Cray Valley (Paper MIlls) 3-1 Sporting Club Thamesmead - We've got to try to win something this year, says Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson

Wednesday 10th January 2018
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3 – 1 Sporting Club Thamesmead
Location Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 10/01/2018 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Third Round
Wednesday 10 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY manager Kevin Watson says his players’ have got to try to win something this season after reaching their third Cup Quarter-Final this season.

The Millers booked their place in the last eight of the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup to join Chatham Town, Crowborough Athletic, Erith Town, Lordswood, Sutton Athletic or Deal Town, Tunbridge Wells and Whitstable Town in the draw.

Watson’s side also face Chatham Town and Croydon in the Quarter-Finals of the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy and the London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding) respectively.

Cray Valley, who went into the game in fourteenth-place in the Premier with 27 points from 21 games, raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 14 minutes as striker Junior James scored on his debut before being forced off during the second half with a hamstring injury, before winger Ryan Flack doubled their lead with a fine strike within 62 seconds.

Sporting Club Thamesmead, who arrived in Eltham sitting in tenth-place in the First Division table with 30 points from 19 games, pulled a goal back when target-man Anthony Fenech powered in his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot.

Sam Bailey came off the bench to score against his former club on the counter attack at the end of the game for his third goal of the campaign.

“Relief, if I’m honest, I thought we were poor, very poor in the first half,” admitted Watson, who has won nine and lost 11 of his 26 games in charge of the club.

“I thought they were good, they came at us.  I thought second half we improved slightly as expected but players’ have got to be more consistent.

“Obviously the outcome matters, that’s the objective, to get the win but I think as a manager you need to look at the performance because over the course of the season and going forward every game is a learning curve and these games are tough.  I found them tough as a player, they’re tough as a manager but the rewards are getting through into the next round and it’s a good competition to progress in.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead manager Lee Hill said: “I thought they deserved it in the end really.  I thought they were a lot stronger than us, slightly fitter than us as well.

“I think we need to be on the game from the start. We need to be a bit more fitter and a bit more streetwise in the manner we approach each game.”

Cray Valley’s pacey right-winger Denzel Gayle crossed low for Flack at the near post but visiting keeper Charlie Martin smothered the ball at his feet after only 18 seconds.

Jamie Day, a manager or coach in recent years at Welling United, Ebbsfleet United, Braintree Town and Gillingham, swung in a free-kick from the left touchline and Ashley Sains knocked the ball up for his central defensive partner Jack White to sweep his shot on the turn which was saved low to his right by Martin.

Watson said: “Jack’s come in from the Suburban League team and done very well.  There was an argument, he was harshly dropped the other week because he played in the game against Whitstable, which was a good result for us and I dropped him the game after.  He’s got a really good attitude and he’s working hard.”

Watson spoke about having Day at the club.

“Jamie’s got a three-game suspension now for his sending off on Saturday but players’ like Jamie and Kevin Lisbie is a different type of hunger at their age and I think people need to understand it. He loves it and he’s a model pro. He’s a player that he would like to manage. He turns up for every training session every week, always on time, absolutely early to things, doesn’t cause me a problem and when I signed him and when I signed Kevin Lisbie, some people frowned and didn’t understand it. If you could see what they do and the product of their work they don’t have to be here, they’re here because they want to be here and that’s the difference.”

Hill added: “Charlie has been playing well. It was a save I expect him to save. T was the right height for him and it was a good save.” 

Sporting Club Thamesmead’s 27-goal striker Josh Patrick missed a glorious chance to give his side the lead with 11:07 on the clock.

Talented left-winger Ismail Ismail swept a sublime through ball to put Patrick through on goal. He controlled the ball with his knee, strode forward before stroking his left-footed half-volley just past the left-hand post from 20-yards with only goalkeeper Andy Walker to beat.

Hill said: “We thought we was going to get the lead there with Josh, he normally buries them! He took it in his stride. A good pass from Ismail but stroked past the left-hand side of the goalkeeper’s post.  The goalkeeper was beat.  I thought it was going to be 1-0 but it wasn’t to be.”

Sheppey United offered Patrick £250 per week earlier on in the season, which the striker turned down owing to his parents being on the committee with one of their tasks being washing the kit.

“I’ve kept Josh for five seasons so hopefully we can keep doing the right things.  We want to go places and I know other teams do but hopefully we can keep our better players,” said Hill.

Watson was seen in conversation with Patrick in the tunnel after the game and Watson is keen for the talisman to leave his club to play at a higher level of football.

He said: “I was just speaking to the lad.  The boy is a good player, that’s why I was just speaking to him.  Club’s will be interested in him. He seems very level-headed. I was having a chat about progressing high, not tapping him up as such, that I’ve been accused of.  I’ve put a seven-day approach in for him earlier in the season.

“I’ve always been open, to give players an opportunity, he’s a talented lad.  No disrespect to Sporting Club Thamesmead, they do a fantastic job and looking at the team they put out today and how they played they’ll progress quite quickly but he’s 23 years of age and the danger is he’ll look back on his career when he’s older and if he hasn’t got that opportunity, I’ve got no doubt that Sporting Club Thamesmead will help him progress when the time is right.

“I’ve got some lads like that as well who will progress and play higher but it’s when the time’s right.”

The miss proved costly, however, as Cray Valley immediately went up the other end to open the scoring, the goal timed at 12 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Joseph N’Guessan, who was withdrawn after only 21 minutes with a knock to his ankle, swept the ball out wide to Gayle, who cut into the box and his low cross came out to Junior James, who drove his low left-footed shot past the keeper.

“That was probably one of our few phases, only good passages of play in the first half,” admitted Watson.

“Good finish for the goal, that’s Junior’s first start today for us.  He’s still doing his fitness, that’s what Denzel can do to teams on his day. He’s shown he can do that to teams at a higher level, he’s got lots of ability.”

Hill said: “They hit teams on the break with very quick counter-attacking.  We knew they were going to be a threat out wide. A good cut back and a great finish really.  We did talk about that before the game. We’ve got to get out there and cut the balls out and try to get tight to them.”

A bad mistake from 18-year-old right-back Elliott Johnson gifted the home side a second goal just 62 seconds later.

N’Guessan’s diagonal pass should have been cut out by Johnson, but his slip let in Flack, who cut into the box before producing a clinical left-footed angled-drive, which flashed across the keeper and nestled into the bottom far corner.

Watson said: “Good finish from Flacky, opens his body up, Flacky’s got that quality, that technical quality to be able to do that, so it’s pleasing for him to get a goal as well.”

Hill added: “A little bit of a loss of concentration by Elliott but I’m not going to fault him. He’s 18-years-old, he’s come to us this season, he’s been outstanding all season so we’re not going to punish him for one mistake. They punished us to make it 2-0.

“What was going through my mind?  We’ve got to stay together, put our foot on the ball and just keep battling away really because it could’ve been three or four nil. That’s what I was thinking, two early goals, let’s dig deep and see what we an get out of it.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead were given a lifeline, which was accepted by Fenech from the penalty spot, the goal timed at 17 minutes and 53 seconds.

Day and then left-back Tommy Osborne passed the ball back along the deck to Walker, who took Patrick’s feet away from him after the striker pressed him and nicked the ball off him and was likely to score.

Referee Toby Enstone pointed to the spot and Fench powered his left-footed penalty nestling into the bottom left-hand corner, sending Walker diving in the other direction.

“We knew they would try to play out from the back,” said Hill, who needs to read the Laws of the game when it comes to fouls being committed inside the box.

“Josh nipped in, it’s a blatant penalty.  I thought it might’ve been more with the goalkeeper getting sent-off, he didn’t get booked.  I did question the referee, he explained what he thought was the decision so no arguments there.

“It was a great response. A lot of the games, our last six or seven games, believe it our not we’ve gone behind in three or four of them and we dug deep.  A great response and it shows the character that some of the players’ have got.”

Watson added: “The lad chased it down well. Walks and Tommy were quite close.  It’s a difficult one.  Tom’s tried to set it back to him and the lad has nipped in. It’s a bit frustrating! Walks is great saving penalties, his record in saving penalties is phenomenal but it was a good penalty from the big lad.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead created some decent chances after the half-hour mark.

Visiting keeper Martin launched a big kick straight down the middle of the pitch, Fenech’s knock down was met by Ismail’s rasping right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was beaten away by Walker to his left.

Johnson was given time and space down the right to float in a cross for Patrick to send his diving near-post header wide past the post from 10-yards.

Fenech then turned down the right-channel and hit a dipping drive from 30-yards, which forced Walker to palm the ball over his crossbar as the big target-man’s shot was dipping towards the goal.

Hill said: “I thought after we scored we had a couple of good chances to equalise, a few corners, we’ve just got to take the chances!

“He made the goalkeeper work, all you can do is ask them to hit the target and I couldn’t see if it was going in but the keeper made the save to make sure it wasn’t.”

Watson said: “They had some chances, a good shot, it caught Walks off guard a little bit.  A great strike from the lad.  They were dangerous from set-pieces, they’re a good team and they’ve got some good players.”

Watson admitted: “Listen, I’ll tell you, they’re a decent team.  The only positive of the first half was to go in leading the game because I don’t think we deserved it and that wasn’t us disrespecting them.  That was just a poor mentality, people playing poorly. People not doing the basics right.

“I thought Ashley Sains was our only player who was playing at a good standard in the first half.  A couple picked up in the second half.”

Ismail swung in the resulting corner, deep for Mudiaga Wanogho, the centre half steering his header wide from a tight angle.

Ismail shrugged off White and powered a left-footed drive towards Walker’s goal, which was tipped over the crossbar by the fit-again former Thamesmead Town stopper.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Watson said: “It was just about being below par and the standards we set ourselves, were a good team and we’ve shown that time and time again. The squad that we’ve got here now they’re good players, honest players and they wasn’t anywhere meeting that potential.

“I always say to them, I will be honest and they will hate me for it and sometimes when managers were honest to me it was hard to take but I’m doing it in the best interests of them and that’s my role.  I told them the truth, things did improve in the second half, slightly.”

Hill added: “I just said just dig in and give me everything that you can give for 45 minutes. We’re playing uphill, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough but just give me everything that you’ve got for the last 45 minutes. It’s a cup game, if you lose you lose but just give me everything and I believe they did!”

The only opening that Sporting Club Thamesmead created in the second half came after 100 seconds.

Holding midfielder Emmanuel West launched his fourth and final long throw into the box and Patrick hooked his shot harmlessly wide.

Hill said: “We huffed and puffed in the second half but I thought the work-rate was tremendous. As you could see it was a heavy pitch and the legs were going. They were fitter than us and they were more confident than us on the ball and they played better football than us but my boys dug-in.  They opened us up and created a lot more chances but when it was 2-1, one more chance wand we’re back in it.”

Cray Valley were the better side for the last half-an-hour.

Day played the ball out to Osborne, who drove forward before playing the ball back inside to Day, who slipped a first time pass over to Alex Nelson, whose angled drive deflected into the side netting for a corner.

Flack cut inside and teed up a chance for substitute striker Jordan Sandiford, who swept his shot on the turn into Martin’s legs.

“They were getting on top, piling the pressure on and again Charlie has been superb for us all season, it was another good save,” added Hill, who operates without a playing budget.

Cray Valley right-back Connor Dobson floated in a cross which was met by Flack’s looping header, which only just cleared the crossbar.

Cray Valley’s back four slammed the door shut and the away side offered nothing in the final third during the entire second half.

Martin’s clearance was hit back towards his goal with interest from Day from 60-yards but he wasn’t going to be embarrassed as Martin gathered the ball as it appeared to be drifting wide.

Cray Valley created five goalscoring chances inside the final 10 minutes.

The impressive Josh James played a long ball out from defence which released Bailey down the right channel.  His shot was blocked by Martin, who then saw Sandiford’s first time shot clip the outside of the near post from six-yards.

“Jordan’s opened his body up a little but like Flacky in the first half and usually he finishes them,” said Watson.

“Jordan’s another one with a lot of potential and we’ve started to blood him into the first team.  He takes a lot of pride in scoring goals and that was an unlucky finish.  Jordan didn’t do a lot wrong and that was one on the rebound, it’s quite a narrow angle for him and he’s unlucky to hit the post.”

Hill added: “They had all the possession, a bit fortunate that’s hit the outside of the post and we carried on. We tried to push on, pushed a couple of more people forward.

“We made three substitutions and we needed fresh legs on there and we were just thinking one more chance will fall to someone and you don’t know what can happen after that but the effort was there but a bit of quality was lacking tonight.”

Flack and Osborne linked up down the left and Nelson clipped his shot past the near post from eight-yards.

Josh James played a one-two with Nelson in the final third down the right and Martin came off his line to deny the Millers’ substitute central midfielder.

Watson said: “Josh has done well for us.  I think he’s learning, which is important. He’s not a young lad but he’s learning what we need him to do in the games and what he’s starting to understand, what he feels ineffective sometimes in games when he’s not necessarily getting the ball that much and his movement is allowing our other midfielders to get on it and he’s getting on it in more threatening positions.

“But he’s a good player, extremely fit, he’s running the Marathon, technically very good so it’s a joy to watch when he’s playing like that.”

Cray Valley made it 3-1 with 43 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a breakaway goal.

Bailey collected the ball inside his half, sprinted down the right, went on the outside of last-defender Veejay Miller and from 25-yards he drilled his right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far  corner.

“Very positive, we broke, showed what he can do.  I don’t think the lad was expecting him to go on the outside because he’s left-footed and just struck it well and hit the target and he ends up getting himself a goal,” said Watson.

Hill added: “I know Sam, he played for us for a couple of seasons. He’s grown into a good talent. He’s got plenty of pace but when you bring him on from the subs bench against tiring players he’s going to do that.”

Flack was denied a second goal at the death when his left-footed drive whilst bombing forward was tipped onto the crossbar by Acre keeper Martin.

Watson added: “Good strike on hjs left-foot, again a very technically very good player and unlucky with it, the goalkeeper’s done well.”

Hill added: “It’s another good strike! From where we was that looked like that was in all the way but we’re pushing forward all the time trying to get the equaliser so they hit us on the break and to lose 3-1 is not a disgrace.”

Speaking about his aspirations for the rest of the season, Watson said: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but now I think we’re at a stage where we’ve got a squad together where we can go and progress but it’s tough.

“Our league situation, when you lose eight on the bounce, you’re always going to be on the back foot. Promotion’s out of our reach, which we accept to a certain extent.  I don’t think you’re ever fully expecting it but maybe it’s not a reality but we need to finish as high as we can in the league.

“We didn’t lose in the Vase either (being eliminated for fielding an ineligible player) so we’re unbeaten in the Vase this season so we’ve only lost in The FA Cup so we’ve got to try to win something this year.  Ultimately, that’s every managers aspirations.”

Sevenoaks Town lead the Premier table with 42 points from 17 games followed by Beckenham Town (42 points from 20 games) and Crowborough Athletic (39 points from 19 games).

Looking forward to Saturday’s trip to Crowborough, Watson said: “They’ve gone out of the Vase, they’ve openly said it’s about the league for them.  Honestly, we turn up to every game with the same kind of mentality to go and win the game because I think you have to.

“Crowborough are one of the better teams in the league. There’s no reason why we can’t beat Crowborough if we’re at the top of our game. If we’re not, like we were today, we would’ve lost the game in the first half, no doubt.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Connor Dobson, Tommy Osborne, Jamie Day, Ashley Sains, Jack White, Denzel Gayle (Sam Bailey 61), Alex Nelson, Junior James (Jordan Sandiford 52), Joseph N’Guessan (Josh James 21), Ryan Flack.
Sub: Simon Glover

Goals: Junior James 13, Ryan Flack 14, Sam Bailey 89

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Charlie Martin, Elliott Johnson, Veejay Miller, Emmanuel West (Billy Holloway 68), Mudiaga Wanogho, Tony Hill, Ismail Ismail, Jamie Williams, Josh Patrick, Anthony Fenech (Jojo Ogunbiyi 74), Oscar Hall (Sidiq Badru 74).

Goals: Anthony Fenech 18 (penalty)

Attendance: 73
Referee: Mr Toby Enstone (Plumstead, London SE18)
Assistants: Mr Jordan Crichlow (Carshalton, Surrey) & Mr Kuba Bogucki (Balham, London SW17)

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