Cray Wanderers U17s vs. Balham U17s – Match Report

London FA Cup Final:  6/3/22

Charlton Athletic FC – Footscray Rugby Club ground


Cray Wanderers                                             2

Dada 45, 58

Balham                                                            4

Gordon-Smith 54, 105, Purdy 74, 113


Balham claimed the London County Cup after a gallant and gutsy performance from Cray Wanderers in a titanic contest which went to extra time but two superb strikes from the South London side won the match after the game finished 2-2 after 90 minutes.

After Cray began the game well, Balham took over for the last half hour of the first half but slightly against the run of play the Wands took the lead on half time after a terrific composed finish from Aaron Dada.  Balham though levelled nine minutes after the break with a smart Rufus Gordon-Smith header but four minutes later Cray went back in front with Dada’s second goal from close range. Balham levelled again 16 minutes from time when Frankie Purdy followed up to score after Jack Appleton shot was saved. Both could have won the game but went to an extra half hour where Gordon-Smith and Purdy scored with strikes from distance which in the end proved decisive.

On a bright but rather chilly and windy Sunday afternoon the match which was played on a slick 4G surface was quick out of the traps as Vinnie Cristiano’s Cray Wanderers side started the game superbly and could have scored four goals in the first quarter of an hour.

Firstly, George Clifford tested Balham keeper Jack Gordon with a low shot from outside the area and then down the left of the area Aaron Dada’ near post shot was turned behind by Gordon.

Then, down the right of the area Marcus Cristiano came close with a shot which went over and then down the left Renaldae Brown was unlucky to see his near post shot pushed against the top of the bar by Gordon.

Balham though were quick going forward with Jack Appleton particularly to the fore and from a free kick out on the right, Evan Solomon’s cross was flicked behind by Roddy Simpson.  Then Balham were unlucky when Rufus Gordon-Smith strode forward and hit a quality strike from 25 yards which crashed back off the crossbar.

From here Balham were beginning to get on top and Appleton set up Roddy Simpson for a shot which was deflected just past the left post.  Then from a corner down the right, Simpson’s cross was met by the head of Shae Wright-Simpson and Daniel Michael did well to get down to save.

As the half went on Balham still had the edge and from a free kick out on the right of the area Gordon-Smith’s effort was deflected off the wall to Michael in goal and then Kumari Ogilive made a good run forward and his shot was well smothered by Michael.

With the game going into it’s final minute Cray took the lead when Ben Turner played a fine ball from midfield through to Dada who burst through and with great composure and accuracy clinically lifted the ball over Gordon and into the net from inside the D and at half time Cray were going in one nil up.

HT:  1-0

The game was now becoming a great final with that goal and Cray started the second half with a spring in their step and a great run from Brown from midfield down the left ended with a skidding shot which Gordon got down to save,

Balham came close to levelling when Appleton set up Daniel Claydon down the right of the area but fired over the top but at the other end, Cray were looking lively going forward following a swift break from a corner the ball came to Luke Frost down the right of the area and his shot was pushed out well by Gordon.  This was followed by Turner shooting over and good pressure from Cray,

However, Balham’s threat wasn’t going away and on 54 minutes drew level when Appleton down the right put over a cross into the area and Gordon-Smith with a text book header guided the ball past Michael from 10 yards.

Credit to Cray as they restored the lead four minutes later when a free kick was played into the area and Dada did superbly to keep the ball under control in a crowded area and turned and shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

A minute later Dada could have celebrated a hat-trick when he was found by Frost’s pass and down the left of the area his shot was held by Gordon.

Cray thought they had scored a third when Frost’s ball into the area was eventually headed in by Chinedu Okoro but was disallowed for a narrow offside call.

The game was going from end to end and Balham almost drew level again when Gordon-Smith set up the lively Appleton who saw his near post shot down the right hit the angle of post and crossbar.

That was a temporary reprieve as in the 74th minute Balham levelled for a second time when Appleton fizzed in a shot from outside the area which Michael pushed away but only as far as Frankie Purdy who tapped in from four yards.

The game could have gone either way in the last quarter of an hour and Cray almost scored a third when Dada set up Freddy Caple who fired over from 12 yards.  Appleton tried to squeeze the ball in down the right but Michael was able to save and Dada from the edge of the area saw his shot saved. Then from an indirect free kick George Aldridge’s effort was deflected behind for a corner.  In the end though it was probably about right that the game would go to extra-time as now a very even contest.

FT:  2-2

Extra time can sometimes be a cagey affair but still the desire to win the game from both sides was admirable and early on Gordon-Smith saw a scuffed shot saved.  Cray won a couple of corners and Caple set up Turner whose looped cross-shot went just over the top,

As the first half of extra time went on Balham began to get on top and from a deep cross from the right the ball came to Correy Toussaint who volleyed over at the near post.  Then a free kick just outside the area saw a Gordon-Smith shot go round the wall but saved by Michael.

Renaldae Brown played a superb ball through to Dada who broke into the area but Gordon did well to come and smother the ball before the striker could shoot.

Balham though took the lead for the first time in added on time in the first period and Purdy and Toussaint combined to set up Gordon-Smith who hit a cracker from outside the area which went through the despairing stretch of Michael and into the roof of the net.

The final period of extra time saw Cray pushing forward to look to score and take the game to penalties but Balham were defending well in the last fifteen minutes and looked more and more a threat on the break. Appleton broke out and set up Seb Hunt for a shot which was blocked.

The fourth and decisive goal for Balham came seven minutes from time with Cray committed more forward a swift break out saw the ball come to Purdy who from 25 yards fired in a shot which Michael got a hand to but couldn’t prevent from hitting the top right hand corner.

Despite much endeavour Cray couldn’t muster a goal to set up a grandstand finale and Balham saw out the remaining minutes to win the London FA Cup but it had been an epic contest and had been tested all the way.

Often in cup finals the eventual winners often do so by dominating the match or the other side perhaps not really turning up on the day. You certainly couldn’t say that on this occasion and the level of competition from both teams was a credit to both sides and to the competition.

Congratulations to Balham but also to Vinnie and his gallant Cray team and to both sets of supporters who both supported their teams with gusto but hugely respectful of the occasion and added to the magic of the afternoon.

 Cray Wanderers:  Daniel Michael, Clinton Taiwo, Luke Frost, Ben Turner, Marcus Cristiano, George Aldridge, Aaron Dada, Renaldae Brown, George Clifford, Ibrahim Barrie, Freddy Caple; George Jackson, Johnny Lidbury, Chinedu Okoro, Georgi Trufchev


Balham:  Jack Gordon, Ben Christian, Alf Johnson, Evan Solomon, Theo Serafeimidis, Shae Wright-Simpson, Jack Appleton, Kimani O’Gilvie, Rufus Gordon-Smith, Daniel Claydon, Roddy Simpson: Sonny Hill, Fabian Hurst, Frankie Purdy, Corey Toussaint, Seb Hunt