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Canterbury City are 1-0 down to Cray Valley in their FA Vase semi-final

Ben Smith has called on the people of Canterbury to roar his side to Wembley on the biggest day in the club’s history.

City are 1-0 down to Cray Valley heading into the second leg of their FA Vase semi-final at Salters Lane, Faversham, on Saturday.

There were 602 at their quarter-final win over Biggleswade and that figure is expected to be eclipsed with so much at stake for the winners.

Canterbury's Bola Dawodu is challenged during the semi-final first leg at Cray Valley Picture: Alan Coomes
Canterbury's Bola Dawodu is challenged during the semi-final first leg at Cray Valley Picture: Alan Coomes

Canterbury were playing in Kent County League Division 2 East just over a decade ago but now they’re 90 minutes from a trip to the national stadium.

Manager Smith said: “Everyone’s speaking about getting a big crowd down there, making it a big occasion for the club and that’s what it’s about.

“We’re grabbing more and more interest for the club and the support we had at Cray Valley was great.

“We had more support than they did! It’s mad I’m saying that about Canterbury City.

“A couple of weeks before I joined and went to watch a game, there were three people in the stand so we’ve come a long way as a club and we’ll continue to do that.

“The fans are the 12th man. Hopefully the people of Canterbury will come out and support us, which I’m sure they will.”

Chris Saunders could return to bolster City’s midfield on Saturday having missed the first leg through injury.

Smith’s side may be a goal down on aggregate and 26 points behind the Millers in Southern Counties East but Canterbury’s players believe they can turn the tie around.

“The longer the game goes on, the more nervy they’re going to be,” Smith said.

“We’ll stick to what we’ve been doing but we might change our formation and see if that opens the door.

“I can’t fault what we did on Sunday, except the finishing but knowing the forwards I’ve got, they’ve got good character.

“Dean Grant will know he should have scored and he’ll be determined for the next one.

“I’ve got good players with good character about them so that’s not going to knock them.

“He’s not going to go hiding from that. He’ll be more determined to score in the next game and I’m happy with that.

“Cray Valley have smashed sides 5-0 at their place so you’ve got to give them respect and set up to defend because they’re a quality side. But they’re not invincible.”

Canterbury’s Vase run started way back in September and they’ve knocked eight teams out to get this far.

The semi-final winners bank £5,500 but there’s only one prize in the minds of Canterbury’s players – even if they won’t admit it.

Smith said: “When we started getting to the tense stages, the last 64, the quarter-finals, we’ve never had Wembley as a picture in our mind.

“Not one player in there has ever gone ‘what would it be like, imagine if we were at Wembley’, no-one’s spoken about that.”

Kick-off at Salters Lane is at 3pm.


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