Today (17th April) marks 25 years since one of Cray Wanderers most unexpected and special triumphs as Eddy Davies’ side, then bottom of the Winstonlead Kent League beat favourites Whitstable Town 1-0 in the final at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium. Sam Wright’s 72nd minute header won a tense game and gave Cray their first piece of silverware for nine seasons and also helped to improve the league form.
Cray had struggled for most of the season but cup ties were often a different story and got through four rounds of the FA Vase earlier in the season and to the semi final of the London Senior Cup. In the Kent Senior Trophy they won on the road at Midland Bank (2-0) and Folkestone Invicta (4-3) before a titanic struggle with Thamesmead Town at Oxford Road. The game finished in a 3-3 draw after extra time and a replay at Thamesmead three days later. There it finished 1-1 after extra time and the Wands won in a penalty shoot out thanks to Pat Brown’s heroics in goal. In the Semi Final at Oxford Road, Cray took on Deal Town and the Wands led 2-1 going into injury time but Deal levelled to take the game to extra time once again. This time a recent arrival at the club, Ian Jenkins scored his second of the game to put Cray through to the final 3-2. After the semi final Cray played seven away games in a row and eight in nine so certainly would have been treading a bit of water.
The final pitted Cray against mid-table Whitstable Town who had lost in the last three Senior Trophy finals but came into the game as pretty strong favourites. Cray did win their last league game at Danson Furness United but in front of 612 noisy supporters from both sides Cray put in a performance which belied their league position. The performance of Phil Collins up front caused the Oystermen a lot of problems whilst the back four played heroically and resorted Town to playing the ball long and Pat Brown was in solid form as was Sam Wright playing at right back and the ever dependable John Allwright putting in a man of the match performance. The best opportunities of the first half came to Cray with Town keeper Nick Day making an excellent double save to deny Collins and then did well to turn the ball away from skipper Jenkins on the line.
Aaron Dodds Dave Woodgate
Whitstable threatened more after half time with Cray under some pressure and began to miss one or two chances of their own.
Cray though hung in there and in the 72nd minute from an Aaron Dodds’s corner kick the ball came to Wright who powered an unstoppable header into the net.
Cray had opportunities on the break to grab a second but defensively the Wands were resolute and hung on for a victory which to this day belongs in folklore in Cray’s long history.
This saw an improvement in league form and Cray won five of their last seven games after the final to finish 17th in the table. The 1990’s were at times a very difficult decade sometime on and off the pitch so this triumph often stands out like a beacon until the consolidation and league success at the turn of the millennium.
The players on duty were: Pat Brown, Sam Wright, Brian Partridge, John Rothery, John Allwright, Robert Welch, Dave Woodgate, Ian Jenkins (Capt.), Phil Collins, Craig Hanlon, Aaron Dodds: Subs: Lee Down, Thomas Ansah. MOM – John Allwright.
Cray Wanderers skipper Ian Jenkins receives the Kent Senior Trophy
One of Cray’s all time great fans Gordon “Pop” Creasey with the trophy
With many thanks to that tremendous football writer, blogger and Football grounds expert Mike Floate for his photographs taken on the day. Without these photos we wouldn’t have much to share from this great occasion. At the time Mike was taking action photos and writing articles for the ‘Non-League Football Today’ magazine. Soon Mike became closely involved with Crockenhill FC and began publishing books on football grounds under the name Football Grounds Frenzy. His website of that name have many of the titles on sale at http://footballgroundsfrenzy2.com/links-to-all-books.
Mike first attended Cray Wanderers matches in 1980 after moving from Swansea where he was a huge Swans fan and followed them home and away. One of the first games he attended was the FA Vase Quarter Final against Stamford at Oxford Road and loved the atmosphere so much he came back for subsequent cup ties. Mike has produced some great books including the excellent Football Grounds of South East London and Kent and many more around the country almost acting like Bibles for the avid and dedicated ground hopper and books about grounds that no longer exist.