Ryan Flack’s goal earned Cray Valley PM a 1-0 first-leg lead over Canterbury City in their FA Vase semi-final on Sunday.
Millers boss Kevin Watson admitted his side were lucky to emerge with a slender advantage before the return fixture on Saturday.
“We weren’t very good,” said Watson. “I’d feel aggrieved if I was them. Probably, a draw would have been a fair result.”
Having passed a pitch inspection earlier on Sunday, the boggy pitch was not helped by rain and sleet throughout the tie.
“I can’t believe the conditions were so bad,” said Watson. “We were expecting it to be okay.
“We didn’t adapt to the conditions very well at all. Our goalkeeper kept us in it a few times. I’m not saying we deserved to lose the game, but too many players were not anywhere near the standards they’ve set for themselves.”
Things started badly for the Millers when Alan Walker went down injured with less than a minute on the clock after stretching to claim a headed backpass. Following lengthy treatment he was able to resume but had to rely on defenders to take all deadball kicks.
Watson said “That’s a concern, isn’t it? We didn’t have a goalkeeper on the bench. We’ll have to assess him during the week, He’s kept us in the game, ultimately, so it was the right decision to keep him on the pitch.”
Chances were few and far between, especially in the first half. Adam Woolcott struck a 20-yard effort cleanly but directly at Walker.
Brad Potter stabbed wide for Cray after a corner was not cleared before Walker was again called into action to save from Mobalaji Dawodu. Canterbury’s Dean Grant had a shot blocked by Cem Tumkaya just before half-time.
Walker saved from Grant at the start of the second half before Flack put the hosts ahead. He cut in from the right flank and fired back across goal and into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Canterbury goalkeeper Jack Delo saved from Ashley Sains before making a stunning double stop from Gavin Tomlin.
Canterbury finished strongly but Walker made excellent late saves from Grant and Ryan Cooper.
Flack was pleased to have given Cray Valley a slight edge but was still cautious. He said: “You could probably tell from the subdued celebrations afterwards, we know that it’s only kind of half-time.
“We’ve probably got to do things a little bit better, that’s what we said afterwards. We weren’t up to our high standards.
“We’ve got to try and hold our nerves and try and improve on things. They played well. It’s not going to be easy.”
IMAGES BY DAVE BUDDEN