Cray Valley 2-0 Erith Town - A Cup run will alleviate the pressure on us, says Cray Valley boss Paul Gross

Wednesday 11th November 2015
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 2 – 0 Erith Town
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 11/11/2015 19:45

Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Second Round
Wednesday 11th November 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY manager Paul Gross says a run in the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup will alleviate the pressure from his underperforming side.

The Millers will join Corinthian or Beckenham Town, Croydon, Deal Town, Hollands & Blair, Greenwich Borough, Erith & Belvedere and Ashford United in the Quarter-Final draw, which will be made at a League meeting on 19 November.

A crowd of 87 saw landlords Cray Valley beat tenants Erith Town courtesy of two strikers from winger Rory Hill, who has now scored 12 goals this season.

Gross, who resisted the temptation to play himself tonight said: “I don’t remember our keeper making a save to be honest.  He made a save from a free-kick early on and then I thought without us creating too many chances really.

“I thought we just had to keep our shape. We got the goal, had to keep our shape and discipline and I thought we were happy to let them have the ball where they had it and the areas they had it and with our shape they could not break us down. We invited them to break us down and they couldn’t.

“I’m more than happy with our shape and the clean sheet more than anything.”

Erith Town’s joint-manager Joe Ford said he was disappointed with his club’s exit at the first hurdle.

“Gutted! A bit gutted that we’re out of the cup at this early stage. We looked at this cup as one we could go a couple more rounds in, see how far we could go, so overall, just disappointed.

“You look at their league position.  We should be beating teams like that. Maybe it’s an unjust position. Maybe if they played like that every single week they wouldn’t be in that league position but that’s none of my business.

“All we said to the lads at the end was could we give that extra 10-15% more, a few of them?

“The game should mean something, of course, but you have those special games like these games tonight and it will be two battles in the league as well.”

Cray Valley went into the game sitting in fourteenth-place in the table on 14 points from as many games and slipped down a position after Rochester United’s 2-1 win at Canterbury City.

“I just said to the boys, it’s good because I’m very wary of our position in the league and it takes it, it alleviates a bit of pressure off us all by staying in two cups,” said Gross.

“I’m so glad that we got a win to keep us in the cup.  Wining just breeds confidence so as many games as we can win, whatever competition it is, hopefully we can start winning a few in the league now and get up and amongst it.”

Erith Town, who went into the Cup tie in fifth-place in the table on 25 points from their 13 league outings, created the first chance of the game after only 93 seconds.

Impressive left-winger Tom Youngs hit a right-footed dipping free-kick from 30-yards, which bounced once into the hands of Stevie Sutton, who had a quiet night.

Ford said: “Disappointing free-kick from Youngie. He’s normally better than that form there. He’s stuck other free-kicks from that range into the top corner with one minute to go to win us games so I can’t criticise him early in the game, just didn’t pull it off for him.”

Gross added: “Straight into him. It was comfortable so it was never going in, that’s fine.”

Cray Valley’s first opening came after ten minutes through striker Luke Harvey, hitting a speculative overhead kick looping over the crossbar from 20-yards.

Erith Town gave goalkeeper Aaron Omand his debut having borrowed him from Ryman League Division One North neighbours Thamesmead Town.

The Dockers were awarded another free-kick from 30-yards, but this time Richard Morgan, who played behind lone striker Remell Davies, curled his right-footed shot past the top of the near post.

Ford added: “I thought we were dominating in terms of keeping the ball, in terms of our movement, possession, felt quite comfortable.”

Erith Town were dominating the game during the early stages and were playing an eye-catching brand of passing football – but they had no end product in the final third.

Gross said: “They played a good shape. They’ve got a lot of youngsters that are very pacy and they hit you on the break - but we’ve got experienced lads.

“We just hard to break down tonight and they can have all of the ball as much of the ball they wanted first 20 minutes.   Yes, they got past the full-backs a few times but after that we doubled up and kept our shape and they couldn’t get through.”

Cray Valley went close when Alex Chambers played the ball inside to Hill, who took a touch before hitting a right-footed dipping drive just over the crossbar from 25-yards.

But Cray Valley grabbed the lead shortly afterwards - against the run of play – with 26:33 on the clock.

Adam Gross swept a long free-kick into the Erith Town penalty area from the half-way line and Harvey jumped up with Jason Mensah inside the box.  The ball dropped down for Chambers to lay the ball off for Hill to drive his right-footed deflected shot into the bottom right-hand corner from 20-yards.

Gross said: “We said we could’ve probably done them on the set-pieces, which was the case and a couple of second balls rolling, Rory hits one early, gives them a warning, hits the next one and it goes in the net.

“Adam floated it in, compete, a good hold up from Luke, sets it and a good finish, a good goal.

“They probably had more of the possession. If you done stats tonight they probably had more of it, but they didn’t hurt us.  You can have all the ball you want unless you’re going to break a team down and hurt them and score goals, football ain’t won through possession. It’s won through goals so I’m more than happy to take a 2-0 and let them have the ball for 90% of the time.”

Ford added: “The goal’s come from a long ball, one of many tonight and we haven’t dealt with the knock down.  I thought there was an initial clearance that could’ve been done.  I think Hassan (Jenneh) just slipped in the box, quick, set and a deflected shot so from our point of view, a bit disappointing to concede like that but at the same time, nothing you can do about it!

“I thought it was (against the run of play). I thought we done well in periods of the game tonight. I just felt we lacked that penetration in the final third and if we had that tonight then the game would’ve been completely different, but dominated large spells.

“We had two big players missing for us tonight in Tom Garrick (suspended) and Ricky Gundry (cup-tied having previously played for Rochester United).

“But we signed a great player in Remell Davies. We opted to play him up front on his own tonight and play Richard Morgan in the pocket in behind him.

“We felt it worked for the first 10-15 minutes of the game and then they had their shape. They were really well-organised tonight. I must give them that.  Their back four was tidy and they got their banks of four in really early and it made it difficult for us.”

Cray Valley should have doubled their lead just four minutes later.

Hill played the ball out to Harvey on the right hand side of the penalty area and he steered his right-footed angled drive across the diving Omand, who used a strong right hand to push the ball away into Greg Benbow’s path but the winger blazed his left-footed shot over the crossbar from 10-yards.

Gross said: “He scored two against Deal in similar positions, one in the Vase in a similar position and he just leans back and puts it over.

“Unfortunately going in 2-0 at half-time, it would’ve been a lot more comfortable.

“That was Luke’s first game tonight, he’s missed five games so he’s come back in, a point to prove because Byron’s (Walker) out tonight. Alright he got a bit leggy at the end but I thought he played well tonight and unlucky not to come away with a goal.”

Ford explained why Joe Hagan was replaced by Omand in goal tonight.

He said: “Joe Hagan’s gone away for his birthday so I spoke to (Thamesmead Town manager) Terry Spillane in the week, went to watch Aaron play Monday night for Thamesmead. He done very well. I think he’s the number 2 down there at the moment so it’s an opportunity to get him some minutes under his belt. 

“I thought he done really well. I don’t think we could do anything about the two goals. He told me they were both nicks and just got away from his fingertips. I liked what he done tonight, he’s helped us out and it’s a big thank you to him.”

Reflecting on the save to thwart Harvey, Ford added: “Great initial save. He’s tipped it – but it’s a fantastic reflex save. I think if he doesn’t push it, it rolls to the guys feet. I think by pushing it at the fella it made that he’s had to react a lot quicker and he’s rushed his finish and it’s gone over the bar.”

Erith Town fashioned themselves an opening with five minutes left.

Right-back Luke Coleman fed Ola Rabiu down the right and a quick turn of pace saw him beat his man easily to reach the by-line but an unmarked Youngs was penalised for handball at the far post and the opening wasted.

Hill swung in Cray Valley’s first of three corners a minute later, which was headed out to Jimmy Rogers, who hooked his right-footed shot high over the bar from 25-yards

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Gross said: “We said just keep doing what they’re doing. We knew they’d come at us. We knew they were quicker, we knew their fitter, they’re young lads, they’re going to be, but what they haven’t got is experience to maybe see things through, break teams down. We’ve got a shape, we kept to it and it worked, the game plan worked.”

Ford added: “Keep doing what we’re doing!  I did tell them that I thought they could go and play in Cray Valley’s half of the pitch a lot more. We were passing and moving the ball really well but not going anywhere with it. Maybe that was because we had the one up front. He was a little bit isolated but I still felt we could play higher up the pitch so that’s what we asked them to do at half-time.  I thought the second half, they absolutely went out and done that!”

Erith Town forced their second of four corners inside the opening two minutes of the second half.

The first two were taken by Youngs, who failed to beat the first man, so Coleman took this one and the ball came out to Davies, who got the ball out from underneath his feet and from a tight angle steered his shot into the base of the side netting.

Cray Valley were attacking down the slope during the second half and Brad Potter clipped the ball out of defence, which was knocked down by Chambers and the ball ran loose to Harvey, who swept the ball out wide to Benbow on the right.  He delivered a first time cross and Omand smothered the ball before Chambers could pounce.

Erith Town’s attacks were down the left for most of the time, which left highly-rated winger Rabiu a frustrated figure on the other side of the pitch.

Ford said: “We asked the players at half-time, Tommy Osborne got booked in the first half so we said at half-time can we target that area of the pitch.

“I thought Timi had an exceptional game tonight going forward, really, really well. 

“We targeted that area of the pitch in the second half and it worked. One disappointing fact is because we targeted that side of the pitch, Cray reacted to it by shuffling over and it left Ola in space and we just couldn’t get the ball to him.”

But Rabiu squandered an excellent chance to bring his side back into the game on the hour mark.

Osibodu’s initial cross from the left was headed clear by Joe Matthews and went straight to Youngs, who whipped in another cross from the left and Rabiu cut across his man to power his downward header over the top of the near post from six-yards.

“Don’t know (how he missed)”, said Ford.

“You expect him to score form there. He’s done it in the past.

“He’s ghosted in at the back. He did have a quiet night tonight but as much as he had a quiet night I felt we could’ve given the ball to him a little bit more

“Ola’s very much of those players who like to get on the ball and hurt teams. A couple of times tonight he got the ball in his feet and it came straight back, which was disappointing.

“He’s disappointed with his performance. We didn’t pull him off in the end because he was playing badly, we just pulled him off to give young Alex Gaggin to get him on the pitch for some minutes.

“He’s disappointing with his performance but listen everyone can’t play well every single week, otherwise they wouldn’t be playing at this level.”He’

Gross praised his younger brother Adam for keeping highy-rated Rabiu quiet tonight.

He said: “That was the only time he got across Adam. I think he put two balls in early doors then he had the header come across Adam but apart from that I thought Adam defended him superbly. 

“Everyone’s been raving about him this year, I know how good Ola is because we had him last year so to keep a player of his ability quiet, you’ve got to give your full-back credit there.”

Harvey went close to scoring his tenth goal for the club with a piece of magic inside the penalty area after receiving the ball from Osborne’s throw from the right.

The ball dropped at Harvey’s feet, who flicked the ball up before turning and hooking his right-footed shot on the turn, which flashed across Omand and agonisingly past the far post.

“A good bit of skill from the old boy,” added Gross.

“Clever play again, Rather look to rush things, he sets himself and gets a shot off, which nine times out of ten Luke does. He’s great at holding it up and he’ll always gets a shot off. Another day it could’ve crept in at the back post.”

Gross was delighted with his defensive players for building a wall to protect Sutton, who had nothing to do.

An example of this was when central defender Matthews and Sutton both combined to cut out Osibodu’s tricky cross from the left after linking up once again with Youngs.

But Erith Town just didn’t look like scoring and they had Omand to thank for making a save with 15 minutes remaining.

Adam Gross stroked a left-footed dipping free-kick from 30-yards, which was destined to drop in to the bottom left-hand corner, but Omand moved to his right to scoop the ball around the post.

Ford added: “Done well. He’s not our goalkeeper, ready to talk about in terms of I’ve only seen him play once. He’s come in and done a tremendous job for us tonight, good reaction save and a good little flick around the post as well.”

The Millers manager said: “He was flapping there, the goalkeeper. He struggled to get across but a good free-kick. We all wondered what he was going to do. It was about 35-yards out and he’s come up with something for us and come up with another set-piece so we kept the pressure on.”

Hill swung in the resulting corner from the left and Potter came up from the back to get to the ball before Omand’s fists to plant his header just over the bar.

Cray Valley were content to sit back and soak up the pressure that Erith Town were throwing at them.

“They had a lot of the ball but it was all in front of us, exactly how we wanted it to be,” said Gross.

“They had a free-kick and a header that went wide.  We kept them at bay tonight so full credit to the defence and the midfield. I think that’s possibly only our second clean sheet this season.  For a defence that we’ve got, that’s not good enough but hopefully we can turn a corner here.”

Harvey was released down the right and he shrugged off the attentions of Osibodu, but his hopeful shot sailed over from a tight angle.

With the threat of extra-time a possibility, Cray Valley killed the game off with their second goal with 43:37 on the clock.

Full credit must go to central midfielder Taylor McDonagh, who started his run from inside his own half and ran with the ball for 40-yards straight down the middle before he was superbly tackled by Mensah.

The ball went to Benbow, who played the ball inside for Hill to drill his first time right-footed drive across the keeper from 25-yards, the ball inevitably nestling into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Gross said: “Again, give Rory space and time and he knows where the goal is.

“Taylor’s come in and he’s been quiet for the first three, his last two games has been absolutely superb for us. He sits in there, he’s not just there to win headers and tackles. He can actually break forward.  We kept our shape and looked to pick them off and we did it again.”

Ford added: “We went for it a little bit, maybe too early, but I think we were quite just in what we done.  We put Dan Willis up front in the hope of being a bit of a targetman because the ball wasn’t coming into James Pinnock so pushed Wills on and he got caught.  It’s a cup game so we had nothing to lose.”

Cray Valley host a struggling Holmesdale side on Saturday back in the league and Gross said: “I said to the boys before the game, every game I play, I want to win every single game. Why not go on a little cup run? It will breed confidence going into the league. We’re not doing well in the league at the minute so it’s a nice distraction at times.

“There’s no reason why we can’t (have a run in this cup), obviously you have to see the luck of the draw in the next round. Draws haven’t been too kind to us this season. We’ve had a few tough ones. We’ll go into the next round with confidence and see what we can do.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Stevie Sutton, Tommy Osborne, Adam Gross, Jimmy Rogers, Brad Potter, Joe Matthews, Rory Hill, Taylor McDonagh, Luke Harvey (Jordan Sandiford 90), Alex Chambers (Ben Healy 77), Greg Benbow (Jamie Miller 90).
Subs: John Wawrezewski, Paul Gross

Goals:  Rory Hill 27, 89

Booked: Tommy Osborne 20, Taylor McDonagh 50, Joe Matthews 66

Erith Town: Aaron Omand, Luke Coleman, Timi Osibodu, Danny Willis, Jason Mensah, Hassan Jenneh, Ola Rabiu (Alex Gaggin 87), Max Williams, Remell Davies (James Pinnock 69), Richard Morgan (Merrick Simms 76), Tom Youngs.
Subs: Mason Simms, Ciro Donadio

Booked: Danny Willis 12, Richard Morgan 33

Attendance: 87
Referee: Mr Jair Alzate Guzman (Southfields, London SW18)
Assistants: Mr Danny Geary (Maidstone) & Mr Matt Williams (Strood)