Friday 30th April 2004

Whitstable take plaudits, but Cray take home silverware

SAM WRIGHT, reserve team manager of Cray Wanderers, admitted he was over the moon after his side won the Kent Intermediate Cup on Thursday, writes Stephen McCartney.

His side, twice came from behind against Whitstable Town at Welling United's Park View Road in a very entertaining game, watched by a big crowd.

Whitstable Town were reduced to ten men after 44 minutes when Richard Gamble was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Whitstable striker Aaron Knight netted a brace, the first after fourteen minutes, scoring a screamer from 25 yards that crashed past the diving Cray goalkeeper, Grant Hall, into the top left hand corner, before Cray equalised six minutes before the break through an own goal from Rob Thomas, who put a Chris Tuley free kick low into the bottom left corner of his net.

Knight, who had beaten the offside flag, raced towards goal before rounding Hall, who had raced out of his penalty area, before slotting home from twelve yards to give ten-man Whitstable the lead after 54 minutes before Craig Boyle headed home the leveller with six minutes before full time.

Extra time couldn't find a winner, but Cray netted all five of their penalties, from Boyle, Alan Desmond, Joe Francis, Ian Rawlings and Tuley to win the final 5-3 on penalties.

Speaking on the pitch after his side were crowned Kent Intermediate Cup winners, Cray Wanderers' second-string manager, Sam Wright praised Whitstable Town for their performance.

He said: "I think it's the first time we've won the Kent Intermediate Cup as a club, so it's nice to do that.

"We have to give Whitstable great credit with ten men for long periods of the game.  I thought they were superb, they worked hard, and if they keep together they should easily come out of the second division next year as champions!"

Wright understands the heartbreak his opponents felt after their brave efforts resulted in defeat following a penalty shoot out.

Wright added: "It was certainly a lottery with the penalty shoot out.  We lost in the semi-finals of this competition last year on penalties and it was disappointing, so I know how their boys must be feeling.  However, I am over the moon!"

With Cray's first team retaining the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division earlier in the week, Wright is trying his hardest to produce more players off the club's production line to follow youngsters Sam Wood and Ross Lover, who have both been a success in the first team this campaign.

He said: "Sam Wood and Ross Lover have been brilliant this year for the first team - they came out of this team last year, and were superb for us.  It is essential as a reserve team manager, that you push people through and give Ian Jenkins (first team manager) people to pick and give him a headache."

Cray can add another trophy to their expanding trophy cabinet on Saturday morning (11.00am) when they take on Maidstone United in the Reserve Division Cup at Chatham Town's Maidstone Road ground.

It will be a double against the Stones, as the first team take on Maidstone's first team at Sittingbourne in the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division at 3.00pm

Wright, however, wants as many people to turn out and cheer on his team in the Reserve cup final on Saturday morning.

He added: "Hopefully on Saturday we can win the league cup, and retain that from last year.  We've got Maidstone United on the same day as the first team play them, so hopefully we can get a bit of a crowd down to Chatham, and some of the Maidstone boys can go there and make a bit of noise".

Whitstable Town's reserve team manager, Simon Kay was proud of his players for their display with only ten men, but he felt his side were the better team throughout the game.

Speaking outside the dressing rooms at Park View Road, Kay said: "I think we can be proud of my players tonight.  I think we gave it everything.  Everybody watching saw we were probably the best side on the pitch.

"Two amazing goals were scored by our young lad, seventeen-year-old Aaron Knight.  He has a good future that boy - someone we want to keep at the club."

He added: "Very disappointed with the way it panned out, we gave two soft goals away - a poor free kick for the own goal.  I think the goalkeeper had it covered quite easily and our lad (Rob Thomas) stuck a toe out - these things happen don't they?"

"Cray's second equaliser went across the box, must have bounced twice, nobody attacked it, apart from their player to score an easy goal.

"So, very disappointed with the way we conceded goals, but the performance was outstanding from our boys." he praised.

First team boss, Matt Toms was watching the action from the main stand at Park View Road, and Kay hopes one or two of his players will be knocking on the first team manager's door next season.

Kay added: "I think some players will progress into the first team,  especially after the way we've played this evening.  There are one or two knocking on the door, it's up to them to get a chance and take it if they are given it."

Telephone Stephen McCartney on 07979 418 360

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Email: stephen@mccartney2000.fsnet.co.uk
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