Chatham Town 1-2 Harlow Town - It will be a travesty if we were relegated, says Chatham Town boss Kevin Watson

Saturday 28th March 2015
Chatham Town 1 – 2 Harlow Town
Kickoff 28/03/2015 15:00

Ryman League Division One North
Saturday 28th March 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

UNDER PRESSURE Chatham Town manager Kevin Watson says it will be a travesty if his side suffer relegation in four weeks’ time.

Chatham Town put in a spirited first half performance against second-placed, title-chasing Harlow Town in front of 170 fans at Maidstone Road.

UNDER PRESSURE: Chatham Town manager Kevin Watson (photographed on the club website) says he must keep the club in the Ryman League

Harlow Town took the lead through left-winger Junior Dadson’s tenth-goal of the season before man-of-the-match Kieron McCann capped off an impressive performance with a chipped finish on the stroke of half-time to equalise for the relegation threatened Medway outfit.

Harlow Town were the more dominant force during the second half and they netted the winner with nine minutes left through Jamie Guy’s looping header.

The Essex side remain in second-place in the Ryman League Division One North table with 93 points from 41 games, two points behind Needham Market, who crashed to a 1-0 defeat at Heybridge Swifts.

Chatham Town, meanwhile, remain in the bottom five on 40 points from 41 games, only three points clear of the relegation zone, although Barkingside do have a couple of games in hand.

“Well obviously disappointed that we haven’t got anything out of the game in terms of points but I do think we’ve got something out of the game in terms of performance and something to be buoyant about,” said Watson following his side’s 21st league defeat of the season.

“I thought through large parts of the game, I thought the performance was excellent. The first half was excellent. We dominated probably for half-an-hour of the first half.

“They scored against the run of play but then we showed a bit of character to get back into it.

“We knew second half would be slightly different because there was a few conditions like the wind blowing that way.  I still felt that we dealt with it ok.

“We broke quite well in the second half but the second goal kills it really. The second goal, you could say, it’s avoidable. A little bit of miss-communication, a little bit of luck and it seems when things are going for you, obviously you get those and when they’re not going for you, you don’t.”

Harlow Town were to be denied with only 165 seconds on the clock when Dadson picked the ball up in midfield, raced into the penalty area and drilled his left-footed curling shot towards the far corner, which was palmed over the bar by Ryan Nicholls’ raised left-hand.

“Ryan made a couple of good saves,” said Watson.

“He’s a good goalkeeper, he’s very young so he’s got a lot of learning and will mature as a goalkeeper. Very, very rarely do you get young goalkeeper’s consistency at this level but that shows that confidence that we’ve got in him.  He’s come in and the boys have accepted him. 

“He made some good saves again today. He made a few from distance. It’s nice that he’s progressing.”

Chatham Town then started to dominate the game, although they failed to test Andy Walker in the Hawks’ goal.

McCann played the ball in from the left, which was flicked on by Jamie Taylor and central midfielder Joe Loft cracked his left-footed half-volley looping over the bar from 20-yards.

Chatham Town’s central defender Liam Hickey delivered a number of free-kicks towards the edge of the Harlow Town box and Lewis Knight hooked his shot over, before Austin Edwards drilled his angled shot flashing past the far post.

McCann pounced on a loose ball and stroked his right-footed drive past the near post before Harlow Town went close in the 18th minute.

Set-piece specialist David Cowley swung his free-kick into the penalty area and Joshua Urqhart came up from the back to glance his header past the far post.

Hickey’s diagonal free-kick found McCann down the left who reached the by-line before cutting the ball back, which forced Walker into making a brave save at Knight’s feet, needing treatment in the process.

But Harlow Town grabbed a 29th minute lead, much to the delight of their vocal fans.

Cowley whipped in a cross from the right and Dadson ran across Richard Davies towards the near post to stab the ball into the right-hand corner from three-yards.

Watson felt Davies should have tracked the run from the left-winger.

He said: “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get out to stop the cross. We shouldn’t have let him get the cross in. It was a good ball in, a good run to be fair. 

“I think Richard’s marking him but as a defender you’re more concerned about what the forwards do in there so he’s watching him and he got a yard on him.  The lad scores a few goals and you could tell why.”

Chatham Town went agonisingly close to levelling in the 34th minute.

Knight clipped a long ball forward, which was headed out by Ben Glasgow and McCann unleashed a stunning left-footed dipping drive towards the top far corner from 35-yards.  It looked like the shot was going to scream into the top corner when the ball left his foot. Sadly for Chatham, the ball curled agonisingly over.

Watson said: “We’ve said about getting more shots off as a team and that shows if you shoot like that from distance then you’ve got a chance.”

Loft then swept the ball out wide to unmarked right-back Davies, who powered his angled drive flashing just past the foot of the near post from 35-yards.

But Chatham Town deservedly drew level on the stroke of half-time, the goal timed at 48:02.

Davies hit a long ball out of defence, which was flicked on by striker Jamie Taylor and McCann latched onto the pass in behind Harlow’s left-back Layne Eadie and Urqhart.

Walker came off his line but McCann maintained his composure to chip the ball over the keeper’s head and watched it kiss the far post before hitting the back of the net.

McCann deserved his third goal of the season, but Watson expects more.

“He worked hard today Kieron. We’ve spoken to him about end product a little bit and number of goals because he’s a player that over the course of the season certainly should be 15-20 goals, the sort of player he is.

“It was a good finish. He took it early. The goalkeeper’s coming out, they’re not easy those finishes because you’ve still got to watch the ball and see the goalkeeper. You’ve got to have a sense where the goal is so it was pleasing and a good time to score.

“It didn’t change the half-time team talk because I was still happy with the performance but it put us back on a level playing field in terms of goals to build on in the second half.”

Danny Chapman sent his Harlow side out with more attacking purpose in the second half and they were on the front foot for large chunks of the half.

Cowley got his right-footed free-kick from 25-yards over the wall, forcing Nicholls to move to his left to make the save at the second attempt inside the opening three minutes.

Chatham Town were awarded a free-kick on the half-way line and Hickey pumped the ball towards the edge of the Harlow box.  Joe Bingham laid the ball to Davies on the outside and his low drive deflected past the near post for a corner.

Guy ran loose down the left channel before whipping in a cross into the Chatham box, but Dadson’s brave header looped over the bar.

Chatham Town should have regained the lead in the 58th minute, following a raid down the left.

McCann and Bingham linked up well and McCann cut into the box before cutting the ball back to Taylor, who rolled a poor shot under pressure from Eadie into Walker’s gloves from 15-yards.

“It was difficult.  He done well to make up ground to get in the box in all fairness,” added Watson.

“I thought the midfield done very well and we’re strong and had a lot of legs.  I thought they dominated the midfield and Joe links up well with Kieron anyway, they’ve got that understanding, they’re ball players.”

Nicholls made another smart save to thwart Dadson from close range after Billy Jones cut the ball back from the left by-line in the 63rd minute.

Chatham’s best play came from McCann’s skill and pacy runs down the left and he forced Walker into drastic action, punching away the talented winger’s 25-yard pilerdriver.

“I’m surprised he chose to punch it,” added Watson. “He came out a little bit. It was a good strike. It was one of them. He hit it too well. It’s a bit of a cliché but probably he did hit it too well and he hit it straight at the goalkeeper.”

Nicholls was excellent again when he flew high to his left and used his right hand to push over Jones’ right-footed curling shot from 22-yards, after the ball came out to the central midfielder following Cowley’s corner from the left.

Harlow Town continued to press and Chatham Town were hanging on, with Watson admitting “we got pinned back a little bit.”

Jones, who was now dominating the midfield, drove a cross into the box from the left, which was headed away and Dadson cracked his volley high over the bar from 25-yards.

You sensed that the winning goal was coming, and it arrived with 35:11 on the second half clock.

Jones played the ball inside to Dadson, who guided the ball into the danger area and Guy’s looping header dropped over the stranded Nicholls and left Chatham Town looking over their shoulder in the relegation dog-fight.

“It was a difficult ball over Lewis Knight’s head,” said Watson.

“He’s dealt with the first one, maybe a bit of communication, he can head it back or where to head it too, but it’s a difficult one to deal with as a defender.  Then it’s come back in and it’s just one of them.

“As a goalscorer I don’t think over the course of the 90 minutes you could say he’s caused us or asked us many problems but he’s scored another goal to add to his tally and that’s probably what they’re paying big money for.”

With leaders Needham Market losing, the Harlow Town supporters were singing about “winning the league,” but staying in the league is Watson’s main focus with five games left.

They host thirteenth-placed Soham Town Rangers next Saturday, before travelling to Hayes Lane on Easter Monday to play Cray Wanderers, who are fighting to pull of the Great Escape under Tommy Warrilow.

Chatham Town then play another six-pointer at home to Barkingside (11 April), before travelling to fourth-placed Brentwood Town seven days later, before Needham Market travel to Kent on the final day of the season, maybe needing to win to claim the league title.

“I don’t care if they (Harlow) win the league or not to be honest. I don’t care what they do, it’s just about us,” said Watson.

“It’s in our own hands. You look at results like we’ve just looked at, they sometimes go for you or against you.

“Based on today, it would be a travesty if we was to be in that relegation zone because like we’ve shown there wasn’t much difference today between us and them.

“I thought we certainly deserved a point out of today’s game, probably no more than a point.  We didn’t deserve to win.  I thought it was a relatively even game apart from the first 25 minutes when I thought we was better.

“I’m our own worst critic when I say I’ve always said we’ve got potential here to match teams, if not be better than the top teams in the league and they are a top team in the league and they do it week-in-week-out and they get the results.”

Chatham Town must pick up points in their next three games if they are to avoid playing in the Southern Counties East Football League next season and their game at Cray Wanderers will be make-or-break for both Kent clubs.

When asked how many points he needs to remain in the Ryman League next season, Watson replied: “I couldn’t tell you! We’ve probably got a figure in our mind. I’d be a bit naïve to say it. We may not need anymore, might we? We might need quite a few more. It does mathematically depend on other results. I don’t want to leave it to the minimum of what we need.

“We just need to work each week. We need to try to pick up points. We go into every game to win. We need to get the points and the players’ know that but I think they’ve done themselves and the club proud today.”

When asked whether he’s got relegation on his mind, Watson admitted: “Yes, of course it is! It has been for some time. I’m never going to dismiss it because it’s a reality, isn’t it?

“We’re working for no more than to stay safe and to build an ethos to carry on into the future and for players’ to learn. 

“It’s a reality that we’re not getting into the play-offs. We just need to stay up.

“Like I said to them, it’s character building. Last season at this stage we was relatively safe, sitting mid-table, not much pressure but you learn things about yourself and you learn things about eachother when you’re under pressure. Certainly we’re under pressure but it’s ok. 

“I’m sure Harlow are under pressure because a lot of investment has gone into their place over the last few seasons to get promoted but pressure’s pressure and you need to respond, grow and learn from it and you can’t shy away from it.”

Chatham Town: Ryan Nicholls, Richard Davies, Greg Benbow, Joe Loft, Liam Hickey, Lewis Knight, Austin Edwards (Fiachra McCardle 90), Corey Holder (Scott Reilly 84), Jamie Taylor (Garry Tilley 84), Joe Bingham,  Kieron McCann.
Subs: Jack Steventon, Laurence Collins

Goal: Kieron McCann 45

Booked: Lewis Knight 28, Kieron McCann 88

Harlow Town: Andy Walker, Ben Glasgow, Layne Eadie, Joshua Urqhart, Warren Goodhind (Marc Gorbell 90), Billy Jones, Junior Appiah (Jared Small 63), David Cowley, Jamie Guy, Leon Antoine (Fabion Sims 62), Junior Dadson.
Subs: Daniel Hatsuzaka, Edward Thompson

Goals: Junior Dadson 29, Jamie Guy 81

Booked: Ben Glasgow 53

Attendance: 170
Referee: Mr Phillip Rowley (Canterbury)
Assistants: Mr Ronald Albert (Catford, London SE6) & Mr Orville Bentley (Lewisham, London SE13)