I want the players to create a memorable moment in their football careers that they are still talking about in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time, says Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson

Friday 22nd February 2019

CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) manager Kevin Watson says he wants his players to create a memorable moment in their football careers tomorrow.


The Millers travel to Devon to play Willand Rovers in The Buildbase FA Vase Quarter-Finals, as they bid to reach the two-legged Semi-Finals next month.

Cray Valley go into the game sitting in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, having collected 55 points from their 25 league outings.

Watson’s men are seven points adrift of league leaders Corinthian, who host second-placed Fisher at Gay Dawn Farm tomorrow. Dean Harrison’s Fisher can return to the summit with a win.

“The players have earned the right to play in such a high stakes game and the club officials and committee and supporters deserve to experience success,” said Watson, on the eve of the clubs biggest game in their history.

“We could look back at how far this team has come in a relatively short space of time - or we could dream about the future but the message will very much be to focus on the here and now.

“We will travel to Exeter this afternoon/evening and stay overnight. This isn’t a reward for the players in any shape or form but purely because we feel that this is the best preparation for the game, given the distance we are travelling.

“We will then travel back after the game as this is purely a business trip and not recreational. 

“It’s a big commitment from everyone. I’m sure when the players sign for a Step Five club, they are not expecting to have to miss half a day’s work or be away from their families on a Friday night.  However, it’s very much a one-off and a new experience for many.”

Willand Rovers sit proudly three points clear at the top of the Toolstation Western League Premier Division table with 66 points on the board from their 26 league outings.

Watson said: “Our opponents have better statistics than us and have only lost twice in the league.

“I’m under no illusion that they will expect to beat us in front of a huge crowd.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this game attracted a crowd of 1,000.

“I do believe we have the mentality to thrive under pressure but the unsympathetic nature of cup competitions means that there are no second chances.

“They have watched us twice and whilst we were unable to physically watch them ourselves due to a match postponement, I do have detailed information on their team, which has enhanced preparation.

“They are certainly at this stage in the competition on merit and had a very good cup run last season.  They are physical and well-organised as would be expected. 

“By all accounts, the pitch is quite poor but obviously it’s the same for both sides.”

Watson has challenged his players to take this opportunity by the scruff off the neck and seal progress at the weekend.

“I want the players to create a memorable moment in their football careers that they are still talking about in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time,” said Watson.

“I don’t think the accolade of FA Vase Quarter-Finalists would be that for most of them but the Semi-Final or even Final could be.”

Watson revealed that attacker Joe N’Guessan remains ruled out through injury, while former Sheppey United right-back Chris Saunders is cup-tied.

“Joe is likely to require an operation and miss the remainder of the season, following an innocuous injury he sustained earlier in the season,” said Watson.

“I feel for Joe as he’s not only a great talent but a great lad.  I have absolutely no doubt that he will recover fully and we as a club will support him in any way possible.

“As a manager, long-term player injuries is what I struggle with the most.  I had a very bad injury once and it’s devastating.  It’s the part where I often feel helpless.

“I go back to the injury that Matt Solly sustained, while I was at Chatham Town and he has never fully recovered from.  This haunts me a bit as I know how much football means to these lads.

“Chris Saunders is cup-tied having played for Sheppey United in the competition earlier in the season.  Again, it’s difficult for Chris but he will travel and be part of the experience.”

Watson revealed he hasn’t confirmed his starting eleven with his players and will do so as close to the start of the game tomorrow.

“We went to Oxford City in The FA Cup on a big occasion with a depleted squad and I am pleased that we are almost at full-strength heading into tomorrow’s game.

“This does, however, cause team selection issues and at this moment in time, the starting 11 has not been fully selected. 

“I’m extremely conscious that some players, good lads who have played a major role in getting the club to this point, may not even get on the pitch.  This is why it’s even more important for the players that do, to perform at the top of their game.”

Willand Rovers have beaten Odd Down (4-1); Tavistock (2-1); Bodmin Town (3-0); Hamworthy United (1-0) and Deeping Rangers (3-2) to reach this stage of the competition.

Cray Valley, meanwhile, have defeated Sutton Athletic (2-1); Hailsham Town (2-0); St Panteleimon (3-1); Badshot Lea (7-0); Sheppey United (4-0); Baffins Milton Rovers (3-1) and Abbey Rangers (3-1).

Visit Cray Valley’s website: www.cray-valley.co.uk

Willand Rovers  v  Cray Valley
The Buildbase FA Vase Quarter-Final
Saturday 23 February 2019
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Silver Street, Willand, Devon EX15 2RG