Eighth-tier Cray Valley forced a replay after a 1-1 draw against League One Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup.
With the news that Cray Valley had sold almost two thousand tickets, the feeling when walking into the Valley for the first round FA Cup match was of wonder and belief.
This is the same club that two weeks ago played a 2-2 draw against Littlehampton Town in front of only 104 fans.
As the 1,998 Cray Valley fans made their way to their seats to witness their club play League One’s Charlton Athletic, many just wanted to see the Millers hold their own despite being 117 league places below Charlton.
Separated by just four miles means some of those 1,998 have split loyalties, including Cray Valley’s match secretary, David Carter.
Writing in the Charlton fanzine My Only Desire Magazine, Carter stated his love for Charlton began at age nine, and he has been a supporter ever since.
He said: “Football never ceases to delight, and following my retirement, I have developed a love of non-league football and, in particular, my local club, Cray Valley Paper Mills.”
Carter revealed that on the day of the first round draw, he had noted the number for Charlton and Cray Valley, and when he heard they had been drawn together, he could not believe it.
The game began with no surprise after a neat passing move from Charlton’s midfield found Scott Fraser through on goal, who took the ball around the goalkeeper and opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
Many would have believed that the goal would be the first of many for the team five divisions ahead of Cray Valley, but the Millers fought back and had plenty of chances to level.
In the 34th minute, Cray Valley goalkeeper Sam Freeman pulled off a tremendous save from Manchester City loanee Slobodan Tedic’s effort to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the break.
The Millers started better of the two in the second half, and in the 48th minute, Kyrell Lisbie, son of Charlton legend Kevin Lisbie, who played over 100 Premier League matches for the Addicks, fired in a low cross that met the outstretched boot of Charlton defender Ness and ricocheted into the net sending the 1,998 Cray fans into a frenzy.
After the equaliser, the game was end-to-end, with Charlton seemingly creating endless chances but being met with a stern defence from Cray Valley, and then Cray themselves had moments where they, too, could score the winner.
When the final whistle blew, an eruption of noise came from the away fans, and the players and staff rushed to celebrate in front of them.
Contrast to the Charlton players, who were subjected to boos from the home crowd as they rushed to hide back in their changing rooms.
The draw means that the two teams will battle it out again to see who will meet Gillingham in the second round of the tournament.