Cray Valley PM are mounting a three-pronged challenge in their quest for silverware in their 100th season of competitive football.
While manager Kevin Watson targets promotion from the SCEFL Premier Division, success in the FA Vase continues to offer the players hope of a ‘game in a lifetime’ experience at Wembley Stadium.
Even before the game against Combined Counties Premier Division promotion challengers Abbey Rangers, both clubs had achieved their best Vase campaigns in their histories.
The Millers came into the game in great form having won seven league and cup games in a row and not conceded a goal in the last four.
Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise to the home supporters when Abbey Rangers went ahead after just four minutes. Alex Hendrie picked out an unmarked Danny Hartlebury, who headed home with ease.
Cray drew level with 15 minutes on the clock. Anthony Edgar’s low cross caused problems and although Kevin Lisbie was unable to get a shot away, Denzel Gayle blocked an attempted clearance with the outside of his left foot and it looped up and into the back of the net.
Cray Valley went ahead a minute before the interval. Once more Gayle had an effort blocked and it came out to Ryan Flack. He laid it off to Gavin Tomlin and he made it a third game in a row netting since his switch from Dulwich Hamlet with a glorious chip from 20 yards.
Things got much harder for the visitors when they were reduced to 10 men after the break. Former Charlton Athletic star Lisbie sent Edgar away and Robbie Kersley brought him down just outside the penalty area – seeing red from referee Matthew Russell.
Lisbie tried his luck with an acrobatic shot but Liam Stone was equal to it as he pulled off a fine save.
The Millers went close again when Danny Smith broke down the left and crossed to substitute Frances Babalola, but his effort flew back off the bar. Rangers were unable to get it away and it came out to Gayle on the right who crossed in low, and this time Babalola made no mistake with a confident finish.
Lisbie drew a good save out of Stone at the near post in injury time, then Babalola burst through but shot into the side netting.
Cray’s 3-1 win takes them into the quarter-final.