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Cray Wanderers 4-1 Kingstonian

Cray Wanderers have started their league campaign with four wins from four matches and battered Steyning Town 6-0 in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. Despite K's promising start to the season, this was undoubtedly the toughest match the hoops have so far had to face. After the underwhelming end to the briefest of league cup campaigns on Tuesday, the possibility of exiting two cups in five days was always on the cards, and the league leaders duly despatched Kingstonian, albeit in a bizarre match, which drifted gradually from the ridiculous to the surreal.

After the experimentation of Tuesday night's side, Ian McDonald looked to play his standard league side, but injuries forced a number of changes. Richard Taylor was replaced at left back by Brahim Eloumani, with Bennetts at right back and Sills and Reeks filling the defensive line-up. In midfield, Michael Brady replaced the injured Alimi to start alongside Corbett, with Ahmad taking the left wing, and Lee the right. Paul Vines, in for the injured Tony Reid, started up front alongside Kenny Ojukwa.

Cray seized the initiative immediately when, ninety seconds into the match, Michael Brady was beaten by Leigh Bremner, who fed a nice ball through to Michael Power to confidently put the ball across the face of Chuck Martini into the far corner of the goal.

Kingstonian's heads didn't drop though and for a long period, the away team were the pressurising side. Kenny Ojukwa and Mazin Ahmad linked up play nicely early on, and within the first ten minutes Cray's keeper Steve Northwood had denied good build up play from the pair three times. The pressure was not just a two man attack though, and in the eighth minute a long Martyn Lee corner was headed back in by Brady, and Bennett's was unlucky, heading over the bar.

The match began to heat up early on, and both sides became more physical. In the 11th minute Michael Brady picked up the first of what was to be a plethora of yellow cards, cautioned as he was, for an aggressive foul. There was a real scare for K's fans a quarter of an hour in when a long ball into the edge of the Kingstonian box was volleyed on target by Jamie Wood. The only thing more impressive than the quality of the volley was the fact that a diving Chuck Martini managed to push it wide. Martini had an opportunity to show is skills of another kind when a misjudged back pass from Stuart Reeks left him in difficulty, but he calmly took the ball past two Cray players before clearing upfield.

K's continued to press forward, but couldn't find the target. Ahmad put a free kick over the bar, before both Brady and Ojukwa headed over from set pieces. But there were early signs that Kingston could be overstretching themselves to get that equaliser, when Cray's broke quickly in the 38th minute, providing Power with an excellent shooting opportunity which he put over. But it was a chance Kingstonian were lucky to get away with.

The visitors' best chance of the half came in the 41st minute when a short Ahmad pass into the box was cleverly dummied by Ojukwa to play in Lee, who pressed forward down the side to put an excellent cross along the ground, beating Cray's keeper and defenders, but sadly missing a lunging Paul Vines too.

Cray had a surge forward in first half stoppage time and Drew Watkins delivered and excellent cross into the box. Power ran round Sills to knock the ball past a diving Martini to double the home side's advantage.

Kingstonian pushed forward again from the kick-off and won yet another free kick. Again though, the players pushed forward too far, and the clearance allowed Cray's to break down the left wing, and a late challenge from Bennetts gave the Wanderers a penalty on the stroke of half time. The confident Power stepped up and calmly put the ball past Martini to seal his hat-trick.

With one goal conceded in the first two minutes, and two in the last, a demoralised Kingstonian walked to the dressing room at half time three goals to the bad. Most of the crowd probably assumed that the seven pounds admission fee would entitle them to 90 minutes of football, that being how these things normally work. But today was different. The first half had been disappointing, but at least it had been football. The second half, however, was barely recognisable as the beautiful game we all know and love.

K's came out looking for those elusive goals, with Panter brought on as a third striker. Cray continued the physical approach they had applied in the first half, and the first free kick came to Kingston just three minutes in. Martyn Lee put the ball into the box and an excellent Sills header was saved off the line by the Cray's keeper. Three minutes later Eloumani picked up the ball on the edge of the ball and chose to play in Lee, whose powerful strike looked certain to improve the score line when Northwood pulled off his save of the match to tip the ball over the bar.

Someone please tell the zombie that he's ok really

On the 55th minute the first card of the second half was produced for Cray's hat-trick hero for dissent, making him the fifth home player to have picked up a yellow. A quarter of an hour into the second half K's came close again when an Eloumani cross was headed by Vines, but it glanced off his head and drifted wide.

The passionate and physical tone of the match had only intensified since the break, and a sending off soon seemed inevitable. On the 63rd minute, the first dismissal finally came, as did the second. A late challenge from Leigh Bremner took down Ahmad, who reacted badly. Ahmad hit out at Bremner. Bremner hit back. Two straight reds.

The sending off of Ahmad undoubtedly frustrated the K's players, and the last half hour of the match began a gradual descent into farce. The usually steady Sills put in a heavy challenge and picked up his first caution of the season. Michael Brady also got heavy footed, but unfortunately for him, he'd already been booked and became the third man of the afternoon to be sent for an early shower.

Cray now had a man advantage, and in the 83rd minute they made it count. Power took the ball down the very edge of the pitch before turning in, pulling out a great cross which was met by Dean Morris. His shot bounced off the crossbar into the back of the net to put K's an embarrassing fourth goal behind. Appeals from Stuart Reeks amongst others that the ball had gone out of play fell on deaf ears and the goal stood.

Christian Gonzalez was been brought on five minutes from time for his debut, though the circumstances made it difficult for him to demonstrate his potential. He had one opportunity two minutes from time, when he took a corner kick. The crazy shenanigans seen thus far took on a whole new level when the well delivered ball caused pandemonium in the box. Substitute Ian Dickens made to head the cross, but was pulled down by Cray's skipper David Grey. Grey had already picked up a yellow in the first half for an aggressive foul, and the referee had no choice but to produce another, levelling the sides at nine players a piece.

(Penalty) spot the ball

Ojukwa stepped up to take the penalty, hitting to the keeper's right. Northwood dived quickly and made an excellent save. Unluckily for him, he was deemed by the officials to have moved off his line, so the penalty was to be retaken. Cray's Tony Russell was unimpressed by this decision, and chose to let the referee know his thoughts, getting himself booked for dissent. He then wandered over to the crowd of players on the edge of the box. Within seconds, he and Panter were fighting, and another mob fight began. The ref produced another two reds, with Russell and Panter given their marching orders.

'Red's my favourite colour, you know'

The referee set about getting the kick retaken, but Russell and Panter were less keen to finish what they had started, and had yet to make it off the pitch, having been preoccupied with fighting one another. Despite attempts to alert the referee from players, linesman and crowd alike, he blew his whistle and Kenny stepped up again. This time Northwood not only saved the shot, but also the rebound. As he desperately pushed the ball away to prevent Ojukwa having a third effort, the referee finally noticed his assistant's flag and blew the whistle.

'Go fight there, I've got a penalty to worry about'

After a conference of officials, the two dismissed players were finally removed, and the penalty taken for a third time. This time Martyn Lee moved Ojukwa aside, and did the job himself, striking cleanly past Northwood to gain K's a consolation goal.

1 - saved, 2 - saved (three times), 3 - goal

Despite there having been numerous stoppages, and over five minutes taken over a single penalty kick, the referee blew up immediately with less than three minutes stoppage time past. A strange sense of relief fell across the ground when the match finished, as everyone thought that the farce was finally over. But there was one last twist in the tale. As the players made their way off the pitch, the referee started blowing his whistle and ran mysteriously down the tunnel. Later reports confirmed this last moment to have produced a stunning seventh red card, this time for former K's man Joe Francis, now Cray's assistant manager.

A casual observer looking at the headline facts of this match might have cause to ponder the referee's input. It is unquestionable that he had a busy match and produced many cards. But what else could he do? A number of players from both teams produced behaviour unacceptable on a football field. It is true that the FA Cup has a reputation for inspiring passion, but that is no excuse for the conduct witnessed today.

As for Kingstonian, they are faced with a bit of a paradox here. On the one hand, they need to put this match behind them. They need to forget the way they lost this match when they travel to Burgess Hill and Ashford Town, particularly as the current injuries and the bans from this match, they may well be playing under-strength.

On the other hand, they have to look at what they did and learn. For me, there are two key lessons. First, the players need to learn that the match plays from when the referee blows his whistle first, to when he blows it last. Lack of concentration in the opening minutes has already cost cheap goals to be conceded in two matches. They got away with it against Molesey, but not today, where they instead let their concentration drop towards the end of the first half as well.

More importantly the team lacked the psychological strength they needed to play this match. Cray have a reputation for playing with aggression and gamesmanship, and that is exactly what they produced today. But Kingstonian let it get to them, and it cost them not only the match, but suspensions as well. The hoops will be returning to Bromley again in just six weeks time for the first league encounter. K's must be ready for what they know Cray will throw at them.

Sat 10th Sep 2005
Hayes Lane
FA Cup 1st qualifying round
Cray Wanderers4
Lee (pen)
1Chuck Martini
2Michael BradyCautioned and Sent Off
3Brahim Eloumani12
4Scott Corbett
5Julian SillsCautioned
6Stuart Reeks
7Mazin AhmadSent Off
8Paul Vines15
9Kenny Ojukwa
10Scott Bennetts14
11Martyn Lee
12Christian Gonzalez3
14Damian PanterSent Off10
15Ian Dickens8
16Mark Rhodes
17Alan Hughes
Match Report By
Kevin O'Connor