Ebbsfleet United vs Cray Wanderers – Kent Senior Cup 2nd Round – Tuesday 31st October, 7.45 pm
Cray Wanderers are in Kent Senior Cup action this evening and will it be a trick or treat this Halloween as Neil Smith’s side visit National League Ebbsfleet United for a place in the last 8 of the competition. Kick off at the Kuflink Stadium, 7.45pm. Please note the game will be decided on a penalty shoot-out if level after 90 minutes.
Cray will be looking to build on the momentum of the morale boosting victory against Southern League Premier South highflyers Chesham United in the FA Trophy on Saturday. Against a side unbeaten away from home this season, Cray put in a very positive attacking performance and led 2-0 at the break through goals from Ellis Brown and Gary Lockyer. Chesham pulled the game back to 2-2 but a Frankie Raymond free kick put Cray 3-2 up in the 81st minute before the visitors tied it up once again in the last minute. With the match to be decided on penalties, Cray showed their nerve and scored all five penalties with Yahya Bamba firing in the winner to set up a trip to National South Weston-super-Mare in the 2nd Round on 18th November.
The league will always remain the priority with the Wands in 20th place going into the weekend’s games but performances have been better generally than the results and hopefully the positivity of Saturday can continue, Cray get a bit more of the rub of the green and more consistency in team selection as it has been a bit stop-start for Smith since the start of the season.
Cray reached the 2nd Round after a 3-2 win at Phoenix Sports in the 1st Round on 26th September. Goals from ex-Fleet Anthony Cook, Cameron Black and an injury time strike from Lockyer sent the Wands through to a trip to 8 times former winners Ebbsfleet United this evening.
Traditionally the competition often sees a chance for some fringe players or those that need game time to get minutes but at Phoenix Sports Cray fielded a pretty experienced side but both teams could shuffle their packs ahead of important league games on Saturday.
Ebbsfleet United have made their return to the National League this season after winning promotion from the National South in some style in 2022-23 winning the league with 103 points, winning 32 matches along the way.
After 18 league games, Ebbsfleet are currently 19th on 17 points and after a respectable start to the season have won just one of their last thirteen league and cup games. On Saturday, the Fleet went down to a 0-1 defeat at home to Dagenham & Redbridge with the winner coming in stoppage time.
At home in the league Ebbsfleet have beaten Aldershot Town (2-0), Kidderminster Harriers (3-0), York City (4-1) and Boreham Wood (3-1) and were beaten by Solihull Moors (1-2), Chesterfield (0-1), Dorking Wanderers (0-1), FC Halifax Town (0-2) and Dagenham & Redbridge (0-1). Away from home Ebbsfleet won at Rochdale (1-0) and drew at Woking and AFC Fylde but were beaten at Gateshead, Barnet, Wealdstone, Altrincham, Eastleigh and Southend United. In the FA Cup, Ebbsfleet were beaten in the 4th Qualifying Round at Slough Town after a replay. Top scorer so far is Dominic Poleon with 8 goals.
There haven’t been too many meetings with Ebbsfleet United down the years. Perhaps the most notable were a tremendous FA Cup victory for Cray Wanderers at the then Southern League Gravesend and Northfleet in September 1968 winning 3-1. The sides met in the delayed final of the Kent Senior Cup of 2007/08 (played before the start of the 2008/09 season) with the now named Ebbsfleet winning 4-0 in the final played at Hayes Lane. Then in Cray’s 150 year centenary season, the sides met in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup at Hayes Lane on 25th September 2010 and finished 2-2 with Ebbsfleet winning the replay 4-2 three nights later.
The Wands did win the last time the two teams met in the FA Trophy 2nd Round in November 2021 with Cray advancing on penalties after a 2-2 draw at Hayes Lane. Two goals from Jamie Yila were cancelled out by late goals from Rakish Bingham and Will Wood who recently completed a two month loan spell with Cray. Cray though were impeccable from the spot and advanced 5-3 after a penalty shoot-out.
Ebbsfleet United were formed in 1946 immediately after the resumption of football after World War II and were known up to 2006-07 as Gravesend and Northfleet FC after a merger of Gravesend United and Northfleet United. The club were Southern League regulars up to 1978-79 and were Southern League Champions in 1957-58 and Division One South Champions in 1974-75. In 1962-63 Gravesend and Northfleet made national headlines by reaching the 4th Round of the FA Cup beating league sides Exeter City and Carlisle United along the way and took 2nd Division Sunderland to a replay at Roker Park following a 1-1 draw at Stonebridge Road eventually losing the replay 5-2. Strangely they were relegated at the end of the season.
In 1978-79 they became one of the founding clubs of the new Alliance Premier League (now the National League Conference) but were relegated back to the Southern League in 1981-82. In 1995-96, they reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup beating Colchester United along the way eventually losing to Aston Villa. For the 1997-98 season they moved to the Isthmian League for the first time and spent four seasons in the Premier, winning the title in 2001-02 and with no Conference South in those days made their return to the Conference.
They finished 7th in 2006-07 and the following season with the local area transformed by the Channel Tunnel rail link changed their name to Ebbsfleet United and became something of a new commodity as a club run by website members of MyFootballClub who ran Ebbsfleet United up until 2013 and they had a great season becoming one of only two Kent sides to date to win the FA Trophy at Wembley as Liam Daish’s side beat Torquay United 1-0 in front of 40,000 fans with a Chris McPhee goal and also won the Kent Senior Cup. They also reached the Semi-Finals the following season but were relegated in 2009-10. They won promotion back to the Conference via the playoffs in 2010-11 beating Chelmsford City and Farnborough Town in the Final and remained for two seasons in the Conference. In 2016-17 after a handful of near misses in Semi-Finals and Finals Ebbsfleet beat Hampton & Richmond and Chelmsford City in the playoff final to return to the Conference once again. Ebbsfleet finished 8th in 2018-19 but after the unusual circumstances of the 2019-20 season were 20th and relegated on points per game. Back in the National South, Ebbsfleet finished 3rd in 2021-22 reaching the playoff final before losing at Dorking Wanderers but last season saw the Fleet win the championship in some style to return to the National League.
This should be a great occasion and a rare chance for the Wands to pit their wits against a National League side.
DIRECTIONS TO EBBSFLEET UNITED & ADMISSION
The Kuflink Stadium, Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, Kent DA11 9GN
Adults £8, Concessions £5, Youth £5, Junior £1
Supporters must either purchase their matchday tickets in advance online or can also buy their tickets from the ticket-kiosk windows on matchday via cash/card payment.
The turnstiles will not be taking cash on the night – so if you do not have an online ticket, simply purchase at the ticket window and then proceed to the turnstiles with your ticket.
Please note that the Swanscombe End and Old Stand will not be open tonight. The Main Stand and the Plough End will both be fully open and there is no segregation in place so supporters of both clubs may use the Hospitality Lounge bar and the Social bar.
From the M25 (South)
Leave the M25 at Junction 2 and take the A2 towards Gillingham. Then take the B262 towards Stone/Greenhithe. At the end of the B262 turn right onto the A226 towards Northfleet & Gravesend. Keep on this road until you reach the ground on your left.
From the M25 (North) – Dartford Bridge
After coming over the bridge, keep to the left hand lanes and after passing through the toll booths turn left onto the A226, towards Northfleet. Keep on this road until you reach the ground on your left.
There is no parking available for visiting fans at the ground, however there is some street parking to be found on side roads off the A226. Parking is available on matchdays in Car Park C at Ebbsfleet International, which also costs £3’. The car park is about a five minute walk away from the ground.
Northfleet Railway Station is the closest to the ground, which is only a few minutes walk away from Stonebridge Road. Northfleet station is served by trains from Charing Cross, London Bridge, New Eltham, Sidcup, Bexley, Crayford or Dartford. Just come straight out of the station and turn left at the top of the road. The ground can be then seen down on the right. Please check National Rail Enquiries for your best options. Trains after the game from Northfleet heading back are at 23 and 53 past the hour with the last at 23.23.
You can also go from London St Pancras on the high speed service and get off at Ebbsfleet International. The journey time from St Pancras is under 20 minutes and trains are every 15 minutes in both directions. For walking directions come out of the side entrance near platforms 5 and 6 (the north Kent line), which will bring you out into Car Park C. Walk right down to the end of this car park and through the entrance then walk straight under the bridge and you will see the ground right in front of you. It will take about five minutes for you to walk or there is a Fast Track bus available from the main entrance of the station which runs every 10 minutes.
Inside the ground is the Fleet Lounge Club Bar which is popular with both home and away fans alike and normally has a locally produced real ale on sale. It can be very busy on matchdays but hopefully should be ok for the visit of the Wands. Close to Northfleet Railway Station in Rose Street, is the aptly named Rose pub which is the nearest pub to the ground. There are also a number of fast food outlets situated along the High Street.