May leads the way as Addicks finally see off the Crays in local manor dust-up
FA Cup 1st Round Replay Cray Valley (PM) 1 Charlton Athletic 6
By Kaz Mochlinski at the Badgers Sports Ground
Alfie May demonstrated why he is the leading scorer in League One with his fine double-strike guiding Charlton Athletic through a testing FA Cup 1st round replay at Cray Valley Paper Mills.
Having been held to a 1-1 draw at The Valley earlier in the month, Charlton were again extended by their non-league neighbours before three goals in the opening 13 minutes of the second half settled the tie.
Cray Valley produced a performance to live up to the occasion, as the club staged its first-ever all-ticket home match and welcomed the BBC television cameras for live coverage of the game on BBC Two.
With a usual attendance at the Badgers Sports Ground of between 150 and 200, the Millers were delighted to be allowed to increase their capacity to a record 1,550 after discussions with the local authorities.
Charlton travelled the three miles across South-East London from SE7 to SE9 for the “Greenwich Borough” derby with just 282 fans being accommodated in the away section at a classic semi-professional ground.
Tickets were unusually scarce, as the home allocation was taken up by club officials, staff, management, players, their friends and families, along with season ticket holders, a few known supporters and sponsors.
The huge demand among everyone associated with the club made Cray Valley’s first-ever home match in the FA Cup “proper” into the first-ever sell-out at the Badgers Sports Ground and ensured its biggest-ever crowd.
The best alternative view of the action was from upper deck of the number 160 bus travelling along Middle Park Avenue between Eltham and Catford, looking down over the top of the low corrugated iron stands.
However, Cray Valley belied their simple home surroundings and lowly eighth-tier status as at every opportunity they took the game to opponents 116 places above them in the football pyramid.
Starting with the same side as in the original game, they matched up to Charlton in a 4-3-3 formation, using rapid transitions and getting the ball to their fast wingers to repeatedly run at the visitors’ defenders.
Initially, there did not seem to be a gap of five leagues between the hosts and a Charlton side missing Ashley Maynard-Brewer and Michael Hector away on international duty with Australia and Jamaica respectively.
The lowest-ranked side left in this season’s FA Cup worked hard to avoid conceding an early goal, which they had done at The Valley and which had also happened to several other smaller clubs in first round matches.
It was May, playing on the right of a front three for Charlton, who looked to be the biggest threat in the opening period. Three times he got in behind the Cray Valley back line, only for Sam Freeman to save at his near post on each occasion.
Lucas Ness was determined to make up for his own goal which gave the non-league side their equaliser at The Valley, and he came close to breaking the deadlock with two headers in quick succession.
First he met a right wing free-kick perfectly, only for the ball to be deflected over by Freddie Parker. Then, from the ensuing corner, Ness‘s downward header was cleared off the goal-line by Barney Williams.
With the pressure on the home goal growing, Ness produced a fine long pass for May running clear through the middle to control the ball neatly and finally beat the Cray goalkeeper in the 35th minute.
However, the hosts levelled the score just before half-time. At the heart of it was Kyrell Lisbie, the son of Charlton legend Kevin Lisbie - as in the previous game, when his cross had won Cray Valley the replay.
He had already got the ball into the net earlier in the half, only for it to be disallowed due to a very tenuous foul in the build-up by Parker, tussling for possession with Charlton’s centre-back Lloyd Jones.
While that decision was liable to have been overturned if VAR had been available at Isthmian League grounds, it was also likely to have changed the subsequent award of a penalty to the hosts for a foul on Lisbie.
It looked as if he had been brought down just outside the penalty area by goalkeeper Sam Walker, who received a yellow card for the challenge, when a red seemed almost certain as he was the last man.
Lisbie didn’t dwell on the simultaneous justice and injustice of referee Charles Breakspear’s judgement, calmly slotting the ball home from the spot to make it 1-1 at the break.
If Cray Valley went into half-time in high spirits, their hopes were immediately extinguished after the restart. Two goals in the space of three minutes finally confirmed Charlton’s expected superiority.
Miles Leaburn used his 6 ft 6 inch height to head in Namon Asiimwe’s excellent right wing cross, before May got his second with a superb dribble down the right and an assured finish from a tight angle.
The highest-profile goal of 19-year-old Leaburn’s career to date was particularly sweet for long-standing Charlton fans, as his father Carl Leaburn also used to play for the club, making 344 appearances between 1987 and 1998.
May’s two goals took his total for the season to 14, and the League One Player of the Month for October is proving crucial as Charlton continue their recent recovery under new manager Michael Appleton.
George Dobson made sure of an Addicks’ victory when he added a fourth goal before the hour-mark with a tremendous long-range strike - the perfect way for the Charlton captain to mark his 26th birthday.
With Cray Valley knowing they were beaten, and having expended all their energy in the first period, Charlton scored twice more late on from substitutes Tyreece Campbell and Micah Mbick.
For Mbick it was a great start to his Charlton career, as the highly-regarded 17-year-old academy prospect had been named in a senior squad for first time and respond memorably with a goal after 5 minutes of his debut.
Charlton’s eventual 6-1 win means that their 100th FA Cup campaign will continue. A second-round tie away to Gillingham at the beginning of December will be next for the 1947 Cup winners.
Cray Valley will recall a special occasion and seek to use it to improve on their ninth place in the Isthmian League South East Division, which is largely due to playing only six league games so far this season.
That is primarily because of their cup commitments, having had to come through eight qualifying rounds to reach the FA Cup first round proper for only the second time in their 104-year history.
It is unlikely to be the last. And the income from the run and especially from the visit of Charlton will enable a very much improved Badgers Sports Ground to greet future visitors.
Cray Valley (PM): Freeman, Williams, Lee, Tumkaya, Black, Parker, Ademiluyi, Vigor, Lisbie, Ibrahiym, Asiedu
Addicks: Walker, Jones, Dobson, Ness, May, Fraser, Leaburn, McGrandles, Edun, Blackett-Taylor, Asiimwe