Manor Farm suffered penalty heartbreak after a superb comeback in an absolutely outstanding FA Cup tie against Cray Wanderers.
The hosts gave a league advantage to the visitors and frantic first half began with a host of early chances, first Tom Phipp’s audacious effort for Cray hit the post then Ben John had to be alert to stop another effort from Ben Mundele. The breakthrough would come in the first ten minutes, neat work between Murrell-Williamson and Mundele led to the latter bending past John to put the visitors 1 up. Farm then had the perfect chance to level up instantly, skipper Jay Adams played Lucas Vowles through but after neatly rounding the keeper, he was unable to dig the ball out from his feet and find the empty net. Like in Farm’s previous game, the miss would haunt them barely a minute later. Freddie Parker with a perfect free kick for the visitors to double their lead. This time Farm were able to find a instant response, a loose pass from the away keeper went straight to Marcus Day who beat 3 Cray defenders before firing Farm back in it. Farm were really pushing as the half settled and did have the ball in the net again, but away defender Jay Leader was spared an own goal by an earlier offside flag. Vowles and Day were linking beautifully and then played a couple of one twos before Day recieved inside the box and he twisted and turned before seeing his low effort blocked wide. Cray won another free kick to relieve pressure and another swerving Parker effort was saved by John before he brilliant denied Joseph Taylor on the point blank rebound. Then chaos ended the half, Cray made it 3-1 through Parker before a complete goalmouth melee led to red cards for Farm keeper Ben John and Cray forward Mundele.
10 man Farm found the perfect response minutes into the second half, Vowles perfect touch led to him shooting and the defenders diversion looped the ball over Carey and Mike Bryant acrobatically flicked home on the line. It was all Farm after the hour, Day’s trickery beat 3 men before his cross was cleared and then Vowles forced another diving save from Carey minutes later. From that corner, Steve Kingdon won the header but Vowles couldn’t convert from in front or the visiting stopper. Farm did deservedly level in the 70th minute and it was a moment of magic. Lucas Vowles winning a battle against 2 Cray defenders before his superb curling effort nestled in the corner to level the tie and send the home fans wild on the far side of the Creek. Both sides were trying to win it late on, Murrell-Williams with neat footwork and link up for Cray but substitute Luc Rees saved well before the counter saw Day’s effort loop to Bryant again and his 20 yard volley drifted wide. Vowles then was inches away from connecting from point blank range following another Day cross but it was superbly flicked away from his waiting dive. As the clock ticked to the last 5 minutes, an outstanding back post defensive header from Stuart Tovey preserved the tie before two late saves by Rees sent it to penalties.
Despite Cray’s first spot-kick being saved, Farm missed their first two giving the visitors the advantage and even back to back successes by Adams and Bird, Cray sealed the tie in off the bar to deny Farm their first ever ticket to the final qualifying round.
MOTM – Marcus Day