History repeats its self for Cray
Trouble sparks favourites Sudbury into life
Wanderers 0-2 AFC Sudbury (aet)
FA Vase Quarter-Final
Saturday 21 February 2004
Jerry Dowlen reports from Hayes Lane
to the statistics that Peter Goringe researched for the match programme, AFC
Sudbury have reached the FA Vase quarter-final a record eight times, if you
count their predecessor clubs.
In recent years their Vase pedigree is extremely impressive. But in a tense encounter at Hayes Lane on Saturday before an attendance of 771 it needed extra-time to separate Cray Wanderers and Sudbury and to determine which of them would battle through to this year's semi-final.
a thought for the Cray supporters who could remember the Wands' one previous
appearance in the Vase quarter-final, at home to Stamford (lost 0 - 1) in
They must have been wondering whether they were watching the re-run of an old film. Nil-nil after 90 minutes and then the bitter pill of conceding in extra-time. Alan Whitehead, Cray's right-winger in the Stamford game, was one of the many ex-Wands' faces glimpsed in the crowd at Hayes Lane.
close comparison between the Stamford and Sudbury games even extended to the
fine detail that the Cray man-of-the-match wore the number three shirt on both
occasions (Kenny Edwards and Ian Rawlings).
There was the unwanted incidence of crowd trouble too, at both games.
particular it was the run of the game against Sudbury that was so reminiscent of
24 years ago.
taking the game to their opponents in the early stages, and nearly scoring, but
eventually being pushed back into a dour midfield slog which produced very few
clear-cut chances at either end.
That was the story at Oxford Road versus Stamford, and the script was much the same at Hayes Lane too.
were quicker out of the starting blocks against Sudbury, winning three early
corners and finding a surprising amount of time and space on the ground and in
the air to pressurise a wobbly-looking visiting rearguard.
But Cray couldn't hit the target - efforts from David Gray and Matt Woolf went closest - and gradually the visitors settled down and brought themselves into the game.
flying save by Micky Simmons from Gary Bennett's flick-header marked the halfway
point of the first half and also the nearest that either side came to scoring in
the first period. The pattern of play had become an increasingly tense and
nervous battle of wits on a partly-sanded and puddingy surface that didn't allow
much flowing football.
needed two attempts to beat away and hold the ball from a corner-kick just
before the interval, by which time it was noticeable that the strong and
determined bursts by Cray's Jamie Kempster and Sam Wood into Sudbury territory
had become less frequent.
Wood in fact had needed two lengthy spells of treatment from the physio after taking a hard blow to the face, and, worse still for the Wands, Ross Lover on the right flank had been forced to hobble off after 40 minutes with an injured ankle.
so, the opening period of the second half gave Cray fans just cause for
believing that the game was there for the taking. Cray certainly weren't
overawed by the Sudbury presence. The cut-and-thrust battle between Rawlings and
David Gray in Cray's central defence and the front runners Gary Bennett and Andy
Claydon whom they were marking was worth the admission money on its own, but at
the other end Jamie Wood and Matt Woolf were scampering after the ball, jinking
and turning and giving the visitors some stout defending of their own to do.
first of Cray's best two chances came on 58 minutes when Sudbury couldn't
prevent a left-wing cross from drifting into the path of the unmarked Paul
Dimmock at the far post, and although he seemed to drag his shot a little, it
looked to be on target until the ball struck a defender and flew clear.
Greygoose was the less busy of the two 'keepers during the whole game but he had
some luck on his side just after the hour when he hurled himself full-stretch to
claw away a left-wing cross, sending the ball out to the edge of the box. With
one-third of the unguarded goal to aim at, as he raced to meet the loose ball,
Sam Wood fired into the side-netting.
the skies darkened and the nuisance wind got colder, and the players had to cope
with a 13-minute cessation of play while the scrimmaging of rival supporters
behind the Cray goal was dampened
down, it was Sudbury who began to take a firm grip on the game.
The Wands began to look starved in midfield, failing to get forward in number to support their two front strikers and failing too to give their strikers the ball on the floor where they wanted it.
game moved into extra-time one sensed that Cray's mission was now limited to
containment - to hold out for a replay and hopefully use the seven day respite
to get some of the walking wounded in fit shape to do battle with Sudbury on
East Anglia soil on Saturday week.
Simmons made a great one-on-one save to keep Cray clinging on, but their undoing was the arrival of Sudbury's substitutes Sam Banya and Dean Francis who respectively set up and scored the opening goal on 102 minutes.
Barely had the visitors' celebrations subsided than Paul Betson was hammering in the second and killer goal on 104 minutes, and the exodus of the Kent and South London followers was becoming a flood rather than a trickle.
FA Vase dream is over - and now their season starts all over again! The Wands
have done the Kent League proud this season but it certainly doesn't mean that
their rivals in the championship chase will stand aside and let the title stay
at Hayes Lane for the second year running.
In fact, Cray's opponents will have the scent of blood in their nostrils and will hope that the Wands might be on a big downer after their Vase exit.
The next few games will show what Ian Jenkins' Army is made of. Till then, well done Cray in the Vase and well done AFC Sudbury - you edged Cray out in a good sporting game and there can be no complaints.
Wanderers: Simmons, Whelan (Silk), Rawlings, Gray, Evans, Sharman, Lover
(P Dimmock) , Kempster, J Wood, Woolf (Bennett), S Wood.