A strong performance from non-league Cray Valley (PM) earned them a draw away at League One Charlton in the first round of the FA Cup last Sunday, 5 November.
The two south London clubs are 117 league places apart, but that would have been difficult to tell for a neutral watching, with the end-to-end game seeing good chances fall to either side.
Based in Eltham and owned by Turkish businessman Cemil Tumkaya, Cray Valley were not remotely overawed by the occasion, dubbed the ‘Greenwich borough’ derby, and came close to winning the game in the final stages.
It was the home side, however, that got off to the better start. Midfielder Scott Fraser put Charlton in front in the ninth minute after running on to a slick pass that cut through the Cray defence before rounding the keeper to calmly slot the ball home.
The Addicks had numerous chances to double their lead, but Cray Valley hung on, aided by a string of saves by their keeper Sam Freeman.
Three minutes into the second half, the Millers were level. Hassan Ibrahiym’s deft ball was met by the lightning fast striker Kyrell Lisbie – son of Charlton legend Kevin. Lisbie’s square pass across the box was inadvertently diverted past keeper Sam Walker and into the back of the net by Charlton defender Lucas Ness to make it 1-1.
Cemil Tumkaya’s son Cem Tumkaya was in the starting line-up for Cray Valley, the number 6 playing his part in central defence as the visitors kept Charlton at bay. The home side had made 11 changes to their usual line-up and manager Michael Appleton threw on five of their regulars to try and win the game, but to no avail.
The match finished 1-1, resulting in rapturous scenes among the visitors, with the team and bench racing to the end housing their 2,000 fans to celebrate together.
Speaking to BBC Match of the Day after the game, Cray Valley manager Steve McKimm said: “I can’t speak highly enough of my players. They were unbelievable. We knew we were up against it, even more so when they bring the five big guns on.
“To a player they were unbelievable. At half-time I told them to believe in themselves. We were on a hiding to nothing but when you give belief to players anything can happen.”
The result means the team from the eighth tier of the football pyramid will now host Charlton, who are five divisions above them, on Wednesday, 15 November. Cray’s ground, the Artic Stadium, has a capacity of just over 1,500, which means only a lucky few will whether the Millers can be giantkillers and progress to round 2 of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, where a tie away to Gillingham awaits them.
The BBC have confirmed they will be televising the replay. The match will kick off at 19.45 and will be broadcast live on BBC Two.
Each team will receive £25,000 live broadcast fee , according to non-league football journalist Ollie Bayliss.
All photos from Charlton v Cray Valley (PM), at The Valley, London, 05 Nov. 2023. © Romana Rule / Cray Valley (PM)