A football club from Eltham is dreaming of FA Cup glory after getting through to the competition’s first round – potentially setting up a clash with neighbours Charlton Athletic.
Cray Valley PM, of the Isthmian League South East Division – seven tiers below the Premier League – beat National League side Maidenhead United 3-2 on Saturday in a fourth qualifying round match.
The side, who play at Badgers Sports Ground on Middle Park Avenue, are now in the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history. With League One and League Two clubs entering the competition in this round, they could face the Addicks, who were relegated into the third tier last season, or the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich or Portsmouth.
They will be one of the smallest sides left in the contest, and will bank a £9,375 windfall from the win – and could be in for an even bigger payday if their match is picked for television.
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. They featured in a recent 853 story about how the club had coped with the coronavirus crisis, which brought non-league football to a halt.
Maidenhead, who play three divisions above Cray Valley, went two goals up but but goals from Ade Yussuf and Connor Dymond left the score at 2-2 at half-time. After Millers keeper Joe Docherty saved a late penalty, Francis Babalola slotted home the winner, sparking ecstatic scenes (see 47:38 in the video above).
Millers manager Kevin Watson said “I felt it was a game that had everything – two goals down, penalty saved and then scoring the winner in the final minute.
“These moments are ones to be cherished by everyone associated with the club. We are a small club with a big heart. It’s an incredible achievement by the players.”
The team will find out their opponents at 7pm on Monday when the first round draw is made live on BBC2. The match, to be played over the weekend of 7-8 November, will be their sixth in this season’s FA Cup; their first match was on 12 September when they beat Crayford-based VCD Athletic 6-0.
But Watson said that the cup run must not distract his side from their league campaign, where they are fifth from bottom with just five points from four games. “We cannot afford any psychological hangover,” he said.
National League Bromley were the only other SE London club to progress to the first round after beating Sutton United 1-0 at Gander Green Lane. Cray Wanderers were beaten 3-2 at Canvey Island while Dulwich Hamlet – whose own first round tie was shown on BBC2 last year – limped to a 1-0 defeat at Eastbourne Borough.