Wednesday 07th September 2005

K's cup clash brings back happy memories for Francis


Cray Wanderers have had two training sessions to prepare for their mouth-watering FA Cup first qualifying round tie against former cup giantkillers and FA Trophy double winners Kingstonian at The Courage Stadium on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk, Cray’s assistant manager Joe Francis reflected on those glory days at Kingsmeadow, when under former boss Geoff Chapple, he helped the K’s win the Ryman Premier League title.

”I won the league with Kingstonian under Geoff Chapple,” said a proud Francis.

“We had a brilliant side – Colin Luckett, Terry Evans, Matt Crossley, Geoff Pitcher, Gary Patterson, myself, Eddie Akuamoah – we were the best side that played in that league.

”I played the last 25 games having signed from Hayes at the turn of the year.

”It was a great joy to turn up every week and play in a good side.  The sides I played in at Hayes and Enfield were even better!

”I only had two years outside the Conference and that was at Bromley.

“Most of my career was playing in the Conference so you get used to playing with good players, just like Gary Abbott.”

Francis first played in the same side as the experienced hit-man for two seasons some fifteen years ago, playing for Welling United and then Enfield, and their paths have crossed again, at ambitious Ryman League division one leaders Cray Wanderers.

“Gary has slotted in like he’s been here for years,” admitted Francis.

“He’s different class, a good influence on the team and still a good player.

“I played with Gary fifteen years ago for two years at Welling and Enfield and he was a joy to play with then.

“He’s a midfield players dream.  He has a great touch, great ability and he will bring the other boys on – he’s got good young players in our team.”

With such an experienced head on the pitch, Francis is delighted Abbott is “that additional line of communication.”

Cray go into this game sitting on top of the Ryman League division one table, winning all their opening four league games.

And what is even better, Kent rivals Dover Athletic, Tonbridge Angels and Ramsgate occupy the next three positions.  Ashford Town, however, are rock bottom. 

Last weekend, Cray had to fight for their three points when they came across Walton Casuals at Hayes Lane.  Michael Power’s first half goal settled the issue.

“It was a hard fought win,” admitted Francis.  “Walton Casuals played well, they are a good side, they passed it about well.

”Our goal was superb.  It’s a good sign to win when not playing well, but a couple of moments of brilliance and we got our reward.

“But we defended well, never looked like getting breached but Walton Casuals played some good football and moved us around – compliments to them.”

But what pleased the Ashford based coach the most was picking up all three points, when last season they would have had to settle for only one.

“They are the sort of games we have to win and maybe last year we did draw that type of game," he admitted.

“That’s pleasing and we’re top of the table, four wins from four games, which is what we’d hoped for.”

Midfielder Jamie Kempster (lateral ligaments in his knee) could make a return to action within three weeks having hobbled off injured in their 2-1 win over Metropolitan Police last month and Francis admitted Abbott (hamstring) “maybe came back too early last Saturday but we are a different team when he plays, offering that experience and communication.”

And former Bromley boss Stuart McIntyre makes his first return to Hayes Lane, having been replaced at the helm by George Wakeling last December.

“When I left Kingstonian to come back to Bromley the number two was Ian McDonald and Macca knows his stuff. They’ve had a good start to the season," said Francis.

“It will be good to see them do well, as you have an affection for your old club – but we want to win.  It’s a game we can win and they will also be thinking that.

“We look forward to having Kingstonian at our place as it sounds nice – a decent team and a big club.

“It will also be good to see Stuart (McIntyre).  I’ve always had a good relationship with Stuart and he likes his football.

“Let’s hope it’s a decent game and we win,” added Francis.

Cray Wanderers v Kingstonian
FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Saturday 10th September 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Courage Stadium, Hayes Lane, Bromley