Chatham Town 3-2 Corinthian - When you come up a little bit short it’s hard to take and it will take a while to get over, admits Corinthian manager Michael Golding

Saturday 04th May 2019
Chatham Town 3 – 2 Corinthian
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 04/05/2019 14:00

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final
Saturday 4 May 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

CORINTHIAN manager Michael Golding says it will take him a little while to get over finishing the clubs best ever campaign empty handed.


The Longfield based club finished on 90 points from their 38 league outings but they finished runners-up to Cray Valley (Paper Mills) by just one point in an exciting Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title race.

Chatham Town fought back from 2-0 down to beat Corinthian to win the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final for the second time.
Photo: Alan Coomes

Corinthian threw away a 2-0 lead inside the opening 39 minutes, as fourth-placed finishers Chatham Town – whom finished 11 points adrift of their opponents – added the Challenge Cup to the Kent Senior Trophy that they put in the trophy cabinet after beating Beckenham Town 1-0 after extra-time on 14 April 2019.

Corinthian – who were runners up in three successive finals in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – were worthy of their 2-0 lead at Longmead Stadium, as holding midfielder Jamie Billings scored his seventh goal of the season before winger Conor Johnson notched his 12th goal.

But Chatham Town striker Paul Vines hooked in his 43rd goal of the season right on the stroke of half-time before they dominated most of the second half.

Michael Hagan slotted in an equaliser against his old club to bring Chatham Town level, scoring his 12th goal of the season. 

Chatham Town centre-half Richard Avery tapped in his sixth goal of the season to give his side a cup double.

“A game of two halves,” admitted Golding.

“I thought we were outstanding in the first half, bitterly disappointed to concede a goal on the stroke of half-time.

“Second half, Chatham were a lot better than us and they probably deserved it on the balance of that. I think the goal just before half-time was the killer.

“I think the last 10 days have been hard.  I think maybe the confidence is low a little bit, which is probably understandable because a lot of these boys haven’t been in this situation before to have to deal with that.

“But we’ve said to them they will have to learn from this and they are a relatively young squad as a whole and they have got to learn from this experience to go on and get to where they want to in their football careers.”

Chatham Town manager James Collins said: “I thought it was a tight game actually. I can’t remember a goalkeeper making a save in the game but cup finals are going to be like that but it was a great way to win it.

“I thought the first cup final would take some trumping but to win it that way and the way we fought back at 2-0 down was a really enjoyable day and I’m so pleased with everyone at the club. You’ve seen the supporters at the end and what it means to them.  I said in my programme notes it’s nice to feel like a hero for a day!”

Collins, who has now won five trophies as a manager, added: “I said to the players’ before the game, hopefully Cray Valley will go on to win The FA Vase.  I suppose Cray are proving it is realistic to win the Vase. It is possible to win all four I suppose but for how everyone’s done this season we’ve taken two trophies out of the three that people feel are up for grabs.

“A lot of managers and a lot of players have put in a lot of hard work in this season and it’s not easy to win things so we have to enjoy them.”

On a windy day in Tonbridge, Chatham Town created the first opening following the first of ten corners put in by Matt Bodkin but Jack Billings cleared Avery’s far post header off the line inside the opening nine minutes.

Corinthian’s first opening came through route-one football just 51 seconds later.

Centre-half Jack Bath hit a ball over the top which bounced over the head of Luke Tanner and his marker Corey Walters-Wright and the ball dropped to Kameron Gyeabour, who smacked his right-footed half-volley high and wide from 25-yards.

“Kam came in today, he’s been on the bench for a little while and he was lively,” said Golding.

“He had the first opportunity but that wind was difficult in the first half, it was difficult throughout the whole game and it proved to have a vital say in the whole game.”

Chatham Town created a better chance in the 14th minute when left-back Matt Parsons released Bodkin down the left and he ignored his team-mate who was making an overlapping run on the outside and Bodkin cut inside and stroked his right-footed harmlessly wide of the near post from 25-yards.

“The wind first half was horrendous, it dropped second half when we were kicking into it, or kicking against it.  It was tough to get into a football game really because the wind played such a massive factor,” said Collins.

“When I turned up, I was excited, especially when the rain came because I thought we could get the ball down and we can play a little bit and we could hurt them in the final third but it was a good move.”

Chatham Town’s central midfielder Reece Butler played the ball out to Hagan, who kept the ball in down the left touchline before he took a touch and whipped in a cross but Bodkin glanced his header across goal from six-yards before Corinthian cleared their lines.

Chatham Town missed a glorious chance to take the lead with 21 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

Hagan broke over the halfway line and swept over a pass out to Bodkin down the right wing and he released right-back Danny Grant on the overlap and he took a touch before whipping in a great cross towards the near post but winger Harrison Carnegie found a pocket of space at the near post to send his free-header over the crossbar from eight-yards out.

Collins said: “I thought Vinsey would’ve won it just in behind, I don’t know if there was a call.

“I felt whoever wants to win this game will win it and I felt first half they looked like they wanted to win it and I thought the wind made a huge factor but we definitely played some decent football, which we’re more than capable of but it’s the other side of the game that we need to improve on.”

Golding added: “We know what Chatham are going to be like, their front four are decent.  I thought Michael Hagan was good again. He’s an ex Corinthian boy and I thought he played well. 

“They’re going to get the ball out wide and they get crosses into the box and they attacked the ball quite well.  I thought after that chance we probably limited them to not much at all really.  A side of Chatham’s quality, you expect them to have a few half-chances.”

That miss proved costly for Chatham Town, meanwhile, as Corinthian opened the scoring with 22 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

Johnson rolled the ball in from the left wing and Jamie Billings cracked a right-footed drive towards goal from 20-yards.  The ball looped off a pressing Walters-Wright and looped over keeper Dan Ellis and dropped into the back of the net.

Golding said: “Really pleased. I felt like it was coming. We were on top and we were finding good pockets in between their midfield and their defence and it was probably a bit of a collectors item from Jamie Billings, right-footed, outside the area and you don’t see many of them!

“The deflection helped it on its way. It would’ve been interesting to see where it would’ve gone if it hadn’t taken a deflection but in a cup final you’ll take whatever comes.”

Collins admitted: “Dan’s got to save that and he’s put his hand up and said ‘he should’ve saved it!’ but you’re not going to hear me dig him out because he’s been brilliant for us all season.

“He’s an unbelievable person in the changing room, he’s a great goalkeeper. It’s just one of those things. He made a mistake but listen he’s bailed us out enough times and I’m hoping we would bail him out because he’s been a massive part for us this season.”

Jack Evans shrugged off Jai McKinley before driving towards the Corinthian penalty area and he played the ball out to Carnegie down the left. He cut inside and played in a low cross into the box, which set up Hagan, but his shot took a deflection and went behind for a corner.

Bodkin swung in his second corner and Avery rose at the far post and steered his header across goal and watched the ball trickle behind for a Corinthian goal-kick.

Corinthian had one hand on the silverware after doubling their lead with 38 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Jamie Billings started the move and played the ball into strong wide man Gyeabour and Oscar Housego, Tanner and Gyeabour all exchanged short passes in and around the Chatham penalty area.  The ball was worked out to Jamie Billings on the right-hand side of the penalty area and he crossed low towards the far post for Johnson to stab the ball past Ellis to find the bottom left-hand corner from three-yards out.

Golding said; “Again, Conor hasn’t played too much recently, he’s been struggling with a bit of an illness. I thought he was good and stepped up today and the was really good for us. 

“It was another good move. James broke between the lines and he’s put it into an area that’s asked a question and you go 2-0 up in a cup final where you’re probably the underdogs and you’re thinking everything’s going alright at the moment.”

Collins added: “I’m not too sure about that one!  We ended up getting pinned in because of the wind and because they were winning first, second and third balls.

“I thought we made a couple of blocks and it seemed to pinball about a little bit in there but you never have the hindsight of looking at this again but I thought we might’ve been a little bit unlucky there but they kept the phase of play going and stuck it into an area and he’s stuck it home.”

Chatham Town left-back Parsons swept in a free-kick into the Corinthian penalty area and the ball came to Hagan, who sliced his left-footed volley wide of the near post from 16-yards.

Corinthian had a chance to increase their lead further when Gyeabour teed up Housego, who sliced his right-footed half-volley wide from 20-yards.

Golding said: “A bit of a half-chance. It kind of bounced off Kam and Oscar’s had a swing at it. It’s easy to say it now but it probably needed that third goal or not to concede, which is probably going to be the biggest difference.

“I thought we were good in the first half and we played some good stuff as well. We put the ball in the right area when we need to and we also passed though them in the first 35-40 minutes and I thought we were really good today.”

The turning point came with 44 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock when Chatham Town started their comeback through talisman Vines.

Hagan released Bodkin, who raced down the left and easily got in behind Jack Holland to reach the by-line. He clipped in a lovely cross towards the centre of the six-yard box for Vines to hook his left-footed shot past Aiden Prall to score from eight-yards.

Collins said: “He’s done that all season for us so I’m pleased that he scored in the final because he should’ve scored in the last one (skying a penalty over in the Kent Senior Trophy Final last month) and he deserved to.

“That was a massive goal, that was a real huge goal. If you get Michael Hagan, Matt Bodkin and Harrison Carnegie in and around their final third it will cause problems and it was a good break and it was a massive goal for us.”

Golding added: “It’s what he does! That’s why he’s the top scorer in the league!

“We spoke to the boys and we’ve got to keep him quiet. I don’t remember him having too many opportunities other than that but that’s why he’s top scorer.  He’s had one proper chance and he’s scored his goal. 

“You’re desperate to get to half-time at 2-0 up and I think the goal gives them that little bit of confidence.

“We’re probably hoping and expecting to go in at 2-0 and all off a sudden it’s 2-1 and they’re attacking us.  We’ve been camped in their half really in the first half and I think it was a story of things to come that we couldn’t get out as quickly as we need to.”

The equaliser set the tone for the rest of the game as Chatham Town were the dominant force.

They upped their tempo and created an opening when Parsons played the ball into Hagan, who floated in a cross from the left for Carnegie to sweep his shot straight at Prall from 15-yards.

Collins said: “We scored and our tails were up. That goal gave us a massive lift and even at 2-0 down I actually confident we could go on and win the game because the wind was playing such a massive factor.

“There was a bit of a spell and when you’re sitting there you don’t want it to go 3-0, so we had a little rally but I was happy with 2-1 at half-time.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Collins said: “I said it’s fallen nicely for us in the sense that how do you beat a team that wants to win the game more than any other game that they wanted to win, purely with what’s happened to them this season and how well they’ve done.

“Scoring that second goal gave them a decision to make in terms of do you go for the third and try to kill it off or do they sit in and try to soak up the pressure?

“We’ve got players that can score goals. We’ve got nothing to lose now. We have to get on the ball and try to create chances and I was pretty confident that we will score goals.

“We had to make sure if the ball isn’t in their area or their half we had to be switched on defensively but you’ve got to remember at 2-1 down what decisions do you make as a manager? You’ve just lost the league on the last game of the season, 2-0 up in a cup final. I felt mentally we had the edge going into the second half.”

Golding added: “That we needed to score! We fancied Chatham to score a goal with the wind. We know Dan Ellis kicks the ball a long way and Vinsey will win his headers so we had to be tight defensively and prove that we didn’t and we weren’t!

“But if we can carry on playing and we probably needed to play a little bit more because the wind was going to be the deciding factor. We needed to score another goal!”

Corinthian midfielder Housego swept a first time shot past the near post from 25-yards and Chatham Town went route-one to equalise following the resulting goal-kick, the goal timed at 10 minutes and 45 seconds on the clock.

Ellis launched a trademark big kick up field and Vines flicked the ball on straight down the middle of the pitch for Hagan to latch onto and slot his left-footed shot past a flat-footed Prall for the ball to nestle inside the bottom left-hand corner.

“I had a feeling for Michael Hagan and I said this to Michael about he’s scored so many goals for us. He came on against Cray Valley and scored and we won 1-0 and he scored the winner in the last cup final and scored a goal to get us back in there,” said Collins.

“I think he’s better than what he thinks he is and he’s better than what he believes he is. He’s always had loads of ability and he needs to go and play for me regularly week-in-week-out.

“He knows what he has to do but it was a great finish. He’s such a good finisher and where Michael plays we know we’ve got that player who can come in and create another striker.”

Golding admitted: “Really, really disappointing for us, a really, really poor goal to concede!

“It was a catalogue of errors, It’s probably where you’re looking for a couple of people to step up, just to calm everybody down, take the sting out of the game and waste time like they did in the first half but you maybe need to do that. We say we need to learn stuff and maybe that’s what we need to learn and do that bit of the game.

“If they open you up and a cross goes in and Vinsey scores at the back post with a header you accept it. For it to be a long ball and we miss a header and Michael Hagan runs through and it was a good finish from him.” 

Chatham Town were now on the front foot and Evans’ free-kick was met by Avery’s towering looping header at the far post which dropped into Prall’s hands at the near post.

A shaky Prall was almost caught-out in the 62nd minute when Chatham’s right-back Danny Grant smacked a clearance up field from 60-yards, which bounced over the keeper before drifting past the foot of the near post.

McKinlay played the ball up to substitute Steven Ita, who flicked the ball across the face of goal but Gyeabour lashed his shot over the crossbar from 20-yards.

Corinthian wasted a glorious chance to snatch the lead inside the final 20 minutes.

Housego played in a low cross from the right which wasn’t cut out and substitute Ita had his moment. However, a poor touch inside the Chatham penalty area, when in space, wasted that opportunity but he did show composure to centre the ball back to Tanner, who twisted and turned his man before laying the ball off on the outside to Gyeabour, who hooked his right-footed drive straight at Ellis from 10-yards.

Golding said: “It was probably our only real chance of the second half, which if you’re trying to win a cup final, you probably need to create a little bit more than that.

“I think Steve Ita done ok when he came on. He showed some good touches and probably didn’t get into the game and maybe that’s where our squad is at the moment. 

“We were missing our two top goascorers through injury and it’s not an excuse, it’s just frustrations.”

Collins added: “I think it was more of a half-chance. We’re very good at defending our box, we do a lot of work on it. We concede goals when we don’t pick up second balls or we’re in possession of the ball.  I thought we defended very well in the second half and limited them to very few chances.”

Chatham Town claimed their deserved victory by scoring the winning goal, which was timed at 27 minutes and 25 seconds on the clock.

Corinthian switched off from Bodkin’s fifth corner. He played it short to Vines, whose back-heel rolled the ball back to Bodkin, who drove in a low cross through a crowd of players. Evans’ driven shot was blocked in a congested goal-mouth and Avery forced the ball into the bottom right-hand corner to spark mass celebration from the vocal Chatham supporters behind the goal.

Collins said: “Richard missed the last cup final and he’s been pretty much an ever-present for us all season. It was nice that he scored a goal. I wouldn’t have cared who scored it, it went over the line!

“We don’t score enough goals from corners and the players’ changed it up so I won’t take credit from it. They decided to do something a little bit different and they’ve gone and scored, brilliant!”

Golding added: “Another poor goal from us. It’s a short corner that we didn’t send a player out to and I think it’s mental fatigue.  It’s pinged in the area and it’s fallen to Richard Avery and he’s put it in the back of the net.

“From there we had a bit of a go but really it was going to take a big ask from there to get back into the game.”

Chatham Town controlled the rest of the game, despite Corinthian pushing three men up front for the final stages of the game.

Collins said:  “I thought we were in control. The only thing I was thinking on the sideline was they’ve scored a lot of late goals and they’ve got a lot of togetherness and a lot of spirit. I probably expected them to give it a little bit more of a rally in the last 10 minutes but it might’ve sucked the life out of them, last week and them being 2-0 up so I was conscience of that.”

Golding added: “They were relatively comfortable and I don’t think we really threatened. They’ve got some experienced players and saw the game out and full credit to them.  I would like to think if we were in that situation we would be able to do the same. I’ve got no complaints with the last 15 minutes. They were the better side and they controlled the game.”

Vines cushion header bounced to Bodkin, who tried his luck from 40-yards and Prall slipped over and was relieved to see the ball flash just past the foot of the near post.

Collins admitted: “I don’t think we worked their goalkeeper too much. I don’t think he made any saves but you think they can put the ball in the box and they’ve shown as incredible amount of spirit and they’re a very, very good side that finished 11 points above us so even though you’re in control of the game you’re weary it might change.”

An exciting Southern Counties East Football League campaign is now over and both managers can reflect on their achievements.

“We wanted the league but I’m going to enjoy this one,” said Collins.

“Cray Valley will hopefully do the good double (by beating Chertsey Town to win The Buildbase FA Vase at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 19 May 2019) and we’ve done a double and it was good to give something back to the supporters to have another day out. We’ve got a presentation night tomorrow and we’ll enjoy that and let the dust settle and the hard work starts on Monday!

Golding was so close to guiding his side to the league title and a first promotion into the Isthmian League on a ZERO playing budget, which their rivals cannot believe Golding can attract a decent squad to Gay Dawn Farm for no financial gain, which makes their season an unbelievable one.

“It’s hard to take. It’s hard to try to work it out at the moment. I think when the dust settles the club as a whole and the players can look back with immense pride on what they achieved this year,” said Golding.

“It was bitterly disappointing to finish runners-up with 90 points on the board and to lose in a cup final.

“Today was all about the players, the fans, the club, it was not about me today. I think it has been a good season. We’ve beaten every club record.

“When you come up a little bit short it’s hard to take and it will take a while to get over.”

Chatham Town: Dan Ellis, Danny Grant, Matt Parsons, Reece Butler, Richard Avery, Corey Walters-Wright (Marcus Evans 46), Harrison Carnegie, Jack Evans (Tom Fitzgerald 74), Paul Vines, Matt Bodkin, Michael Hagan (Jon Pilbeam 80).
Subs: James Fray, Byron Walker

Goals: Paul Vines 45, Michael Hagan 56, Richard Avery 73

Booked: Corey Walters-Wright 21, Harrison Carnegie 81

Corinthian: Aiden Prall, Jack Holland, Alexander Jack Billings, Jamie Billings, Jack Healey, Jack Bath, Kameron Gyeabour (Jacob Gilbert 72), Jai McKinley (Oliver Milton 80), Luke Tanner, Oscar Housego, Conor Johnson (Steven Ita 51).
Subs: Jordan Campbell, Shaun Brown

Goals: Jamie Billings 23, Conor Johnson 39

Booked: Oscar Housego 71, Jack Holland 90, Jamie Billings 90

Attendance: 345
Referee: Mr Nick Dunn (Deal)
Assistants: Mr Joshua Howard (Catford, London SE6) & Mr Mike Donnelly (Headcorn)
Fourth Official: Mr Joe McKay (Maidstone)