Dreams of FA Cup glory in Eltham are over for another season after Cray Valley PM narrowly lost their first-ever first round tie at Havant & Waterlooville yesterday.
While Millers, who play in the eighth tier of English football, had been hoping to bring the likes of Charlton or Sunderland to Badgers Sports Ground on Middle Park Avenue, they were drawn away at Havant & Waterlooville of National League South, two divisions above them – sparking hopes that they might progress to the second round.
But it was not to be as the Hampshire side went ahead in the 18th minute through a Bedsente Gomis header. And while Cray Valley had ten shots at goal and seven corners, they failed to trouble Havant keeper Ross Worner; despite coming close in injury time when Matt Warren’s shot came off the post.
The 1-0 defeat brings an end to a remarkable run for the club, who began playing in this season’s FA Cup in September and got through to the first round after beating Maidenhead United, who play three divisions above them. They also stayed in the cup for longer than Charlton Athletic, who lost 1-0 to Plymouth on Saturday.
Millers manager Kevin Watson said: “It wasn’t a journey that I felt needed to end today, but fine margins are often all it takes. I didn’t feel there was any gulf of difference between the players as is so often expected.”
Paul Dowsett, the Havant & Waterlooville manager, said he felt “relieved” and added: “The better side lost today.”
Founded in 1919 in St Pauls Cray, they were initially called Cray Valley Paper Mills, after the paper-making industry in the Cray Valley which dated back to the 18th century. The team played in St Pauls Cray until the mills’ closure in 1981. After that, the club abbreviated Paper Mills to “PM” and moved to Eltham.
After six FA Cup matches, attention will now turn to the Isthmian League South Eastern Division, where Cray Valley play their matches; but with all grassroots football suspended during England’s second lockdown, the team will not be able to play again until at least next month.