Cray Wanderers U15s Lions vs Cray Valley PM U15s – Kent U15s Cup Semi-Final – 30/1/22

 Cray Wanderers                                              4

Bunclark 6, Olufemi 7, Perkins 33, Ihiedi 35

Cray Valley PM                                              1

The Cray Wanderers KYL U15s Lions advanced to the final of the Kent County Cup with a classy display to defeat Cray Valley PM in the Semi-Final at Foots Cray Rugby Club.  The Wands will now face Bromley in the Final who beat Ebbsfleet United in the other semi-final.

In a game played in glorious late January sunshine more akin to April what could have been a tense semi-final was opened up early on with two Cray Wanderers in two minutes with a smart Harry Bunclark header and then a superb strike from Jayden Olufemi.

The game was still delicately poised at 2-0 but another quick brace of goals with another quality strike from Ollie Perkins and then a Michael Ihiedi tap in made it 4-0 at half time.

With a handful of changes at half time perhaps took time to get back on track and Cray Valley kept going and pulled a goal back on 49 minutes with a penalty but despite some pressure, Cray managed to game manage the last half hour and finished the game strongly to advance to their second KCC Cup final in two seasons after winning as U13s in the 2019-20 season.

Both teams had high scoring and exciting Quarter-Final victories just after the resumption of youth team football after the Christmas/New Year break. Cray Wanderers advanced past Gravesham Borough, Danson Sports and Fleetdown United fairly comfortably but were given a stern test vs Folkestone Invicta winning 6-5 after extra time.

Cray Valley had beaten Cray Wanderers in the Kent Youth League back in late November and had reached the Semi-finals beating Whitstable Town, Erith & Belvedere and Phoenix Sports before beating Sheppey United 4-3 at home in the semis.

Semi Finals can be quite tense occasions but Cray started the game on the front foot against the Eltham based Millers and took the lead after just six minutes.  Harry Bunclark won a corner down the right and Callum Redman’s ball to the near post was met with a terrific header from Bunclark who got in front of a defender to plant the ball home.

A minute later and the Wands went two nil up when Cameron McQueen found Jayden Olufemi down the left who from just shy of 25 yards hit an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

Cray Valley came close to pulling a goal back just after the ten minute mark when the no 10 was played through down the left of the area but his shot was saved by the legs of Harry Haines and the follow up from the no 9 went over the bar.

The Wands continued to look threatening going forward and the excellent Kaya Mahmut sent over a cross which Michael Ihiedi who was a little on the stretch sent a header just past the left post.

Then another cross from the right to the far post was once again well controlled by the skilful Olufemi who turned and then hit a shot over the bar.

For Cray Valley, the no 9 down the right from just inside the area sent a ball across which the no 10 couldn’t get on to while at the other end McQueen fired over the top from distance.

In the 33rd minute, the Wands scored their third goal when a free kick from Mahmut from inside his own half was nudged towards goal by Ihiedi and the keeper had to make a block but the ball wasn’t cleared and fell to Ollie Perkins from just outside the right of the penalty area and he lifted a fine shot into the top left hand corner of the net.

Two minutes Cray had total control of the game when the ball was swept out to the right to Redman and his looping cross was not claimed by the keeper and following up Ihiedi was on hand to score.

A very powerful first half performance saw the Wands with a 4-0 half time lead against a very good Cray Valley side.

Perhaps with the luxury of the lead there were some half time changes which was understandable and took a little while for Cray to get back into the swing of things.

Cray Valley looked to start the half positive and came close when the no 7 planted a header just wide from a cross from the right.

In the 49th minute, Cray Valley pulled a goal back when they were awarded something of a soft penalty for a tackle inside the area which was deemed to be a foul and the no 9 stroked home from the spot to make it 4-1 with still a fair while to go.

The Millers did win a handful of free kicks and corners but found the Cray Wanderers defence hard to crack and when they did Haines in goal was very solid and confidently assured.

Cray did have the ball in the net once again from Olufemi with a cool finish down the right but was disallowed for offside.  Then he made a strong burst down the left and into the area but the keeper did well to come and claim the ball.

The Wands had begun to quell any hopes of a Cray Valley comeback and from 35 yards, Mahmut sent a free kick towards goal which only just cleared the crossbar.

Towards the end Kieran Oba sent in a shot which was well held by the keeper and at the other end the no 17 shot over the top but the final whistle went and Steve Owen and Steve Redman’s excellent side advanced to a mouth-watering final against old rivals Bromley (date and venue to be confirmed).

Having seen this team develop over the last few years from the Mottingham Playing Fields days the players seem to get better especially Kaya, Callum, Ollie, the two Harry’s and Marsel Tola looks an incredible talent and looks a future first teamer. Then they seem to add gems to the team like Jayden and Cameron and the team can only get even better from here.

Team:  Harry Haines, Callum Redman, Kaya Mahmut (Capt.), George Mitchell, Alfie Ozdamar, Harry Bunclark, Marsel Tola, Cameron McQueen, Oliver Perkins, Jayden Olufemi, Michael Ihiedi; Ben Cook, Kieran Oba, Sam Hards, Aron Shehu, Heath Cole-Goodwin.

Next Sunday sees the KYL U14s also in the Kent County Cup Semi Finals and are at home to Maidstone United. KO 10.30am at Flamingo Park.  Good luck to Nick Desanges and his team next Sunday.