Canterbury City 3-2 Newport Pagnell Town - I believe we're going to be a tough test for someone no matter who we get in the Last Sixteen of The FA Vase - just hope it's not Cray Valley, says Canterbury City boss Ben Smith

Sunday 06th January 2019
Canterbury City 3 – 2 Newport Pagnell Town
Location Salters Lane, Faversham, Kent ME13 8ND
Kickoff 06/01/2019 14:00

The Buildbase FA Vase Fourth Round
Sunday 6 January 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Salters Lane

CANTERBURY CITY manager Ben Smith says reaching the Last Sixteen of The Buildbase FA Vase should persuade the City Council to give the club the go-ahead  to build a new stadium.

A crowd of 259 turned out at Salters Lane to watch Canterbury City reach the national stages of the competition for the first time and join their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division rivals Cray Valley in tomorrow’s draw.

Canterbury City winger Kyron Lightfoot sent them on their way with a 25-yarder which bounced off the base of the far post before former Sittingbourne striker Mobolaji Dawodu scored on his debut to give the Kent side a two-goal lead going into half-time.

Newport Pagnell Town are in fifteenth-place in the United Counties League Premier Division with 23 points from 19 games and Darren Lynch’s side pulled a deserved goal back through Harry Stratton’s deflected free-kick.

But the last two goals that were scored within the space of 123 seconds and were of high quality. 

Canterbury City clinched the game courtesy of Adam Woollcott’s sublime 20-yard free-kick which flew into top bins before substitute winger Jake Stronge produced a Ryan Giggs-esque run with the ball before producing a magical finish to make it a nervy ending for Smith’s men that went into the game in the top ten with 30 points from 19 games.

“For a lot of us it’s the biggest game we’ve ever been involved in, certainly as a manager. I’m relatively young as a manager so to be in such a big game this early in my managerial career is fantastic and to go and win it,” said Smith, 31, after extending their unbeaten run to seven games.

“I said to the lads beforehand we’re not done yet on our journey. We’ve gone through a real tough patch and to come out the other side has shown the spirit that we’ve shown over the last few weeks.

“Today is testament to the group of players that I’ve got – also the board have stuck by me and the players.  They could’ve said we haven’t got loads of money and said we’re not backing you getting players in but they’ve stuck by me and that one is for them.

“They haven’t had a lot to shout about over the last six or seven years and they’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes so to get them in the last sixteen and Canterbury’s name in the hat is amazing!”

Newport Pagnell Town started the game on the front foot and they missed a glorious chance after only 152 seconds.

They have five players well over six-foot tall and one of them, right-sided midfielder Josh Winters smashed a volley over the crossbar when he was left in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area from 12-yards after Scott Mulkern flicked on Ollie Wilkinson’s driven free-kick into the box.

“They’re lively going forwards and that was an early threat against us, which clearly it was going to be a torrid time at the back for us today but we seemed to settle into the game after that,” said Smith.

Canterbury City’s first opening came in the ninth minute.

Woollcott and Dawodu linked up down the left and Woollcott rolled the ball inside to Renford Tenyue, who skipped past Damon Herbert’s challenge before crossing low for Dean Grant, who couldn’t get his shot away from the edge of the six-yard box and teeing up Dawodu but his shot on the turn was gathered at the second attempt by visiting goalkeeper Mark Osbourne.

“I think it’s come to him too early in the game really, 10 minutes later in the game he’s settled in,” said Smith.

“It’s his first game for the club as well so he’s going to have a little bit of nerves and maybe would’ve reacted like he normally would.

“Bola looked tired in the end.  He’s coming back from an injury so he hasn’t played in the last few weeks. He’s been on the bench for Sittingbourne but he’s got experience of the higher level.  He’s one of Sittingbourne’s better players so I’m very happy to get him out of there.

“He’s the focal point up top. We’re missing arguably our player-of-the-season in Jordan Casey today so to have someone who can come in and be that big and strong horrible player who will flick things on is exactly what we needed.

“It was a tough one really to start him and throw him in at the start.  We’ve got lads who have been doing well for me but I just felt the aerial presence in both boxes was needed today against this side. The information we had, they were going to be physically strong etc so I thought that won us the game to start him and it turned out to be the right move.”

“I was a little bit frustrated for Dean Grant because nothing seemed to drop for him today. He’s had a couple of games when he’s been outstanding for us. The easy chances are seemingly not dropping for him in the six-yard box but his work-rate creates the chances in the first place.”

Tenyue then hit a speculative 35-yard angled drive in from the right, which flew down Osbourne’s throat.

Newport Pagnell Town went close to taking a deserved lead in the 16th minute but Canterbury City goalkeeper Jack Delo used both of his hands to flick the ball over his crossbar.

Stratton swung in a free-kick and Herbert – who was the last man in a six-man line inside the penalty area – met the ball with a looping header but Delo ensured the ball didn’t drop in underneath his crossbar.

Smith said:  “I think he had to be safe there. It’s one of those. You try to claim it and then before you know it you’re back in your own goal. He done the right thing by just tipping it over and doing the basics.  We’ve been preaching that to our players recently to do all the basics well and we can build from there and from a goalkeeper he’s covered the basics well.”

Canterbury City weathered the storm and started to get into the game at the half-way point of the half.

Dawodu released Grant down the right and Lightfoot drove his shot across the keeper and past the far post from the right-hand side.

Newport Pagnell Town central midfielder Adam Moussi found himself on the right and he floated a cross into the penalty area.  Striker Tom Liversedge used his chest to control the ball before flicking the ball over his shoulder and over his marker (Laurence Harvey) but the ball sailed wide.

Canterbury City took the lead with 28 minutes and 53 seconds on the clock and referee Andy Bennett has to take credit for playing advantage in the build-up.

Tenyue was released on the counter-attack as Canterbury turned defence into a clinical attack – but he was chopped down by defender Oliver Wilkinson, who was booked by the referee before his side restarted the game.

The Referee played advantage and allowed Tenyue to play the ball into Grant, whose shot on the turn was blocked and came out to Lightfoot, who from just outside the corner of the box from the right took a touch before sweeping his right-footed shot across the keeper and the ball bounced off the lower part of the far post before nestling into the back of the net.

Smith said:  “That’s what Renford is in a nutshell. He’s lively as you like and he’s got space to run in to. It’s the first time, the only time today he’s had that space to run into and he’s run at the heart of defence and they’re at sixes and sevens there so he’s really tried to chop him down.

“Fair play to the referee, especially with us all screaming for a foul. A lot of refs would’ve blown up for that straight away!

“Kyron is scoring goals for fun at the minute. We’ve brought him in last month and he was all over composed from there. That’s what you want from your attacking players, you want them chipping in with goals (four in six games) and he’s certainly doing that.

“He might leave a little bit defensively but going forward he adds an awful lot, creating chances and taking them. It’s a great strike. I was thinking cross it from there but he’s had other ideas and he’s drilled it in off the post – perfect shot!”

Canterbury City doubled their lead with 40 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

Grant, who was putting himself about against some physically strong defenders, won his side a free-kick some 35-yards from goal.

Lightfoot whipped in a quality free-kick from the left with his right-foot which was put on a plate for Dawodu to glance his header past keeper Osbourne from eight-yards, otherwise known as the corridor of uncertainty.

“Kyron is quality at dead balls. Recently he’s scored a few free-kicks and he’s setting people up,” said Smith, who then praised Dawodu.

“Debut goal, exactly what we put him in the side for. We knew he’d be a threat from set-pieces in both boxes. He was going to be useful for us today. Worldy ball in and that’s food and drink for him.”

Canterbury City’s two centre-halves Harvey and Liam Quinn were outstanding and Quinn put his body on the line to charge down Winters’ shot from the edge of the penalty area, which rolled into Delo’s gloves after Canterbury failed to clear Stratton’s corner and allowed Liversedge to set up the chance.

“I thought my centre-halves were outstanding,” said Smith.

“Their two forwards (Lawless and Liversedge) were a real handful. It’s not often teams play 4-4-2 nowadays and to come up against two very good strikers was a real test for us today. Yes, we conceded two goals but I thought we defended outstandingly.”

Smith admitted that the game was not won at the interval.

He said: “It’s not won yet! Do not let it slip! Keep doing the basics well. Don’t get ahead of ourselves and we came out and yes we probably were a little bit too cautious and in the next round if we do go ahead we can’t just sit back like that. We’ve definitely learnt a lot and the players will learn from that.”

Lynch certainly charged up his players during the interval as Newport Pagnell Town came out firing on all cylinders for the second half.

Moussi rolled the ball out to Stratton, who from within the left-channel, cut the ball back to left-back Herbert, who whipped in a first time cross and 15-goal striker Dominic Lawless had his back to goal but he hooked the ball over his shoulder straight at Delo from a central position from 12-yards.

Smith said: “From our angle, it looked in! I didn’t think he had the athleticism to pull off a shot like that to be fair. He’s a good player and he pulled that one out of the bag and luckily Delo was on his toes and he didn’t guess early doors. He stood up and made it look an easy save.”

Canterbury City should have had the game dead and buried as early as the 55th minute but Grant endured a frustrating Sunday afternoon.

Grant appeared to have fouled right-back Scott Mulkern on the halfway line but the referee waved play on and the Canterbury striker sprinted forward with the ball before his initial shot stung Osbourne’s fingers as he narrowed the angle and Grant put the rebound past the far post.

“It’s not bouncing or not dropping for Dean at the minute. He’s got himself clean through and the ball just wouldn’t sit down. Every touch he had it was just bouncing up higher. On another day he scores that but the fact is he’s making chances and getting those opportunities. It’s not going to be long until he’s notching quite a few, especially in our league.  I think if we make it three we would’ve gone on and scored more.”

Quinn deputed his challenge on Liversedge that gave Newport Pagnell Town a chance to score from 30-yards, but Lawless took one short step back before stroking his right-footed free-kick, which bounced once and landed safely into Delo’s gloves.

“He (Liveredge) was a very clever player, fair play to him. He was sort of buying those free kicks. It’s a let-off really that he hasn’t tested Delo,” came Smith’s reply.

Ollie Lee lofted the ball down the left-channel to release Grant and he cut the ball back for Renford, who floated over a cross towards the near post but Dawodu powered his diving header harmlessly wide with 25 minutes remaining.

“Renford’s got away again and a great ball in with his left-foot and it was just a little bit behind him and he’s done well to get the header near the target really,” said Smith.

“With his lack of games recently, Bola started to lose his fitness, his sharpness was going. It was more of a tired header than really meeting it and going for it.”

Newport Pagnell Town pulled a goal back with 23 minutes and 53 seconds on the clock.

Quinn was booked for a foul on Liversedge and Smith made a substitution before the set-piece as he brought on Dan Lawrence for Lightfoot.

Stratton faced five Canterbury players in the wall but his right-footed free-kick from 20-yards flicked off Dawodu (who was the last player on the right-hand side of the wall) and the ball nestled into the bottom right-hand corner.

“You have a big wall and they do what they’re asked to do in terms of trying to get a block on it and it’s then wrong-footed Delo and he’s got no chances there really. It was a stroke of luck on their part at that stage. We just had to remain calm,” said Smith.

Newport Pagnell Town smelt blood as Canterbury City were hanging on to a slender lead and the away side should have done better when Stratton cut inside and blasted over with a right-footed shot from 20-yards after Lawless’ cross.

Canterbury City scored their third goal of the game with 37 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock with a piece of quality.

Herbert’s cynical foul sent Tenyue crashing to the ground after a driving run towards the edge of The Swans’ box.

Up stepped Woollcott who drilled a stunning right-footed curling free-kick over the diving keeper into the top left-hand corner from 20-yards.

Smith said:  “Oh, what can you say? Outrageous! The keeper’s guessing with his positioning that he’s going to go near post so one the bench we’re saying like you’ve got to go the other side here. We’ve seen him adjust his feet, it’s like a rocket across the keeper, Beckham-esque isn’t it. Just outrageous, a fantastic free-kick worthy of winning any game.”

Newport Pagnell Town ensured it was going to be a nervy ending for Canterbury City after Stronge produced a moment of quality. Just think of THAT Ryan Giggs goal for Manchester United against Arsenal in The FA Cup and you won’t be too far away.

The winger picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch some 30-yards from goal and ran around several Canterbury City defenders and only had Quinn and Delo to beat and beat them he did!

His brilliant solo run took him to the by-line and he slotted his left-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from a tight angle.

Smith said:  “Really frustrating! I’m talking about Beckham-eque with Woolly, this one was like Ryan Giggs against Arsenal!

“He seemed to run through a lot of bodies. The back four were doing extra work and they were getting tired, schoolboys just diving on the floor.  Somebody has got to stand up and put your body in front of him and the goal doesn’t happen!

“At that point you’re thinking is it going to be one of those days again? The last two seasons we’ve been knocked out in extra-time with late goals and you’re thinking not again!

“I made changes to shore things up so had it gone to extra-time would we have the attacking impetus to go and win it?  They were the questions that were going through my head. We’ve got to get through in 90 minutes!”

The visitors kept plugging away and the outstanding Harvey ensured the game didn’t go into extra-time (which Newport Pagnell Town would have gone into having finished the game on the front foot) by heading away Liversedge poor attempt after he was left unmarked at the far post following Stronge’s deep cross from the right.

“We were very critical of him away at Hollands & Blair because in the first half there he didn’t look like the big centre-half that we signed and since then he’s been absolutely immense,” Smith said of captain Harvey, who led by example.

“He’s taken his game on to another level and he’s the player I signed and people who would know from the Ryman League. He’s big and strong and he’s having that little nasty streak to his game, which he’s taken it to another level.  Laurence and Liam Quinn were absolutely outstanding!”

What’s the betting that Canterbury City and Cray Valley are drawn to play against each other in the next round on 2 February?

“I believe we could win today and I believe we’re going to be a tough test for someone, no matter who we get,” said Smith.

“I just hope it’s not Cray Valley! I hope it’s not for no other reason that they’re in our league and we want to play somebody completely different.

“The beauty of The FA Vase is you play sides like Newport Pagnell, who we’ve never seen before. We have to do our job then and do our research on those teams, it’s exciting.

“We’re under no illusions. We’re going to come up against a very good side in the next round. 

“Newport Pagnell were a very hardworking side, they’re 15th in their league and they got to the Quarter-Finals a couple of years ago.

“We’ve got to make sure in the next round that we take our level up again, which were more than capable of doing. That wasn’t our best performance today by a long shot so I’m looking forward to it.”

When asked who he wants in the next round, Smith replied: “I want the furthest team away! Let’s play someone we’ve never played before, West Auckland or someone like that. Let’s have an adventure like that, that’s what the boys want. Yes, it will be nice to have a home game.”

Attracting their largest crowd of the season, Canterbury City’s FA Vase run will certainly put the club on the map and make the City Council sit up and take notice when it comes to the proposed new stadium.

Smith said:  “As a club 2019 is a massive year. The club could really take off or we could be let down again by the council.  Days like today put an awful lot of pressure on them. 

“People in the past have said about our attendances, how they can build a ground for a side with 40 at the gate? Since we’ve been here we’ve been averaging 96 and that’s still as nomads!

“Put us in Canterbury – yes it maybe a cricket town or a rugby town – our gates will be better than the local club’s around here, I’ve got no doubt about that at all. The university scene is absolutely thriving, we will draw crowds!”

Canterbury City at Wembley Stadium in May?

“It’s got a lovely ring to it! Tunbridge Wells did it (in 2013), why not us? I’m sure when Tunbridge Wells got to this stage they probably weren’t the side everyone fancied getting to Wembley but sometimes it’s the ones that you don’t expect that go and do it.

“All the time we’re in the hat we’ll keep believing and that what we’ll strive to do.”

Canterbury City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, Gary Sayer, Ollie Lee, Liam Quinn, Laurence Harvey, Kyron Lightfoot (Dan Lawrence 69), Adam Woollcott (Dan Keyte 88), Mobolaji Dawodu (James Turner 79), Dean Grant, Renford Tenyue.
Subs: Rob Lawrence, Josh Froggatt

Goals: Kyron Lightfoot 29, Mobolaji Dawodu 41, Adam Woollcott 83

Booked:  Liam Quinn 67, Ollie Lee 84

Newport Pagnell Town: Mark Osbourne, Scott Mulkern (Jake Watkinson 84), Damon Herbert, Michael Lyon, Oliver Wilkinson, Dave Baker, Harry Stratton, Adam Moussi, Tom Liversedge, Dominic Lawless, Josh Winters (Jake Stronge 64).
Subs: Ben Snusher, Matty Cullis, Jamie Burrows

Goals: Harry Stratton 69, Jake Stronge 85

Booked: Oliver Wilkinson 30, Jake Stronge 71, Damon Herbert 82

Attendance: 259
Referee: Mr Andy Bennett (Woking, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Will Briers (Sussex) & Mr Derrick Laing (Lightwater, Surrey)
Fourth Official:  Mr Andrew Connor (Farnham, Surrey)