Kevin Watson was still delighted with Cray Valley Paper Mills’ season despite a heartbreaking 3-1 extra-time defeat to Chertsey Town in the FA Vase final on Sunday.
The SCEFL Premier Division champions took the lead at the national stadium through former Dulwich Hamlet striker Gavin Tomlin.
But Sam Flegg quickly equalised for the Curfews before they scored twice in extra-time.
Cray Valley boss Watson said: “We’re not going to let it affect us in a negative way. It’s got to be seen as the positive it is.”
The squad watched Saturday’s FA Cup final together and had an overnight stay in a hotel.
Watson said: “In the hotel last night, and coming in today, it’s been brilliant.
“We had a DJ in the changing room. It’s an absolutely phenomenal experience. Many professionals never get the experience of a day out at Wembley.”
Cray started slowly with the experienced Dale Binns and Lubomir Guentchev causing problems but eventually the Millers grew into the game and Tomlin drew a save out of Nick Jupp from Ryan Flack’s corner.
Danny Smith had a shot cleared off the line before Cray keeper Andy Walker tipped Guentchev’s free-kick over the bar.
Tomlin broke the deadlock with a fine solo goal. Having got to the byline, he cut back before firing in between Jupp and the near post.
Chertsey equalised three minutes later. Flegg’s header hit the post and his momentum helped him to be first to the rebound to smash home. Watson said: “They say you’re vulnerable when you score a goal and that proved to be the case today.”
After the break, Cray enjoyed more of the possession but struggled to break down an obstinate defence and Chertsey grew more into the game with Cem Tumkaya twice making crucial interventions.
Ashley Sains was thwarted by an excellent save by Jupp before Michael Peacock sliced wide for Chertsey.
In the final minute of the five added on Anthony Edgar strode through and let fly but his effort rebounded off the bar, shaking the framework. “Fine margins.” said Watson.
Tired legs make tired tackles and that proved to be the case in the last minute of the first half of extra-time. Tumkaya fouled Guentchev on the edge of the area and a penalty was awarded. Although Walker went the right way, Jake Baxter’s penalty was placed to perfection.
As hard as they tried, the Millers couldn’t get back into the game and left gaps at the back. Walker made a great save from a Guentchev chip before Chertsey made the game safe. Quincy Rowe played it in to Guentchev and took the return pass before placing into the bottom corner.
Had Guentchev’s shot that came back off the post gone in, it would have been very harsh on the Millers.
Cray Valley PM: Walker, Tumkaya (Potter 105), Smith, Edgar, Hickey, Sains (Willock 111), Gayle, Semakula, Tomlin, Lisbie (Babalola 100), Flack (James 72). Not used: Ibrahim, Myers, Dawson.
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