Hythe Town and Cray Wanderers reach Kent Senior Trophy Final
This season's Kent Senior Trophy Final will be between Cray Wanderers and Hythe Town, writes Stephen McCartney.
Hythe Town defeated nine-man Lordswood thanks to Roy Godden's header nine minutes before the break, but Ian Jenkins's Cray Wanderers side needed penalties to beat VCD Athletic after the game, at VCD's home ground at Oakwood, finished 3-3 after extra time.
But Lordswood can count themselves the bridesmaids when it comes to semi-finals having lost five in their eight-year history as a senior club.
Lordswood's record against Hythe going into the game wasn't good as Hythe had already beaten them twice this season, but the home side had high expectations of reaching the final.
The game started with a high tempo without many chances being created and visitors Hythe relying on the long ball.
However, in the 25th minute, Ronan O'Connor slid into a Hythe defender which resulted in a melee and it is alleged that Hythe's Gary Miller threw a punch at O'Connor but referee Gavin Hoare showed a yellow card to O'Connor.
Four minutes later, Lordswood's Glen Barlow was sent off for violent conduct when it appeared he pushed a defender away after he was fouled before Wayne Barlow was sent off two minutes later leaving the home side with only nine men on the pitch.
Wayne Barlow went to retrieve the ball for a throw in when a Hythe squad member kept hold of the ball and pretended to throw the ball back but didn't release it. Wayne Barlow grabbed the ball but the referee came over and sent him off.
Hythe scored the only goal of the game nine minutes before the break. Dan Fisk's floated corner was headed home from six yards by Roy Godden.
Three minutes later the visitors could have doubled their lead but Dan Porter headed wide from Fisk's free kick.
Lordswood almost drew level, however, within three minutes of the second half when Craig Allen's driven free kick deflected narrowly wide of the post and with twenty-two minutes remaining Sam Colyer picked up a loose clearance before shooting wide from 35 yards.
Hythe went close again when Darren Walmsley crossed to the back post and Gooden spooned the ball over the crossbar. Godden challenged the goalkeeper Darren Watson and the ball spilled out to Jason Brazier who struck a 15 yard shot over the bar.
In the other semi-final, a good crowd turned out at VCD Athletic's home ground at Oakwood, but it was Cray Wanderers that reached the final for the second season running, winning 5-4 on penalties after the game finished 3-3 after extra time.
Early efforts from Cray from Danny Whealan and Jamie Kempster were off target before they took the lead in the 18th minute.
Mark Hammond, who recently returned to Cray after a disappointing spell in the Ryman League at Bromley, sent in a corner where Keith Sharman headed the ball down to Ricky Bennett who rammed the ball past Marc Brown into the roof of the net.
VCD Athletic were awarded a 38th minute penalty but the spot kick hit a post and rebounded to the taker who rifled the ball home. However, the goal was disallowed for offside.
The second half was only eleven minutes old when a close range header, following a VCD corner, caught goalkeeper Dean Mann by surprise and although he tried to parry the ball away, it was forced over the line by Clayton Probetts.
VCD Athletic's Probetts grabbed his and VCD's second goal after 78 minutes but Cray quickly responded and manager Ian Jenkins replaced the hard working Andy Silk and Adam Heaslewood with Jamie Wood and Richard Dimmock.
Moments later, Dimmock's first touch of the ball was to thump home a penalty kick awarded after Ricky Bennett was floored by Brown after the Cray man had been put through one-on-one by a defence splitting ball from Wood.
At 2-2, both sides looked dangerous on the break, but it was Cray who were to take the lead again when Jamie Wood latched onto an excellent through ball from Dimmock to drill home what looked like being the winner in the 87th minute.
But Brown had other ideas, and as VCD Athletic launched one final attack in the fifth minute of time added on, the goalkeeper was left unmarked on the edge of the penalty area as a corner was cleared to him. A superb volley by Brown, who caught the ball just right, it flew sweetly past the outstretched Mann to force extra time.
Goal scoring chances were few and far between, with Jamie Kempster coming closest for Cray in the dying moments of the second period but he saw his close-range header from a Dimmock cross scrambled away by a thankful Brown.
Kempster, however, was badly tackled from behind near the touchline and, although the VCD defender was cautioned, the Cray player, having already been booked earlier in the game, received his marching orders after he squared up to the assistant referee.
Referee Ian Crouch collected a number of names from both sides for his notebook and dismissed Cray's defender David Gray for a second bookable offence.
But this was not a day for the faint-hearted. Both teams gave a fine display of solid, if at times hard, football with each guilty of over-zealous play in moderation. The time plodded on until the final whistle when the Russian Roulette of the penalty shoot out settled the tie.
Cray went through to the showpiece final when Richard Dimmock, Jamie Wood, Danny Whelan, Mark Hammond and Keith Sharman converted their penalties.
(Special thanks to Darrell Harman and Trevor Mulligan for the reports)