Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3-2 Dulwich Hamlet - I don't suppose anyone gave us a chance in any of these rounds, says proud Cray Valley boss James Collins

Thursday 20th April 2017
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3 – 2 Dulwich Hamlet
Location DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 20/04/2017 19:45

(after extra time)
London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) Semi-Final
Thursday 20th April 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium

PROUD Cray Valley manager Jamie Collins says nobody gave his side a chance to reach the London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) Final for the first time.

The Millers have done it the hard way after beating Welling United (3-1 away) and AFC Wimbledon (2-1), showing character to come back from being 2-0 down inside half-an-hour to beat Dulwich Hamlet 3-2 after extra time.

Dulwich Hamlet boss Gavin Rose made eight changes to the side that suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to basement side Grays Athletic on Easter Monday, with only Sanchez Ming, Afolabi Oladipo Akinyemi and Dumebi Dumaka keeping their place in the side.

Dulwich Hamlet must win at fifth-place Wingate & Finchley on Saturday to complete their Ryman Premier League campaign in third-place, thus having home advantage in the Play-Off Semi-Finals next Thursday, 28 April, raced into a two goal lead through Dumaka and Akinyemi.

Cray Valley, who travel to Whitstable Town (Saturday) and Sheppey United seven days later, will be finishing in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, showed character to fight back.

Taylor McDonagh curled in a beautiful solo goal to bring them back into the game in the final 17 minutes, before former Dartford striker Ben Francis, 19, capped off a hardworking night up front on his own with a cool finish to force extra-time.

Aaron Rhule sealed Cray Valley’s passage into the final early in extra-time to gate crash Dulwich Hamlet’s home Final and Collins will take his side to Champion Hill on Wednesday 3 May to tackle Ryman Premier League side Metropolitan Police in the prestigious Final.

“I couldn’t be more prouder, just absolutely outstanding to a man,” said Collins after guiding Cray Valley to their second Final in his first season in charge.

“I said to you the other day against Sevenoaks when they were brilliant and I just sensed after that (Kent Senior Trophy Final) there was something different.

“It took us a little while to get going today. We’ve been playing against quality players that you don’t normally come up against and you have to try to adjust your game and I thought that some of the defending towards the end of the game was just heroic, it was just an outstanding performance.”

When asked what tonight meant, Collins replied: “It’s fantastic! I was pacing up and down in the technical area, not for me, just for the boys just because the effort they’ve put in this season and the effort they put in the last couple of weeks. We were dead on our feet. We’ve played so much football. We haven’t been changing the team too much, just tweaking it a little bit.  We’ve put in so much effort, work-rate.

“I said before the game, to beat Welling and AFC Wimbledon on the way, though I know it’s not their first team, you deserve to be in the Final.  I think we was a little bit unfortunate against Ashford (losing 2-1 in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final) and I said you deserve to be in another one and you want to be involved in games like that, just absolutely fantastic!”

Despite waiting outside the dressing room until nearly eleven o’clock the Dulwich Hamlet management team didn’t make themselves available for interview.

Dulwich Hamlet dominated early on as Cray Valley struggled to keep up with their opponents high tempo and slick passing game.

Dunaka’s flicked pass set up Akinyemi, who hit a right-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which was pushed around the post by Jordan Carey, diving to his right.

“That was a very good save.  We knew that at times if not for most of the game we were going to have to hang in and dig in and that was a great save,” said Collins.

“Jordan has been excellent all season and that was a good save.  You don’t want to go 1-0 down too early!”

Cray Valley were awarded a free-kick some 35-yards from goal but it was unusual for set-piece specialist Jason Thompson to drill his left-footed penalty high, high, high over its intended target and into the allotments behind the goal.

Thompson’s next delivery was inch-perfect, swinging in a deep corner from the right only for Ashley Sains to come up from the back to glance his header harmlessly wide.

Laurence Collins fed Francis down the left channel and he played the ball inside to Denzel Gayle, but the winger hit his looping shot over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet deserved their lead when it arrived with 16 minutes and 23 seconds on the clock.

The Millers were caught on the break and Akinyemi drove forward with the ball before playing the ball on his outside to Dumaka, who drove his shot across Carey into the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

Collins said: “They don’t mess about do they? Like I said to them, no disrespect to the teams we play week-in-week-out but we said today if we make a mistake you’re going to get punished.

“The goal actually came from us on the attack. We cut the ball back on the edge of the area and we lost it there. We were saying at least put the ball into areas then at least if the goalkeeper picks it up at least you can get back in.  They caught us on the counter but look it was a great goal, quality players, a quality move and a quality finish.”

Carey made a comfortable save from Ming, who stroked his right-footed shot towards goal from 25-yards, the ball bouncing once into the keeper’s hands.

Sulaiman Bah played the ball out to Akinyemi, who cut inside and laid the ball back to Bah, who lashed his first time volley over the crossbar from 18-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet left-back Jamie Mascoll hooked a deep cross field cross towards Dumaka, who knocked the ball down to Ming, who flashed his first time angled drive past the far post.

Dulwich Hamlet’s deserved second goal duly arrived with 29 minutes and 1 second on the clock.

It was gifted by Cray Valley as their right-winger Gayle played a poor back-pass which was intercepted by Akinyemi,  He cut into the box and stroked a right-footed drive towards the bottom corner, which Carey dived to his right and got a hand to the shot, only for the ball to trickle into the corner of the net.

Collins said: “Again, we were in possession of the ball and if you make mistakes you’re going to get punished!

“They’ve still got a lot to do but disappointing from our point of view, but the boys aren’t used to getting pressed that much and doing things so much quicker. You usually get more time on the ball.”

“I said to Brad (Sandeman) this could be a few if we fold. I was pleased that they didn’t and I didn’t think they would.  We stuck in and we hung in there when it would’ve been easy to throw the towel in and we didn’t.”

Akinyemi was unplayable during the first half, although he drifted out of the game during the second half and he cut in towards the corner of the Millers box to put over a cross where Dumaka’s rose and his bullet header from 10-yards bounced off Sains and looped just over the bar.

Cray Valley produced a good move in the 34th minute and were to be denied by Hamlet’s second-choice keeper Phil Wilson.

Left-back Danny Smith released Rhule down the left channel and he reached the by-line before cutting the ball back to an unmarked Gayle, whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Wilson.

Collins said: “They’d probably score that goal but it’s a great save.  I don’t think Denzel done too much wrong, he’s hit the target, he’s made the goalkeeper make a point blank save and you’re thinking if we could’ve gone in at 2-1 you’re back in the game and you’ve got something to think about. It wasn’t to be but it was a good save and it was a good move from us.”

Thompson swept in a free-kick from the right and the ball was headed out to Laurence Collins, who stabbed his first time shot harmlessly wide as he waited for scraps from outside the Hamlet box.

Mascoll drove down the left before cutting the ball back to Bah, who cut inside and stung Carey’s fingers with a right-footed drive form 25-yards, before the home keeper gathered the ball at the second attempt.

When asked his thoughts at half-time, Collins had faith in his side that they could turn the game around.

“Look, what we were trying to say is a couple of the boys were trying to press the ball, a couple of boys were sitting in and it was leaving massive gaps. The first thing we were saying is if we’re going to concede a goal and they are good enough to open us up, can we let it be a good goal? Don’t let it be a goal when we’re in possession of the ball. 

“I said you need to be patient. I know you’re 2-0 down and you want to chase the game but you need to sit in. If you go in and tearing them up they’re going to play around us and they’re going to pick us off.  We needed to be patient.  We need to sit in and when we hit them on the break can we be good enough to capitalise?”

Thompson swung in Cray Valley’s second corner of the night towards the near post where Rhule sent his free header across goal rather than towards it, before Carey parried Mascoll’s tight angle drive after he played a short corner one-two with right-back Kiki Oshilaja.

But Cray Valley started to get back into the game that seemed lost after 30 minutes.

Francis pressed Hamlet midfielder Mohamed Mohamed inside the final third and the ball went out to McDonagh, who drove forward and Wilson was forced to make a low save to his right before he blocked Francis’ follow-up shot too.

Collins said: “Another good save and you’re sitting there thinking you’re looking at the chances, Jordan’s made a good save in the first half and I know they had a couple of pop shots from outside the box.  You’re looking at it thinking their goalkeeper’s made two good saves there and you’re thinking, ok they had a lot of possession and they’ve created a couple of chances but in terms of saves he’s probably made two of the better saves during the game.”

Laurence Collins played a diagonal pass into the Dulwich Hamlet left-channel for Smith, who crossed into the box and Francis’ left-footed shot on the turn was lashed over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Collins said: “Another good move.  You just wanted a little bit more composure. I know the boys were dead on their feet out there so when you’re getting into those positions you can’t expect strikers to score with every chance.  You can’t expect every move to come off but it was another good move and I thought we’ve found our feet a little bit.  I wouldn’t say we were in control of the game but we were definitely creating chances and I didn’t feel they were offering a great deal the other way and you’re just hoping you’ll get another chance.”

Cray Valley were resilient in defence while Dulwich Hamlet were waiting patiently to find the right ball over the top to find Dumaka.

First team central midfielder Kenny Beaney came off the bench and found the big target man, who smacked his volley across Carey and screaming past the far post from the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Dumaka then dropped deep, cut inside and cracked a left-footed drive from 30-yards, which Carey spilt before gathering the loose ball.

But Cray Valley deserved to pull a goal back with 27 minutes and 22 seconds on the second half clock.

McDonagh, who started the game at the heart of defence before slotting into the middle of the park, collected a loose ball inside the Dulwich half, drove forward, skipping past a half-hearted Beaney before cracking a stunning right-footed curler into the top right-hand corner from 30-yards.

“Good finish and Taylor looked really good when he went centre midfield,” said Collins.

“Jamie Miller, who came off injured and he wasn’t really fit and we tried to force him through another game. He’s probably been our best player. His ankle has been sore for a couple of weeks and he’s rolled it again at the weekend and we tried to patch him up to get him through it and we didn’t want to change the hard defence after Monday (a 3-0 home win over AFC Croydon Athletic).

“Taylor went in there and picked up where Jamie Miller had left off. It’s a really good finish and it opened up nicely and it was a great finish.”

Cray Valley could sense blood and their equalising goal – timed at 38 minutes and 36 seconds – was fully deserved at the time.

Carey launched a big kick up field, McDonagh won the ball and slipped the ball through to Francis, who cut inside his man, danced into the box before placing his left-footed shot across the diving Wilson from 15-yards, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.

“It was a little bit of a scuff from where I was standing but I’ll take that,” admitted Collins.

“We’ve said too many times this season when we get into the box and we didn’t get a shot off and I know he’ll want to face people up and you want him to curl the ball in as Taylor did.

“It don’t always happen like that, sometimes you have to have a pop shot and it takes a deflection. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score.  I was just pleased he shot and he deserved that. He’s worked so hard and I’d love to see him go back to Dartford and do something there because he’s such a lovely lad and he’s a match winner.”

Cray Valley pressed for the winner in normal time as Dulwich Hamlet were on the ropes.

Gayle played the ball out to Alastair Gordon, the right-back whipping in a great cross from the right but Gayle sent his free-header into Wilson’s hands from eight-yards.

Good wing play from Rhule down the left set up another chance for Francis, who dragged his left-footed shot across Wilson and just past the foot of the far post.

The Millers boss said: “At that time I thought it was going straight to penalties and then I found out we had extra-time. I didn’t know how much we had left so I was willing it to go in.  I just thought we’d just try to go for it.”

Dulwich Hamlet bossed the corner count by 16-4 during the entire game and their seventh flag-kick came at the end of normal time, but Quade Taylor’s near post flick – after Mascoll swung the ball in from the right – was juggled by Carey before he gathered beside his post.

Unlike previous rounds in this competition, the game went into extra-time, which neither team wanted.

“I said you’ve got to try to do the same things,” said Collins.

“I was worried that we’ve played so much football, I know they had a couple of first team players, but I’ll imagine a lot of them have probably not had as much football as we’ve had.  I know their first team have had a big schedule but can you hang in there?

“I don’t like saying we were the better team or whatever because they had a lot of possession. I just thought we were in the game and I just felt if we could defend as we have, would we get another chance? Would we be good enough to take it and you just hope you’ve got enough in your legs to get yourselves through it.”

Cray Valley clinched the victory, two minutes and 27 seconds into extra-time.

Gordon threw the ball in from the right, Francis shot on the turn was blocked  from inside the box and Rhule drove a first time left-footed drive into the bottom right-hand corner.

Collins admitted the Rhule needs to get back to where he used to be – playing then Conference South football for Bromley.

“He’s a frustrating player, Aaron Rhule because you look at him sometimes and he’s probably, on his day, one of the best players in the league and sometimes he’s not on it and you carry him a little bit.

“But tonight and the last couple of weeks since the Cup final he’s been brilliant and he’s showed a different side to his game today.  He got whacked on the side of his face and he’s got a deep cut across the face and he kept going, his work-rate.

“I’m pleased for him because he deserved it. He’s a nice kid. Another lad who probably on his day shouldn’t be playing at this level. When I got him (from Ryman League Division One South side Chatham Town) I said come here, get yourself on the map and if you get yourself a move, you get yourself a move.

“It frustrates me when you see players that shouldn’t be playing at this level because they should be playing higher but I can’t fault his work-rate and he deserved his goal today.”

Cray Valley went close to increasing their advantage in the 96th minute when McDonagh’s ball over the top released Gayle, who strode forward before dragging his shot across Wilson and agonisingly past the foot of the far post.

Dulwich Hamlet failed to find the breakthrough in the first period as Cray Valley parked the bus.

Collins said: “I said to Brad it’s going to be like the Alamo. Where we good enough to get the fourth? We just dragged one past the post just after we scored didn’t we and I thought we needed that.”

The second period was one-way traffic as Dulwich Hamlet threw bodies forward but Cray Valley’s defending was immense despite there being 11 tired bodies out there.

Oshilaja played the ball inside to an unmarked Bah, who swept his shot over the Millers’ crossbar from 25-yards, before Akinyemi woke up from his snooze to drill a 35-yard drive which forced Carey to dive to his right to spill the shot before the 18-year-old keeper gathered the loose ball.

The Millers lost Francis to a swollen ankle and that ended their attacking threat on the break as for the final 10 minutes it was all about repelling numerous crossed into the box.

Beeney rolled the ball to Bah, who put the ball into the box and Carey rushed off his line to make a brave block to frustrate Taylor, who had come up for the set-piece.

Collins said: “I say the same thing to you all the time. He’s a good shot-stopper, he’s brave as you like. He’s made an unreal save on Monday when he was so brave. I know Tony Hine (goalkeeper coach) has to take loads of credit for the work he’s done with Jordan and he doesn’t get enough credit.  I said here and say how good Jordan has been but he takes all the credit for how, for Jordan he’s come through this season and they work on that and he was brave and it was a good save.”

Collins added: “The longer it goes on and the minutes tick by and I just wanted it for the boys. You put in so much surely you deserve your rewards.

“Whether we were the better team or the better side and all the rest of it is irrelevant. The work-rate they put in, they deserved it so I’m just well chuffed.”

With only a couple of league games remaining, Ashford United and Crowborough Athletic are locked on 86 points. Sevenoaks Town will finish a personal best of third (78), so will Cray Valley, in fourth (72).  Whitstable Town and Sheppey United then follow tied on 65 points.

“I don’t think we’re going to catch Sevenoaks on goal-difference, Whitstable can’t catch us,” admitted Collins.

“You don’t want to say it to the boys but the last two games – after all the games we’ve played – I’m not going to make no bones about the fact – we’re going to rotate as much as we can and try to give the boys some rest.”

Metropolitan Police complete their Ryman Premier League campaign with a trip to title-chasing Bognor Regis Town on Saturday, before playing Cray Valley in the London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) Final.

“It keeps our season going. We’ll enjoy our next two and another Final,” said Collins.

“I think it’s the first time we’ve got to this Final so it’s another milestone we’ve reached. To get to two Finals is exceptional. To beat the calibre of opposition we have as well. We’ll give it our best shot. Have we got one more in us? We’ll see.

“It’s just been a very long season. I said to the boys you can only do what you can do.  You can only do your best and we’ll try to find a way to win the game.

“We’ll go there believing we can win it because I don’t suppose anyone gave us a chance in any of these rounds and we’ve managed to win games and hopefully we’ve got one more in us.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Jordan Carey, Alastair Gordon, Danny Smith, Laurence Collins, Ashley Sains, Taylor McDonagh, Denzel Gayle, Jamie Miller (Joe Matthews 25), Ben Francis (Jamie Wood 110), Jason Thompson (Enoch Adjei 70), Aaron Rhule.
Subs: Aaron Sekhon, Chandler Kasai

Goals: Taylor McDonagh 73, Ben Francis 84, Aaron Rhule 93

Booked: Ben Francis 76, Taylor McDonagh 118

Dulwich Hamlet: Phil Wilson, Kiki Oshilaja, Jamie Mascoll, Sanchez Ming, Quade Taylor, Harly Wise, Afolabi Oladipo Akinyemi, Mohamed Mohamed (Kenny Beaney 59), Dumebi Dumaka (Lekan Osideko 82, Nyren Clunis 104)), Sulaiman Bah, Omar Koroma.
Subs: Marc Weatherstone, Carlos Curtas

Goals: Dumebi Dumaka 17,  Afolabi Oladipo Akinyemi 30

Booked: Harly Wise 46, Jamie Mascoll 98

Attendance: 196
Referee:  Mr Neil Davies (West Hampstead, London NW2)
Assistants: Mr Joshua Howard (Catford, London SE6) & Mr Jordan Whitworth (Catford, London SE6)

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