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Canterbury City manager Ben Smith believes the winners of the FA Vase will come from the all-Kent semi-final with Cray Valley

Canterbury City manager Ben Smith believes the winners of this year’s FA Vase will come from his club’s semi-final with Cray Valley.

The Southern Counties East League Premier Division rivals meet in the first leg at Cray’s Eltham ground on Sunday, with the return at Salters Lane, Faversham, on March 23.

Smith reckons Cray are the competition favourites but that does not mean he’s writing off his men’s chances of lining up against Northwich Victoria or Chertsey at Wembley on Sunday, May 19.

Canterbury City manager Ben Smith
Canterbury City manager Ben Smith

Smith, whose side are eighth in the league, six places below Cray, explained; “Cray are the favourites, 100 per cent and if we knock them out, I fancy us to go all the way.

“We wouldn’t be going to Wembley just for a big day out, we’d be going to win it.

“If anything I’ve downplayed our chances up to now but if we beat Cray I see no reason why we couldn’t win the final.”

City lost 2-0 away to Cray when the sides met in the league during January, but squandered a host of first-half chances before conceding twice in the last 23 minutes.

Smith explained: “We went toe-to-toe with them that day, the difference was that they took their chances and that’s what separates them from a lot of sides at our level.

“They have quality forwards, players who are proven at a level much higher than our league, and they are ruthless.

“But we’ve been the underdogs in other rounds and it seems to suit us. Biggleswade (who City beat in the last eight) were a very good team, but on the day I thought we just wanted it more than them. The one thing we will do is battle.”

Smith says nothing will be decided on Sunday but does concede City have to avoid being too gung-ho.

He added: “Of course we want to make sure we stay in the tie (for the second leg) but if we go into the game with that mindset it will be a long afternoon.

“We’ve got to get the balance right, if we open up and give them space they can punish us.”

Smith, 31, admits City’s Vase run has brought in some welcome funds, but for someone who first played for the club as an under-10 it means much more than that.

He explained: “It’s not about the money for me, it’s about putting the club back on the map and trying to give people a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Midfielders Adam Woollcott and Kyron Lightfoot are both available after missing the Biggleswade game through suspension and centre-half Ben Gorham is back in the fold.

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