Beckenham Town 4-2 Rochester United - We're a brand new team basically starting from scratch so we'll give it everything we've got, says newly-appointed Rochester United joint-manager Paul Gross

Wednesday 15th November 2017
Beckenham Town 4 – 2 Rochester United
Location Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3JL
Kickoff 15/11/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 15th November 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Eden Park Avenue

ROCHESTER UNITED’S newly-appointed joint-manager Paul Gross says his players will give it everything they’ve got to avoid suffering relegation at the end of the season.

The Rede Court Road outfit appointed Gross and Darren Anslow as joint-managers on Monday 6 November 2017, with the club deep in relegation trouble.

Matt Hume was in charge for the first eight games, drawing three and losing five, before the club turned to Ian Varley, who won only one of his nine games in charge, losing eight.

Rochester United remain second-from-bottom in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with only five points from 13 games, eight points adrift of safety, with Chatham Town immediately above them in the table.

Rochester United have now extended their losing run to eight games, while Beckenham Town climbed a couple of places into fifth-place with 27 points from 14 games, four points behind leaders Sevenoaks Town, who now have a couple of games in hand.

Beckenham Town have now won six games on the spin and they raced into a 2-0 lead inside 24 minutes courtesy of striker Richard Atkins, before Rochester United pulled a goal back through lone striker Luke Saggers.

Atkins raced through to score his hat-trick, making him the division’s leading goalscorer with 19 goals.

Saggers slotted in his second goal on his debut from the penalty spot early in the second half before Jamie Humphries headed in Beckenham’s fourth goal of the night to keep up their promotion charge.

“Happy, yes, we’ve had since last Monday to throw together a team, the team’s second-from-bottom, all we wanted was to come here and compete,” said Gross following his first game in joint-charge.

“You couldn’t really have picked a harder game to start, could you? Beckenham away, they’re notoriously a good side at their own ground so all I ask for was for the boys to compete and they done that so no complaints from me.”

Rochester United and Hollands & Blair (two points from 14 games) are favourites to fall through the trap door.

“They (Rochester United) know they’re in trouble, I’ve been in and around the club for the past year. They know I know a few players. I’ve played a long time in this level.  The club’s worked so hard to get where they are and they want to preserve their status so they just said can I help them? If I can help them, they’re good people, if I can help them, I’ll try, there’s no miracle. I’m not saying there is a miracle but I’ll try my hardest.

“Beckenham are a team, they’ve got the best movement, best attacking players in this league in my opinion, always have,” added Gross.

“It took a real determination to get to grips to their game.  Our lads tonight met in the hanging room, eight of them because we’ve had one training session. We’ve had a friendly called off on Saturday so for them to deal with that and not get overrun, I’m proud of them, I’m happy.”

Beckenham Town assistant manager Billy Walton said: “Really pleased with the first half with the way we played. Second half we didn’t play any sort of football at all and I’m disappointed that they scored two goals against us because we should’ve easily won that game four or five nil not 4-2!

“We’ve just had a little chat in there, we were disappointed.  We played well in phases but nowhere near good enough in the second half and we’ve got to improve for Saturday, that’s for sure.

“I’ve been in Paul’s and Darren’s boat quite a few times in my career, it’s difficult. They battled well for him, they’ll sort that out Paul and Darren, I think they’ll do well.”

Beckenham Town are the best technical side in the division and they started the game on the front foot, but Rochester United weathered the early storm.

Beckenham Town opened the scoring with the game’s first clear cut chance, timed at 14 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

The home side built-up patiently with Atkins, Jerome Walker and Jake Britnell all linking up in an eye-catching move, before Shameek Farrell teed up Atkins, whose left-footed drive from 20-yards nestled into the bottom far corner of the net, past the diving keeper.

“That’s what Richie does, he’s on fire at the moment. I think that now puts him as the league top goalscorer. He’s a handful on his day. It was some lovely football, we popped it around really well, kept it nice, kept the ball moving how we wanted it and it was a good finish,” said Walton.

“They’re a good side. The movement is a concern, it concerned me how we deal with it,” added Gross, the former Cray Valley manager.

“I had to play them in the first game in charge with a brand-new team. All the goals were going to be good.”

Carlos Brano’s outswinging corner was driven into the box by Humphris, the ball was cleared out to George Benner, who smacked his shot through a crowd of players, only just missing the target.

Rochester United left-back Sean Bremner – who was forced off the pitch through injury in the final four minutes which resulted in the away side finishing the game with 10 men - was screaming to his team-mates to get up the pitch because they were defending too deep and poor defending gifted Beckenham a second goal, timed at 23 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.

Branco swung in his sixth of eight corners, in from the left towards the near post where an unmarked Atkins buried his header across the keeper into the far corner from close range.

Walton said: “I think the goalkeeper maybe got a little bit impeded or something for that goal.  Richie scored a good header there didn’t he, so he can score all sorts of goals that lad, left-foot, right-foot, headers.

“I think we had a chance to go 3-0 if I remember rightly.  I thought to myself we were going to go on and win four or five nil.”

“It’s a free header, he’s not going to miss it,” added Gross.

“I don’t know what’s happened in the build-up, it was a free header so he’s going to score it.  It’s stuff that we’ve got to work on.

“They know who they’re picking up. I think one of our players tripped, there was a trip in there, I’m not sure, I didn’t see it.  Look, if you’re give any player at this level a free header, they’re going to score, they should score.”

When asked how he was feeling at the time, Gross replied: “It’s difficult. I’ve just taken over a club that is in deep, deep trouble so you’re thinking I don’t want to get embarrassed, of course you don’t want to get embarrassed but at 2-0 you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and try your best to get back into the game.”

Rochester United played like they were put together inside the away dressing room before the game and Beckenham Town goalkeeper Sam I’Anson made a couple of comfortable saves as Rochester tried to score from distance.

Jamie Wood played the ball into Saggers, who played the ball back to Wood, who hit a speculative left-footed shot from 30-yards, which bounced once comfortably into the keeper’s hands.

Rochester’s central defender Callum McGeehan then crossed the halfway line with the ball before hitting a speculative left-footed drive from 40-yards, which was meat and drink for I’Anson.

Visiting keeper Ashley Bourne was called into more serious action in the 32nd minute, diving to his right to parry Humphris’ right-footed drive from outside the box after Branco played a one-two with Atkins down the left.

“Good drive from Jamie, I think he should’ve scored. It would’ve put us 3-0 up so it was a good opportunity for us,” came Walton’s short reply.

Gross added: “He made a couple of good saves Ash I thought.  He hasn’t played for a year. We’ve just spoken to him about his kicking, it weren’t the best, it put us under a bit of pressure at times but some of the saves he's made, he made a couple of good saves.”

Rochester United came back from the dead with a stunning goal, timed at 33 minutes and 24 seconds on the clock.

I’Anson played the ball to his left-back Branco, who was pressed by Moses Ashikodi, 30, who ran down the right channel before cutting a low pass across the face of the penalty area. 

Benner failed to cut it out and Saggers smacked his first-time right-footed drive screaming into the roof of the net, high over the goalkeeper’s left-shoulder, from 15-yards.

Gross revealed: “We haven’t worked enough, that’s the first time we pressed them, they tried to play out, we pressed them. Moses nicked it, set, what a strike!  For me, that was the best goal in the game, anyway, so more than happy with the way they linked up.”

When asked about much-travelled Ashikodi, who played behind Saggers, Gross said: “Happy with what he’s going to bring me. Do you know what? People might look from the outside and wonder what he’s all about. He’s been top drawer in the changing room tonight and I thought he played well.”

Walton said: “It was good finish, struck it well, very good finish.  But then again we’ve got the ball, the goalkeeper’s got the ball, what are we doing? Under-hitting it to our full-back, just get it up the pitch but we keep telling them, underhit it, nicked it off us, crossed it, bang.”

Hope swept a free-kick over Owen Price’s head – who was standing about five-yards away – and the ball was cleared out to Humphris, who steered his first time shot across goal and past the far post from 25-yards.

Hassan Oshilaja played the ball out wide to Branco on the left, he cut inside before drilling a left-footed angled drive towards goal, forcing Bourne to spill the ball to his left and Adams took a touch and Bremner saved the day by making a clean tackle inside the six-yard box to clear the danger.

Beckenham Town striker Atkins capitalised on some poor defending to score his hat-trick with 41 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock.

Beckenham hit a long-ball out of defence and Bremner should have headed Branco’s clearance away but his header went backwards and put Atkins through on goal, the striker slotting his right-footed shot across Bourne to nestle nicely into the bottom far corner.

Walton said: “A bad defensive header from their lad Bremner, very bad and it cost them really.  He should’ve cleared the header, it’s gone straight up over his head and we capitalised on his bad mistake.

“Richie’s on fire the lad, so long may it continue.”

Gross added: “It’s a poor header, it’s from our set-piece. We put it in the box, they cleared it, it’s a poor header.

“It’s hard enough to come to Beckenham anyway, let alone give them a leg-up. We gave them a couple of leg-ups tonight so we’ve got to learn from mistakes, when you’re at the bottom these mistakes cost you.”

It should have been four to Beckenham just before half-time.  Britnell’s through ball split Bremner and put Humphris through on goal, he skipped past Bourne and slipped his shot past the foot of the far post of an empty net from wide on the right.

Walton said: ”What is he doing? He should’ve scored! He goes around the keeper, does all the hard work, goes around the keeper, empty net and kicks it wide!  I’ve told him I wasn’t happy about that!”

Gross added: “You see from where that came, from our free-kick!  Our goalkeeper kicks it, they get a free header, brings it down, midfield no challenge and within three passes they’re in through us.

“We’re thrown together, we’ve got to work on things. We’ve had no chance, yet grateful they’re missing those chances.”

Both were asked their thoughts at the break.

Walton said: “I felt we were playing nice football, they were trying to break it up trying to stop the play.  I just felt we could shift it from right-to-left. They were very quick at shifting over trying to stop us. When we tried to switch it and get us in the deep the other side we just weren’t doing it quickly enough so I was trying to get us to switch play quicker.”

Gross said: “We had to change our shape, normally Beckenham are a 4-4-2 team but the team seems to be full of number 10s. They have such good flair in their team, it’s nice to watch. We just went 4-4-2, matched them up and I thought we done better when we done that. We tried to stop the ball going to the wingers and one-on-one with the wingers and I thought we were more in the game second half.”

Rochester United were given a lifeline when referee Shane Brown pointed to the spot after Harrison Hume cut inside Hope and was tripped.

Saggers stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, slotting his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, with four minutes and 34 seconds on the clock.

Gross said: “We had a good little 10 minute spell, I thought. We got the penalty and he put it away. He’s been brought in Luke to score goals, two tonight so I’m happy with that.”

Walton said: “Well I’ve just been told by one of our groundstaff (Ian Muir) who was standing behind the goal that it was never a penalty so from my angle it looked a penalty.  I thought that was a penalty to be honest with you from where I was.  I didn’t have no qualms about that, I thought it was a penalty.”

Beckenham Town lost their heads from that moment on but Humphries smacked a right-footed half-volley screaming just past the right-hand post from 30-yards.

The game then turned into an ugly, feisty affair with not a lot of football being played around the hour-mark.

Walton said: “I thought that was what they were trying to do to us, break up our patterns of play, trying to stop the rhythm and momentum that we were playing with and it worked to a certain extent, second half was pretty awful, I thought.”

Gross said: “It’s always feisty with Beckenham. I didn’t expect anything different. I’m not going to tell my team to roll over and get beat, nor is Jason Huntley going to, so I’m happy with that.”

Branco’s left-footed free-kick from 35-yards dipped just over the top of the far post for Beckenham.

Beckenham Town wrapped up the scoring, the goal timed at 26 minutes and 38 seconds.

Branco delivered a free-kick from the left, which was punched away by Bourne.  The ball was met fiercely by Humphris, which was superbly blocked by McGeehan, but Humphris showed more desire than his marker to beat the keeper with a header which dropped in to score his eighth-goal of the season.

Walton said: “Funnily enough I said to Grossy and Darren it was a great block to get in the way of Humphris’ shot and it went straight up and they didn’t attack the next ball and Jamie got in and headed it over the goalkeeper. It was a good finish, I thought, especially he’s got 14 stitches in his head, it was a good finish.”

Gross said: “They were quicker to the second ball than us. They got on the end of it and scored. That’s things we’ve got to learn, who goes where, whose going for what, who dominated in the air, who’s picking up the seconds.

“We don’t know each other.  They didn’t know each other’s names tonight. That will all come.”

Bourne pulled off a brilliant diving save shortly afterwards, flying to his left to prevent Britnell scoring with a first-time drive from the edge of the box after Atkins broke down the right channel and delivered a lovely cross.

Walton said: “That would’ve been a good goa, that was a good move, a great shot from Britnell and a great save from the keeper.  I would’ve loved to see that hit the back of the net because that would’ve deserved a goal at the end of that move.”

Gross added: “He made a few good saves tonight Ash, I’m happy with that.”

Rochester failed to make the game interesting with a half-chance inside the final 10 minutes. 

Dan Nash, who was playing wide on the right, swept a deep free-kick from inside his own half towards the far post but substitute winger Merrick Simms, who finished the game at left-back, failed to connect.

Gross said: “Merrick had a chance, five-yards out when he missed the ball completely. We hit a diagonal, he’s on with the volley, it could’ve put it three-all.  I thought that was a great chance.  Three-all with ten minutes to go, that changes the game.”

Beckenham Town host second-placed Croydon on Saturday (The Trams are three points behind Sevenoaks Town but have played four games more, while Rochester United host thirteenth-placed Glebe.

Gross said: “My thoughts are we’re in trouble.  I knew what the task was, we’ve taken it on, it’s a big challenge.  We’ve scored 10 goals in 12 games, we’ve scored two tonight so that’s a positive, let’s take the positives. We’ll work on the positives and we’ll go again Saturday.”

When asked what will keep the club in the division, Gross replied: “Hard work, honest lads and a bit of luck.  We’ll work hard. They’re all up for the challenge. We can’t be downbeat, it’s one game, it’s the first game so we’ll just got to get in it together and graft together and see where it takes us.

“Glebe are not further away from us, so we’ve got to turn up and be positive and look to get a win at home.  I’ve told the boys to stay positive.  I thought we’ve done alright tonight. 

“We’re a brand-new team basically starting from scratch so we’ll give it everything we’ve got, that’s all we can do and take it game-by-game. All I ask for the lads is hard work, the rest will take care of itself.”

Walton says Beckenham Town are a serious threat for grabbing one of the two promotion places at the end of the season.

“I said to you at the start of the season we’re dark horses.  That dark horse could be getting a little bit brighter at the moment so long may it continue, we’ll enjoy it until it lasts,” said Walton.

“Saturday is going to be extremely difficult against Croydon. They came here and beat us 3-0 so that’s going to be difficult game on Saturday. We’ll just do our best against the teams that turn up.

“We’ve got a chance of getting promotion this year but there’s a lot of big teams that are trying to stop us.  There’s a lot of games left, a lot of difficult games. We’ve got a chance, we’re in a good position. We’ve got a chance but we’ve got to keep it going, that’s the difficult thing, keeping it going.

“It’s the top 12 and we’re one of them.  I think we need all the other teams in the top half of the table to beat Sevenoaks and I think they’ll win it by March.

“Croydon are a good footballing side, they came down here and beat us 3-0 in the Cup. I think it’s going to be a real footballing game.  We learnt a few lessons that day against them so that’s one of the games I look forward to on the calendar because I’m pleased when a team come here and play football, it’s a good game.”

Beckenham Town: Sam I’Anson, Jack Hope, Carlos Branco, Hassan Oshilaja, George Benner, Adam Allen, Jerome Walker (Valentine Laurence 90), Jake Britnell (Frankie Warren 78), Richard Atkins, Jamie Humphris (Huender Santos 82), Shameek Farrell.
Subs: Adam Wadmore, Josh Owen

Goals: Richard Atkins 15, 24, 42, Jamie Humphris 72

Booked: Jake Britnell 68

Rochester United: Ashley Bourne, Cameron Reardon (John Ufuah 76), Sean Bremner, Jamie Wood (Lewis Chambers 80), Callum McGeehan, Temitope Eweke, Dan Nash, Owen Price, Luke Saggers, Moses Ashikodi, Harrison Hume (Merrick Simms 62).
Subs: Andy Pierce, Paul Gross

Goals: Luke Saggers 34, 50 (penalty)

Booked: Jamie Wood 12, Owen Price 54, Temitope Eweke 71

Attendance: 65
Referee:  Mr Shane Brown (West Kingsdown)
Assistants: Mr Daniel Wyatt (Orpington) & Mr Abdulaziz Olol (Elmers End)

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