The last sixteen of The FA Vase is great but we haven’t achieved anything yet, says Cray Valley goalkeeper Andy Walker

Sunday 06th January 2019

CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) goalkeeper Andy Walker says he feels made up for the club after booking their place in the last 16 of The Buildbase FA Vase for the first time.

The Millers comfortably beat Portsmouth based side Baffins Milton Rovers 3-1 at Middle Park Avenue yesterday afternoon.

Francis Babalola, Kevin Lisbie and Denzel Gayle scored the goals that sent Kevin Watson’s side through to the national stages of the competition.

“I’m made up, I’m made up for the gaffer and everyone at the club and the boys are just buzzing,” said Walker, 37.

“Everyone’s put a lot into that and to be honest it could’ve been a lot more!

“We had a little bit of a dip in form over the last few weeks but I think it came back with vengeance.”

Watson had to re-jig his defence as centre-halves Liam Hickey, Brad Potter and Ashley Sains weren’t available and right-back Chris Edwards was cup-tied having played against the Millers for Sheppey United in the last round.

Danny Smith, Cem Tumkaya and Tyler Myers played as three centre-halves with the outstanding Josh James slotting in at left-wing-back while Gayle was an advanced wing-back on the other side of the pitch.

Walker said:  “I think they came in and slotted in very well.  I think with them coming in we simplified things a little bit and everyone was clear with the role they had to play and how we were going to play today.

“I think that showed a lot and everyone stuck to their jobs and carried out what we needed to do.

“It could’ve been a lot more (than a 3-1 win) but credit to the boys.  Sometimes when you miss a few chances it can start to get on top of you,  a bit of frustration can creep in but I don’t think there was any sign of that.  We just kept going and stuck to the job and I’m really proud of everyone concerned.”

Walker was beaten just the once when Baffins Milton Rovers’ big targetman Jason Parish drilled a penalty straight down the middle in the 87th minute after he was fouled inside the box by Myers.

Walker said: “Obviously as a goalkeeper you never want to concede goals.  It’s frustrating that you do but at the same time the performance of the boys was strong and I didn’t want the fact that we conceded to take any gloss of what was achieved today.”

The Draw for the Final 16 will be made live on TalkSport Radio on Monday and captain Walker is relishing the chance of getting a chance of keeping the club’s real chances of playing at Wembley Stadium alive.

“Listen, it sounds great and we’re buzzing off it but I think as a team we know what we can do and the last 16 is great but we haven’t achieved anything yet,” said Walker.

“We look forward to the draw, we’ll be buzzing up until that game as well. It will help our league form, I think, because you’ve got to get some momentum off this and carry on in the league, that’s the main thing.

“Everyone believes we can go a lot further.”

Cray Valley have slipped down to sixth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 37 points from 19 games – 10 points adrift of leaders Fisher but with three games in hand.

Walker was then asked whether he would rather win the league title and promotion into the Isthmian League – or lift The FA Vase at Wembley Stadium in May.

“I think there’s two different answers to that,” came his reply.

“Selfishly, possibly you’d say go to Wembley and winning The Vase. I think there’s possibly a greater thing involved in the league for the football club and the gaffer and everyone involved at the club, I think selfishly possibly The Vase but collectively I think definitely the League is the one.

“With a little dip in form in our league form, I think it’s brought us down to earth a little bit especially when the pitch started to not be as a great as they were earlier in the season.

“Everyone maybe adjusted a little bit and that put a damper on things.  Everyone adjusted a little bit and that put a damper on how everyone was feeling but it came at a good time as well because we realised against Baffins that we had to do things a bit differently and the effort that went into it.

“We do get excited but at the same time we understand how quickly winning can turn into losing, the fine margins.”

Walker has battled hard to return to a career threatening injury of a ruptured patella tendon in his knee cap while playing for Thamesmead Town.

“I can’t put into words what it means to be now to play football.  You take it for granted for a lot of years.  You see people get injured but you very much think it’s never going to happen to you,” reflected Walker.

“Once you have a bad injury and a chance of not being able to play anymore and you’re sat on the side line for a long time, I think you realise how frustrated you were before playing the games and realise losing isn’t the worst thing.

“It’s not being able to play the game, that is the worst thing so for a personal point of view I think that I’m blessed that I’ve managed to carry on playing and not go out of something that I’ve loved in that way so I’m just enjoying every minute of it.”

When asked who he wants to play in the national stage of the draw when they play their tie on 2 February, Walker replied: “In terms of home or away, North or South?  I don’t know the stats but I think personally we’ve been stronger away from home.

“Listen, we’d like a good pitch to play on.  I think that will help us a lot but then again it’s not a bad pitch here but it’s by no means a carpet.

“I don’t think it matters who it is or where it is. I think it matters that we conduct ourselves in the manner that we have against Baffins.”

Meanwhile, Cray Valley host Lordswood in the Challenge Cup Third Round at Middle Park Avenue on Wednesday night.

Walker said: “I don’t know what the gaffer is going to do in terms of going for it.  I’m sure the gaffer being the gaffer he’ll want to go out and win that game, no matter what it is.

“You need to go out and win that game.  You need to build momentum, you need to win games. We want to win it, simple as that. If we can have the luxury of bedding a few in that haven’t had much game time as well then it’s great that we can do that.”

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Cray Valley (Paper Mills)  v  Lordswood
Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Third Round
Wednesday 9 January 2019
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT