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MATCH REPORT

Macron Challenge Cup

03 Feb
MCC 
Cray Valley
1
v
0
Holmesdale

 

 

Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Quarter-Final
Wednesday 3rd February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY (PAPER MILLS) player-manager Paul Gross praised his younger brother Adam for scoring the goal that keeps their season alive.

The Millers joined Croydon, Erith & Belvedere and Hollands & Blair in the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Semi-Finals after a beautiful free-kick from the left-back settled this tie in front of a sparse crowd of 40 on a cold night in Eltham.

Cray Valley are under-achieving in 13th place in the Southern Counties East Football League sitting on 27 points from 20 games, while Deal Town arrived sitting a couple of places above them on 27 points from 21 league outings.

This was Cray Valley’s first home game since Crowborough Athletic won 5-4 on 12 December and this was the third attempt to play this tie.

“Just said to the boys out there well done, thoroughly deserved in my opinion,” said manager Paul Gross, who made a six minute cameo appearance at the end.

“I thought we controlled the game quite well. We’ve got something to look forward to.  The season’s not going as planned but if we can put a couple of results together we’re unbeaten – apart from the Crowborough game – in a long time so yes, pleased to get through.”

Deal Town boss Derek Hares said: “I thought they started better than us first quarter-of-an-hour and they put us under a lot of pressure but as the half went on I thought we came into the game more.

“I was quite pleased with the way we played the last half-an-hour of the first half and I thought second half we had most of the play.

“We definitely had a penalty, but undoubtedly should’ve had a penalty down there. I don’t know how the referee didn’t give it!

“We were a little bit unlucky at the end when we hit the post and then you think it’s not your day but overall I was pleased with the commitment.

“I certainly don’t think we deserved to lose the game, maybe a draw would’ve been a fair result but I thought we dominated most of the second half but didn’t really create enough chances when in other games recently we have been doing.”

The home side almost got off to a dream start after only nine seconds.

The Millers kicked-off and a clearance from Deal Town’s central defender Lee Scott was charged down by striker Marcus Elliott, the ball rolling just past the foot of the left-hand post.

Cray Valley handed former Dulwich Hamlet and Kingstonian winger Dean Lodge his debut and it would be fair to say that he failed to impress for large chunks of the game tonight.

Lodge was to be denied inside 12 minutes when his left-footed shot was well held by Deal keeper Henry Newcombe, diving low to his right, after Tommy Osborne whipped in a first time cross from the right.

“Dean’s played at Kingstonian and Dulwich, he’s not really been playing this year, he’s got himself a new job and he hasn’t been able to commit,” revealed Gross.

Gross added: “Look, first half you might be able to tell me more but it looked as though cross after cross went in and we just lacked that finishing touch.  We could’ve made more of it.  We should’ve gone in at half-time a couple of goals up really, that’s what the play deserved.

“For about a 25 minute spell was some of the best football we’ve played this season, getting it down and cutting them open. It’s frustrating but at least they carried on doing it.

“It’s pleasing to see the things we do we work on and tell them to do, they do.”

Hares added:  “Their two lads up front done well. They started better than us certainly the first quarter-of-an-hour. 

“We were struggling a little bit to get into the game, then we came back into it the last half-an-hour and I thought we done quite well.”

Deal Town created their first opening within four minutes when former Hythe Town midfielder Michael Yianni picked up a loose ball and drilled a speculative right-footed shot across goal and past the far post from 35-yards.

Deal Town winger Rene Rivera impressed down the left and he was in a more central position when he burst into the box but all he could do was poke the ball straight at the advancing Rob French from just inside the penalty area whilst under pressure.

Deal Town were now getting themselves back into the game and a poor clearance out of defence by midfielder Jamie Miller was collected by Yianni, who took a touch before cracking a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which forced French to move to his left to parry the ball towards safety.

“It was a good save, a good shot, a good save,” said Hares.

“Unfortunately we’ve missed him for the last few weeks. That’s the first time he’s played, he’s missed the last three games I believe with a knee injury but it’s good to have him back.

“Slowly and surely we’re getting all our injuries back now.  Connor Coyne is still injured, he’s a lad that has been playing up front but other than that we’re pretty much back to full strength.

“He’s got a good shot on him and he takes advantage of that.  I thought he played very well tonight.”

Gross added: “I think that was the story of the first half wasn’t it?

“All their shots were from 25-30 yards. We had a good defensive shape, contained them. We could’ve stopped a few of their shots by getting to the ball quicker but a keeper of Frenchie’s quality it’s got to be something good to beat him from 30-yards.

“He’s proved to be better than what I thought it would be because he’s been immense!  If we had him last year and at the start of this year I don’t think we’d be in the position we are in.”

Andy Miller was also impressing for Deal Town down the right and he went on a run before playing the ball inside to Yianni, but this time his 30-yarder sailed over the crossbar.

But despite both side’s playing well down the wings, clear cut chances were at a premium as both sides lacked quality in the final third.

Deal Town right-back Liam Hark released Miller down the right who cut the ball back for Rivera, but his shot was charged down by Osborne and the ball looped into French’s hands.

Cray Valley created an opening just 34 seconds later when striker Marcus Elliott swept the ball to an unmarked Rory Hill, who drilled his left-footed shot past the right-hand post from 20-yards.

The home side then produced a sweeping move down the left when Charles Ofusu-Hene played the ball inside to Elliott, whose clever diagonal pass put Rory Hill in behind left-back Dean Hill, but after cutting inside his shot curled around the far post, which was the last chance of the first half.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Gross said: “We’ve just got to keep doing what they’re doing!  The (AFC Croydon Athletic) game on Saturday (which we won 4-3) was frustrating. We either don’t concede or don’t look like scoring or we score loads and concede loads so I just said sometimes you can’t get too clever at this level.

“You’ve got to keep doing the dogged, horrible things, which is working hard, keeping your work-rate up, getting balls into the right areas. We’ve got a lot of quality in this side, when we do get the ball forward then that’s when we have to express themselves but they’ve got to do it in the final third and not in and around the halfway line when we can put ourselves under pressure.”

Hares added: “We were a bit slow out of the blocks, didn’t start well enough.

“We didn’t create enough but I still thought second half we were the better side.

“I’m not taking nothing away from Cray, I thought on the break they always looked dangerous because they had some quick lads up front, didn’ t they?”

Cray Valley booked their place in the semi-finals through Adam Gross’s first goal of the season with 04:08 on the second half watch.

It appeared that Rory Hill was going to take the 25-yard free-kick as both he and Gross were standing over the ball.

Faced with seven players in the wall (six Deal players), Gross stroked a quality left-footed free-kick arrowing into the top right-hand corner easily beating keeper Newcombe.

“I said at half-time, we put a lot of crosses in the box, we put a lot of corners into the box ad we didn’t look like getting anywhere near them,” admitted Gross.

“I said (at half-time) a set-piece could win this game. Although I thought we’ve been on top and dominated it for the first half in terms of chances, clear cut chances, I said a set-piece could win it.

“We know what Adam’s got in his locker. Last year or two since I’ve been in charge he maybe hasn’t been doing it quite enough but if he’s going to save it to get me through to a semi-final I don’t mind.

“Look, I’m not going to say too much to him!

“I think everyone in the league knows he’s got that ability. He does it in training, he does it in the warm-ups, you tell him where you want it and he’ll put it there.

“But with him and Rory standing over the ball we’re standing there and we don’t know whose going to take it and each is as good as the other one so let them play, let them decide between themselves and if they put them in the corner like that, I don’t mind.

“Darren (Anslow, assistant manager) said is Rory going to shape to take it? They just take a couple of steps, you can’t tell so it must be a nightmare for a keeper and we hit the target nine times out of ten.  Those two should be putting the ball in the net.”

Hares added: “Other than the free-kick, the goal, I don’t remember our goalkeeper having another save to make!

“But other than the goal, which was a good goal, a good free-kick, they didn’t really create anything else.”

Good industry in Deal’s midfield by Luke Bigginton saw him poke the ball to Joe Anderson, who played the ball out wide to Hark, who played the ball inside for Rivere to loop his 25-yard right-footed drive past the left-hand post.

Yianni then stung French’s hands with a first time right-footed drive from 35-yards, before Lodge dinked his shot across Newcombe and just past the foot of the far post at the other end within seconds.

Cray Valley started to dominate the game past the hour-mark but they  squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off in the 63rd minute.

Millers’ substitute Jamie Warren clipped the ball forward, but a poor header intended for his goalkeeper by Grant Bagley was intercepted by Elliott, who skipped past the advancing keeper but lacked composure and steered his shot wide of an open goal from 12-yards from a tight angle.

“That boy has run his absolute socks off tonight, he’s the busiest man on the pitch,” praised Gross.

“I said to him at half-time it’s a joy to watch him. I would love to have him in the team because you can just put the ball wherever you want and he will make a nuisance of himself.

“The keeper actually made contact so he could’ve gone down but he decided to stay up. He could’ve even brought it back on to his right-foot, he shoots with his left but unfortunately it goes wide but he deserved a goal tonight.”

Hares added: “He just took it too wide, didn’t he? He should’ve, well it’s easier to say from where I’m stood, but he had time to stop and roll it into the net.”

Cray Valley’s central midfielder Taylor McDonagh then played a sublime through ball to put Elliott through on goal again but this time keeper Newcombe rushed out of his penalty area and cleared the ball out into touch.

Osborne floated in the ball from the right and Rory Hill’s looping header from 16-yards landed just over the crossbar.

Hares felt his side should have been awarded a penalty in the 71st minute when Dean Hill appeared to have been fouled from behind by Warren inside the box but still managed to get his shot away, flashing just past the foot of the left-hand post.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the penalty shout.

Hares said: “I don’t know how the ref didn’t give it!

“We were a little bit unlucky at the end when we hit the post and then you think it’s not your day but overall I was pleased with the commitment.

“I certainly don’t think we deserved to lose the game, maybe a draw would’ve been a fair result but I thought we dominated most of the second half but didn’t really create enough chances when in other games recently we have been doing.”

Gross naturally replied: “I’ll be honest, it’s right over the other side, you’d probably seen it better than me.

“I’ve seen him go down but he got a clean shot off as well so I don’t know why they were appealing for a penalty.

“But that all came from a free-kick right in front of the dug-out that our player made a perfectly good tackle.  The ref’s given a free-kick but they were calling for a penalty but I think they would’ve called for anything at that time of the game.”

Deal Town finished the game on the front foot as they looked to take the game into extra-time.

Bigginton dinked pass was chased by Charlie Walsh but French rushed off his line and gathered.

Miller swung in a corner from the left which was cleared out to Bagley, who produced a typical central defender’s finish by poking his shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from eight-yards.

Yianni took a touch, cut the ball onto his right foot and drilled his 35-yard shot screaming wide, before Deal Town hit the post inside the final four minutes.

French dived full-length to his right to tip Rivera’s 25-yard angled drive onto the post as Cray Valley held on.

“Once that happened, you think maybe it’s not our night – well it wasn’t but good luck to Cray in the next round.”

Gross ad