Thursday 01st September 2005

Keynsham killed off
Keynsham Town 0-2 Cray Wanderers (aet)
FA Vase Fifth Round
Saturday 7 February 2004
by Jerry Dowlen

Cray Wanderers needed extra time to kill off the stubborn and plucky resistance of their hosts Keynsham Town during a tense if rather one-sided FA Vase 5th round encounter at the Crown Field on Saturday.

Although the pitch had been under water for most of the days leading up to the game - the River Avon runs close by the ground - the home club's committee worked long and hard to overcome the elements, and with the bonus of sun and drying wind on the match-day morning, the surface ended up playing quite true, although there were some slippery patches on the stand side.

The trio of match officials from the West Midlands ran the game extremely well, with referee Mr Keane sensibly applying the advantage rule and quickly nipping in the bud any wild tackling and confrontational incidents. There was one undignified flare-up early in the second half, with most of the 22 players converging on the dug-out for bout of shoving and shouting, but calm eventually reigned and the game continued in general good spirit.

Cray were given a stream of early free kicks that produced no end product, and then from a left-wing corner kick the home side mustered what was to be their only on-target shot of the whole game, a far post header that  Sam Wood, guarding the post, duly blocked on the line.

A right-wing corner for Cray saw Andy Silk rattle the bar with a header at the near post after 12 minutes, and the woodwork again came to Keynsham's rescue when Danny Evans cut in from the left and drilled a low cross to Ricky Bennett who couldn't quite force the ball in via the far post. The rebound was seized by Ross Lover who worked an opening for a fierce shot that was superbly pushed away by 'keeper Richard Fey.

Still the Wands continued to press but Jamie Kempster at the far post headed into the side netting when Lover's cross picked him out, and then in the 42nd minute one of Cray's countless free kicks was met by James Taylor who could only send his header wide.

After the resumption there was a period of quite scrappy play which suggested that Cray wouldn't carry on where they had left off. Keynsham  - who had a fair share of corner kicks and free kicks in the game  despite Cray's monopoly of possession - didn't show conviction when they did get a few glimpses of the visitors' goal, and it was not long before Cray stepped up the pace again.

In fact from the 60th minute onward the Wands' pressure was so ceaseless that the main question asked by the large contingent of visiting supporters was: "How long can Keynsham possibly hold out?" - followed by a nagging whisper of "But supposing Keynsham sneak a goal from a breakaway?" It wasn't easy on the nerves, because Fey in the home goal was playing like a man inspired, and tall centre half Adamo Missiato always seemed to get his head or a leg in the way as the Wands tried but failed to put in the killer final pass or shot in the goalmouth.

Jamie Wood will wonder how Fey managed to dive low and keep out his low shot, and Kempster will wonder how he didn't score a hat-trick, seeing two efforts creep agonisingly wide and a third blocked by a defender during a fierce goalmouth scramble.

Extra time at 0 - 0 seemed to relax the Wands who must have sensed that the young over-run Keynsham team were out on their feet. Cray sent on striker Matt Woolf and within barely a minute they made the long-awaited breakthrough. Sam Wood, a terrier down the left for Cray all afternoon, lost possession but won it back again and sent in a dream of a cross in the 97th minute that Woolf buried with a flying header into the net.

 "Get a second goal!" prayed the Cray fans whose nerve-ends were still jangling, and the team duly obliged just two minutes after the change-of-ends. Kempster sprang the home defence on the right and slipped a perfect cross to the feet of Jamie Wood who coolly shot past Fey.

 To their credit, Keynsham didn't give up, and Cray had to repel some flurries of late pressure, but in the final count there could be no argument that the better side won. In fact this was a commanding performance by the Wands, who now march into the quarter-final of the Vase for the second time in their history. It was a day when the whole team was "man of the match" and it would be hard to single out any one player. Your head might say Ian Rawlings - solid as a rock in Cray's central defence - but your heart might say the two 17-year old wingers Ross Lover and Sam Wood whose eyecatching performances justified the decision of player-manager Ian Jenkins and coach Joe Francis to pitch them in for this important game.

The last time that Cray reached the Vase quarter-final, in 1979-80, they lost to eventual winners Stamford. Cray created an all-time Vase record that season when they were drawn at home in all seven rounds that they played in.

In contrast, Cray's 2003-04 path to the quarter-final has touched several different and distant regions of the country. In the 1st round, Cray went to the south-east coast and won 2 - 1 at Deal Town. Then after beating Chessington 6 - 0 at Hayes Lane they saw Great Yarmouth Town travel down from East Anglia for an exciting game that saw the Wands edge home 3 - 2 after extra time. Next in the 4th and 5th rounds came long journeys for Cray to win 1 - 0 against West Allotment Celtic in Tyneside and 2 - 0 at Keynsham Town in cider country. The draw for the 6th round will be eagerly awaited by the Wands' camp on Monday morning. Will they need to consult the road map again or will it be a big day at Hayes Lane?

Cray Wanderers: Simmons, Silk (Whelan), Rawlings, Gray, Evans, Taylor, Lover, Kempster, J Wood, Bennett (Woolf), S Wood.

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