Cray Valley PM 5 Enfield Town 2
Report by Andrew Warshaw
Gut-wrenching, devastating, massive missed opportunity.
Just a few of the words to sum up Saturday’s inglorious FA Cup fourth qualifying round exit at Cray Valley PM when, for the third time in eight years, we missed out on making history by reaching the first round proper.
To say we didn’t get the rub of the green with some of the decisions is an under-statement, having been denied at least one stonewall penalty at a crucial time and ending up with 10 men after Sam Youngs was sent off.
Virtually anything that could go wrong did go wrong and now, in the space of seven days, we are out of both main cup competitions.
Gavin Macpherson was magnanimous enough to apologise to the hoardes of travelling Towners fans who turned the occasion into virtually a home tie. And the fact we would have been drawn away at Charlton Athletic makes the pill even more bitter to swallow.
Yet few in the crowd of 579 could have imagined at halftime that we would be on the end of such a sobering scoreline, having twice gone in front.
Marcus Wyllie got us off to the perfect start after just six minutes, lashing home a half-volley to finish off a lovely move involving Mickey Parcell and Ollie Knight.
James Richmond almost doubled our lead with a bullet header and there was a stroke of good fortune about Cray’s equaliser, Kyrell Lisbie’s scuffed effort finding the corner of the net.
Moments earlier Rhys Forster had made a point-blank save from Lisbie who posed problems for us all afternoon until limping off injured.
Indeed, crosses from both flanks ultimately proved to be our downfall but we were arguably the better side in the first half and on 31 minutes we were back in front courtesy of Reece Beckes-Richards’ turn and shot.
Once again we were pegged back, however, though in highly controversial circumstances.
Instead of adding on the allotted four minutes, the referee somehow decided on six and with the last action of the half, the ball was recycled from left to right and back again, Lisbie rising to nod into the far corner. To make matters worse, Gavin was booked for protesting at the amount of time added on.
It totally changed the respective dressing room moods and the second half was a different story as the Millers stormed out of the blocks, stretching us in wide positions, dominating midfield for large periods and twice testing Forster before Matthew Vigor’s left-foot drive crashed against our crossbar.
When Lisbie limped off soon afterwards, we might have hoped to re-impose our advantage. Far from it.
Parcell saved us with a last-ditch block when a goal seemed certain and the home pressure soon told, Freddie Parker firing beyond the helpless Forster.
As we rallied, Sam Youngs and Beckles-Richards both went desperately close before substitute Dylan Adjei-Hersey was blatantly up-ended in the box, only for the obvious penalty to be waved away (pictured).
Youngs’ dismissal for a second yellow on 85 minutes shattered our hopes and the tie was effectively settled when Parker fired home from close range.
Our misery was then compounded in stoppage time as another cross found Adam Coombes who slid in to tuck away number five.
Just as against Chesham in the Trophy when we conceded four, we were largely undone by crosses and Gavin now has a job on his hands raising morale ahead of two away league games in the next six days at Kingstonian and Lewes.
“I’ve got so many complaints about what happened in the game but it’s not why we lost and I want to apologise to the fans who travel in their numbers,” said Gavin who kept the players on the pitch for a good 20 minutes afterwards. “Believe me, I’m super gutted.”
“There were some poor performances and some of them have to have a hard look at themselves. I include myself in that because the buck stops with me. I know how much it would have meant to this football club.”
“The game was always going to run away from us once Sam got sent off but we had two stonewall penalties, one with Josh in the first half and the other at a crucial time in the second when even their bench were grimacing thinking it was going to be given.”
“But that’s no excuse and I have to look the supporters in the eye and say I’m sorry for us falling short. It was nowhere near good enough.”
Forster, Bailey, Payne, Thomas, Richmond, Knight, Youngs, Wyllie, Keeya (Adjoin-Hersey 65), Beckles-Richards (Onyeagwara 80), Parcell.