Stansfeld 0-1 Punjab United - It's in our own hands, says title-chasing Punjab United boss Jugjit Sian
Stansfeld 0 – 1 Punjab United
|Location||Foxbury Avenue, off Perry Street, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6SD|
STANSFELD 0-1 PUNJAB UNITED
Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Monday 16 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Foxbury Avenue
PUNJAB UNITED manager Jugjit Sian says his side have nothing to fear in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division next season after securing back-to-back promotions.
The Gravesend based outfit will claim back-to-back titles with a victory in their last game of the season at Bromley based side Holmesdale on Saturday after comfortably beating 13th placed Stansfeld tonight.
ON THE BRINK: Punjab United
are now just one win away from
winning the Southern Counties
East Football League First
Division title after Nicholas
Donaldson (red) heads in the
only goal of the game to beat
Stansfeld at Foxbury Avenue
Photo: Andy Clay
Recalled striker Nicholas Donaldson headed in the only goal of the game to score his 11th goal of the season but the scoreline should have been a lot more, if it wasn’t for an outstanding performance from Stansfeld keeper Lewis Collier, 17.
Champions-elect Punjab United have 89 points in the bag and can only lose the title if Lee Roots side beat them at Oakley Road at the weekend and runners-up K Sports (on 85 points) claim maximum points against Erith & Belvedere on Saturday and here against Stansfeld next Monday.
A physical Stansfeld side had central defender George Martin red-carded for a second half lunge.
“I thought Stansfeld done really well as well, I thought they battled really hard,” said Sian.
“We had a game plan to come out here and be tight and hit them on the breaks on their wings and we did and we should’ve made it a little bit more comfortable but the keeper made some great saves.
“It was a little bit nerve wrecking at the end. I’m glad we got the result. It means on Saturday now we can go and we know what we have to do.”
Punjab United bossed the game and should have opened the scoring inside the opening four minutes when winger Sonny Poonia played in striker George Goodwin, who dragged his right-footed shot past the far post from 15-yards.
“It’s been like that for the last few weeks to be honest with you. I know we’ve dragged out a couple of one-nils but we should be scoring a lot more,” admitted Sian, whose side have kept five clean sheets on the bounce as they close in on the title.
“The last four or five games of the season we’ve sort of dropped off but George will normally bang in goals for fun but this last four or five games we’ve been a bit nervy and we’ve made it hard work.
“It would’ve been a bit easy now we’ve been promoted. I thought the boys can relax a little bit but now we can go for the title, it’s even more nerve wracking!”
Stansfeld were off-target from their first effort on goal shortly afterwards when quiet winger Jake Williams played the ball inside to Sam Ryan, who hit a left-footed drive harmlessly wide from 25-yards.
Punjab United claimed the points as early as 11 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.
Adam Cuthbert played the ball along the ground to Poonia, who appeared offside but the flag stayed down and the ball was played back to Donaldson, who slipped the ball back to Poonia.
Donaldson’s low drive was blocked by Collier’s legs, who got up and should have caught the ball but was impeded by team-mate Charlie Burgess. Donaldson showed the desire to loop his header over the keeper into the net from a couple of yards out from a tight angle.
“Nicks’s been great for me. The last three or four weeks I’ve left him out a little bit and brought a few other plays in just to give him a rest and I brought him back in tonight for his first game in a few weeks and he’s been really, really good,” explained Sian.
Stansfeld came agonisingly close to grabbing an equaliser with 24 minutes on the clock.
Ryan played a one-two with Martin and whipped in a quality deep cross into the Punjab box and 25-goal striker Billy Shinners rose to plant his header across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post from 12-yards.
Sian said: “We knew what their threat was. We knew they would go long ball and they’re going to hit him and they’re going to run off him. I thought we coped all night quite well with his presence but look, they’re going to get a chance here and there but we kept him quiet.”
Pubjab central defender Paul Lorraine played the ball into Goodwin, who drove forward before reaching the edge of the box before setting up Donaldson, who sublimely turned his man inside the D and hitting a right-footed shot which was beaten away by Collier.
Lorraine, 34, was and still is Punjab United’s biggest signing, after coaxing him from Bostik South side Cray Wanderers last summer after the club won the Kent County League Premier Division title at the first attempt.
Sian said: “Massive, massive! He was key to everything I wanted this season. I wanted to strengthen my defence with a senior player and it’s exactly what we did. We met Paul through Ebbsfleet because we’re right next door and he said he wanted to drop down because he’s at the grammar school teaching. It just worked out perfect for both really because he’s local, he gets home in quick time, he trains local, it worked out perfect.”
Cuthbert then floated in a free-kick into Stansfeld box, Lorraine knocked the ball down at the far post and lively striker Anthony Adesite looped his shot on the turn straight into Collier’s hands from six-yards.
Stansfeld went close to equalising in the 39th minute when Michael McKenna’s square pass was hit first time by Shinners from 35-yards, which dipped in front of keeper Lee Kidman, who got down on his knees to make a vital stop to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom left-hand corner.
“I must admit, I said to them before the game you’ve got to watch out for him, don’t give him that room, make sure he goes backwards rather than go towards your goal. For the majority we done it. Lee’s been superb, I think he’s kept five clean successive clean sheets now.”
Punjab central midfielder Joe Loft clipped the ball into the box and Donaldson shrugged off the attentions of marker Martin inside the box and the ball ran through for Poonia, who swept his shot just wide.
“Sonny’s been playing right-back for the last few games and today I put him on the wing so I knew they would counter on one side so he can be defensive and attacking as well. Sonny was great, just a shame he didn’t score,” added Sian.
Adesite then played in Goodwin, who flashed a first time left-footed drive past the diving keeper and past the far post from 22-yards.
Sian was delighted that his side could mix it with a physical outfit in Stansfeld.
“I must admit, it’s the best I’ve seen them battle all year. The boys can do both, they can play football, they can battle and that’s why the teams so mixed up. We can cope with any game plan anyone can throw at us.
“We just said to them this is your biggest 45 minutes because Saturday is in your own hands then, so the boys battled, that’s all we said.”
Stansfeld created the first opening of the second half, following their first corner of the game in the first four minutes.
Jolley swung in the ball from the right but Shinners got underneath the ball to steer his header over the crossbar at the near post.
Punjab were wasteful during the second half, however, as the post saved Stansfeld going two goals down in the 56th minute.
Cuthbert played a long ball to release Goodwin down the left and his left-footed drive flashed across the keeper, bounced against the foot of the far post and Collier received a huge slice of luck as the ball rolled into his grateful hands.
Sian admitted: “I actually thought it was going to be one of those days today and they probably end up breaking away and score in the last minute! It’s been like that for the last four or five weeks.”
A big kick from Collier was met by McKenna’s left-footed shot on the turn from 35-yards, which was comfortably gathered by the Punjab keeper Lee Kidman.
Referee John Quirke pulled out a straight red-card in the 66th minute and sent off Martin after Goodwin was brought down by a Stansfeld sandwich of Howard (who was on a yellow card) and Martin, both sliding in.
“To be honest I didn’t really see a clear view of it when we were on our side but it looked quite high so I’m not sure what the ref saw,” said Sian.
“Maybe he saw it as a high challenge and sent him off, maybe it was verbal afterwards, I don’t know, but it was going on all game really wasn’t it and to be fair 50/50 weren’t it, I think, I’m not sure if was a sending off but fair play to him.”
Stansfeld’s should have done better with a chance following Jolley’s second corner of the night, which was half-cleared out to Howard, who drilled his half-volley on the turn over the crossbar from 22-yards.
Sian brought on pacy striker William Johnson-Cole and he had a number of chances to add to his 21 goals this season as Stansfeld tired in the final 10 minutes.
Goodwin released Johnson-Cole through on goal and his shot was superbly blocked by Collier’s legs, who then reacted quickly to get up to push Cuthbert’s downward header around the post.
“He was actually excellent,” Sian said of Collier’s heroic goalkeeping.
“We changed it and put William Johnson-Cole up front to give a bit more pace, a bit more direct and he goes and saves Will’s shots as well!
“There was nothing I could do, we weren’t going to get past him again today no matter what we tried!
“Will’s been fantastic. He’s just coming back from holiday today so he’s just come back in from Gatwick straight here so that’s how much he wanted to play.”
Cuthbert crossed for Goodwin to be denied a goal when his downward header at the far post was blocked by the keeper’s legs.
Shinners was Stansfeld’s only goalscoring threat and the striker met substitute Freddie Hamlin’s cross from the right with a near post header, which Kidman grabbed hold off to his left inside the final four minutes.
Johnson-Cole was released down the left and cut inside to drag his shot past the far post when he only had Collier to beat.
Cuthbert’s free-kick was met by Goodwin’s header, which was blocked by the outstanding Collier, who capped off an excellent night by diving to his right to push behind Johnson-Cole’s angled drive from 20-yards.
Despite Punjab’s dominance and chances it was inevitable that Stansfled would have one last chance but midfielder Joe Clark sent his header over the crossbar after meeting Jolley’s third and final corner just seconds before the final whistle.
“I said to the boys you’ve got to be switched on right until the end, don’t let anything go to the final whistle. I think we deserved the result, we deserved the three points,” said Sian.
Looking ahead to their must-win game at fifth-placed Holmesdale, Sian said: “It’s in our own hands, that’s all I can say. We played Holmesdale last week and they were a good side and they’re going to give us another good game again. We know it’s going to be a battle up there but it’s football. I’m just hoping that we can turn up and the chances that we missed today, hopefully we can bang them in on Saturday, enjoy the day. Whatever happens we’re promoted to the Premier so it’s been an unbelievable season.”
Sian can then start preparing for the highest level of football that the club has played at.
“I know what I need and I’ll be looking at that after the season’s finished. I done my shopping a little bit early this season and I’ll probably do the same again and that way we can prepare well for pre-season and go again.
“I’m looking forward to it but I don’t think we’ve got anything to fear because at the end of the day people said to me you won’t do well this year and we’ve come in and done really well, so why not?
“I just want to compete. I just want to make sure we go out there and compete every game and where we end up we end up. I don’t feel we have anything to fear from any team.
“I think people laughed at me five years ago when I said I’m going to take this club forward and we will be Bostik South and people said to me you’ll never get it!
“I think people had a smirk on their face we wouldn’t even get out of the Kent County Premier and that’s what I say, don’t expect no-one else, believe in what you’re doing, get a good team around you, I’ve got a great management team behind me, you can’t do it yourself.
“The whole club runs perfectly together with the good people, with all good people in the right direction, anything’s possible and we’re on of those teams that have done it. People said we wouldn’t do it! Look where we are now, we’re in the SCEFL Premier with the big boys!”
Stansfeld: Lewis Collier, Billy Jolley, Frankie Beale, Joe Clark, George Martin, Charlie Burgess, Sam Ryan, Charlie Howard (Freddie Hamlin 86), Billy Shinners, Michael McKenna, Jake Williams.
Subs: Jack Gibbons, Bobby Holley, Michael Zanelli, Greg Summersby
Booked: Billy Jolley 28, Charlie Howard 31, Jake Williams 86, Sam Ryan 90
Sent Off: George Martin 66
Punjab United: Lee Kidman, Gianoulis Fakinos, Sam Olaofe, Adam Cuthbert, Paul Lorraine, Diljit Boora, Sonny Poonia (Ryan Jarrett 77), Joe Loft, Anthony Adesite, George Goodwin, Nicholas Donaldson (William Johnson-Cole 63).
Subs: Arun Suman, Luke Adams, Camen Bhandal
Goal: Nicholas Donaldson 12
Referee: Mr John Quirke (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Christopher Dodd (Eltham, London SE9) & Mr Harry Graham (Orpington)
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