Cray Wanderers 0-4 Portsmouth - Liverpool was the dream but we've fallen short at the last hurdle but we can take massive pride, says Cray Wanderers assistant Adam Flemming

Wednesday 21st November 2018
Cray Wanderers 0 – 4 Portsmouth
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 21/11/2018 19:30

The FA Youth Cup Second Round
Wednesday 21 November 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

CRAY WANDERERS manager Mark Dacey says his players are hurting after their epic run in The FA Youth Cup was ended by Portsmouth.

Mark Kelly’s full-time Academy side booked a Third Round trip to Premier League giants Liverpool in the Third Round next month after comfortably beating Cray Wanderers 4-0 on a chilly night at Hayes Lane.

At first team level, Portsmouth sit at the summit of the Sky Bet League One table, while Cray Wanderers play five leagues lower and are unbeaten in the Bostik (Isthmian League) South East Division.

A crowd of 270 braved the cold conditions and saw Pompey take an early lead when striker Bradley Lethbridge pounced on a goalkeeping mistake from Tiwalade Fujimade, who produced two world-class saves down at Worthing in the last round to set up this tie.

Winger Leon Maloney tucked home a penalty, before Portsmouth added two second half goals from holding midfielder James Whiting and winger Oscar Johnston.

Cray Wanderers opened their FA Youth Cup campaign with a 4-2 after-extra-time win over local rivals Holmesdale on 3 September in the Preliminary Round and little dreamt that their run was going to end by a League One outfit.

The Wands thrashed VCD Athletic 6-0 in Crayford, came back from Folkestone Invicta with a 4-1 win, before Raynes Park Vale were beaten 3-0 at Hayes Lane, before they came from a goal behind to beat Worthing 2-1 in the last round and their best ever run in this competition came to an end by losing to Portsmouth.

Dacey and his assistant manager Adam Flemming both took part in the post-match press conference.

“We’re proud men Adam and I, we were beaten by the better team. They were a very, very, very good side,” said Dacey.

“We prepared properly, we prepared well but the difference in levels showed.  We were disappointed first half that we didn’t show what we were about and we kind of did it a little bit more in the last 20-25 minutes but the game’s gone by then.

“For a lot of the boys it’s probably the biggest crowd that they’ve played in front of.  We were speaking to their guy earlier and they came down last night staying in a hotel, our boys have been at school!

“It was all about doing yourself justice in front of everyone. We were just picked off by the better side.”

Cray Wanderers gave Portsmouth too much respect during the first half and sat behind the ball and allowed Portsmouth to pass the ball around, while the home side replicated Tony Russell’s first team squad by passing the ball out from the back and on the deck. They even copy the post-match huddle out on the pitch.

Portsmouth took the lead with only 10 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a mistake from goalkeeper Fujimade.

Johnston played the ball inside to Maloney, who stroked a low shot towards goal, which should have been collected by Fujimade.  However, he fumbled the ball and it trickled towards the bottom corner and poacher Lethbridge pounced to slot the ball into the back of the net from a couple of yards out.

“The two boys we were aware of, we done quite a lot of homework on them on how to stop them but I don’t think we can knock Tiwa too much because he’s the reason we’re in this round anyway with the saves he made at Worthing,” said Dacey.

“His improvement over the last 18 months has been absolutely second to none so other days he catches it, it is what it is.

“He’s a good keeper and if he carries on progressing as he is he’ll do well.  It’s just the small iron mistakes that he needs to get out of his game but that’s the same as everybody. That’s the difference in levels that their players don’t do that and that’s why they are where they are.”

Cray Wanderers’ right-back Adam Bambroffe picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park and released Kwame Poku, who drove down the left and put in a low centre, which was cut out by Portsmouth keeper Leon Pitman, low to his right.

Maloney whipped in a cross into the Cray Wanderers penalty from the right and Lethbridge’s far post header from six-yards bounced wide.

Fujimade looked nervous early on and he caught a cross only to throw the ball out to the right-wing, which was intercepted by Pompey left-back Joshua Flint, who fed Johnston, whose dipping cross-shot was tipped over the bar by the keeper.

Maloney released full-back Harry Kavanagh on the overlap and the right-back whipped in a great cross for Lethbridge, who got in between the two centre-halves (Benjamin Hullet and Joseph Barber) to flick his free header across the keeper and past the far post.

“We just couldn’t deal with their movement, they were clever,” said Dacey.

“They started four at the back and consistently kept pushing one in.  They just overloaded us everywhere and every time we were looking at trying to change something different, they did something difference so for us as coaches it was a great test.”

But Portsmouth doubled their lead by scoring a penalty with 28 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

Fredrick Read played in Stanley Bridgman and his low shot beat Fujimade and rolled towards the line but Bambroffe showed desire to get back to clear the ball off the line.

Seconds later, in the second phase, Barber was penalised by referee Ivan Gelov for tripping Maloney inside the penalty area.

Maloney stepped up and slotted his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Fujimade going the same way.

“I think it’s one of those ones where if it was the other way around you want a penalty, so not too many disagreements with that but we done our homework on his penalties and Tiwa went the right way but it’s a great pen,” said Dacey.

Cray Wanderers did win the corner-count by seven-four and they went close following their first flag-kick in the 31st minute.

Lee Lewis sent over a deep corner from the left and Bambroffe found a pocket of space to loop his header over the crossbar from 16-yards.

“It’s difficult because we do try to pride ourselves on set-pieces,” said Dacey.

“The delivery was good, Adam’s unfortunate. He’s in position but too early so the ball is landing on his head instead of coming onto it. It could’ve changed the game considering we weren’t really in it at the time but fine margins.”

Portsmouth then turned defence into attack five minutes before the interval.

Cray Wanderers centre-half Barber dinked a free-kick in from the left-channel and visiting keeper Pitman’s punch was unconvincing.  Pompey cleared their lines and released Lethbridge, who rode Frankie Morgan’s sliding tackle before racing down the right wing and cutting into the box before dragging his shot across the keeper and past the far post when he had just the one man to beat.

Lethbridge drove at the Cray defence and slipped the ball into Bridgman, who danced around four Cray defenders inside the box but couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet on the artificial pitch and the ball was played out to Lethbridge, who flashed his left-footed drive just past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Reflecting on his side’s first half performance, Dacey said: “It could be a number of things. They were very good. We won’t make excuses but I think similar to the first half at Worthing, the occasion got to us. We weren’t making the correct movements, we weren’t playing safe side. We weren’t looking after the ball well enough and just froze a little bit but they’re young lads and it hurts at the minute but they’ll grow from it.

“We weren’t happy (at half-time).  I wouldn’t say they were shouted at but there was a sense of it needs to be better and if the game’s going to get away from us it comes down to the way that we do things and the philosophy that we feel we have and this club has. We play a certain way and we live and die by that and for the last 20 we definitely did that but it was game over by then.”

Dacey made a tactical change at the interval and changed formation to three at the back (Hullet, Barber and Kyrique Garvey Williams) and deployed wing-backs, having replaced Lewis and quiet striker Robert Davey and bringing on Cameron Grant at right-wing-back and Deshon Carty in midfield.

Portsmouth created chances to kill the game off.

Lethbridge was released down the left-channel and he cut the ball across the face of the penalty area for the unmarked Bridgman to drill a shot past the right-hand post from 12-yards inside the opening two and a half minutes.

Cray midfielder Kwame Poku pressed his opponent and won possession in the final third and drove forward but his finish lacked composure, dragging his left-footed shot past the far post from 22-yards.

Kavanagh linked up well within the final third and he put over a great cross into the six-yard box which was planted over the bar by Lethbridge.

Portsmouth killed the game off by scoring a third goal with nine minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Lethbridge’s shot was spilt by Fujimade and in the second phase of the attack, the ball came out to Whiting, who hooked his right-footed shot on the turn, flashing across the keeper and nestling into the bottom far corner of the net from 15-yards.

“We were right behind it actually and he put it in the only place of the game he could actually see,” said Dacey.

“There were so many bodies around him, I don’t think Tiwa could see it. A good finish, game over.  It definitely went through my head that this could get silly.”

Dominant Portsmouth wasted a glorious chance in the 58th minute when Kavanagh whipped in another deep cross from the right and Bridgman ghosted in at the far post to hook his shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from inside the six-yard box.

Portsmouth kept knocking on the door and produced another fine move.

Joshua Flint played the ball inside to Read, who slipped a first time ball into substitute Alfie Stanley and he put it on the plate for Kavanagh to cut the ball back for Johnston to place a first time shot just past the right-hand post from 18-yards.

Cray Wanderers could have so easily capitulated and conceded more goals but they showed tremendous character during the final 25 minutes of the game, which pleased Flemming.

“Once that third went in the boys became more relaxed, nerves had gone. They naturally got the thought in their brain that the game’s done so then it’s about fighting for pride, it’s about fighting for the man that was next to you, it’s fighting for me and Mark and I thought the boys in the second half did so very, very well, especially after that third goal,” said Flemming.

“They tried to implement the things we work on in training consistently, the way we play in our games, when we play in the Bostik Development League.

“I thought the second half showing was so much better after they scored the third goal.

“Character is a word that we don’t like to throw around, too tough but it showed heart, it showed that they cared because a lot of people who have been put in that position would’ve put their hands up and let what happens, happen but the boys tackled harder, they tried.  Sometimes you deviate on the game plan but I thought they kept their heads trying to do what we’ve been asking.”

Poku drove at the Portsmouth defence in the 62nd minute but dragged his left-footed shot past the far post from 30-yards.

Flint swung in Portsmouth’s final corner of the night halfway through the second half and Stanley glanced his header across goal and past the far post.

But Cray Wanderers can take comfort from the fact that they threw away the shackles and went for it during a dominant final 20 minutes.

Barber floated in a corner from the left and Grant ghosted in and glanced his header agonisingly past the far post.

“I thought he closed his eyes.  I thought his timing of his run was excellent. There were other people obstructing him so he had to check but I thought the ball came off the side of his head instead of his forehead,” said Flemming.

Good play from substitute David Showemimo saw him reach the by-line down the left and set up Ronnie Payne, who turned the keeper and his shot was deflected and shaved the base of the near post.

“That was when we started to play our game and I thought the boys done really well and we fashioned a lot of chances in the second half of the second half and we were piling on the pressure,” added Flemming.

“We were just hoping we could get one. How the day unfolded it didn’t but they can take a lot from the last 25 minutes of the game.”

Portsmouth striker Lethbridge was always a threat and he broke down the left wing and cut into the box and his low drive was gathered by Fujimade at the second attempt.

Cray Wanderers kept plugging away and their big moment came in the 77th minute when Portsmouth somehow survived a goal-line scramble.

Poku swung in a corner from the right and Portsmouth keeper Pitman pulled off a save to frustrate Carty.  Pompey got bodies back on the line to block shots flying in on goal from close range and the ball was cleared out to Showemimo, who drilled his right-footed shot crashing against the crossbar from 25-yards.

“That was the one goal that we wanted. We practise set-pieces a lot and we take pride on our set-pieces. We thought that was going to be the one goal we were going to get,” said Flemming.

“My players did throw themselves at the ball and they did throw their bodies on the line and their gaffer will be more than happy how those boys have blocked those chances.”

Barber clipped a long ball out of defence to pick-out Payne in space inside the penalty area and his shot on the turn was parried by Pitman, diving to his right.

Flemming said: “Good turn, that’s when the boys started playing the way that we want the boys to play, keeping the ball short, playing it to the striker. Can we get around defenders and I thought he could’ve taken another touch in the box but I thought the effort was good and a very, very strong save from the goalkeeper.”

Portsmouth weathered the storm, however, and tucked in a fourth goal with 41 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock, following a two-man move down the left.

Johnston got in around the back and played a one-two with Stanley – despite Barber’s best efforts – and Johnston drilled his shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from a tight angle.

“Good finish, good tackle from the centre-half in the first place.  That’s how the ball dropped to him. I thought that Joe got across well to block the first shot and unfortunately it’s dropped to the man that wasn’t wearing yellow and he tucked it away very, very well.”

Cray Wanderers players deserved their standing ovation at the final whistle as they were just 90 minutes away from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of playing Liverpool in a competitive game.

“It was 90 minutes and it’s going to be 90 years now for us unless we do it again with another group,” came Flemming’s reply.

“That was the dream from day one. We did say Liverpool and we’ve fallen short at the last hurdle but we can take massive pride.

“The run of games that we’ve played, some of them we were comfortable, in some of them we were very uncomfortable. Some of them we flicked the game on its head and came out as winners but will we lose sleep over it? Not too much!”

Dacey added: “We played Saturday and Monday as well before today so we’ve played three games in five days, which wasn’t ideal so it was always going to be a tall order. We train 90 minutes a week. We’ve gone past all these full-time Academies (to reach this stage of the competition).”

The FA Youth Cup attracts scouts and there were many in attendance here tonight and Flemming challenges his players to push on now so they can enjoy more nights like this one in their careers.

Flemming said: “I think the boys have shown great heart and determination and this will be not even the turning point where the boys can drive on and look to go higher and raise their game.  They’ve seen the level that they want to get to, whether that is with the first team here or them going forward and playing for pro clubs and they would’ve been loads of scouts here.

“That was the point we made to the boys from day one so from the first game against Holmesdale.  A few boys stood out and a few clubs sniffed around.  You see them the second time and the third time so hopefully now we’re out we’ll get a few phone calls and a few boys can go into those clubs and showcase their talent and hopefully get signed.

“That’s the reason why me and Mark are doing this job. It’s not to hold onto them, it’s not to build a team we’re going to have for four-eight years, it was hopefully to showcase these boys talents and help them move on and push on further in their careers to pro football or as high as possible in semi-pro football.”

Cray Wanderers: Timalade Fujimade, Adam Bambroffe (David Showemimo 69), Frankie Morgan, Kyrique Garvey Williams, Benjamin Hullet, Joseph Barber, Neil Spencer (Cameron Grant 46), Lee Lewis, Robert Daye (Deshon Carty 46), Ronnie Payne, Kwame Poku.
Sub: Kwaku Gyabi Junior

Portsmouth: Leon Pitman, Harry Kavanagh, Joshua Flint, James Whiting, Haji Mnoga, Ethan Robb (Liam Kelly 75), Leon Maloney (Eoin Teggart 60), Fredrick Read, Bradley Lethbridge, Stanley Bridgman (Alfie Stanley 60), Oscar Johnston.
Subs: Joe Ridley, Tom Bruce

Goals: Bradley Lethbridge 11, Leon Maloney 29 (penalty), James Whiting 55, Oscar Johnston 87

Attendance: 270
Referee: Mr Ivan Gelov (Bermondsey, London SE1)
Assistants: Mr Jordan Whitworth (Catford, London SE6) & Mr Phillip Dunkley (Nunhead, London SE15)