Ashford United 0-0 Sheppey United - We're working hard to get the club to where we feel it should be, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Sunday 10th April 2016
Ashford United 0 – 0 Sheppey United
Location Gallagher Stadium, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ
Kickoff 10/04/2016 14:00

(Sheppey United win 7-6 on penalties)
Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final
Sunday 10th April 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Gallagher Stadium

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says guiding the club to their first Kent Reliance Senior Trophy success is a managerial career highlight.

The Islanders went into this showpiece final lying in third-place in the Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League table, having collected 74 points from their 33 league games.

They are battling it out with Bearsted (79 points) and Glebe (75) for the two promotion places into the Southern Counties East Football League Premier next season.

Ashford United arrived at Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League table, knowing that Greenwich Borough claimed the league title yesterday.

Although this Final finished goal-less after 90 minutes, a crowd of 870 were treated to a thrilling end-to-end game that had to be settled by 20 kicks in the penalty shoot-out.

Goalkeeper Dean Warford, 28, was to become Sheppey United’s hero by making four saves during the shoot-out, keeping out Luke Cuthbert’s penalty to the delight of the high number and vocal supporters from the Island.

“It means a hell of a lot to us,” said Ernie Batten after the drama unfolded.

“We’ve worked very hard this season to try to progress the club and to get this trophy is fantastic for the club and the supporters.

“The supporters were unbelievable today. I believe it was a record crowd today, someone’s just told me in there. It doesn’t surprise me. We’ve been growing all season and I thought we played really well today. We played good football. We deserved it over 90 minutes.”

Ashford United manager Danny Lye watched the drama unfold from the technical area.

He said: “It’s one of them, you’ve got to lose it somehow. To be fair there’s a few chances for both teams but it was one of those games weren’t it?

“We were direct all game today. We didn’t get the ball down and play, which was a bit frustrating. It was one of them. You can’t play well every week.

“It weren’t to be this year. We’ve had a good season. After the (10 points) were taken off us it was hard to keep going but it’s a cup final today, the boys don’t need motivating, it’s just one of them, it didn’t really go for us today.”

The Nuts & Bolts were title challengers along with Greenwich Borough and Hollands & Blair but losing ten points through their off-the-field issues have cost them.

But Lye must take credit for keeping his players together and focused when so many could have jumped ship.

“I said to the boys do your best, let’s win, let’s get our points, let’s finish nine points behind Greenwich and that way we’ve won the league in our hearts you know and that’s how we’ve tried to keep it going,” he said.

“But momentum was hard to keep it going to be fair when they lost the points because they were disappointed, as they should be.

“The boys have done brilliant all year and to not get any silverware this year, it’s a bit of a failure really, is how we see it for me and Shaun Welford.”

Sheppey United’s brilliant supporters saw Ashford United start the game in a dominant fashion.

Michael Phillips stepped up and hit his right-footed free-kick from 19-yards straight into the hands of Warford who made a comfortable catch after only 104 seconds.

Shaun Welford launched a trademark long throw towards the near post, the ball was flicked on by Pat Kingwell and Phillips ghosted in at the back post to plant his header over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.

Ashford United winger Ryan Palmer, 24, got married yesterday and came agonisingly close to opening the scoring inside seven minutes, but his first time left-footed drive from 12-yards bounced off the foot of the left-hand post.

“If that goes in, it’s a different game, that’s football,” said Lye.

“I thought we started well. We put them under pressure early and they grew into the game. They wanted to hit us on the break. They were quite good at doing that and we didn’t really deal with it.”

Batten added: “Yes, I mean that’s what the post is there for, to keep them out of your goal, so I’m sure the keeper had it covered.”

Batten then admitted: “I think they settled a little bit quicker than us.  It took us ten minutes to find our feet. Once we got over that period I thought we came back into the game and it was fairly even-Stevens up to half-time.”

Sheppey United rode the early Ashford storm and started getting back into the game, creating their first opening after 15 minutes.

Left-winger Ben O’Neill sped past a couple of Ashford defenders and his low cross-come-shot forced George Kamurasi to get down low to his left to use his left hand to push the ball away to safety.

Sheppey United’s 24-goal striker David Abe rolled the ball inside to an unmarked James Huggins, who cracked his first time right-footed drive into Kamurasi’s hands from 35-yards.

Sheppey United’s trophy-lifting captain Ian Batten was fouled by Phillips, the Ashford United wall lined up on the 18-yard line but Darren Marsden’s right-footed free-kick sailed over the bar.

Sheppey United squandered a great chance to break the stalemate in the 26th minute.

Impressive central midfielder Huggins pinged a sublime diagonal pass straight at O’Neill’s feet, his low centre from the left was flicked past the foot of post with his right-foot from six-yards.

Boss Batten said: “We were all jumping up in the air. I saw Dave coming in on the blind side and I thought he just needs to poke this ion and agonisingly it rolls past the post!”

Ian Batten and Huggins linked up in midfield but O’Neill’s speculative left-footed drive from 35-yards bounced harmlessly wide.

Ashford United’s best first half chance, other than hitting the post through Palmer, arrived in the 37th minute.

Pat Kingwell played the ball out of defence to Phillips, who swept the ball out wide to George Savage.  The right-back was given time and space to float in a cross into the penalty area for Welford to launch a trademark towering header, which dropped just over the crossbar and landed on the top of the roof of the net from 12-yards.

Lye revealed he doesn’t want to lose key members of his squad.

“We’ve started to think about next year. I’ve already got a couple of budgets set-up. A budget for the worst case scenario and a budget what’s going on the court case and obviously the budget we want.

“But we’re building, we’re looking for a good season next year and we’ve got a group of boys who want to improve.

“We need a young me to go in midfield and a couple of youngsters to go around them (Welford and Booth).

“But Shaun (Welford) wants another year. If you give him another year he'll score another 30-odd goals next year because he’s got quality.

“Boothy wants to play again so we need a couple of youngsters in and around them to add to the squad.”

There was then a lull in play, but the game sparked into life as the game headed towards half-time.

Otherwise quiet right-winger Taser Hassan whipped in a cross into the Sheppey United box and Welford directed his downward header too hard, the ball bounced off the artificial pitch and looped over the bar from four-yards.

Sheppey United created the last chance of the first half when Huggins played in Marsden, but his shot was blocked by Kamurasi at the near post.

An entertaining first half came to an end, where fans reflected on how it remained goal-less at the break.

Batten said: “I thought it was a great game of football. It was end-to-end, there was some good football played throughout and it certainly wasn’t a typical 0-0.

“We said to the boys to keep going. We were a little bit concerned with them getting balls around the back of us into the box.  They’ve got some good strikers and they had a chance just prior to half-time, the header just past the post so we needed to stop the crosses from the by-line and we just had to brush up on that and play our game because offensively I  thought we played really well.”

Lye added: “I said we need to build our play up. We need to pass it, we need to start going through the midfield and keep the ball better.  We were rushing our attacks and trying to do them on the break. As soon as it gets caught out you don’t have any tempo to it so I said to them try to keep the ball better.”

Ashford United almost broke the stalemate with only 23 seconds on the clock.

Central midfielder Ben Davisson slipped the ball into striker Paul Booth, whose right-footed low drive from 25-yards forced Warford into making a smart low save to his right.

Lye said: “Boothy wants it into feet and if you keep it going long Sheppey obviously know what Shaun Welford and Boothy can do, so they were happy to sit back quite deep and have their back four set up and our boys didn’t really work it out. We should be breaking up play for them, breaking them down to get Sheppey to come out.”

Sheppey United right-back Marvin Okandulaiya clipped the ball up to Marsden, who kept the ball at his feet outside the D before playing a reverse ball to put Abe through on goal from within the left-hand side of the penalty area but he dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Adam Williams found space down the right to float over a cross towards the far post, the ball came out to O’Neill, whose shot bounced towards the far corner, Kamurasi gathering the ball to his left.

Hassan’s hanging corner from the right was headed on by Welford and Sheppey cleared the ball out to Ashford substitute Chris Saunders who drilled his right-footed drive past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Marsden cut the ball back to left-back Joseph Fornah, who whipped in a cross, the ball came out to Ralph, whose deflected drive from 35-yards bounced into Kamurasi’s hands for another comfortable save from the Ashford stopper.

Ashford United’s 33-goal striker Welford wasted a great chance as the second half reached the halfway point.

A big kick from Kamurasi was chased down by the striker who saw Warford rush outside the corner of his penalty area and fail to clear the ball away and Welford drilled his shot over an empty goal, although from a long way out on the left hand side of the penalty area.

Then it was the turn for Booth to miss a chance as Hassan’s cross from the right wasn’t cleared well by Okandulaiya and Booth drilled his shot past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

Sheppey United were to be denied by a goal-line clearance with 21 minutes left.

Fornah split open the Ashford defence to put Abe through on goal, who skipped past the advancing Kamurasi but the angle was too tight from the left by-line and Cuthbert got back at the near post to clear the ball off the line.

Batten revealed: “We work very hard in training, we’re a very fit side. Our training attendance is excellent and I think that showed with the fitness towards the end. I think we finished the stronger.

“Yes, it all got a bit exciting towards the end with a few chances. One could’ve gone in there. Ashford had their own chances as well so I think overall the 0-0, I think we shaded it but what pleased me was our performance.”

Lye added: “It’s a cup final isn’t it? If you don’t take your chances, there’s a good chance that they take theirs!”

Palmer should have done better with a free-kick from just outside the corner of the penalty area, smashing his right-footed penalty over the bar and into the section housing Ashford fans behind the goal.

Sheppey United used their fitness levels to finish the game strongly and in a dominant fashion during the final ten minutes.

Marsden twisted and turned on the edge of the D and rolled the ball back to substitute Tommy Wooldridge, who put Abe through on goal but once again Kamurasi made a vital block as he advanced.

Lye said: “It was an end-to-end game wasn’t it. They had chances, we had chances. Second half they probably had better chances than we did. That’s where big George came into his own. He made some great saves and kept us at 0-0.”

Sheppey United brought on Andy Constable and the big target-man knocked down Huggins’ free-kick but Abe hooked his shot past the right-hand post.

Abe then centred the ball to Marsden, who stroked his right-footed across the diving Kamurasi and past the far post from 20-yards.

Batten handed Marsden only his second game for the club, having played for Ashford United and Hythe Town this season.

He said: “Darren’s come to us late in the season. He’s seen the potential that we’ve got. He wants to play regular football and you could see his quality around the box. He gets it at his feet, he can undo defences for you and that’s what he nearly did.”

Ashford United almost won it when Chris Saunders found Welford, whose shot from the edge of the box forced Warford to dive to his right to make the save.

Sheppey United created the last two chances of the game.

Kamurasi used his right hand to deny Marsden as he was played in behind the Ashford defence by Constable’s fine pass.

Wooldridge then curled his 30-yard shot into Kamurasi’s hands from the right as both sides had to settle for a penalty shoot-out.

Batten added: “I was expecting a goal in the 90 minutes so I wasn’t really thinking about penalties until when I saw the fourth official put the board up, there was three minutes to go.”

Lye added: “I was having it in my mind it was going to penalties from quite an early stage so when the penalties came in you know who wants to take them, you know who doesn’t want to. As they go on and you go through the penalties and seven and eight are taking penalties (they don’t want to take penalties!).

Abe got the ball rolling for Sheppey by finding the right-hand corner, as Kamurasi guessed the right way.

The experienced Booth then stepped up and his right-footed penalty nestled into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Warford the wrong way.

The first player to miss was to be Sheppey United’s Constable, his right-footed penalty was saved by Warford, diving to his right.

Palmer stepped up to give Ashford United a 2-1 lead by finding the bottom left-hand corner, making up for hitting the post earlier in the game.

Marsden, who scooped the man-of-the-match-award, tied things up at 2-2 after five penalties, drilling his shot onto the bottom left-hand corner.

Ashford United defender Kingwell bravely volunteered to take his side’s third spot-kick but as he attempted to place his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, Warford dived the same way to make the save.

Sheppey edged 3-2 in front with left-back Fornah clinically lashing his right-footed penalty into the roof of the net.

But Ashford United sub Tommy Fagg, who was booked within seven minutes of coming off the bench, had his penalty saved by Warford, who dived to his right.

Sheppey United squandered a great chance to win the game 4-2 when Wooldridge stepped up and stroked his right-footed penalty against the base of the left-hand post.

Welford held his nerve, been there, done it and got the t-shirt, by keeping Ashford United in the game, by slotting his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner – to make it 3-3 after 10 kicks.

It was now into sudden-death, with players taking penalties who didn’t want to take their first five.

Huggins stepped up for Sheppey United and make it 4-3 by placing his right-footed shot into the right-hand corner.

Ashford midfielder Davisson found the bottom right-hand corner to keep his side alive and kicking.

Sheppey United right-back Okandulaiya held his nerve by lashing his right-footed penalty into the top right-hand corner to score a perfect penalty.

The score was 5-5 after 14 penalties when Ashford left-back Dickens found the bottom right-hand corner, despite Warford guessing the right way.

Sheppey skipper Ian Batten sent Kamurasi the wrong way, rolling his right-footed shot into the popular bottom right-hand corner.

Ashford sub Chris Saunders found the bottom left-hand corner with his right-footed penalty to make it 6-6 after 16 penalties.

The next two were saved as the crowd held its breath as the shoot-out reached fever pitch.

Sheppey United central defender Rob Saunders right-footed penalty was heading for the bottom right-hand corner but Kamurasi made a fine diving save.

Ashford United’s right-back Savage saw Warford make his third save of the dramatic shoot-out, a right-footed penalty.

Sheppey United were now on the brink to glory when central defender Ralph stepped up and stroked his right-footed penalty into the back of the net.

There has to be one player that misses the vital kick and that fell on Luke Cuthbert’s shoulders, his right-footed penalty bringing another fine diving save from hero Warford to get the party started on the Island.

Batten was being hugged and kissed by proud chairman Matthew Smith by the time he was asked about the dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Batten said: “That’s incredible….that’s got to be the chairman?”

“The penalties, Dean’s disappointed he didn’t save a couple more, he told me after the game but I’ve forgiven him anyway. Anyway, he saved enough. They had a chance to win it, I believe was it once or twice? I can’t remember. They had one penalty to win it so it was tight.”

Naturally, Lye refused to blame Cuthbert for the defeat.

“I said to the boys that took the penalties, you don’t lose it. We lost it today because we didn’t perform. Normally we keep the ball well, we’re good at building the play up. Today, I thought we went long to Shaun up top far too much!

“Luke’s not really a penalty taker is he? Everyone has to step up and everyone has to take them. They’re brave boys for stepping up. Not everyone likes taking penalties. I’d rather it be him rather than one of the youngsters who misses the final penalty.”

Reflecting on Sheppey United’s Greatest Day, Batten says the club will enjoy promotion at the end of the season to play Ashford United in the League next season.

“That’s our aim, this club. That’s where this club’s got to be.   We’ve got to be in the next league up.  You could see the support today, incredible.

“The whole club’s geared, the stadium’s all geared for higher league football so I said to the lads we’ve got another five cup finals now starting on Wednesday evening up at Forest Hill, back down to earth with a bang!

“The club is in its infancy and the journey starts. We’re working very hard, the chairman’s working very hard. We’ve got players now that want to come to the club ad we just have to take one game at a time, one week at a time, working hard to get the club to where we feel it should be.”

Ashford travel to fifth-placed Sevenoaks Town on Wednesday night.

Lye revealed: “I’ve already said to the boys, the boys who were on the bench today they’ll be playing on Wednesday. We’ll swap it around now for the last three games, shuffle the squad around, make sure everyone gets plenty of minutes.”

ON THE BRINK: Sheppey United defender John Ralph steps up to score Sheppey United's final penalty.
Photo: Alan Coombes

HEARTBREAK: Ashford United defender Luke Cuthbert has the 20th penalty saved by Dean Warford, who pulled off four penalty saves as Sheppey United claimed the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy for the first time with a 7-6 win on penalties.
Photo: Alan Coombes

CHAMPIONS: Sheppey United celebrate winning the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy for the first time after holding their nerve from the penalty spot, with goalkeeper Dean Warford pulling off four saves during a 20 kick shoot-out.
Photo: Alan Coomes

Ashford United: George Kamurasi, George Savage, Charlie Dickens, Luke Cuthbert, Ben Davisson, Pat Kingwell, Ryan Palmer, Michael Phillips (Chris Saunders 59), Shaun Welford, Paul Booth, Taser Hassan (Tommy Fagg 75).
Subs: Dan Cook, Mikey Dalton

Booked: George Savage 65, Tommy Fagg 82

Sheppey United: Dean Warford, Marvin Okandulaiya, Joseph Fornah, Rob Saunders, Jon Ralph, James Huggins, Darren Marsden, Adam Williams (Andy Constable 83), David Abe, Ian Batten, Ben O’Neill (Tommy Wooldridge 72).
Subs: George Batten, Carl Harrold, Andrew Thompson

Booked: Marvin Okandulaiya 28

Attendance: 870
Referee: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester)
Assistants: Mr Ben Bowles (Halling) & Mr Chris Page (Bromley)
Fourth Official: Ms Louise Saunders (Rochester)