Vines added: “Great save! He decided to go to the keeper’s side, no complaints. I thought he struck if well enough, maybe not enough height on it in the end but it’s nick picking really, his dead balls today were very, very good, very good.”

“At half-time our message was we needed to calm down, enjoy the game a little bit more and get into them and play more football,” said the Rusthall joint-manager.

“I think we almost gave them too much respect in the first 45 minutes.  The players felt a little bit of pressure when they didn’t need to. They were working very, very hard for 45 minutes but when we got the ball the players then relaxed a little bit and we actually needed to sharpen up and move that ball quicker and just get on them, attack them more.”

Reflecting on his thoughts at the break, Vines said: “There were a few stern words on the whole. We weren’t overly pleased how wasteful we were. We had enough opportunities to come in four or five up realistically. We created that many chances and I thought the longer it went on with just one goal in it, they always had a chance of coming back.”

Dent’s deliveries from set-pieces were excellent and Cray Wanderers missed a great headed chance when Phipp came up from the back to plant his free header over the crossbar from six-yards in the 53rd minute.

Pritchard fed Aaron Rhule, who drove forward and dragged his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Rusthall somehow equalised with 14 minutes and 34 seconds on the clock through a bizarre own-goal, despite not creating a shot on target themselves up until the second minute of extra-time.

Goalkeeper Nick Blue kicked the ball out to Dadson, who was hogging the right touch-line and neither player was being pressed by a Rusthall man and Dadson swept the ball back and watched the keeper stand rooted to the spot and allowed the ball roll across him and nestle into the bottom far corner.

“To be honest, it was a long way out as well,” said a laughing McKechnie.

“First instance when it left his foot, I thought it was going a bit and the keeper’s positioning weren’t that great but the keeper for me, he obviously knew it was going in instantly, he didn’t even make a movement, so my first thought was it was going wide, it ended up in the bottom corner.

“We’ve got a bit of luck, haven’t we?  You have to have a bit of luck when you’re an underdog and that was a bit of luck and then the confidence started flowing then and we really did compete in the game.”

And from the Cray Wanderers perspective on conceding the sloppiest goal that you’ll see in a long time, Vines said: “That is somebody stepping in to do a job at right-back. Ben Mundele had a little hamstring so we precautionary took him off.

“That was Junior Dadson doing us a favour coming on. He’s a winger and unfortunately he’s passed the ball back to Bluey and it was on target. Bluey was out of the goal as he should’ve been. It’s a mistake. It’s a mistake all round. You can’t point the finger of blame. I think you can go through various scenarios. Does Bluey call for it, should he be in his goal? I don’t believe so.

“I thought he’s in the right position, as a defender I didn’t think you should pass it on target. Dadson’s made a mistake. We’re not going to lambast him for that, it’s unfortunate.

“It’s allowed them to get back into the game but more disappointing was how we reacted to that because I thought we lost our shape and discipline in terms of playing the way we wanted to play.”

Cray Wanderers missed another glorious chance when Federico whipped in a cross from the left and Power flicked the ball up before striking a left-footed volley past the top of the left-hand post from 15-yards with Christie rooted to the spot.

The own-goal visibly rattled Cray Wanderers and Rusthall signalled that this could well be their night.

Cray Wanderers’ substitute left-winger Malik Solebo was a long way out when he tried to score from an angled drive, which bounced into Christie’s gloves for a comfortable save as the game entered the final 15 minutes of normal time.

Cray Wanderers found Christie was in top form again when a long ball out of defence from Dadson wasn’t cleared by Rusthall left-back Dan Kommu and this put Federico through on goal.  Christie got down low to his right but stuck out his left leg to prevent the winger from scoring from just inside the penalty area.

“Very, very good save, very, very good save,” came the reply from his manager.

“As I’ve said a lot of times, Callum’s a very good keeper. Even though they had a lot of the ball and they got into good areas, he wasn’t massively, he didn’t have to make save-after-save but again that’s’ why he’s there, he’s a good keeper when he’s called upon and he’s pulled off an excellent save.”

Vines added: “At this stage, I nearly lost my jockstrap! I was, how many times, the set-pieces we missed, the free headers? We record the games and take the stats and there will be a realistic honest figure and how many shots we had and it will run into the late 20s.”

Christie almost suffered from embarrassment in the final couple of minutes of normal time.

Dent threaded a low free-kick into Solebo, who drove a low angled drive towards the bottom far corner and Christie rode his luck when he dropped to his knees and allowed the ball slip through his fingertips, managing to get something on the ball to ensure the ball flashed past the foot of the far post and behind for a corner.

Yet another chance went begging for Cray Wanderers inside stoppage time when Dent swung in their fourteenth-corner and Nelson found space at the near post to plant his diving header over the crossbar.

Reflecting on his thoughts going into extra-time, McKechnie said: “We’re looking to get Regan in a little bit more because I felt their left-hand-side and our right-hand-side opened up a little bit but at that point I was thinking this game is winnable. We’re not just in this game, we’re completely competing, we’re in it at that point for the sides have evened up a little but and I felt the game was there to be won!”

Vines added: “I thought we ended the last 10 minutes of the second half really well. It was about maintaining that momentum and continue doing the right things.  It was about trying to do the right things and staying on the script.”

Cray Wanderers took 67 seconds to create their first opening of extra-time but Dent drove his right-footed shot past the left-hand post from 20-yards.

Rusthall then created their first shot on target of their own just 39 seconds later.

Murray put in a low cross from the left and lone striker Peter Shaw played in substitute midfielder Stephen Camacho who aimed for the bottom far corner but Blue stuck out his left-leg to make a vital block.

“Camacho’s done very well, he’s burst into the box, he’s made a lot of it himself and it’s a good save. He was unlucky. His last touch was a little bit heavy but the keeper still pulled off a very good save,” said McKechnie.

Vines added: “Made a save with his feet if I recall.  I think the guy was stretching for it and Blue was quick off his line.”

Nelson played the ball out of defence, fed a low ball into Power’s feet and his flicked pass set up Dent, whose left-footed drive was saved by Christie at his near post.

Cray Wanderers missed another glorious chance from their fifteenth-corner of the night.

Dent swung the ball in from the right and Nelson rose to plant his free header over from inside the six-yard box.

Ridley sliced an attempted clearance forward in midfield but Regan Corke headed the ball on before racing down the right channel before playing the ball inside for Shaw to strike his left-footed drive over the crossbar from just outside the box.

Cray Wanderers thought they had made the winning breakthrough with 12 minutes and 31 seconds into extra-time.

Dent and Williams linked up in the final third and Power’s drive from just outside the box bounced up and smacked Christie in the face and the keeper tripped Pritchard and the referee pointed to the spot.

Power placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner and Dent was substituted for holding midfielder Zak Henry before the game restarted.

Vines said: “Pritch got fouled in the lead up to it and then secondary contact was with the goalkeeper on Bradley Pritchard. If we’re realistic Bradley was our best player on the night. I think his energy levels and his performance has been excellent since he joined the club. He’s been a real coup for us and I think we well deserved that at that point.

“We took Denty off. How confident we were holding the lead at that point? Dent was our most creative player and put Zak Henry on to try to shore things up. They’ve taken centre, it’s one straight ball in behind and we’ve given a corner away and then they score from the subsequent corner. It’s taken a deflection of someone before it went in.”

McKechnie added: “It’s just one of the things. The ball’s bobbled up to Callum just before he’s able to collect it and it just put him off. He’s tried to redeem, it’s just one of those things.”

But Rusthall bounced back by equalising following their second corner of the night, with 14 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Ridley swung the ball in from the left, which was cleared out to Corke, who was lurking unmarked on the edge of the box and his driven shot flashed through a crowd of players and Gallie flicked the ball into the bottom left-hand corner before running over towards the clubhouse, sliding on the floor and ended up at the bottom of a massive bundle.

“It’s just a fantastic moment for the boys, they’ve given everything tonight once again,” hailed McKechnie.

“We’ve just conceded up the other end, they’ve forced it. Regan, sometimes you see a lot of players in that area put that high and wide. He’s put it back into an area and we’ve had a bit of luck and Callum Gallie’s just been alive to follow it up and put it in.

“It’s a brilliant moment, there’s nothing left in the players and anyone whose come to support tonight deserved that moment and I think we’re all a credit to get it to penalties.”

Vines said: “Just people in the wrong position. We know our jobs, we go through it in so much detail so often. Somebody was in the wrong spot, not done their job.

“You’ve got to give them credit, they never gave up. I hope they do well in their league because they’re struggling a bit in their league, They really wanted to get the crowd something to shout about and they gave it to them.”

Cray Wanderers created three chances during the second period of extra-time.

Pritchard took over from Dent at set-pieces and curled a beautiful free-kick into the corridor of uncertainty for Nelson to find space on the penalty spot to glance his header agonisingly past the far post.

Roberts played the ball out to Dadson, who crossed towards the near post for Power to flick his shot just over the top of the near post, leaving him in despair.

Solebo could have won it at the death when he cut inside and curled his shot towards the far corner, but Christie dived to his left to push the ball away and Williams drove his shot flashing just past the left-hand post after picking up the loose ball outside the box.

Vines said: “Malik’s got bundles of ability. I think he’s going to be a very, very good player. He’s got all of the attributes to go above and beyond this level. He just needs to learn a bit more about how we play without the ball but he’s going to be a big player for us in the future.”

McKechnie added: “Top save. I can’t say enough, as I keep saying, he’s a top keeper and he’s pulled off another good save.”

Rusthall took the first penalty, at the Farm end of the ground, but striker Shaw stepped up and lashed his right-footed penalty high over the crossbar.

Power stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way with a right-footed penalty that nestled inside the bottom left-hand corner.

Camacho had a long run up and his right-footed penalty sailed into the right-hand corner.

Cray Wanderers went 2-1 up when captain Williams emphatically sent his spot-kick into the top-left-hand corner.

Rusthall substitute midfielder Paul Butler got lucky when his drilled right-footed penalty flew over Blue’s right shoulder and clipped the underside of the crossbar before dropping in.

Pritchard sent Christie the wrong way as his right-footed penalty nestled inside the bottom left-hand corner.

Blue guessed the right way, diving to his left, but couldn’t prevent centre-half Bissett hitting his penalty into the right-hand corner.

Nelson stepped up and slotted his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, as the keeper went the other direction.

Cray Wanderers booked their trip to Imber Court when Blue stepped to his right and used a strong left hand to fist Gallie’s left-footed penalty, which went just left of centre.

Reflecting on the penalty shoot-out, McKechnie said: “At that point, what can you do? It’s penalties. You know what happens.  To be fair to them, all of their penalties were superb. Callum is a very good penalty stopper, their penalties were all superb, were all good.

“To me, that (missing two) becomes irrelevant. We’re all a team, everyone’s in it together.  We didn’t say who was taking a penalty, we said who wants to take a penalty?  We had six, seven and eight people. So for a lot of the team who are 20, 21, 22 to stand up and go ‘I’m going to take a penalty’, takes a lot of bottle and there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re a team, we take that together.

“I’m just really proud, all the boys should be really proud for everything that they’ve done tonight.

“Rusthall taking on the might of Cray Wanderers, who are a very, very good side and over the two games there was nothing that could separate us apart from penalties. Yes, it’s a massive achievement.”

Vines was delighted that his players held their nerve from 12-yards.

“As the assistant I do a lot more 1-2-1 stuff with the boys. We’ve been doing a lot more about handling certain situations in terms of mentally, not losing our discipline, being focused, understanding how to harness pressure and I spoke a lot about visualisation over the last few weeks. I think that really came in handy because all of the boys that stepped up, when you look at their body language there was never a doubt in my mind that any of those were going to miss.

“We’ve not practiced them at all but when you looked at the boys that stepped forward, Tony said to the boys step forward if you want a penalty and all of those boys stepped forward and really wanted to take one.

“You look at the experience and you’re all winners. Mitchell Nelson, Barney, Pitch and Shaggy, they’re leaders as individuals, they’re real men and even if Bluey didn’t save that last penalty it was Phipps who would’ve taken the last penalty and Phippy is a real man.

“I’m one to pace up and down the line during the game but I sat down and I felt really comfortable and I was confident we would win it.

“I said I really hope Bluey saves that last one to be the hero because over the last few weeks he’s been excellent for us.  His ability with the ball at his feet is never in question but maybe at times maybe we’ve questioned his bravery a little bit. That’s gone, that’s yesterday’s news.”

Rusthall: Callum Christie, Tom Cameron (Jordan Anderson 79), Dan Kommu, Ryan Waterman (Paul Butler 85), Robbie Bissett, Luke Stratford, Regan Corke, Alex Carey (Stephen Camacho 64), Peter Shaw, Callum Ridley, Sam Murray (Callum Gallie 99).
Subs: William Jagger, Jake Cornish

Goals:  Junior Dadson 60 (own goal),  Callum Gallie 105

Booked: Ryan Waterman 53, Luke Stratford 45, Callum Ridley 114

Cray Wanderers:  Nick Blue, Ben Mundele (Junior Dadson 46), Barney Williams, Sean Roberts (Freddie Parker 116), Mitchell Nelson, Tom Phipp, Aaron Rhule (Malik Solebo 71), Bradley Pritchard, Michael Power, Karl Dent (Zak Henry 104), Jerome Federico.
Subs: Jay Leader, Joe Vines

Goals: Michael Power 12, 103 (penalty)

Booked: Aaron Rhule 70

Attendance: 274
Referee: Mr Alex Bradley (Brighton, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Harry Wager (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Liam Vittoria (Sevenoaks)