Thursday 01st September 2005

Heartbreak for brave ten-man Whitstable as Cray dominate Kent football

Whitstable take Cray all the way in thrilling cup final

Cray Wanderers 2-2 Whitstable Town (aet)
(Cray Wanderers win 5-3 on penalties)
Kent Intermediate Cup Final
Thursday 29 April 2004 
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

CRAY WANDERERS dominance in Kent football continued as their reserve team added the Kent Intermediate Cup to the first team's Go Travel Kent League Premier Division championship they retained on Monday night.

However, they were made to fight every inch of the way against Whitstable Town, in an entertaining, and well supported thriller at Park View Road in Welling tonight.

The Belmont Road outfit had Richard Gamble red carded after 44 minutes after he pulled Chris Tuley's shirt yards outside the penalty area, and only five minutes after earning a yellow card for a foul on the same player.

The Whitstable faithful can be proud of their players for giving their all against higher division opposition.

And seventeen-year-old striker, Aaron Knight was their two-goal hero, scoring two breathtaking goals as Whitstable twice took the lead, only for Cray to come back twice, netting a late equaliser six minutes before full time to force an extra thirty minutes before going on to win 5-3 on penalties.

Early on in the game it was Cray who twice went close in the opening nine minutes but Paul Foley and Craig Boyle were off target following dangerous free kicks.

Whitstable Town, who found their best way of unlocking Cray's defence was down the right hand side,  opened the scoring after fourteen minutes, with a goal that would have graced any cup final.

A poor back header by Cray defender, Alan Desmond, gave Knight his chance, and from fully 25 yards, he let fly, with a right footed screamer that flew past the diving Cray goalkeeper Grant Hall before crashing into the top far corner of the net.

Nick Smith's drive from thirty yards was powerfully struck, but too close to Hall, who made a comfortable save before a minute later, at the other end, Danny Donovan's 25-yarder sailed over David Coupe's goal.

Just past the hour mark, Desmond's floated free kick, was headed wide of the post by an unmarked Paul Foley on the edge of the Whitstable penalty box.

Cray's equaliser, six minutes before the break, was fortunate.  Gamble earned his yellow card for a hotly disputed foul on Tuley on the left hand side of the penalty area.

From Tuley's right footed free kick, six yards outside the penalty area, struck Bob Thomas, with no-one close to him, and he diverted the ball  into the bottom left hand corner from 12 yards.

Tuley, whose shirt was pulled by Gamble outside the box, continued his run inside the Whitstable penalty area before play was pulled back by referee Gary Johnson, who brandished a second yellow and then a red card to the Whitstable defender.

The reduction of numbers, however, made Whitstable stronger and they took the lead for the second time in the game, with another cool finish by Knight, nine minutes after the interval.

Whitstable skipper, Andy Martin played a defence splitting ball yards from the half-way line and having beaten the offside flag, Knight raced down the left channel before cutting in towards goal.

Cray goalkeeper Hall raced out of his penalty area, and went to ground early to his left as the striker sold him a dummy.

Knight went inside him before coolly slotting home into an empty net from 12 yards to send the Whitstable fans wild.

Three minutes after being beaten for the second time, Hall made a brave save at Aaron Saffrey's feet, but needed treatment from physio John De Palma.

Cray striker Lewis Wood twice went close in the space of three minutes but was off target both times.

Cray second string manager, Sam Wright was forced into a change when Lewis Wood was stretchered off injured and was replaced by successful twice-championship winning, first team manager, Ian Jenkins.

Jenkins almost swiped Cray level from a shot from inside the D but it was too easy for Coupe and almost won his side a penalty kick but appeals for a spot kick were turned down after he was tackled fairly by John Emerson.

Cray leveled again, breaking Whitstable's brave-hearts six minutes before full time, when Boyle headed home at the far post from on the goal-line after a long throw was flicked on at the near post allowing Boyle to nod home before being mobbed by his ecstatic team mates.

The main talking point of extra time came after 99 minutes when Hall again rushed out of his penalty area, where he took out Knight.  However, the man in black made the correct decision, to only show a yellow card, as Boyle had made a run behind his goalkeeper therefore preventing a professional foul offence.

Just before the change of ends, Jenkins' dipping shot from the edge of the penalty area was inches away from being the winner.

Saffrey and Smith went close for Whitstable in the second period so the game went to penalties to decide the winner of this thrilling clash.

Cray's Boyle rifled home the first spot kick to put Whitstable under pressure and Emerson blasted his side's first spot kick over the right post.

Cray increased their advantage when Desmond found the bottom right hand corner and the Whitstable fans cheered as Gary Sayer found the net, despite Hall diving the same way.

Joe Francis, Cray's first team assistant manager, who enjoyed a fine spell at Park View Road when he played for Welling United earlier in his career, turned back the clock by scoring Cray's third penalty kick, despite Coupe guessing correctly, but he couldn't stop the ball finding the net.

Nick Smith's penalty was weak and allowed Hall to make the save, but referee Johnson wanted it to be retaken, and Smith found the back of the net from his second attempt.

Jenkins made the score 4-2 in Cray's favour, getting on the score-sheet and so did Saffrey of Whitstable to make it 4-3.

More controversy followed when Coupe guessed the right way, and made a terrific save, diving to his left to save Tuley's spot-kick.  This sent the Whitstable followers into ecstasy but it soon turned into agony when Johnson ordered the penalty to be re-taken.

There was to be no second chance as Tuley finished off this fine contest with a fine spot kick to give Cray Wanderers another trophy.

Cray Wanderers: Grant Hall, Craig Boyle, Alan Desmond, Mark Twinner (Joe Francis 108), Paul Foley, Lee Allchorn (Capt), Nick Smith (David Batt 71), Danny Donovan, Lewis Wood (Ian Jenkins 77), Chris Tuley, Joe Wood.  Subs: Jake Watkins, Sam Wright

Whitstable Town: David Coupe, Rob Thomas, Aaron Saffrey, John Emerson, Richard Gamble (Sent off 44), Toby Roy (James Cummings 84), Darren Budge (Gary Sayer 71), Nicky Smith, Aaron Knight, Andy Martin (Capt) (Dan Tanner 82), Mark Warne.  Subs: Chris Hillyard, Anthony Whitehead.

Referee: Gary Johnson
Assistants: Martin Weaire & Dave Moran
Fourth Official: Brain Young