FA Cup run over for another season as 10-man Soham Town Rangers lose heavily at Cray Wanderers
Soham Town Rangers' best run in the Emirates FA Cup since 2007/08 came to an end on Sunday afternoon thanks to a 5-2 loss at higher-league Cray Wanderers in the second round qualifying.
Up against Step 3 opposition at Hayes Lane – home of National League leaders and Cray's landlords Bromley FC – the task was always going to be a tough one for the visiting Greens.
But it got even harder due to the straight red card handed to player-assistant boss Erkan Okay for deliberate handball inside the box, which left Soham to play for more than half with 10 men.
Hosting Cray, who have been beaten just once this term, went on to make their numerical advantage count by adding four further goals to Joseph Taylor's opener – a tally that would have been far greater had it not been for the performance of Josh Pope between the posts for the away team.
And yet, Soham refused to let their heads drop on a difficult afternoon and were rewarded late on with a couple of consolations to give the travelling supporters something to smile about.
Cray dominated possession from the outset and they eventually broke the deadlock in the 18th minute when Taylor was given too much time and space inside the Soham area and he punished them with an accurate low finish.
Pope produced the first of many memorable saves 10 minutes later as he threw himself in front of Ben Mundele at point blank range to stop the ball with his face.
The key moment occurred eight minutes before the break when Taylor twisted Okay one way and then the other, knocking the Soham centre-back off balance and flat on to the floor, from where he stuck out an arm to block the striker's shot.
It left the referee with little option but to brandish a red card and while Pope did well to keep out Taylor's spot kick, the forward reacted quickest to tuck in the rebound.
It was 3-0 just four minutes into the second half as Taylor turned provider, squaring the ball across the face of goal to give Watford loanee Harry Hudson the most simple of finishes from a couple of yards out.
Pope then denied Taylor his hat-trick on three different occasions in quick succession, while up the other end Soham's first meaningful attempt after 59 minutes saw Matty Allan put Tom Newman in the clear, but his shot lacked the power to truly trouble Lewis Carey in the Cray goal.
Cray's fourth goal – scored in the 66th minute – was a contender for goal of the season. Tom Murphy was the player in question, unleashing a shot that swerved and then dipped just in time to fly into the top corner from 25 yards out.
Three minutes later a fifth goal looked inevitable as Cray centre-back Lee Lewis rose highest at the back post to meet a corner, but once again Pope made an impressive stop.
Taylor was twice more frustrated by the Soham goalkeeper as their duel resumed before he eventually completed his hat-trick 15 minutes from time, rolling in from close range after a good cross from left-back Thomas Carlse.
At this point it seemed Cray could go on to score one or two more, but it was in fact Soham that went on to have the final say in the tie.
First Toby Andrews latched on to Ryan Auger's through ball and slotted home neatly to continue his sequence of having scored in each of his last six appearances in the 78th minute, while in the 88th minute Auger again claimed the assist, playing in Newman to get the better of Carey.
It was somewhat fitting that proceedings came to an end with Pope making a couple more saves, the highlight of which saw Cray substitute Charles Etumnu denied down at the near post.
Soham: Pope, Russell, Brown, Clayton, Watson, Okay, Newman, Auger, Allan, Hall, Andrews
Subs not used: James, Hope, Groves, Foxhall. Attendance: 184
Journal Man of the Match: Josh Pope
* For reaction from Soham boss Robbie Mason, see Thursday's Journal print edition.