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Promotion comes before Wembley for Cray Valley manager Kevin Watson

Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson insists his priority is still promotion – despite reaching the last eight of the FA Vase.

His side are one of two Southern Counties East League teams, along with Canterbury, into the last eight, which means they are just two rounds away from Wembley.

But promotion to the Isthmian League was Watson’s target at the start of the campaign, and he’s sticking to that.

Cray Valley celebrate against Abbey Rangers. Picture: Dave Budden
Cray Valley celebrate against Abbey Rangers. Picture: Dave Budden

“I’ve got to try and get promotion,” he said. “If you said win the league or go to Wembley, I’m judged by 38 league games – that’s my job to do.

“This is great, we’d love to go to Wembley I’m not denying that, but my motive for going there is to give the club and the players that experience, it’s not about me at all.

“Yes it would be great to manage a side there and all those things.

“I’m pleased for the players, they are a great bunch of lads and are very grounded. They won’t go ballistic in the changing room afterwards. They do things with a lot of dignity and respect.”

Watson knows other teams will share the same aspirations but believes reaching the final of the FA Vase would be great for his players and the club’s committee.

“It is a reality – you’re two fixtures away from it,” he said.

“But it’s a reality for eight teams and only two are going to get there.

“We’ve still got a league campaign and another cup competition so there’s lot to play for.

Cray Valley on their way to victory against Abbey Rangers on Saturday. Picture: Dave Budden
Cray Valley on their way to victory against Abbey Rangers on Saturday. Picture: Dave Budden

“This competition is for the players, my job’s the league. They are creating opportunities for themselves. I’m pleased they are because in careers this doesn’t always happen for non-league players.

“You can play 15 years and not get into the quarter-finals of a competition like this.

“The reality is that in the FA Cup you’re only going to go so far, to get to the quarter-finals is a good achievement and sets a benchmark in terms of history for the club.

“It’s great for the players, their families and the people that work tirelessly at the club.”

Reflecting on their 3-1 fifth round win over Abbey Rangers, Watson felt Cray made life difficult for themselves, particularly playing against 10 men for most of the second half.

“We made quite hard work of it, especially when they went down to 10 men,” he said.

“We’re pleased to get through, we’ll look less at the performance and more at the result.

“We started the second half well. It was a red card as he was through on goal but we weren’t great once they went down to 10 men. It was about trying to manage the game.

“The game was going to open up (at the end) but they had a couple of half-chances, fair play to them, they didn’t give up.”

As for Gavin Tomlin’s magnificent goal on the stroke of half-time, Watson was just as pleased with what came before that finish from his team.

“It wasn’t just about the finish,” he said. “The finish was magnificent and the build-up play was very good. The way we defended in our shape to press and win the ball back was good before that so there were lots of elements (that pleased me).”

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