Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3-1 Burgess Hill Town - The FA Cup is an opportunity for the players to give back to the club a little bit, says Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson

Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3 – 1 Burgess Hill Town
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 23/09/2020 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Wednesday 23 September 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY manager Kevin Watson says his players’ have given something back to the club in FA Cup prize money.

The Millers have reached the Second Qualifying Round for only the second time in their eight years’ in the competition after beating their Isthmian League South East Division opponents Burgess Hill Town.

A three-goal 19 minute first half blitz ensured Cray Valley sealed their progress as Connor Dymond, Francis Babalola and Denzel Gayle scored to kill off the game.

Jay Lovett’s side pulled a goal back from Alex Laing’s second-half penalty.

The Millers started their FA Cup campaign with a 6-0 home win over their local league rivals VCD Athletic and on Saturday they opened their league campaign by coming home from Hastings United with a point in a goal-less draw.

Burgess Hill Town came home from Hythe Town with a 3-2 defeat and controversially received a walkover from The Football Association after Hollands & Blair decided not to travel to Leylands Park after the home club announced some of their players were suffering with Covid-19.

“I thought in the first half, look, first of all objective achieved right, to get through to the next round,” said Watson.

“I thought in the first half we was ok. I thought we was quite clinical, some good finishes.

“I thought the second half was scrappy to say the least and I felt we could’ve managed the game better but sometimes we have to focus on the performance to enable us to improve as a collective unit and individuals – but objective achieved.”

Watched by a crowd of 154 on a showery and windy night in Eltham, Cray Valley created their first opening after only 186 seconds when former Folkestone Invicta winger Kieron McCann played the ball in from the left-flank to Hassan Ibrahym, who plays behind the front two, and he drilled a first-time right-footed drive curling a yard or two around the top of the far post.

“Look, Hassan’s finishing is good at times. Technically he’s a good player. It was important to start at a high tempo and try to threaten them,” said Watson.

The Hillians called goalkeeper Andy Walker into making a fine diving save just 97 seconds later.

Left-back Martyn Box threw the ball to central midfielder Jordi Ndozid who struck a right-footed fierce 25-yard drive, which forced the 38-year-old to dive to his left to tip around the post.

Watson added: “Very good save. He’s got a job to do in goal and that’s what he needs to do but he executed the save well.”

The game then turned into an even affair, with both sides cancelling each other out before clinical Cray Valley scored a three-goal blitz to kill the game off at the interval.

Cray Valley took the lead with 25 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock following a set-piece.

Matthew Warren whipped in a free-kick from the right, which screamed past a couple of his team-mates in the middle of the box.  However, holding midfielder Dymond was lurking unmarked at the far post to hook his left-footed half-volley back across the keeper and into the far corner from 15-yards.

“Connor’s not renowned for scoring goals but he scored tonight and he scored the first in the last round,” said Watson.

“A good finish on an acute angle on his weaker foot really, so quite pleasing.

“It was a good ball in to be fair.  I thought someone should’ve got on before it eluded everyone and got to the far post but a good finish.”

This is the first club that Dymond has played in the eighth-tier of English football and Watson is delighted to have him at Cray Valley.

“Look, he’s 26, he’s at a good age. Ok, he’s dropped down, if you like, to play at this level but we’d like to think the expectations that we set and the way we do things people don’t recognise it’s not the level you’re playing at, it’s how you’re playing but he brings experience and leadership.”

The Millers raced into a 2-0 lead with 37 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Ibrahym brought a long ball down under his spell in the centre of the pitch before playing a sublime through ball to put Babalola through on goal and he kept his composure to slot his left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from 15-yards when he only had keeper Josh James (not the former Miller) to beat.

Watson said: “He took it well to be fair.  He was under a little bit of pressure. He’s quick isn’t he, when you’re traveling with the ball at pace sometimes it’s difficult to finish but it was a well-timed pace and a good finish.”

Burgess Hill Town produced a slick triangle move involving Reece Williams-Bowers, Ndozid and striker Charlie Bennett, who played the ball out to Smith-Joseph, who played left-back Box on an overlapping run and he drove a low shot towards goal, which was blocked by substitute centre-half Ashley Sains and behind for a corner.

Sains replaced Liam Hickey immediately after the first goal after Hickey was forced off with a thigh injury.

Cray Valley received a huge slice of luck inside the final four minutes of the half during a second phase of the away side’s third corner of the night.

The ball came back to Laing, who cut the ball onto his right foot to whip in a great cross which was met by a towering header from centre-half Nathan Cooper, who guided his free header across Walker and watched the ball bounce off the far post and grabbed by the goalkeeper on his knees on his goal-line.

“We should’ve been a bit tighter. It was a little bit easy the header. It weren’t quite a bad header from the lad. He was unlucky so we probably got away with one there,” admitted Watson.

Cray Valley were clinical for a third time 14 seconds into stoppage time when right-wing-back Gayle picked the ball up on the halfway line from Ibrahym’s pass and sped down the wing, easily cut past Box and once inside the box slotted his shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner from 16-yards.

“It was a well-weighted pass from Hassan to Denzel, a well-timed run and a good finish. I thought we was clinical in the right areas at the right time,” said Watson.

“We was obviously pleased to be 3-0 up. We spoke (at half-time) a little bit how we could try to control the game a bit better but probably didn’t so in the second half we knew the game would change a little bit.

“I felt they were going to throw things at it. I just felt it got a bit scrappy, lots of free-kicks and lots of opportunities for them to put the ball in to the box.”

Both sides created good chances inside the opening four minutes of the second half.

Ade Yusuff released Gayle down the right and he easily reached the by-line before he cut the ball back to Ibrahym, who lashed his first-time shot over the crossbar.

Resolute Cooper clipped a free-kick from the halfway line into Cray Valley’s box, the ball was flicked on by Bennett and Smith-Joseph stung Walker’s fingers with a left-footed shot on the turn.

Ibrahym twisted and turned his man and cut in from the left before cracking a rasping drive into James’ midriff before Lovett made a tactical switch by replacing Bennett and Smith-Joseph for Patrick Harding and Max Miller and this had the desired effect of them getting back into the game.

Referee Joseph Gray pointed to the spot after McCann was penalised for using his hand to control Miller’s left-wing cross.

Laing notched his second goal of the season by driving his right-footed penalty kick just right of centre, as Walker dived to his right, the goal timed at 20:37.

The three officials came together to sort out a flashpoint immediately after the goal as Laing was left lying on the ground as he tried to retrieve the ball from the back of the net and spark an unlikely comeback.  Both captains Walker and Cooper were called over but no cards were issued.

Watson said: “Handball’s at all levels are normally quite harsh, there never really blatant are they? They haven’t scored in open play but it gave them a chance to get back into the game, didn’t it “

A second goal for the away side would have made the game more interesting and it almost came inside the final 15 minutes following their fifth corner.

Box swung the ball in from the right and was met by Laing’s volley at the far post, which screamed through a crowd of players but was hacked off the line on the other post.

Watson changed formation from three to four at the back when left-back Danny Smith came on and Kalvin Morath-Gibbs slotted in at centre-half alongside Sains with Cem Tumkaya slotted in at right-back.

Cray Valley’s marquee summer signing, Ade Yusuff had a three late chances to add to the two goals that he has scored so far this season.

Ibrahym played a sublime through ball through the heart of the pitch to put Yusuff through on goal but the keeper made a low save to his left to hold on to the ball.

Warren whipped in a cross from the right towards the far post where Yusuff powered his header across goal and past the far post.

“Ade will get chances in games, he’s that sort of player. He’s probably a bit frustrated this evening personally that he didn’t score,” said Watson.

“If we meet the objective and win the game then he’s certainly done his part for the team.”

Burgess Hill Town missed a glorious chance to make the final five minutes (not including nine minutes of Fergie time) more nervy for the home side.

Laing’s quickly taken-free-kick from the right was of quality and Harding – the son of late Chelsea vice-chairman Matthew Harding – rose to plant his free header over Walker’s crossbar from eight-yards.

“We switched off on that,” admitted Watson.

“I’ve just spoken (to the players) about that.  That was disappointing from our perspective. We need to reflect on the game but no dwell on it. Ultimately, we’ve won the game so we need to take confidence on that.”

James made a comfortable low save to prevent Yusuff scoring with a weak low shot after cutting into the box, while no scoring chances were created as the Millers shored up their defence during the lengthy stoppage time.

With football facing an uncertain future with Covid-19, the prize money of £3,394 by winning two FA Cup ties is welcomed at Isthmian League level.

“I said that before the game, it’s an opportunity for the players to give back to the club a little bit,” said Watson.

“The FA Cup is about revenue. Look, the main objective is the league and we’ve played three games, won two and drawn one but two of the wins are in the Cup and once in the league.

“We need to make sure we get the results in the league and it will be difficult.  The Cup’s an opportunity for the players to play in some decent games and it’s an opportunity to create some revenue and you want to keep momentum. You want to keep winning games and getting results.”

National League South clubs enter The FA Cup in the Second Qualifying Round and if Cray Valley are drawn away to one then it will be played behind closed doors, while 400 fans will be able to watch the home tie.

“Hope for a home draw,” said Watson, whose side welcome Darren Blackburn’s Sittingbourne here on Saturday back in the League.

“There’s not a lot The FA can do about that. They can’t make sure that teams at our level have a home draw. It’s a strange situation, far bigger than me to be able to comment on it really.

“You just need to get through to the next round but look, we’re in the hat so we’ll see what the draw gives us.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Denzel Gayle (Danny Smith 80), Kieron McCann, Liam Hickey (Ashley Sains 27), Kalvin Morath-Gibbs, Cem Tumkaya, Matthew Warren, Connor Dymond, Francis Babalola (Ade Adeyemo 87), Ade Yusuff, Hassan Ibrahym.
Subs: Ryan Flack, Joe Docherty, Ryan King-Elliott

Goals: Connor Dymond 26, Francis Babalola 38, Denzel Gayle 45

Booked: Kieron McCann 49, Kalvin Morath-Gibbs 78

Burgess Hill Town: Josh James, Lowie Downey (Reggie Ward 86), Martyn Box, Elliot Cross, Nathan Cooper, Harry Pollard, Aaron Smith-Joseph (Max Miller 64), Jordi Ndozid, Charlie Bennett (Pat Harding 64), Reece Williams-Bowers, Alex Laing.
Subs: Samson Doherty, Max Blencowe, Tom Betts, Scott Kirkwood

Goal: Alex Laing 66 (penalty)

Booked: Jordi Ndozid 71, Elliot Cross 90

Attendance: 154
Referee: Mr Joseph Gray
Assistants: Mr Paul Agboola & Mr Joshua Howard