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Cray Valley 1 Canterbury City 0 FA Vase semi-final first leg match report

By Steve Tervet

Cray Valley will take a one-goal lead into their second leg of their FA Vase semi-final against Canterbury City.

Ryan Flack scored for the Millers on Sunday in front of a club record attendance.

But City were always in the game in south-east London and will believe they can turn things around in the decider at Salters Lane on Saturday.

Jack Delo and Andy Walker lead the teams out Picture: Alan Coomes
Jack Delo and Andy Walker lead the teams out Picture: Alan Coomes

There was drama inside the first minute of the tie when Cray Valley keeper Andy Walker went down injured inside his penalty area. Walker received treatment and was clearly struggling when play restarted, holding his hamstring after booting the ball downfield.

Adam Woolcott tested Walker with a well-struck shot from outside the box but it was a largely cagey opening with neither side wanting to make a mistake.

Conditions were appalling at times, with the Badgers Ground lashed by rain and even hailstones while a strong wide blew straight down the ground.

But Canterbury had the best of the first half, particularly a good little spell around the half-hour.

There was momentary panic in the Millers box when the industrious Bola Dawodu flicked on Ryan Cooper's long throw, before Dean Grant headed wide when Cooper dug out a good cross from the left.

Canterbury are forced into some desperate defending by Gavin Tomlin Picture: Alan Coomes
Canterbury are forced into some desperate defending by Gavin Tomlin Picture: Alan Coomes

Grant was ploughing a lone furrow up front for City but he warmed to his task and started to bring team-mates into play as the half wore on.

When Dawodu was fouled, referee Josh Smith allowed play to continue and Grant fed Oliver Lee who beat his man but failed to get any power into his shot, allowing Walker to save easily.

Cray Valley's only half-chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Ashley Sains at a corner but the ball was eventually stabbed wide with goalkeeper Jack Delo untroubled.

At the other end, Dawodu forced Walker into a smart save at his near post, Woolcott having dragged a low shot wide moments earlier after running onto a crossfield ball.

The pitch really started to cut up after half-time and Cray Valley briefly upped the tempo, with Anthony Edgar cutting in from the left and seeing a shot deflect narrowly wide.

Cray Valley striker Kevin Lisbie tracked by Phil Starkey Picture: Alan Coomes
Cray Valley striker Kevin Lisbie tracked by Phil Starkey Picture: Alan Coomes

Kevin Watson's side took the lead on 55 minutes when Flack was allowed to cut in from the right wing unchallenged. He ran across several defenders and threaded a low shot beyond Delo's left hand from the edge of the penalty area.

Sains then got his head to a free-kick from the right but Delo saved easily, while Walker did likewise at the other end when Grant took a pass from Lee and turned well on the edge of the box.

Canterbury should have been level midway through the second half when Grant got in behind the Millers defence and cut the ball back from the byline. Dawodu looked certain to score as he arrived in the six-yard box but he slipped and the ball ended up in Walker's gloves.

Cray Valley knew a second goal would swing the tie very much in their favour and they went close twice in a minute.

First, Delo stood up to make a crucial save, on-on-one with Gavin Tomlin, who saw his follow-up cleared off the line by Cooper. Tomlin then fizzed an excellent ball across the near post from the right and Edgar met it with an effort which flew just past the angle.

Canterbury City put Cray Valley under pressure Picture: Alan Coomes (7825959)
Canterbury City put Cray Valley under pressure Picture: Alan Coomes (7825959)

The game was opening up now. Lee found Grant with an excellent through-ball and he rounded Walker but saw his shot from a narrow angle deflect behind for a corner.

Cooper's long throws looked a good route to goal for City, who sent their big men up from the back whenever they had the chance. One throw hurled in from the right was flicked into the six-yard box but two Canterbury players collided trying to get on the end of it.

City, with Renford Tenyue and James Turner now on the pitch, worked good openings for Grant and Dan Lawrence but the end product was lacking on both occasions while the Millers dealt well with a couple of corners slung into their box late on.

Walker, though, made two crucial saves in stoppage-time as Canterbury threw everything at their hosts.

First he denied Grant, who'd linked well with Dawodu, before standing tall at his near post when Cooper ran onto Phil Starkey's slide-rule pass and pulled the trigger.

Cray Valley: Walker, Potter, Smith, James, Sains, Tumkaya, Edgar, Semakula, Tomlin, Lisbie, Flack. Subs not used: Babalola, Gayle, Myers, Willock, Hickey.

Canterbury: Delo, Cooper, Sayer, Starkey, Wheatley, Gorham, Woolcott (Tenyue 69mins), Lee (Turner 82mins), Grant, Dawodu, D Lawrence. Subs not used: R Lawrence, Froggatt, Lightfoot.

Attendance: 663.

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