Bearsted 1-2 Faversham Town - Success this year is doing better than last season so doing ourselves proud but listen, I'm not going to say we don't want to get promoted, it's the goal for the year, says Bearsted coach Elyon Marshall-Katung

Tuesday 10th October 2023
Bearsted 1 – 2 Faversham Town
Location Otham Sports Ground, Honey Lane, Otham, Maidstone, Kent ME15 8RG
Kickoff 10/10/2023 19:30

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 10 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Honey Lane

BEARSTED coach Elyon Marshall-Katung insists his players will be up there and competing for promotion from the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division after giving league leaders Faversham Town a run for their money at Honey Lane.

Faversham Town have now picked up 27 points from their 11 games, with the play-off places currently containing Glebe (25 points from 12 games), Corinthian (24 points from 12 games), Fisher (23 points from 12 games) and Erith Town (23 points from 12 games).

Faversham Town’s budget is rumoured to be £11,000 per week, while Glebe chairman Rocky McMillan confirmed last week that he has reduced his budget to £1,200 per week.  Corinthian and Fisher do not have a playing budget.  Erith & Belvedere won this ninth-tier division with a budget of £2,500 per week last season.

Sammy Moore’s side took 31 minutes to break a resilient Bearsted defence with striker Warren Mfula heading in his eleventh goal of the season, before central midfielder Billy Bennett tapped in their second in the final nine minutes.

Bearsted (with a budget of under £1,500) pulled a goal back through talisman striker Ollie Freeman, who came off the bench to drill in his seventh goal of the season, just a couple minutes later.

Moore’s side have now won their last seven games since losing 4-0 at Isthmian League Premier Division side Lewes in The FA Cup, while Bearsted lost their 100% home league record tonight.

Bearsted manager Keith Stevens said before the game that he was going to send out Marshall-Katung for post-match media duties, while Moore declined to comment.

“It was an interesting game.  I thought we dominated large parts of it. A little bit unlucky, a little bit naïve in terms of our defending the moments, which ultimately cost us the game,” said Marshall-Katung.

“The boys gave us a lot. They gave us a performance more than anything.  That’s what we asked for.

“We demanded a performance and we got that. When you go up against a team like Faversham, who have got the depth in the squad and got the financial capabilities that they do to bring in the players that they do, you go into the game and you approach the game and it’s a measure of where you’re at and looking at where we’re at, we’re not far off and we’ll be up there this season competing.”

The two sides played each other at Salters Lane on 12 September and Moore’s side came out 4-0 winners, but the Manchester City and Celtic of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division found Bearsted a tough nut to crack under the lights at Honey Lane.

Marshall-Katung said: “I think we were more prepared for what they had, without knowing too much about them in the first game, it was difficult to prepare but this game we knew a little bit more about them.  We knew how they set-up, so it gave us a slight advantage going into the game.”

Faversham Town started the game playing at a high-tempo and playing a direct style and created their first opening after only 137 seconds when Sam Hasler nicked the ball off Nathan Palmer some 35-yards from goal before driving towards the edge of the penalty area and cutting inside and hitting his left-footed drive over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Left-winger Kieron Campbell then played the ball inside to Bennett, who took a t ouch before hitting a right-footed drive that flashed past the foot of the left-post from 25-yards.

Faversham Town turned defence into attack as Bearsted goalkeeper Frankie Leonard was called into action in the 14th minute.

Bearsted’s right-winger Omotunmise Akanni whipped in a quality delivery with his left-foot from the left before the away side cleared the ball after it bounced a couple of times in their penalty area.

Akanni suffered an injury to his left shoulder tonight and Bearsted were already without Ryan Blake (quad) and Adam Turton (knee), who picked up knocks during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away to Whitstable Town.

“He’s off to hospital so we’ll get some sort of feedback later on tonight, so hopefully it’s not too bad,” Marshall-Katung said of Akani’s injury situation.

“He’s been one of our top performers the last couple of games, so if we can get him back, that will be perfect.”

Faversham Town swiftly broke and electrifying pace from striker Warren Mfula took him into the box but his shot was blocked by the legs of the Bearsted goalkeeper.

“That’s what Frankie’s there for,” said Marshall-Katung.

“He’s a good goalkeeper, a good distributor of the ball and obviously when he’s called upon, he’s there to make the saves, so he done a good job of it.”

Bearsted’s left-back Jordan Tingley clipped the legs of winger Ashley Miller within the right-channel but Sam Hasler drilled his left-footed free-kick into the base of the side netting.

Dominant Faversham Town kept knocking on the door and a couple of headers from Payne and Bennett set up a chance for Billy Bingham (who has dropped five levels from National League Bromley) clipped a left-footed drive into Leonard’s midriff from 20-yards.

Faversham Town enjoyed a five-minute spell of pressure before they deservedly took the lead with 30 minutes and 34 seconds on the clock.

Campbell cut the ball onto his right-foot before whipping in a cross towards the near post and Payne’s free-header was flicked on for Mfula to glance his header into the top left-hand corner from inside the six-yard box.

“I mean, if you look at the bit before that – that’s what I look at – and our clearance at that moment was a little bit naïve.  People don’t quite clear the ball properly, which allowed the cross to come back in. I thought it was a poor clearance from one of our players that lead to the goal but listen, the players are here to make mistakes and they’re going to learn on the job and move on,” said Marshall-Katung.

Campbell spun Bearsted’s right-back Dennis Agbudume before cutting in before drilling a low right-footed drive towards the base of the near-post, which was comfortably held by the impressive Leonard at his near-post.

“Kieron’s a good player.  I know Kieron quite well from growing up with him and playing with him. I know his capabilities. He put on a bit of a show today but I think we dealt with him quite well,” Marshall-Katung said of the former Herne Bay winger.

“He’s always going to be a threat when you have a player like that but we dealt with it pretty well, kept him quite for large parts and he didn’t impact the game too much, so quite happy with it to be honest.”

Bearsted ventured forward and created their only worthwhile attempt on goal of the first half just before half-time.

Striker William Johnson-Cole played the ball forward for left-winger Robbie Roberts, who fed the ball back to the former Punjab United striker, who was not pressed and allowed to curl his right-footed 35-yarder towards the top far corner, only for visiting goalkeeper Taite Holtam to make a comfortable save, patting the ball down before gathering at the second attempt.

Marshall-Katung said: “I mean that’s Will’s trademark isn’t it?  He gets that whip and that curl into the far corner in his locker, so it looked hopeful.

“He didn’t quite get the result that we wanted but we we’re happy with the performance and that was the main thing.  We’re happy with how every player has showed for us this season so far and in this game as well.”

Marshall-Katung called for Bearsted to be braver during the second half.

He said: “At half-time, it was more of the same to be honest with you, see how they set-up and you’re just reinforcing some of the principles that we wanted to look at and reinforcing how we wanted to play and imposing ourselves a little bit more in the game and be a little bit braver in and out of possession.”

Faversham Town created the first chance of the second half eight and a half minutes in when Hasler cut back his free-kick from close to the by-line back to Campbell (who wasn’t pressed) and his right-footed drive sailed over the crossbar.

A frustrated Payne (who scored one goal for National League South side Tonbridge Angels at the start of this season) was thrown in the sin-bin by referee Paul Agyei-Tabi (10:03-23:38).

“If you look at our defensive record, defensive unit, we don’t concede many (13 goals in 10 league games after tonight), so it’s something that we’re proud off.  Yes, we kept (Payne) quiet today, not many teams will keep him quiet and I’m quite happy with that,” added Marshall-Katung.

Miller’s through sent Mfula charging into the penalty area but the former Sheppey United striker lacked composure and drilled his shot into the side netting in the 18th minute of the second half.

“No panic there, no panic there.  I think it was pretty much covered,” came Marshall-Katung’s response to that chance.

“They’re going to have moments in the game, they’re going to have spells and chances being the side that they are.  I thought we dealt with it pretty well.  We kept both forwards pretty quiet throughout the game, so they’re going to get opportunities but it didn’t go in. We’re still in the game.”

Faversham Town – who won the corner-count 3-2 – created a chance with 10 men when Hasler floated in a corner from the left towards the back post for centre-half Connor Essam to glance his header harmlessly wide of the right-post.

Bearsted missed a glorious chance to grab an equaliser with 25:05 on the clock  - with the game now being eleven-a-side.

Freeman played the ball into the impressive Roberts, who cut inside and delivered a deep cross towards the back post, which was knocked down by Johnson-Cole (now playing wide left) and the ball fell to Nathan Palmer, whose weak shot was comfortably held by Holtam, low to his left, preventing the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner.

“I mean there was some really, really good play, good combinations from our attacking unit and our attacking line,” said Marshall-Katung.

“Robbie’s got that in the locker, again, another good player. A good, young player that’s joined the squad this year. 

“It just shows that we can create. It shows that we can unlock teams and I’m quite happy with it.”

Stevens has pulled off a transfer coup to bring former Holmesdale, Erith & Belvedere, Welling Town and VCD Athletic attacker Palmer to Bearsted.

“Nathan is a very good signing for us for a club at our stature. He’s a player that we felt we identified that we needed, a little bit more creativity. I think that’s something that he can give to us,” said Marshall-Katung.

Faversham Town seemingly killed the game off by scoring their second goal of the night with 35:01 on the clock.

Payne played the ball in from the right, Miller pressed inside the box and a ricochet fell Faversham’s way and the ball looped up and Leonard clawed the ball high to his right but the ball fell at Bennett, who stabbed the ball over the line from a couple of yards.

“It was a freakish goal, you’ll probably won’t see another goal like that this season,” said Marshall-Katung.

“It’s just the way things turn out. Unfortunately, it was another poor clearance from us, which lead to the opportunity.

“We didn’t deal with the ball well enough, that’s ok, we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on and we probably won’t concede another goal like that again this season, so it was just unlucky.”

Bearsted showed great character and desire during the game to compete against a higher standard of players and pulled a goal back with 37:15 on the clock, following a throw-in from the left.

Freeman then turned Essam before clinically drilling his right-footed shot into the bottom far corner from 25-yards.

“Ollie’s a good player, he notched 19 goals last season. He’s got that in his locker,” added Marshall-Katung, who revealed why Freeman started the game on the bench.

“We gave him a little bit of a rest today, as we’ve been using him quite a bit. He came on and impacted the game, which is what we wanted him to do and throws and things like that are something that we worked on and our re-starts, making sure we retain possession and get a goal coming off the back of that. It was fruitful for all of the hard work that we’re putting in.”

Marshall-Katung, meanwhile, wants more goals to come from other players.

“We need more goals in the team. We’ve brought in Will Johnson-Cole and Nathan Palmer and Ollie’s goals from last season. If he matches that again and everyone notches in, then we’ll be in a good position.”

Johnson-Cole tried to score from a speculative effort wide on the left from 35-yards, which sailed harmlessly wide (45:49), as Faversham Town ran out deserved winners.

“It’s devastating to give away the home record but we go again, we build again,” said Marshall-Katung.

“It’s a long season. We’re not even a quarter of the way there yet, so we’ve got more records to make, more records to build and that’s our goal for this year, really making a lasting impression in the league and do ourselves proud.”

Bearsted travel to Sporting Club Thamesmead (bottom of the First Division table with one draw and seven defeats from their opening eight games) in the Kent Senior Trophy First Round on Saturday.

“We’re just about mentality, it’s not about where they are in the league. Anyone can beat anyone really, so it’s about approaching it with the right mentality, making sure we get the job done on the day,” added Marshall-Katung.

“We might make some changes but who knows?  We just have to see how the players show up (at training) on Thursday (night) and make sure we look after the boys that we have available and then we’ll go and see how Saturday shows up.”

Bearsted finished in thirteenth-place in the table last season (48 points from 38 games) and travel to Bayliss Avenue sitting in ninth-place (15 points from 10 games) in the table, with the play-off places everyone’s target this season.

Marshall-Katung added: “Success for us is doing better than last season, so obviously doing ourselves proud internally but listen, I’m not going to say we don’t want to get promoted. It’s the goal for the year. How we do that, we don’t know, but we’ll see how the season shapes up.”

Bearsted: Frankie Leonard, Dennis Agbudume, Jordan-James Tingley, Alfie Saunders (Lewis Neale 77), Callum McCarthy, Daniel Melvin, Robbie Roberts (Devonte West 77), Joel Wakefield (Ryan Gooding 86), William Johnson-Cole, Nathan Palmer, Omotunmise Akani (Ollie Freeman 68).
Sub: Alfie Cragg

Goal: Ollie Freeman 83

Booked: Jordan Tingley 53

Faversham Town: Taite Holtam, Joshua Vincent, Matthew Newman, Billy Bingham, Connor Essam, Sam Hasler, Kieron Campbell (Oliver Gray 90), Billy Bennett (England Kurti 90), Warren Mfula, Stefan Payne (Jefferson Aibangbee 82), Ashley Miller.
Subs: Lewis Briggs, Sammy Moore

Goals: Warren Mfula 30, Billy Bennett 81

Temporary Dismissal:  Stefan Payne 56

Attendance: 187
Referee: Mr Paul Agyei-Tabi
Assistants: Mr Grant Steele & Mr Samsul Hadi
Observer:  Mr Robin Baker