Bearsted 0-2 APM Contrast - We didn't turn up tonight. APM wanted it more than us, admits Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens

Wednesday 20th April 2016
Bearsted 0 – 2 APM Contrast
Location Otham Sports Ground, Honey Lane, Otham, Maidstone, Kent ME15 8RG
Kickoff 20/04/2016 19:30

Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League
Wednesday 20th April 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Honey Lane

BEARSTED manager Kevin Stevens admits his players didn’t turn up for their local derby against in-form APM Contrast.

The Bears went into their final three games sitting two points clear of big-spending Sheppey United needing five points to claim the Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League crown for the first time.

But APM Contrast extended their unbeaten run to seven games with a deserved 2-0 victory, courtesy of an early strike from central defender Liam Dawson, who netted his second goal of the season.

Bearsted central midfielder Mike Holiday had his penalty brilliantly saved by Paperboys’ goalkeeper Ryan Chandler on the stroke of half-time.

Striker Caine Smith came off the bench to score his 22nd goal of the season as APM Contrast hit Bearsted on a devastating counter-attack towards the end of the game.

“We didn’t turn up tonight, local derby, APM wanted it more than us,” admitted Stevens after his side’s fifth league defeat of the season.

“They’re on a good unbeaten run, 13 games I think it is.  We didn’t do the basics right.  We gave them a sloppy goal to start with. I think we controlled it after 25 minutes but we’re not actually creating a lot.

“We spoke about getting back to basics, what we’ve built our season around. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, they hit is on the break as you saw.

“Very disappointing but the lads have worked hard this season. We’ve had 28 goals against, I think it is, in 35 games, obviously 30 goals now (in 36 league games) now and we’ve built our season around not conceding, getting the basics right.

“We gave ourselves a lifeline. We still have got to win our last two.  We had to win two of our last three games to be champions. I still believe we’ll do that.”

“It was deserved, the lads were outstanding tonight again, that’s what we’ve been like since maybe the middle of January,” said APM Contrast’s manager Kris Browning after his side extended their unbeaten run to fourteen league games.

“We got stuck in and we didn’t give any teams any time or anything else like that. This was a local derby to us so I personally think whoever we play in a local derby the lads have got to be up for it.  It was just a great performance.”

“Bearsted are a good outfit, a very good side. It’s a massive local derby, there’s a little bit of history there where we came here to groundshare for two seasons. A lot of things were said about us and we kind of went back to Cobdown with our tails between our legs because it never worked out.

“It’s a great win but credit to Bearsted, they’re not top of the table for any other reason. I really sincerely wish them the best.  I know how hard they worked when we were groundsharing with them.

“I hope they do go up. They’re our local rivals and everything else but they are a decent club. You never hear a bad word said about them but to come here and get three points from my lads is absolutely amazing!”

A crowd of 83 witnessed a first half that was uninspiring, due to the fact of the windy conditions made life difficult for these two top-six sides.

APM Contrast winger Gabriel Blaise looped the ball into Scott Andrews hands after Jason Perry whipped in a hanging cross from the left inside the opening six minutes.

Holliday powered his right-footed free-kick high over the Paperboys’ crossbar from 30-yards, before APM Contrast opened the scoring with 9 minutes and 32 seconds on the clock.

Dawson came upfield for a set-piece and left-winger Robbie Dengate whipped in a cross from the left flank, the ball was headed clear to Dawson, who hooked his left-footed volley past Scott Andrews to find the right-hand corner.

“Oh brilliant! He’s been immense, he’s one of the players I got from Kent County football,” said Browning.

“He’s come up and he’s just been absolutely superb for us this season.  He deserves that goal to be honest with you.

“We work on set-pieces in training, we only get one session as week because of money and what we can pay for and we try to work on set-pieces. We try to get movement in the box and it’s paid off for us.”

Stevens added: “Sloppy defending from us. It was just poor marking from us in the first place and it’s something we do good every single week so yes, disappointing to give them an easy start after that time.”

APM Contrast shaded most of the first half in terms of possession and desire but real clear cut chances were at a premium in this local derby.

APM Contrast did put the ball into the back of Bearsted’s net in the 34th minute but referee Mark Cheeseman blew up for a foul.

APM right-back Martin Di Fede delivered a corner from the right and Bearsted keeper Scott Andrews dropped the ball and Nick Nowotny felt he scored against his old club but the whistle was blown for a foul.

Browning said: “I thought it was a bit harsh there but he (the referee) was close to it than we were.  There weren’t many complaints from our lads at half-time. Obviously there was a slight push there, you can’t really touch keeper’s nowadays can you?”

Stevens added: “It’s hard to tell from the technical area so some go for you and some don’t and luckily enough that went for us but I couldn’t see if it was a push.”

That let-off appeared to give Bearsted the kick up the backside that they needed and they finished the first half as the dominant force.

Stevens said: “Again we just started slow, they were 100 miles-per-hour. They were rushing us and fair play to them. They were on their game. They just put us under pressure.  They know we like to try to play football.  From the management we was disappointed but the lads don’t often let us down like that.”

Set-piece specialist Holiday swung in a teasing free-kick from just outside the corner of the penalty area but Graeme Andrews, who was later forced off with cramp, ghosted in to direct the ball past the far post.

Bearsted right-back Andy Foster pumped a long ball forward towards the edge of the penalty area where central defender Rob Lyall rose to plant his towering header harmlessly wide from 20-yards.

Sam Flisher played a lovely pass that cut open Di Fede to put left-winger Ollie Bartrum through on goal. He cut inside but his right-footed shot from 20-yards brought a comfortable save from Chandler.

Browning said: “They had a 10 minute period where they picked us off a little bit but again you can’t go through any games without the team, especially the home team (having a spell of pressure).

“It took them 35 minutes to get a grip of the game. We snuffed them out really to be fair and Bogdan’s only had one save to make and that was the penalty.”

Eagle eyed assistant John Quirke flagged when he spotted Dawson’s off-the-ball foul on Andy Hart inside the penalty area and referee Mark Cheeseman consulted the assistant before awarding Bearsted the penalty.

Holiday stepped up and stroked his right-footed penalty towards the right corner but Chandler pulled off a brilliant save, diving to his left to palm the ball around the post for a corner.

Both managers were asked about the penalty incident and Chandler’s brilliant save.

“Yes, I was looking straight at that. I think all day long it was a penalty,” said the Bearsted manager.

“Mike Holiday normally puts them away. A couple of guys behind the goal said it was a worldy save by the goalkeeper. From our angle you couldn’t see how far in the corner Mike went but it looked a well struck penalty. It looked decent to me but the keeper pulled off a worldy to sum up our night in a way.”

Browning said: “I think it was a coming together. He said he walked across on his toes so he just pushed him off the toes and for the linesman to give it that far away and not really know what’s going on, I thought it was a bit harsh to be honest with you.

“Brilliant save. We call him crazy because he is crazy as you’ve seen. It really is a great save. He has got that in his locker. I got him from Staplehurst reserves, he was playing out on the pitch and he was available. I got him in, he’s cost us one or two goals but tonight he’s redeemed all that, he’s kept us a clean sheet.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

Stevens said: “Just settle it down a little bit! Just slow it down a fraction, don’t rush it, keep hold of the ball. That’s what we do best. It’s just disappointing we said go back to basics which is what we’re good at. Keep the ball, keep our shape. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen tonight.”

Browning said: “I just said keep going. They didn’t know how to break us down or how to play against us, they didn’t know what to expect.  I don’t know what they were expecting so I said do the same, keep pressing, get the ball down looking to play like we did, especially get it in behind the full-backs and the centre halves because they were slow back there.”

The start of the second half was a tight affair as APM Contrast’s defence was well-marshalled by Dawson and their captain Michael Russell.

But Bearsted were to be twice denied by two fine saves from Chandler just before the hour mark.

Hart drilled his shot towards the far corner, which forced Chandler to dive low to his left to parry and the ball looped towards the centre of goal but his left-back Marc Morrison showed enough desire to get back to spectacularly hook the ball off the line.

Stevens said: “Again, we’re shouting it’s gone over the line but who knows? We’re too far away to see.

“We didn’t play well, the lads know that. They’re really disappointed with themselves.  They know that but like everything that went against you went against you but don’t take anything away from APM.”

Browning added: “We rode our luck a bit. We cleared it off the line. It’s ricochet off Scholsey (Morrison), who was outstanding as well. Bogdan parried it, it hits Scholsey on the knee and then he dived in. That’s his desire, a lot of other lads would’ve let that one go in but he’s dived in there and he’s kept it out.”

Chandler must have seen Flisher’s right-footed drive from 22-yards late but he still managed to dive to his left to parry the ball towards safety.

Stevens added: “Sam works, he runs, runs and runs Sam. He’ll always gets himself in positions to have a shot. Again, the keeper does well.”

Browning added: “I think he did (see it late). It went through a player’s legs and he made a great save there without a doubt.”

APM Contrast midfielder Perry embarrassingly appealed for handball when he drove his free-kick into the wall, the ball bouncing behind for a corner.

APM Contrast created a half-chance at the halfway point when Di Fede’s deep corner was met by Dawson’s downward header at the far post which bounced into Scott Andrews hands at the near post for a comfortable save.

APM Contrast substitute Josh West sped past his marker to latch onto a long ball over the top and his shot sailed just over the crossbar from the corner of the penalty area as keeper Scott Andrews advanced.

But the longer the game went on, the longer Bearsted’s balls forward went but they weren’t going to find the breakthrough.

“They’re a little bit like us defensively, they’re good,” admitted the Bearsted manager.

“I’ve watched them a couple of times recently, their two centre backs are organised, they organise their full-backs.  They know what they’re doing.

“When they went one-up you saw them waste every second they possibly could but that’s football. Not complaining about that! They know how to look after that 1-0.”

Nowotny fed the ball diagonally to Dengate, who tried to bend his shot from a tight angle across the keeper and around the far post, appealing for a corner as Scott Andrews cast an imposing figure at his near post.

The keeper did the same thing again, turning Dawson’s bullet header around the top of his near post after Di Fede delivered a deep corner from the left.

Browning said: “The keeper made a very good save there. We had chances as well. We took the game to them tonight, which was the game plan and at the end we could’ve gone two or three up.”

Bearsted were found guilty of committing some sloppy play as APM Contrast hit them on the break to seal the victory with the clock showing 42:43.

Instead of Holiday putting in a corner into the penalty area, Flisher decided to take a short corner to Holiday, who was robbed off the ball by Blaise.

Blaise burst forward at pace and ran 60-yards before reaching the Bearsted penalty area and squared the ball for Smith to sweep the ball past exposed Scott Andrews to send APM Contrast into fifth-place in the table on 65 points.

Browning was delighted with the devastating counter-attack.

He said: “I think Bearsted tonight, I think they just over ran things. You have to appreciate they do try to play football, which is fair enough but in a local derby sometimes you just have to get it in the box. 

“Gabriel’s has picked it up, he’s got the pace, another youngster who we picked up from Lordswood’s under 18s and then he’s showed the experience for a youngster to square it to Caine who ain’t going to miss that!”

Stevens added: “Hitting us on the break finished us off, didn’t it?

“That summed it up. You could say they deserved it.  They were at the races tonight. You could say they sat on their 1-0 lead and they know they’ll have a chance to nick one somewhere along the line and that was it unfortunately.”

Kent Invicta League leaders Bearsted (85 points from 36 games) must now win their next two league games to win the title for the first time.

The Bears travel to FC Elmstead on Saturday, before hosting Sutton Athletic on Saturday 30 April.

Sheppey United are in second on 83 points and travel to Sutton Athletic on Saturday, before the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy winners host Bridon Ropes on 30 April.

Third-placed Glebe (76 points with three games left) and fourth-placed Sutton Athletic (75 points with three games remaining) will be waiting to pounce as the top two clubs will win promotion into the Southern Counties East Football League Premier.

Stevens knows his side cannot afford to slip up.

“We’ve earnt a lifeline tonight, we knew we could lose one out of the three, we didn’t want to lose it obviously but the boys have worked so hard to get themselves in this position,” he said.

“As you saw at the end, we had a little chat out in the middle at the end, they’re confident and so are the management going down to FC Elmstead on Saturday and getting the result.

“There’s good experience out there. I don’t think it was nerves out there.  It’s a local derby. APM used to groundshare with us as you probably know. This was a big game for them and they’re on a good run as well so this was always going to be a difficult night.  It’s probably the hardest team we could have at this stage of the season.

“We just didn’t play our game tonight. Fair play to them, they put us under pressure and maybe they caused a lot of mistakes.  I’m confident that we’ll be alright on Saturday.”

For a club without a playing budget to be fighting it out with big-spending Sheppey United and Glebe is remarkable.

Stevens insists his side will cross the line in first place.

“Our lads have got the desire and they’re a great bunch of lads and they work like mad. I’m fully confident that we’ll go to FC Elmstead on Saturday and get a result and get a result up here on the last day of the season.

“It’s just unfortunate tonight we didn’t play well and APM were on their game.”

The Paperboys host Glebe on Saturday and Browning wants to continue his side’s impressive run of form and complete the double over Simon Copley’s side that are crashing down the final straight despite being long-term leaders.

“We won away, that was another great outstanding performance by us,” said Bristol born Browning.

“It’s just motivating the lads for another big game.  When we played them away last time we won 2-1 and we had Gravesham Borough the Saturday after and the lads were a little bit flat so we have to make sure we’re up and on it again and just give a good account of ourselves because we don’t want to let anything slip and let anyone down in the league. We want to give everyone a good game.”

Bearsted: Scott Andrews, Andy Foster (Jon Baker79), Jack West, Graeme Andrews (Tom Brown 66), Rob Lyall, Mike Holiday, Andy Hart (Stephen Sage 79), Matt Garner, Ashley Russell, Sam Flisher, Ollie Bartrum.
Sub: Ben Donnelly

Booked: Rob Lyall 61, Mike Holiday 86

APM Contrast: Ryan Chandler, Martin Di Fede, Marc Morrison (Josh West 62), Jason Perry, Liam Dawson, Michael Russell, Gabriel Blaise, Mark Swift (Toby Edwards 90), Nick Nowotny (Caine Smith 82), Edward Morant, Robbie Dengate.
Subs: Scott Gillman, Joe Cullip

Goals: Liam Dawson 10, Caine Smith 87

Booked: Jason Perry 59, Marc Morrison 60

Attendance: 83
Referee: Mr Mark Cheeseman (Tenyham)
Assistants: Mr John Quirk (Maidstone) & Mr Callum Drysdale (Willesborough)