Cray Wanderers vs. VCD Athletic – FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round –
Cray Wanderers 4
Salami 40, Przelawski 56, Ariku 96, 116
VCD Athletic 3
Zhanghaza 4, Diamond 83, 109
AFTER EXTRA TIME
Photos – Kind courtesy of Jon Hilliger
Cray Wanderers advanced into the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Youth Cup after a pulsating and dramatic evening at Hayes Lane as two Leslie Ariku goals in extra-time gave the Wands a 4-3 win and a home match up with Ashford United in the next round.
It looked like it was going to be a tough task for Lee Amis’s side when they fell behind after just four minutes through Taku Zhanghaza well taken goal and the Vickers generally had the better of the opening half. However, Cray kept plugging away and Akola Salami slotted home a leveller five minutes before half time to set up the tie perfectly for the second half.
Cray looked to have given themselves the advantage when James Przelawski finished well in the 56th minute but VCD applied late pressure and Dylan Diamond crashed home a superb equaliser with seven minutes to go to force an extra half hour’s play.
More drama was to follow as Leslie Ariku put Cray in front for a second time six minutes into the first period of extra time. However, Diamond levelled once again with eleven minutes to go but just as it seemed that penalties would be the only way to divide the teams Ariku scored again four minutes from the end and Cray managed to get over the line after a monumental battle.
This was the first occasion for this set of Cray Wanderers players to ever play in the FA Youth Cup and the culmination of four years hard work from U13s through the age groups to now U18s and a chance to compete in the biggest Youth competition in domestic football.
It looked here though that Cray would have their work cut out to go anywhere near repeating the Wands’ 6-0 win at VCD in the 1st Qualifying Round last season. After a positive start from Cray they were caught cold after just four minutes when the ball was worked down the right hand side and Dylan Daimond’s ball into the box was only half cleared out to Taku Zhanghaza and the ex-Cray player hit home a crisp shot from 12 yards and VCD were in front.
VCD would have the better of the exchanges and Zac Long fired over from distance but Cray were unlucky not to level against the run of play when James Przelawaski broke into the area and fired just over the angle of post and crossbar.
In the 21st minute, VCD came close to scoring a second when Diamond set up Ayomide Agbolade down the right of the area and his shot was parried by Adam Bennett. At the other end, keeper Harry Ebdon to come and claim the ball as Leslie Ariku looked to put Akola Salami in on goal.
VCD continued to look the more composed side and from a free kick 20 yards out, Diamond shot over and from a corner, the ball was pushed away by Bennett who did well to block the follow up shot from Long. Then in the 38th minute from a throw in down the right, Theo McKenzie found Diamond who broke into the area and again was denied by a good block and parried save by Bennett.
This proved crucial as two minutes later, Cray were on level terms when William Amis down the left found Przelawski whose ball across was not cut out by Rashid Braima and Salami picked up the loose ball and drilled the ball under Ebdon and into the net.
Before half time, Agbolade saw a shot blocked for VCD while at the other end with the last action of the half, Ariku found Przelawski inside the area who from a tight angle looked to squeeze the ball into the net but Ebdon did well to block and turn the ball behind.
Half Time: 1-1
The second half was just as dramatic with Cray now perhaps more in the ascendancy and Przelawaski saw a free kick just outside the area well held by Ebdon and then was unlucky not to score when Chris Al Hassan combined with Max Gayle to set up Przelwaski who prodded the ball from 12 yards fractionally wide of the left post.
This was a temporary let off for VCD as on 56 minutes, Cray were in front for the first time when Al Hassan who had a storming second half slipped a pass through to Przelwaski down the left of the area and showed great composure to slot the ball wide of the keeper and into the net for a goal his performance deserved.
VCD though were never out of the game and came close from a couple of free kicks firstly, Long heading wide from Aiden Hogan’s cross and then Long seeing an effort deflect off the wall towards Miles Duffa who sent a header wide.
In the 63rd minute, Cray had a let off when from another free kick out on the left, Hogan’s cross into the area was met by the head of Long and thudded back off the crossbar. Cray though were not without chances and William Amis and Ariku combined to set up Przelawski who fired just wide of goal while for VCD substitute Alfie Rhodes headed wide from a corner.
With just seven minutes to go, VCD tied the game once more with a superb finish by Diamond who picked up the ball from a clearance from Ebdon which was helped on by Rhodes and Diamond from 16 yards hit a powerful shot which gave Bennett no chance hitting the top left hand corner.
Cray nearly won it at the end when Palace Francis made an excellent jinking run into the area but before he could shoot was denied a goal by a superb tackle from McKenzie. Then for VCD, Hogan shot wide and it ended 2-2 at full time and an extra half hour would be played.
With the lights now on this had the feel of a proper cup tie, competitive but never dirty and totally compelling as the two teams managed to find a second wind and kept up the pace in extra time.
Six minutes into the first period of extra time, Cray went 3-2 up when the excellent throughout Emmanuel Oduguwa down the left did well to drift into the area and lay the ball across to Ariku who did well to get to the ball before Ebdon to roll the ball into the net for a clinical piece of finishing.
For VCD, Hogan shot over from 25 yards with a free kick but at this stage Cray were looking slightly the stronger side.
Into the second period of extra-time and with Cray holding on, VCD levelled in the 109th minute when once again Rhodes did well to put a ball through to Diamond down the left of the area and finished superbly once again into the bottom right and it was now 3-3 and the likelihood of penalties loomed large.
Cray though showed great character and four minutes from time went ahead for a third time in the game when good strong running from Al-Hassan ended with a shot being blocked in the area but following up, Ariku was on hand to gently steer the ball past Ebdon who couldn’t quite get down to save the shot and the striker had his second of the game.
There was more tension with five minutes of added on time but with both teams understandably out on their feet there were no further goals and Cray had advanced in a titanic struggle and after that very difficult opening had shown their resilience to come back and turn the game around.
Ashford United will provide another stern test in the next round in a couple of weeks time but for now the start of a new adventure for Cray Wanderers in the FA Youth Cup was underway and it could be another dramatic ride if tonight is anything to go by.
Cray Wanderers: Adam Bennett, William Amis (Dylan Gilbert 113), Stefan Abatan, Archie Daniels, Theo Foley, Chris Al Hassan, James Przelawski (Muqisa Hodasi, 73), Max Gayle (Rhys Carew, 102), Emmanuel Oduguwa, Leslie Ariku, Akola Salami (Palace Francis, 66). Subs: Kamar Tunibu
VCD Athletic: Harry Ebdon, Theo McKenzie, Rashid Braima, Zac Long, Patrick Jackson, Miles Duffa, Ayomide Agbolade (Charlie Brett, 82), Tyreece Kamara (Gerald Lampety, 57), Dylan Diamond, Aiden Hogan, Taku Zhanghaza (Alfie Rhodes, 63): Subs: Ibrahim Adi, Harry Fisk, Marley Markham
Referee: Shaun Barry