Hollands & Blair 1-2 Crayford One Bell - Winning four on the bounce makes it even harder for anyone to do again, says Crayford One Bell manager Chris Tuley

Thursday 04th April 2019
Hollands & Blair 1 – 2 Crayford One Bell
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 05/04/2019 19:45

Kent Veteran’s Cup Final
Friday 5 April 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

CRAYFORD ONE Bell Veterans manager Chris Tuley says it will be even harder for any other side to replicate his team after winning the Kent Veteran’s Cup Final four seasons in a row.


The side were formed in 2015 between a group of friends who wanted to play in the same side together and the pub itself, which is a stones throw from VCD Athletic’s Oakwood ground in Crayford, is jointly-owned by former Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard and his father.

Their side is made up with a whole host of familiar names across all levels of non-league football and they came up against a Hollands & Blair side that gave their all at Phoenix Sports’ ground in neighbouring Barnehurst.

Crayford One Bell eased past Marden Minors (10-3); Dormans (11-2); Tankerton (3-2) and VCD (8-0) to reach their fourth final; while Hollands & Blair, who don’t compete in a league have beaten New Romney (3-0); Johnson & Phillips (5-4 after-extra-time); London South (4-3) and Tankerton Slayer (5-1).

Crayford One Bell took the lead through wide midfielder Leigh Heinz, but they lost their 35-year-old goalkeeper Robert O’Hara on the stroke of half-time due to a knee injury and were forced to bring striker Steve Richardson off the bench to play the rest of the game in goal.

Hollands & Blair equalised deep into first half injury-time through Ben Christy’s tap-in, following a mistake from Richardson.

Heinz turned hero to villain when he was red-carded by referee Martin Stavely for a sliding tackle in the 12th minute of extra-time and with a penalty shoot-out looming, former Cray Valley striker Matt Knuckey kept his composure to create history in the final two minutes of the game by scoring the winning goal.

Crayford One Bell started the game on the front foot and Knuckey cut in from the right wing and played the ball inside to Marcus Perona, who flashed his right-footed drive just past the right-hand post from 20-yards with Peter Matthews rooted to the spot after only 217 seconds.

Hollands & Blair’s opening chance came in the 12th minute when Ross Brookes played the ball into Aaron Lacy and his flicked pass played in striker Sean Hetterly, who drilled his right-footed shot past the near post when he only had O’Hara to beat.

The pacey Knuckey danced into the Hollands & Blair penalty area before stroking a left-footed shot towards goal from 15-yards, which was comfortably saved low down by Matthews.

Blair weathered the storm, however, and started posing an attacking threat.

Long-throw specialist Lacy, who everyone knows from his time at Maidstone United, launched a quickly-taken throw in which released Lee Sturgeon down the right channel in space but once inside the box the striker lashed his half-volley over the crossbar from 15-yards.

An even better chance came their way within a couple of minutes.

Hetterly held the ball up with his back to goal before cutting the ball back to left-back Kevin Thorburn, who delivered a deep cross towards the far post for Sturgeon to plant his header wide from six-yards out.

Step forward Hollands & Blair keeper Matthews, 42, who rolled back the years and put in an outstanding performance to keep Crayford One Bell at bay.

Perona, who was pulling the strings in midfield, just like he did for Whitstable Town during his playing career, played the ball into Knuckey, who curled a shot towards the top corner from 25-yards, only for Matthews to dive high to his left to palm the ball around the post.

A corner from Tom Dennington, was cleared back out to the Crayford One Bell right-back and he played the ball back into the box for Heinz, who drilled his shot past the far post.

Crayford One Bell deservedly opened the scoring with 29 minutes and 16 seconds on the clock and well-known striker Leroy Huggins was involved in the move.

He sprayed a cross-field-pass from right to left to pick out Heinz, who cut inside before stroking a right-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 15-yards. Matthews dived to his right and got a hand to the shot but failed to prevent the ball trickling into the bottom corner.

Perona played a quality ball over the top of the Hollands & Blair back-four for Knuckey to run onto and after beating last-man Kirk Dodgson, Matthews dived to his left to tip away.  Twenty-five seconds later, Dean Warner cracked a left-footed 25-yard drive, which crashed against the crossbar.

Matthews pulled off another brilliant save in the 38th minute when Heinz fed Knuckey, who ran at the Blair defence and set up Perona, who curled his shot towards the far corner, only for Matthews to dive to his left to behind for a corner.

O’Hara was caught by striker Sturgeon, who picked up a booking, with the clock showing 50 minutes and 43 seconds and play was held up for 10 minutes whilst the former Bromley goalkeeper was treated by Emily Sawyer.

Richardson took the gloves and the keeper’s jersey, but he was to blame for Hollands & Blair’s equaliser, which was timed at 11 minutes and 16 seconds into injury-time.

Sturgeon’s corner from the right was cleared back to him and the Blair striker drove in a cross from the by-line, which screamed towards Richardson.  He dropped to his knees and spilt the ball and gifted a goal to Christy, who couldn’t miss from a couple of yards out, tapping the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Crayford One Bell should have scored from Perona’s floated corner in from the left but Huggins steered his near post header straight at Matthews from eight-yards out. 

Referee Martyn Stavely blew the half-time whistle with the clock showing 59:29.

Crayford One Bell squandered a glorious chance to regain the lead just 22 seconds into the second half as they caught Hollands & Blair cold.

Knuckey and Huggins linked up down the left and classy Perona’s flicked shot went straight at Matthews from 12-yards.

Perona ran up to the ball to chip a free-kick into the Hollands & Blair box, the ball was hooked back across goal by Knuckey on the left and Huggins couldn’t apply the finish to beat Matthews.

Brilliant Matthews was at it again in the 50th minute, diving to his right to tip the ball around the post to prevent Heinz scoring from a 25-yard drive.

The start of the second half was an open affair and Knuckey turned his man before releasing Denninton down the right and his cross was flapped at by Matthews and after a spell of pin-ball inside the Blair box, Warner drilled a low shot through a crowd of players, forcing Matthews to make a vital block with his save as he was diving the other way.

Hollands & Blair centre-half Lee Dawes gave the ball away to Heinz down the right and he drove into the box before drilling his right-footed shot past the post.

Crayford One Bell were completely dominating a one-sided second half, as Hollands & Blair tried to hit them on the counter-attack.  Their two strikers Hetterly and Sturgeon were willing runners and were a threat.

But tiredness started to creep into the Hollands & Blair players during the final 20 minutes of normal time.

Heinz released Knuckey in behind Thorburn but all the Crayford One Bell striker could do was drill his low shot past the near post.

Despite being on the back foot for most of the game, Hollands & Blair missed a glorious chance to snatch the lead, which would have been a smash-and-grab raid at the time.

A mazy run from Christy, saw him dance past three opposing players before he played the ball forward for Sturgeon to run onto.  Stand-in keeper Richardson came out and failed to gather the ball and Sturgeon’s right-footed drive from eight-yards crashed down the underside of the crossbar.

Knuckey, who ran the channels, latched onto a long ball over the top and after bringing the bouncing ball under control, Matthews pulled off another brilliant diving save to his left.

Richardson was out of position in the final 10 minutes but was relieved when Lacy’s right-footed free-kick from the left-hand side dipped just over the top of his near post.

Hollands & Blair pressed for a late win.  Billy Johnson came up from the back to loop his header against the top of the crossbar, via the raised fingertips of Richardson after meeting Sturgeon’s left-wing corner.

The Gillingham based side were the more likely to score as they finished the game on the front foot, the better side.

Brookes’ ball over the top was flicked on by Christie and Richardson came out of his penalty area and failed to clear his lines and Christy wasted a great chance by rolling his shot just past the foot of the near post of an open goal from a yard outside the box.

Heinz played the ball out to Dennington, who was keen to reach the final third with his runs, and he played the ball back inside to Heinz, who teed up Warner, who flashed his left-footed drive past the foot of the right-hand post from 20-yards.

Neither side could find the winner so the game went to extra-time.

Crayford One Bell created the first chance when Dennington received Heniz’s pass and whipped in a cross for Perona, whose stinging shot at the near post was beaten away by Matthews.

Heinz linked up well with Dennington and the full-back took a touch before floating in an excellent cross but Danny Oakins’ downward header bounced across the keeper and past the far post with the keeper rooted to the spot, for once.

Crayford Old Bell were reduced to 10 men with 11 minutes and 15 seconds of extra-time played when Heinz slid in on the touchline to miss-time a tackle on Sturgeon.

But Crayford One Bell showed the character of a successful side and went on to claim a record fourth win.

Dennington played a short corner to substitute Danny Beaszant, who flashed the ball across the face of a crowded goal-mouth from the right-hand side of the penalty area and Oakins failed to make the connection as he slid in at the far post.

A diving Richardson prevented Hollands & Blair scoring the winner inside the opening three minutes of the second period.

Left-back Thorburn played the ball into Hetterly, who aimed for the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards, but Richardson dived low to his right to tip the ball around the post.

A long ball over the top of defence released Beszant through on goal and with the keeper off his line, his right-footed chip from 20-yards dropped wide.

Lacy was inside his own half when he hit a long free-kick towards the edge of the Crayford One Bell penalty area but Warner’s delicate chip was comfortably caught by Richardson.

With the crowd of 119 expecting a penalty shoot-out, Crayford One Bell claimed their record breaking haul with the winning goal coming with 12 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Dennington launched a long ball over the top of the Hollands & Blair defence to released Knuckey down the right channel and he cut inside and skipped past the keeper and kept his composure to slot his shot into the bottom far corner.

Crayford One Bell manager Tuley said: “Brilliant! You never get bored of the feeling of winning a cup. We knew this was four on the spin and that obviously was the ultimate goal.

“We’re over the moon, especially with how the game panned out, we’re really pleased.

“It is an achievement and that’s what we wanted to do.  I said to the boys last year winning three on the bounce, no ones done it before, four on the bounce makes it even harder for anyone to do again. It will be hard to beat.”

When asked about O’Hara’s injury, Tuley replied: “I think he’s done something to his knee, I’m not sure, but he’s walking on it, which is good.  Losing your goalkeeper in a cup final is never a good thing but the boys dug through it. It was brilliant, every single one of them.”

On Heinz’s opener, Tuley added: “I think that and the last goal was the only thing that went past the keeper.  I thought their goalkeeper was outstanding tonight, probably the best player on the pitch. He was brilliant!

“We got ourselves in front and then we had a blow with the goalkeeper coming off and we had no goalkeeper on the bench so Steve’s come on as our goalkeeper and he’s stood up to the plate and he’s done well for us.

“He’s not a goalkeeper so you can’t dig him out (for the equaliser).  He’s a striker so there’s no fault on him so it is what it is. They got it back to one-all.”

On the red-card, Tuley said: “No it wasn’t! I was right in front of it, a yellow at worse, it wasn’t a red-card!

And on the late drama, Tuley added: “I always thought there would be one more chance and we did get one more chance and Mark Knuckey one on one, he’s probably won our cup. He’s made history for us.

“I’m ecstatic! Did you see me run on the pitch? Especially in the last couple of minutes, especially with all of the boys putting in the effort as much as they did. We was up against everything tonight. We lost the goalkeeper and had a man sent off.”

Crayford One Bell are top of the Southern Veterans top flight, having won 11 of their 12 league games and are in the Senior Cup Final when they meet Johnson & Phillips on 11 May.

“We’re doing well.  Tonight was the first objective winning this trophy again and now we’re back to the league. We’ve got the League Cup Final to look forward to.”

Hollands & Blair’s player-manager Grant Steele said: “Disappointed, obviously, we’ve done so well, baring in mind we enter one competition and we’ve only played five or six games all season and we’ve come up against a very good team who play every other week and have got some really good players that have played at very good levels.

“Whilst I’m disappointed, on the other hand, I’m really chuffed with the effort the lads put in and they couldn’t give anymore and I think it was one of those games where it was only going to be one goal in it and that’s football. It wasn’t us.

“We don’t play that often so it was a big task playing against a team like this and then to go to extra-time. I can’t ask for any more of them.”

Reflecting on Matthews’ mistake for the first goal of the night, Steele said: “He made some cracking saves before hand. I think he’s disappointed with that goal, it was a bit soft.  The scoreline could’ve been completely different if he hadn’t made the saves he made before that.”

On O’Hara’s injury, he added: “Obviously disappointing. I think he might’ve been caught by our striker and I think he’s twisted his knee so it’s not nice to see if it’s one of our players or one of theirs.”

On his side’s equaliser, Steele added: “It was a good finish. We started playing a bit more.   First half we were sixes or sevens to start with and we changed the shape a bit and we looked better the second part of the first half.”

Steele felt the referee was right to reduce Crayford One Bell to 10 men inside extra-time.

“It was reckless, the lad.  Talking to him, I don’t think he’s that kind of player.  You could tell he was getting a little bit tense and you could kind of feel it coming but I don’t think there was any question it was high and reckless but I don’t think there was any maliciousness in it.”

Steele appeared to be one of the penalty takers, having brought himself on with seconds remaining.

“It was more a question who was left to take one and who actually wanted one,” he said.

“We even thought about bringing one of the subs back on because it’s roll-on-roll-off and we could do that but yes it was a shame it didn’t go to penalties because I think we would’ve had a good chance.”

Knuckey turned back the years to ensure Hollands & Blair were left heartbroken.

“He’s a good player, he’s lively. We’ve played against him for a number of years when we were younger. It’s one of those things. It was a real sucker-punch because I thought we were on top at that point.”

Hetterly was a lively character for Hollands & Blair.

“Sean’s disappointed. I think if he’s honest he didn’t have a great game. He’s lively but he’s had a lot going on with his personal life, his kiddy has been in hospital all week so he’s had a long week.”

When asked what he takes from the night, Steele replied: “A lot of pride really, obviously a lot of disappointment. No one likes losing, especially in a cup final but like I say we don’t play that regularly. The boys gave their all, in the previous rounds as well when we’ve come back from losing positions. I’m proud of them that we’ve got this far and unfortunately there has to be one winner and tonight it wasn’t us.”

Hollands & Blair: Peter Matthews, Kirk Dodgson, Kevin Thorburn, Aaron Lacy, Billy Johnson, Rikki Cavanagh, Ross Brookes (Cliff Eldridge 90), Lee Dawes (Craig Harvey 91, Grant Steele 119)), Sean Hetterly, Lee Sturgeon, Ben Christy.
Sub: Ian Phillips

Goal: Ben Christy 45

Booked: Lee Sturgeon 39

Crayford One Bell: Robert O’Hara (Steve Richardson 45), Tom Dennington, Oleksanor Geordy, Ray Goodchild, Danny Oakins (Tommy Osborne 112), Gareth John (Danny Frost 119), Dean Warner, Marcus Perona, Matt Knuckey, Leroy Huggins (Danny Beszant 72), Leigh Heinz.
Sub: Peter Garland

Goals: Leigh Heinz 30, Matt Knuckey 118

Booked: Ray Goodchild 76, Danny Oakins 99

Sent Off: Leigh Heinz 103

Attendance: 191
Referee: Mr Martyn Stavely (Folkestone)
Assistants: Mr David Goldstone (Gillingham) & Mr Gavin Wood (Ashford)
Fourth Official: Mr James Grimley (Dartford)