Rusthall 6-3 Cray Wanderers - We've outlined what an experience this is and what an opportunity it is for them to get in The FA Youth Cup First Round proper, which is ultimately where we want to get to, says Rusthall assistant Chris Elwood

Thursday 05th October 2023
Rusthall 6 – 3 Cray Wanderers
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 05/10/2023 19:30

The FA Youth Cup Second Qualifying Round
Thursday 5 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

RUSTHALL Academy assistant manager Chris Elwood says their longest FA Youth Cup campaign is putting the club on the map after causing their third home upset to reach the final qualifying round after beating a Cray Wanderers side that played with 10 men after a red card after only 34 seconds.

Jonny Elwood’s side have defeated Chatham Town (5-2, Isthmian League Premier Division) and Dover Athletic (2-1, National League South) and sent Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Cray Wanderers crashing out of the competition at Jockey Farm Stadium.

There are 37 teams between Cray Wanderers (16th place) and Rusthall (12th, Southern Counties East Football League Premier) and Rusthall's first-team manager Jimmy Anderson insists he will not stand in the way if a pro club approach to sign any of his non-contracted young talent.

Cray Wanderers have defeated Sevenoaks Town (3-0), Hollands & Blair (2-1) and Corinthian (2-1) all away from home and played this tie with 10 men after right-back Leonard Rye was sent off for a professional foul.

The outstanding Stan Sargent, 15, scored from the resulting free-kick to give Rusthall the lead after 90 seconds, but Cray Wanderers showed great character and levelled through a penalty from striker David Owusu-Boateng.

Rusthall regained the lead through central midfielder Zead Massood’s finish from a set-piece, before Cray Wanderers levelled in the 27th minute through attacking midfielder Tommy Allen-Beattie.

The Wands went into the half-time interval with a 3-2 lead through a quality finish from Allen-Beattie.

However, Rusthall were clinical during the second half with Jack Lyons – who scored after only four seconds at the start of their win over Chatham Town – finishing off a two-man counter-attack.

Massood then buried a free-header to give Rusthall a 4-2 lead, before Sargent – who was being watched by scouts from Premier League sides Chelsea and Crystal Palace – as well as League Two Gillingham – beat five men before slotting home, before centre-half Frank Little rifled in a last minute sixth.

Rusthall have been given a fourth home tie in the Third Qualifying Round, facing either Kingstonian (Isthmian League Premier) or Lancing (Isthmian League South East), week commencing 16 October.

Referee Matthew Pollington showed Cray Wanderers left-back Frankie Forrester (who was substituted at half-time)  a red card after the final whistle for ‘foul and abusive language’.

The Wands also had their manager Roy Brooke yellow carded in the first half and five players were booked.

“It’s an unbelievable result. It was very much a game of two halves,” admitted Chris Elwood, who was sent out by his brother Jonny for post-match media duties.

“I thought we were pretty poor in the first half.  They pressed very, very well. We couldn’t get the ball down and play at all. 

“I think they had a really difficult set of circumstances with the red card in the first 34 seconds and going 1-0 down and I thought some of our boys may have thought at that point the game was won.

“They’ve got an equaliser quite quickly, so one-all after eight minutes. I wasn’t convinced it was a pen. I thought it might’ve been outside the box, others have given me various opinions on that, so to be confirmed, we’ll watch that back on the VEO and see where it was.

“When we sort of calmed down ten or 15 minutes in, we got the next goal. I was pretty confident at that point. We looked more dominant.  Frank Little and Joseph Brum at the back looked solid in the air and they didn’t look like creating a great deal and when they scored, our heads seemed to drop a bit and when they got the third on the stroke of half-time it was a real tough one to take.

“When we came in at half-time everyone’s heads were down and we had to have a real strong look at ourselves really.  Cray have got some quick, strong lads there and I thought they really, really made it hard for us to get the ball down and play, which is really our game.

“We’re not a team that likes to bang it long and we do like to get the ball down and play little triangles and we’ve got some unbelievable ball players in there but we just couldn’t get any time on the ball today, they made it difficult to play against.

“From minute one of the second half I think we looked like a different team.  Our intensity went up, our quality went up and as a squad they really went to war with each other. 

“I don’t think I can speak highly enough of the spirit within this group. Most of these have been together since they were seven, eight or nine years old and they are happy to go into battle for one another and it’s a real pleasure to be involved with a squad like this.”

Cray Wanderers manager Brooke said: “Sending off after 34 seconds, a goal down after 90 seconds, I’m proud of the lads, really proud of them.

“Every game they’ve had to fight and show character and they’ve done that.  I don’t know what else to say, other than I’m proud of the lads.

“I’m absolutely gutted for them.  (We had) 10 men for 90 minutes. It’s hard.  For them (my players) to go 3-2 up first half it was just immense.  I was so proud of them.

“The goals in the second half just absolutely killed us. We ran out of a bit of steam. 

“We didn’t play the football that we like to play but I’m just really proud of the lads.  That’s the message I’d like to get through.”

Rusthall left-sided centre-half Joseph Brum launched a long ball up field and Cray Wanderers skipper Rye committed a professional foul on lone striker Hayden Marshall and the referee pulled out a red card after only 34 seconds.

Sargent stroked his right-footed free-kick around the wall to find the bottom far corner to give Rusthall the lead after only 90 seconds.

“Sarge has been one of these players that on his day is frightening. He’s been on trial at Gillingham in the last week or so and he’s had attraction from clubs all his life basically.

“I work part-time as a scout for Crystal Palace and he was one of the very first boys I sent in at eight (years of age).  He’s such a talent. He worked really, really hard and I thought second half he really came into life as well.”

Brooke added: “I feel like the striker couldn’t get to the ball and he went down a bit too easily.  He’s a very, very clever player, the tall striker. He was doing it across the pitch.  As soon as he had a touch, he was buying the foul.  It was like he’s an experienced player on a young guy’s head but it’s absolutely gutting.

“I don’t want to be too critical of the officials.  They’ve got to judge it how they see but the goal went in. He (King) lined up the wall and it’s gone around the wall and into the space where the keeper’s got to protect that a little bit. He’s been outstanding for us so I don’t want to be too critical of him.”

However, Cray Wanderers showed great character for the rest of the first half and created their first opening five minutes in when Allen-Beattie laid the ball off to striker Owusu-Boateng, whose left-footed drive from 25-yards was gathered at the second attempt by Rusthall goalkeeper Jack Glassborrow, who has been on trial at Cambridge United.

Cray Wanderers restored parity, however, with seven minutes and 42 seconds on the clock, when the referee had adjudged Rusthall holding midfielder Toby Crampton to have fouled winger Michael Ihied on the very edge of the penalty area.

Owusu-Boateng clinically tucked away his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, sending Glassborrow the other way.

“He’s done well to step up there. We were under the cosh, got the penalty and done well to slot it away under a lot of pressure and got us back in to the game,” said Brooke.

Elwood added: “It was the ball just before that, that killed him. It didn’t leave him a great deal of opportunity,. We definitely advocate not tackling aggressively in the box.  It’s one of those heat of the moment things.  I think he probably just over-reached more than anything else.

“I did think it was outside the box and I think he probably did as well.  I don’t think he makes that tackle if he’s in the box but if he knows he’s in the box, I think he probably does that different.  It was a great pen, never in doubt really.”

Rusthall regained the lead, however, with 10 minutes and 24 seconds on the clock, following another set-piece.

Sargent whipped in a free-kick from the left and up came Little from the back to steer his header straight at visiting goalkeeper Tom King.  The ball fell to Massood, who steered his left-footed shot from a tight angle into the bottom far corner.

“Great awareness around the box. He’s so sharp.  Zead was someone who probably didn’t give us enough first half but was a totally different player second half,” Elwood said of Massood, who has played five times for Snodland Town in the ninth-tier this season.

“He really, really went to battle for us. He’s such a talent. He’s got a lot to offer. He’s a real threat, a real handful.”

Brooke claimed: “I thought it was offside, if I’m going to be honest but we’ll check the VEO because in the heat of the moment you always see things how you think they are.  I’ll give him (assistant referee Samuel Girt) the benefit of the doubt but I thought it was offside.  He was the only one in the six-yard box and poked it home but we’ll see. We’ll watch the VEO back and see how that was.”

Cray Wanderers’ holding midfielder Cameron McQueen-Hinkley floated in their first of five corners into the box but Allen-Beattie steered his free header past the right-hand upright.

Brooke was booked by the referee in the 28th minute for dissent, but his side produced a quality equaliser with 26 minutes and 27 seconds on the clock.

Midfielder Sase Ogbride-Ihama played the ball into Ihied in the centre and he swept the ball out to the right for centre-half turned right-back Callum Redman.

He hung over a cross into the Rusthall box, which was headed away by Little and Allen-Beattie was in space before hitting a right-footed drive which sailed into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards.

“Tommy’s been clinical in front of goal in every round we’ve played. He’s had a chance to score and scored two great finishes,” said Brooke.

“We dropped him in the hole today in the 10 because we know anything in and around the box he’s going to put away.  He’s been a really good asset to us since he's come over.”

Elwood added: “A great finish! I was a little bit disappointed with that. I think we probably didn’t do enough closing down on the edge of the box there. He had a lot of time to pick his spot. It was an unbelievable finish and it takes some strike to beat Jack Glassborrow from there.”

Rusthall were to be denied the lead in the 42nd minute as the crossbar saved King’s bacon.

Yusuf Rabbaj played the ball inside from the right to the impressive Massood, who turned McQueen-Hinkley before unleashing a right-footed drive towards the top far corner from 25-yards, only for the ball to crash off the crossbar.

Elwood said: “That’s a fantastic strike. He was really unlucky not to score with that one. On another day that goes in, doesn’t it?”

Brooke added: “A good strike. He’s a good player, the 20 (Massood). He was very lively, very sharp.  He played well and deserved a goal (there).

Massood laid the ball off for Sargent, whose first time right-footed drive from 25-yards was comfortably saved by the Cray Wanderers goalkeeper.

The Wands went into the break with the lead, scoring 91 seconds into stoppage time.

Redman hung over a cross from the right, the ball was knocked down inside the box by Owusu-Boateng and Allen-Beattie was left in a pocket of space just outside the box to drill a shot into the right-hand corner.

“It was hard for us. If you watch our Sunday team, we like to play football and we like to get the ball down,” revealed Brooke.

“We haven’t been able to do that in the competition but it’s been effective and the boys are getting the first and second ball and then putting the ball away.  I’m proud of them for that to getting themselves back in it.”

Elwood added: “I think the 11 (Allen-Beattie) was their best player. He looked a real handful. I was surprised when they took him off, so I’m not sure if he was carrying a knock or what happened to him really but he was actually very, very good. A big strong lad, very physical, really good technical ball striker as well.”

Both Elwood and Brooke were asked their thoughts going into the break.

Elwood said: “I don’t think we were at the races first half. We didn’t do the simple stuff right.  I think our intensity wasn’t as high as it needs to be.  There’s no easy games in this FA Youth Cup and I don’t think we dealt well with the press.

“I think they maybe bullied us a little bit. They were a bit more physical and seemed to be first to everything and also they seemed to win an awful lot of second balls in the first half.”

Brooke added: “Just try a bit of the same, maybe freshen up the team but get some fresh legs on basically.  Try to get the front three involved, picking up the first and second ball and try to put a goal away. It obviously didn’t go that way. 

“Rusthall did really well and got a few really quick goals and it just killed us and we just ran out of steam.”

Rusthall put in a vastly-improved performance during the second half and ran out comfortable winners in the end.

Lyons’ cross from the right was flapped away by King and the ball came out to Sargent, who took a touch before drilling his left-footed drive screaming over the crossbar after 112 seconds.

However, Rusthall equalised with four minutes and 59 seconds on the clock, courtesy of talented pair Lyons and Sargent.

Lyons (who has made seven appearances for Anderson's first team this season) was inside his own half when he drilled a long ball forward to release Sargent down the left.  The winger cut inside and put in a low cross which was met by winger Lyons, who drove a first-time drive into the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards.

Elwood heaped praise on the pair, who have both impressed during this FA Youth Cup campaign.

He said: “They are different class, both of them. They’ve been a joy to work with their whole lives really. They’re such a threat and I think even on an off day for them they’re just a handful for anyone to play against. They are so quick and just creative players, really technical, creative players and will quite often create something out of nothing.”

Brooke admitted: “Absolutely gutting to be honest.  The momentum was with them and it was hard from there. It was all uphill from there.”

Rusthall hit the base of the near post from Massood’s attempt from a tight angle close to the left by-line and 14 seconds later the ball came out to Lyons, who smashed an angled drive across the keeper and flashing just past the same post.

It was a surprise when Brooke hooked Allen-Beattie in the 51st minute but his replacement, attacking midfielder Alfie Murphy, 17, was just as impressive and Brooke was asked why he took off his two-goal midfielder.

Murphy rode a tackle on a mazy run before hitting a left-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, which was straight down the throat of Glassborrow.

“Alfie is a good player. He’s been unfortunate. He hasn’t had any minutes in The FA Youth Cup. He’s quick and he likes to beat men and he likes to draw fouls in and he’s a really good kid.

“Tommy has been outstanding for us in the Cup so far. He’s just come back from injury and he’s finding it hard to get the full 90 (minutes) but Tommy, he easily could’ve stayed on the pitch but it was a bit tactical. Get Alfie on and try to get a goal, unfortunately, it didn’t work.”

Rusthall called King into making a decent save, beating the ball away to his left as Lyons unleashed a left-footed angled drive from the right following a short corner routine.

Rusthall moved into a 4-3 lead with 13 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock, following a three-man counter-attack.

Crampton played a long ball out of defence to release Lyons charging down the right and his cross was perfect for an unmarked Massood to bury his header into the top left-hand corner.

Cray Wanderers centre-half Jabari Anthony-Ofeosi switched off to open the gate for Massood and was swiftly substituted by Brooke.

“That was just a text book. The ball out wide from Toby was just absolutely fantastic. I don’t think he slightly overhit it. Jack being Jack and the pace he’s got, he’s got an absolute wand so I think there will be strikers in the Premier League who would like to be on the end of crosses like that!

“It’s a great, great finish. It’s an unbelievable header. Roy of the Rovers stuff wasn’t it? It’s net bulging from distance. It was a superb goal, one of the best goals that I’ve seen here!”

Brooke said: “I have to watch the VEO back.  You get caught up in the moment. They did really, really well. It was a proper cup game, end-to-end stuff and he got caught out and he got on the wrong side.  As a defender, you’ve got to get in front of your attacking player and win that header. He just beat him for pace and just headed it in, which was a good goal.”

Sargent has a big future in the game and he produced sheer quality for Rusthall’s fifth goal of the night, timed at 23:36.

Picking the ball up in midfield, Sargent slalomed past five Cray Wanderers players, cut into the box and left Anthony-Ofeosi’s replacement, Kaya Mahmut in his wake before holding his composure to clinically slot his left-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 10-yards.

Elwood said: “That was probably the best goal I’ve ever seen here! It will certainly be in the top five. We’ve watched him do that time and time again.  He’s just cut in, gone past a player and then even on the bench we were saying he might go from there and then he beats another, beats another and beats another and then a finish right out of the top drawer.

“It was such a great goal. I don’t think there was any doubt in his mind when he picked the ball up and he beats the first man that he’s going to go and strike. I don’t knock his decision making when it flies into the corner.”

Brooke added: “Best player on the pitch, he was really good. A real good threat, hard to deal with. When you’ve got 10 men and you’ve got a player like that, getting on the ball wide and could beat men for fun.  Yes, he done well.

“I don’t think he should’ve beat all four of them. We’ll have to look at that back but the lads will have to look at that and see what they could’ve done a little bit better.  There were so many of them on a yellow card, I don’t think they wanted to tackle. I thought their 10 (Sargent) was the best player on the pitch.”

Forrester put over a cross from the left towards the far post for Ihied, whose left-footed drive from eight-yards was beaten away by the Rusthall goalkeeper, as Cray Wanderers had a go during the final 15 minutes.

Rusthall’s right-back Austin Kent, meanwhile, put over a cross towards the near post for Lyons to meet it with a free header, which was gathered at the second attempt by King, smothering the ball to his right.

Cray Wanderers should have scored a fourth goal in the 38th minute when Murphy put over a cross from the left towards the near post but Ihied’s free-header lacked conviction and the Rusthall keeper gathered quite comfortably as the ball was bouncing out for a goal-kick.

Cray Wanderers’ half-time substitute left-back Ryan Kwesi-Opoku poked a shot past the left-hand post from 22-yards, before Murphy cut their final corner back to stand-in captain Redman, who hooked his right-footed volley looping over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Rusthall rifled in their sixth goal of the night with 44:50 on the clock, courtesy of Little, who was up for a set-piece.

Sargent’s reverse pass released Rabbaj in behind Redman and he whipped in a cross from the left and Little rifled his right-footed drive into the top right-hand corner.

“Frank had a fantastic game.  He looked really, really dominant in the air at the back. He’s a year younger than all of these other boys as well, really grown-up head on his shoulders. It was nice to see him in the goals.”

Brooke added: “After we went 4-3 down, one behind, we found it really, really hard. We ran out of legs, we ran out of steam. 

“I don’t know if that’s a FA Youth Cup record but getting a player sent off after 34 seconds and then letting a goal in, I don’t think a lot of teams would know how to deal with that and the boys done themselves so proud to get back into it and give us a little bit of hope.”

Some more quality wing play from Sargent, saw him embarrass Redman just outside the corner of the penalty area but Sargent failed to keep his right-footed drive down and the ball cleared the crossbar.

Referee Matthew Pollington confirmed post-match that he showed Forrester a red card in the players tunnel after the left-back threw ‘foul and abusive language’ in the referee’s direction after the final whistle.

Brooke said: “As a club, Cray Wanderers, they do everything the right way. We don’t condone that sort of language.  I’m not going to justify it and say heat of the moment. He's very passionate about it and some of these second years aren’t going to get a chance to come back and do it again but I’m not justifying it.

“If that’s proven to be the case, that he’s done that, which it seems like it, if the ref has said it, then the club will deal with that internally and sort it out because we don’t have that at this club.”

With Cray Wanderers playing at their new stadium Flamingo Park in 2024, first-team manager Neil Smith is keen to promote home-grown talent and these are exciting times for the club.

Brooke said: “As a club, it’s going in the right direction and they’re giving youth a chance.  Since we’ve come over (from Metrogas), from the secretary (Martin Hodson) down to the ladies who sort everything right down to (CEO) Sam Wright and the gaffer (Neil Smith), they’ve been nothing but superb and the lads have done the club proud and the club’s a good club going in the right direction.”

Rusthall can now look forward to another home tie in the Third Qualifying Round.

“We’ve outlined really what an experience this is and what an opportunity it is for them to get in the first round proper, which is ultimately where we want to get to and we’ve got a good opportunity. We’re in the hat for the next round but there’s a lot of good sides in this side of the draw, so we’ll just look forward to see who we get in the next round,” added Elwood.

“I think it would be an incredible achievement, not just these boys but for the club as a whole. It really puts this football club on the map.”

These are the games that puts players in the shop window and with Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Gillingham sending scouts to the game, impressive performances from the likes of Massood, Sargent, Lyons, Allen-Beattie and Murphy could be lifechanging.

“I know we’ve had scouts here tonight. Jack Glassborrow has been on trial at Cambridge United.  Stan Sargent has been at Gillingham.  Players like Jack Lyons, the worlds their oyster basically.

“I don’t think any of them are far away from Academy level.  They just need to get that break.  We’ve knocked out some big teams in this competition.  I don’t think anyone would’ve given us a chance.

“These opportunities don’t come on a plate.  It’s all about work ethic and you can be the most technical player in the world but if you don’t work hard enough, you won’t be able to take that next step.” 

Rusthall: Jack Glassborrow, Austin Kent, Harry Palmer (Anthony Mepham 90), Toby Crampton, Frank Little, Joseph Brum, Stan Sargent, Yusuf Rabbaj (Nathan Burness 90), Hayden Marshall (Yukai Cheng 81), Zead Massood, Jack Lyons.
Subs: Callum Wright, Femi Onasanya, Finn Appleby, Ben Williams

Goals: Stan Sargent 2, 69, Zead Massood 11, 59, Jack Lyons 50, Frank Little 90

Booked: Toby Crampton 7, Jack Lyons 29

Cray Wanderers: Tom King, Leonard Rye, Frankie Forrester (Ryan Kwesi-Opoku 46), Cameron McQueen-Hinkley, Finlay Avery, Callum Redman, Tommy Allen-Beattie (Alfie Murphy 51), Jabari Anthony-Ofeosi (Kaya Mahmut 63), David Owusu-Boateng, Sase Ogbride-Ihama, Michael Ihied.
Subs: Jaylen Bains, George Chambers, Kevin Bamba

Goals: David Owusu-Boateng 8 (penalty), Tommy Allen-Beattie 27, 45

Booked: Cameron McQueen-Hinkley 10, Roy Brooke 28 (manager), Michael Ihied 28, Tommy Allen-Beattie 29, Callum Redman 41, Finlay Avery 47

Sent off:  Leonard Rye 1, Frankie Forrester 90

Attendance: 183
Referee: Mr Matthew Pollington
Assistants: Mr Stephen Ryan & Mr Samuel Girt