The Hillians had only faced the Millers a matter of weeks ago and the team from SE9 ran riot in Mid Sussex, putting on the best display of any team the Hill have faced all season. Lewis Taylor and his troops would have been eager to get off to a good start but that thought lasted all of 5 minutes…
The Hill conceded an early corner which was partially cleared back to the taker, Daniel Bennett. Bennett drove towards the byline and flashed a ball across the face of goal, one that no defender could leave, and unfortunately for Josh Spinks, the Hill captain stuck out a leg and inadvertently diverted the ball past a helpless Will Huffer. The Hillians, understandably rocked by that less than ideal start, began to slowly but surely grow into the contest. It took until the 28th minute but Hill fashioned a first shot on Chris Lewington’s goal, Dan Perry testing out the Miller stopper with a fierce effort which Lewington did well to hold on to. That kickstarted what was going to be a montage of chances for the Hill. Firstly, a corner was pinged in by Lewis Finney, Josh Spinks met it around the back and nodded it down for Dan Perry who was in acres of space, Perry smashed it on the volley and it was going in until it blasted into a Miller man on the line. Big chance. If that was close, the Hill’s next opportunity couldn’t have been closer. Kieran Rowe did tremendously to win the ball high up the pitch, a cross got whipped in which Cray only cleared as far as Josiah Bridgeman, he fired it towards goal and it looked in all the way, up until it cracked off the inside of the post, fizzed across the goalline and the Millers scrambled it clear. The back and forth, chance a minute first half continued and this time, it was the hosts who wondered how they didn’t score. Cray Valley’s offence has to be one of, if not the quickest in Non-League football so when they counter attack you. You better pray. They blitzed down the right like a 100M sprint, and pulled the ball back, the resulting shot on goal flew past Will Huffer who expected the net to ripple, and the only reason the lead wasn’t doubled was because out of nowhere was Reggie Ward to come flying in and diving header it off the goalline. Sensational defending from the No2. That bit of defending was almost made even better when Hill nearly equalised. Dan Perry won the Hillians a free kick 25 yards out, Lewis Finney stepped up to curl it up and over the wall, Lewington didn’t even move and he could only watch as the ball dropped millimetres past the post. From the resulting GK, disaster struck. With a matter of seconds to go before HT, Chris Lewignton heaved a goal kick down field, the Hill defenders all left it to one another to clear which spelt disaster as the rapid Ade Adeyemo wasn’t going to wait around, nipping ahead of the Hill defenders and sliding the ball past Huffer.
1-0, the Hill were very much in this, 2-0 and it was a big uphill battle. The Hill had only 2 options, roll over and get a beating, or come out and fight back. They did the latter. Martyn Box cut in from the left and fired over as the Hill looked for a fast start. If the Hill were going to get anything out of the game, they would have to keep a clean sheet second half. Cray won a free kick inside the Hill half which they launched into the box, the first header was met by an unmarked Miller, who headed it back across goal, for a second unmarked Miller to nod towards the bottom corner. Will Huffer sprang like a cat to get down to his left and palm the ball away when it looked to be 3-0. Cray started to smell blood and went back on the attack, this time with Huffer beaten. A low cross into the box was turned goalwards by a Londoner, Huffer was beaten but the ball ricocheted off the underside of the bar and away from danger. From almost 3-0 and the game being done. It was suddenly 2-1 and the comeback was on. Dan Perry needed 2 bites at the Cherry but goal number 28 of the season came anyway. He was set up from the right handside but 10 yards out and only Lewington to beat, he was denied by the GK’s feet but the move was kept alive, Reggie Ward whipped a cross in, Cray Valley still left him unmarked and that allowed Perry to guide a header past Lewington and get the comeback started. After all the hard-work of getting back into the game, the comeback only lasted 7 minutes. The Hillians had multiple chances to clear the football but they failed to do so and the hosts kept the pressure up and once again punished the Hillians, with Daniel Bennett eventually heading home from close range to extend the hosts lead. Full credit to the Hill, once again after being rocked they didn’t let their head drop and tried to get back into the game. Quite how on Earth the lead wasn’t immediately reduced, I still am not sure. Dan Perry was put through on goal, he beat Lewington but it was cleared off the line, the rebound crashed off the back of the Millers GK, fell to Dave Martin who had an open goal, he fired the ball against the same defender who cleared it off the line and it flew over the crossbar. Somehow. Bizarrely with about 5 remaining in this one, you sensed that the game wasn’t quite done. Cray Valley might’ve thought they needed a fourth and they wasted a good opportunity when they smashed an effort high and wide from the edge of the box. Even with time running out the Hill kept coming at the Millers, first George Griffiths was denied a first goal by the feet of Lewington before it was kept alive and Martyn Box fired a cross, Hitman got to the near post and instinctively flicked the ball, 9/10 the ball flies in but it cannoned off the legs of Lewington who’s positioning was superb. One final chance came for the hosts and they definitely should’ve wrapped it up this time but again they smashed high, wide and not very handsome with only Huffer to beat.
No more harm was done to the scoreline and the Millers took all the points, the Hill will wonder how but now have just 4 games to save our proud Isthmian status.
Crucially, the Hillians now have back to back home games over Easter to pick up valuable points, starting with Hythe Town on Saturday.