BY EDMUND BRACK
Cray Valley Paper Mills revelled in their moment in the spotlight and now they get to do it all again after recording a famous FA Cup result against Charlton Athletic.
The Isthmian League South East Division side were massive underdogs heading into Sunday’s first round tie between the two South London clubs.
But rather than being turned into pulp by Michael Appleton’s Addicks, they instead came away with a 1-1 draw and the prospect of completing the giantkilling feat at The Arctic Stadium – capacity of 1,000 – next week.
Cray Valley have lost just one of their 20 matches this season – 3-0 at Punjab United in the Kent Cup – and are unbeaten at home, although a Charlton side smarting from the result in SE7 are liable to pose a bigger threat than visitors such as Littlehampton Town, Broadbridge Heath, Lordswood and Hartley Witney.
Millers midfielder Sonny Black, formerly on the books of Crystal Palace, played a crucial role in Sunday’s result.
The winner of the replay will head to Gillingham in the second round.
Black told the South London Press: “We thought Sunday was going to be our cup final, so to be able to do it over again is amazing.
“This will be our fourth replay in our journey so far. We have tended to bring teams back home and, from how things have gone so far, we have picked up results. History shows that works in our favour a bit.
“It will be different to the last game. We had a full week of preparation and training for the Charlton game on Sunday whereas our full focus will be on Erith & Belvedere in the league on the weekend.
“Once we get through that game and hopefully get the win, that’s when our focus will switch to Charlton. It only gives us four days.
“It’s different preparations but we will be focused nonetheless.”
Black was named man of the match by BBC’s MOTD, who televised the tie, after coming up against the Addicks midfield trio of Karoy Anderson, Conor McGrandles and Scott Fraser.
“I’m still up there – it was an unreal evening,” said Black.
“All the support and the love we received afterwards has been amazing.
“It felt like a win. Regardless of the result, even if we lost, it was going to feel like a win as long as we gave a good account of ourselves. To go there and get a result against the odds felt so good.
“I didn’t really think about how I was playing on the day and the result – I was just focused.
“The fitness levels of Charlton’s number 33 (Anderson) were quite high and I was marking him for a lot of the game. I was constantly tracking him in behind. He was mainly my man.
“I just kept watching the time and seeing how slowly it was going as I was waiting for the 90 minutes to be up. When they told me I got man of the match I was pleasantly surprised.”
Charlton took the lead early on through Fraser, but Lucas Ness turned Kyrell Lisbie’s cross into his own net in the 48th minute to send the Cray Valley fans into raptures.
Black, who runs his own sports coaching company called Sporting Champs and was back at work on Monday, added: “That moment was unreal – words can’t describe that feeling when the ball hit the back of the net.
“We all just went running over – it felt like I had scored.
“To have all of those 2,000 fans celebrating was an amazing feeling.”
The midfielder joined Palace in 2012 when the club were in the Championship and signed a professional deal with the Eagles.
He came through with the likes of Jake Gray, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Reise Allassani and Ryan Innis before being released without making a senior appearance in 2015.
Clapham-born Black said: “We trained sometimes with the first-team and we were around the likes of Jonny Williams, Wilf Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.
“It was a great experience being at Palace. I’m from South London, so it felt like being at home.
“We all wanted the club to do well and we were pushing for the promotion. But once the club won promotion to the Premier League, we probably didn’t realise what would come with it [at the academy].
“The club took a step forward and it was switched from being focused on bringing the youth through to trying to stay in the Premier League.
“They had to buy proven players, which hindered us a little bit. But it was a bit surreal. You would see these players on the TV and when Monday comes and you’re training in the morning, you’re sitting across the table from Marouane Chamakh or Wilf.
“There were a few who would help you or put their arm around you to try and help you to better yourselves. Mile Jedinak was good at that – Paddy McCarthy was really good too.
“I had a good relationship with Yannick too. It was a great experience.”
PICTURES: PAUL EDWARDS, KEITH GILLARD AND PA
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