Canvey won through to the Essex Senior Cup final for the fourth season running last night with a 3-2 success over Dr Martens League Chelmsford City at Billericay Town's New Lodge ground.

They will now meet either holders Dagenham and Redbridge or Purfleet at Roots Hall on April 15 -- the outcome of that semi likely to be decided by the Essex FA later this week after Fleet refused to play the tie last Thursday.

Last night's affair, played on a surface which held up well after more heavy rain in the build-up, saw Gulls rest 36-goal hero Lee Boylan, but his replacement Paul Cobb came up trumps by stabbing home the opener after four minutes.

The Islanders appeared to be cruising when Neil Gregory's far post volley from a superb Steve Parmenter cross made it 2-0 after 16 minutes.

But City hit back with two goals from Ian Cambridge after 17 and 57 minutes -- the second only being confirmed by referee Chris Overall after a long discussion with an assistant as to whether the ball had entered the net.

The Islanders grabbed what proved to be the winner after 69 minutes when Gregory scored from close range after Parmenter had hit the post.

However, City might have taken the game to extra-time when, with six minutes remaining, Cambridge lifted the ball over substitute goalkeeper Paul Newell -- only for Canvey skipper Ben Chenery, facing the goal, to race back and clear off the line with an acrobatic effort.

Said manager Jeff King: "It's always nice to make a cup final -- particularly in such a prestigious competition as this --but all our efforts now are focused on our bid to win the Ryman League Premier Division title.

"I thought we were the better side tonight, but perhaps we thought it was going to be easy when we went 2-0 up early on and relaxed too much."

The fight for the championship is renewed on Saturday when leaders Gulls host second from bottom Harrow Borough and rivals Gravesend -- level on points with a game in hand -- entertain a Grays side immediately below them.

The major date arrives next Tuesday when Gravesend host King's men, who have a goal difference nine better than their rivals, in the Ryman "match of the season", expected to be watched by a near 3,000 crowd.

Canvey have added to their strength in depth for the League battles ahead by signing former Southend United man Shane Wardley immediately after last night's game.

Published Thursday, March 21, 2002