Chatham Town 3-2 Sheppey United - It was a statement today to show everybody what we can do, says Chatham Town boss Scott Lindsey

Saturday 28th December 2019
Chatham Town 3 – 2 Sheppey United
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 28/12/2019 15:00

Sea Pioneer Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 28 December 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

CHATHAM TOWN manager Scott Lindsey says their impressive win over Sheppey United has made a statement to show what his side can do.

A season high crowd of 927 were treated to a game of high quality that would not have been out of place in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

Chatham Town bounced back from a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Erith Town to open the scoring after only 177 seconds through Jack Evans’ far post tap-in, before Sheppey United equalised through right-winger Danny Leonard.

Chatham Town striker Ian Draycott drilled a shot into the top right-hand corner, before Leonard scored his 17th goal of the season to equalise for a second time, which was their 68th league goal in 19 league outings.

Evans rifled in his 16th goal of the season to claim the victory just before the hour-mark to inflict Sheppey United’s first league defeat in eight games.

“Delighted first and foremost, we knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Lindsey, 47, who has won half of his 14 games in charge since leaving League Two side Forest Green Rovers where he was Mark Cooper’s assistant manager to take over a club in the ninth-tier of English football.

“I went to watch them play a couple of weeks ago and I felt they was really strong up the top end of the pitch and we had to be really good with the ball. All the time we had the ball they couldn’t hurt us so the emphasis was to have a lot of the possession and the game plan kind of worked.

“I think it was 67% possession which we’re pleased with.  If you have that much of the ball they have less chances to hurt you.

“We do risks sometimes, we do risk with our possession. One of the goals came from us risking a pass from the goalkeeper into the middle of the pitch but I will take responsibility for that as a manager because I’m asking the players to play that way so there’s going to be sometimes when we do turn the ball over and they will hurt us but that’s the nature of being a possession based team but all in all, delighted.”

Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten admitted he was disappointed that his side’s good run of form has come to an end here today.

“Obviously disappointed with the result today. We’ve been on a good run recently and came here full of confidence but on the day I don’t think we were quite good enough over the 90 minutes,” said Batten.

“I’m going to start losing my hair if I come to any more of these games. It is nerve wracking but we have to keep a calm standing with it and we try to see the game as it’s happening and try to deal with the incidents and the formations and all of the rest of the things that happens in the game.”

Reflecting on attracting the League’s highest crowd of the season so far, Lindsey added: “I was surprised at the gate, not surprised but the aim was to get over 750 today. I think there was over 900, which is unbelievable at this level of football.

“We’re trying to build something here that eventually we can keep building forward and keep moving forward as a football club and if we can get those kind of crowds through the gates then it’s only going to help.”

Batten added: “It was fantastic for them today, was it really 927?  That’s incredible, it really is. What a day to get beat!

“That’s what you’re in football for isn’t it, to play in these games. We all want to be at that next level and pushing from there. It’s such a tough league to get out of it and it proved today.”

Sheppey United created the first opening of the game with two minutes and 31 seconds on the clock but Leonard lacked power with his chance.

Holding midfielder Ritchie Hamill played the ball out to left-winger Harrison Carnegie, who pinged a diagonal pass out to Leonard, who cut inside George Sheminant and lacked power as he tried to stroke his shot into the bottom near corner, which was comfortably saved by Dan Ellis.

Batten said: “Danny’s been doing well this season. He’s got himself up there on the goalscoring charts. I think he’s a quality player and when we can get him on the ball in wide areas, he will do damage.”

Lindsey added: “Listen, they’re going to get chances because of their attacking aggression, two wide lads, Rob Denness, Dan Bradshaw have scored a lot of goals.  I think they’re the highest goalscoring team at this level of football in England so if we can limit them to little chances then we’ve done our job.”

Chatham Town immediately raced up the other end and took the lead.

Right-wing-back Jon Pilbeam found himself in the bottom channel and produced a great low cross which flashed across the face of goal and was tapped into the bottom left-hand corner by Evans at the far post, nipping in front of Sheppey United’s right-back Chris Edwards, who was clearly unfit with a thigh strain.

“James Evans plays in a kind of number 10. A lot of the football goes through Jack but what we do ask of him when the ball does go wide is make the box and become that second striker, as we do with Draycott as well. It was a great ball in and Jack was in to put it in the net,” said Lindsey.

“It was a good start. One of the things we said before the game was we wanted to try to kill their momentum a little bit in terms of they’ve won seven league games in a row so the first thing we wanted to do was score real early and try to nip that momentum in the bud really quickly in the game.”

Batten said: “Disappointing! We’ve been conceding a few goals from wide areas. We conceded down at Tunbridge Wells and K Sports and it’s something that we need to improve on because up until then there wasn’t a lot of threat.  I thought we were fine. I don’t think our keeper had much to do and then all off a sudden a cross comes in and it’s a goal.  Disappointing for us but credit to them.”

When asked about Edwards’ injury, Batten revealed: “He had a little thigh strain in training on Thursday and we felt he would be ok. We tested it before the game and he said he was fine. When it came to the real action it started to pull so it looks like he will be out for a little while with that.”

Chatham Town then enjoyed a period of dominance.

Striker Paul Vines headed the ball down for Draycott, who was given time and space to unleash a speculative right-footed drive from 35-yards, which bounced a couple of times on its way into the hands of visiting goalkeeper Joshua Pelling.

Evans, who plays in the hole behind the front two of Vines and Draycott, hooked a diagonal pass out to Pilbeam, who cut in from the wing to float in a deep cross towards the far post where left-wing-back Matt Bodkin rose to send his header over the top of the near post from 10-yards.

Pelling was called into making a low save in the 11th minute following a short corner routine from Chatham Town’s first of seven corners.

Evans rose his right arm up before rolling a short corner into Bodkin, who played the ball back to Evans, who drilled a first time right-footed angled drive towards the near post, which was meat and drink for Pelling, who swiftly got down on to his knees to grasp onto the ball at his near post.

Hamill stroked a left-footed free-kick towards the Chatham Town goal from 30-yards, which was caught by Dan Ellis, low to his left, before Pelling pulled off a great save to deny Chatham Town doubling their lead in the 15th minute following their third corner.

Evans cut a corner back from the right wing and holding midfielder Mikey Dalton let the ball roll through his legs and Draycott drilled a first time right-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner from 22-yards, forcing Pelling to dive to his right to push the ball behind for another corner.

“It’s actually a double dummy if you look at it back,” explained Lindsey, who has brought in former Canterbury City winger Ryan Palmer as Bryon Walker continues his time on the sidelines with a knee injury.

“It’s something that we set-up. We always do it either as a first corner from the right or the second corner from the right. We have Bodkin steps over it, Pilbeam steps over it and Draycott comes around the back to shoots so it’s a second step-over because everyone in the world thinks the second man is going to shoot but he steps over it as well and the next man comes in and shoots and I think it was a good save from the keeper.”

Batten added: “It was a good save. Chatham have got some very good players. They’re going to have opportunities with the quality that they’ve got but I felt we need to defend better and pick players up especially runners going into our box.”

It proved to be a vital save as clinical Sheppey United equalised with 17 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

Substitute right-back Connor Wilkins, who came on in the eighth minute for Saunders, who had already gone down twice for treatment, threw the ball into Rob Denness, whose clever heel set Wilkins in behind Sheminant (one of three centre-halves but on the left-hand-side) and he put it on a plate for Leonard, who swept his first time right-footed shot across Ellis into the top far corner from 14-yards.

Batten said: “Danny is so dangerous. He’s got pace and trickery and if he gets into areas like that, he’s scored a fair few goals from those positions.”

Lindsey added: “I think it was a from a throw-in down the right-hand side. We tried to press the ball and left a man spare in the box and he had enough room to finish it off.

“I think it was a good finish from him but we kind of kicked ourselves because we normally mark really tight in the box if the ball goes wide. We try to press the thrower and we left people behind us and people didn’t mark and he got too much room.”

Chatham Town were celebrating the lead for the second time with 23 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

Evans swept a ball forward from inside the Sheppey United half, Draycott flicked the ball on and Vines bravely knocked the ball down with his head despite being put under pressure by centre-half Lewis Mingle and the ball dropped for Draycott to drill a first time right-footed volley into the top right-hand corner from 22-yards.

Lindsey said: “It was a good move from us. There was a little bit of intricate play on the edge of the box from it and a great finish and I was pleased with that.”

Batten added: “It was a good goal. I thought we could’ve done better with the flick on, picking up runners and even winning the first ball. I didn’t think it was a great ball into him, he’s had to work hard to flick it on. If you’re not picking runners up, spaces don’t score goals do they. It’s always players that seem to do it!”

Chatham Town’s central centre-half Pat Geddis was at fault for setting up a chance for Sheppey United.

Wilkins threw the ball to Denness, who held the ball up before rolling the ball back into Wilkins’ feet and his cross wasn’t headed properly clear by a diving Geddis on the edge of his box and Leonard cut the loose ball onto his right-foot outside the box and his drive sailed over the top of the far post.

Sheppey United were gifted an equaliser following the resulting goal-kick, the goal coming with 29 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Chatham Town are a side that play out from the back and they were caught out following a mistake from Dalton, who sits in front of the back three.

Goalkeeper Ellis played the ball into Dalton, who had his pocket picked by a pressing Billy Bennett and he cut towards the edge of the box before playing in Leonard, who smashed his right-footed drive into the top near corner.

Batten said: “We said after 15 minutes of the game it became apparent they were going to play out from the back quite deliberately and quite proficiently so we needed to get a bit tighter so we said to the lads just push on another two or three yards.

“I think it was Billy Bennett who caught the fella when we played it into him and knocked it forward and the rest is history isn’t it and he’s finished it well.”

Reflecting on Leonard’s 17th goal of the season, Batten said: “He’s got a lot of quality. We just try to get as much out of him as we can.  He’s new to that position. We put him out there this season, he’s been playing central midfield or in a 10 role for his previous clubs but I felt he’s got so much quality that he could do that role for us.”

Lindsey said: “I think with that one – and we spoke about it and we’ll be clipping the game up and will be doing some analysis on Thursday night regarding the way we play out from the back.

“We have to make some better decisions so we have to wait until there’s an exit. There wasn’t an exit in that action. There wasn’t a way where we could’ve got out. Had one of the centre-forwards pressed the goalkeeper there would’ve been an exit because the centre-half would’ve been spare. It would’ve gone to Dalton and we would’ve got out safely but then we have to play because we want to play.

“We want to dominate possession from those deep areas but then we have to pick the moments to do it and moments not to do it and that was one moment when we shouldn’t have don’t it.  We probably should’ve gone a little bit longer then maybe four if not maybe five players pressing us high and that’s when we have to be smart with our decision making.”

Lindsey was forced to shuffle his defensive pack in the 38th minute after he lost Fikayo Ajayi (right-sided centre-half) after he sprinted back to block a cross from Carnegie behind for a corner.

“He’s had a few problems with his hamstring and his hamstring just went slightly so he’s going to be missing for a few weeks now,” revealed Lindsey.

Sheminant switched over to the right-hand side, Geddis stayed central and substitute Justyn Roberts played on the left of a back three.

Chatham’s outlet in the first half was to play out from the back before hitting long diagonals to release Bodkin down the left wing but this tactic wasn’t prominent during the second half as Sheppey United defended much better after the interval.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break with the game evenly poised and oozing quality on both sides.

“Keep playing, keep pretty much the same but wary of the fact that they’re going in and (the equalising goal) gave them a little bit of momentum,” said Lindsey.

“Towards the end of the first half they became on top a little bit and they could smell a little bit of danger from us risking too many balls so my words at half-time were keep doing what we’re doing but be mindful of the fact that their team-talk will be ‘Chatham are doing to risk more by passing it and we need to press really high and aggressive,’ so we need to be precise and efficient with the ball whether we play a pass through their press or whether we go a little bit longer so we had to manage these situations better and I think we did it ok.”

Batten said: “I said to them it’s about how you defend sometimes. We’ve had this Achilles heel. It’s the defending at times and it’s not just the back four, it’s as a team. You have to close down quickly at the front. 

“You have to be on it. I think the midfield was a couple of yards off the pace in terms of defensively in the first half and I said to them if we can brush up on that, if we can be a bit more compact.

“We moved our wide men in another five yards so we made ourselves a little bit more narrow and I thought that we started the half really well and I thought for 20 odd minutes we was in control and didn’t look like they were going to bother us too much and it was a matter of when we could get the next goal.”

Sheppey United created an opening inside the opening four minutes when central midfielder Billy Bennett played in Carnegie down the left and the winger floated in a cross towards the far post but Leonard steered his header back across goal and the home side cleared their lines.

Seven of Sheppey United’s eight corners came during the second half as they played more on the front foot, especially as they shut the door on the double threat of Pilbeam and Bodkin.

Hamill swung in a left-footed corner from the right and Wilkins steered his near post header across the keeper and just past the post from within a crowded six-yard box.

Wilkins’ corner from the left was expertly plucked out of the air by a stretching Ellis, whose attempted long throw for Bodkin was intercepted by Greg Benbow, who delivered a cross back into the Chatham Town box for 33-goal striker Bradshaw, who flicked his glancing header across the keeper and just past the far post.

Sheppey United were denied a deserved equaliser in the 58th minute, courtesy of a world-class save from Ellis.

Sheminant and Dalton got in a mix-up and they lost possession as Denness nipped in between the pair of them to steal the ball down the left before he rolled the ball inside to Carnegie, who cut inside and space opened up in front of him before the winger drilled a right-footed shot towards the roof of the net from 20-yards, Ellis flying high to his left and using a strong right hand to push the ball over his crossbar.

Batten said: “That was a great save! I thought it was in all the way. He got a good connection on it. Dan, being his size, I was surprised he got up and dived that far but there you go, he surprised me.”

Lindsey added: “I remember the action, yes, great save.  At the end of the day that’s what the goalkeeper is there for so that’s what we pay him for. He’s there to stop the ball going in the net! It was a great save for a big man, he’s really agile and he can get around the goalmouth so I’m really pleased with him.”

Just as though it appeared that a pressing Sheppey United side would score the next goal, Chatham Town snatched victory with 14 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Dalton found himself wide on the right and he played in a low cross which was worked over to Vines inside the box and his first time pass played in Evans, who rifled his right-footed shot into the top left-hand corner from 15-yards.

Lindsey said: “I think it was Dalton who tackled the ball wide. I might be doing Vinsey a bit of dis-justice here. I think it was Dalton and it came into Jack head height. Jack glanced it with his head into Draycott, Draycott bumped his man and slipped Jack in and Jack finished it off brilliantly.  It was another intricate move on the edge of the box, which we’ve been doing a lot of work on in training.”

Batten added: “They’ve got quality players and you can’t give them the time and space. I think we could’ve done better stopping the cross and you’ve got good players and we’ve got good players they can create at any time and you’re waiting for that opportunity.

“Although I felt we were in control of the game, if you’re playing against quality, it only takes a second to score a goal. Was it Brian Clough who once said that? I have to look at some of his quotes. So it’s one of them, a bit of quality from them and it’s a goal.”

Halfway through the second half, the outstanding Evans whipped in a free-kick and Vines towered over his marker to plant his header over the crossbar from 15-yards, with Sheppey temporarily down to 10 men as Bradshaw was off the pitch after taking a knock at the other end of the pitch.

The home side were slowing the game down inside the final 20 minutes and they shut up shop as they were no longer a threat in an attacking sense.

Lindsey said: “We just wanted to rest with the ball, just have the ball. At the time we’re winning the game at 3-2 so keep the ball because all the time we have the ball they can’t hurt you. Rather than boot it forward and panic and run up the pitch and all off a sudden we have to defend again. It’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to rest with the ball, be dominant and be patient and see the game out.”

Sheppey United were to be denied an deserved equaliser in the final 12 minutes when Ellis pulled off another brilliant save.

Carnegie raced down the left wing and whipped in a glorious cross into the penalty area and a despairing Bradshaw held his head in his hands after his header was somehow clawed out by a diving Ellis, high to his left, to push the ball behind for another corner.

Batten said: “It’s a great save! I think somebody’s nicked Dan Ellis’ turkey haven’t they because he’s diving around that goal like I’ve never seen him before. He must’ve been short of grub at Christmas, something’s happened. It was a great save!”

Lindsey added: “Dan’s paid to do that! One thing that we spoke about when we trained last night, we knew how much of a threat their forwards are.  Our game plan was, if we kept them four quiet at the top of the pitch we’ll win the game because we felt we had more than enough in terms of our possession and in terms of our ability and in terms of our individuals that are out on the pitch.”

Chatham Town tried to break through the middle through Bodkin inside the final five minutes but his speculative right-footed attempt from 35-yards was speculative and the ball was comfortably caught by Pelling.

Batten threw on another striker in the shape of the much-travelled Laurent Hamici and playing three men at the back as centre-half Lewis Mingle was sacrificed and they wasted a chance inside injury-time to force an equaliser.

Wilkins’ driving cutting run was ended by Sheminant’s trip but Bennett skied his right-footed free-kick over the crossbar from 20-yards, beside the curve of the D.

“He just lifted it over, you’ve got to hit the target and keep it low,” added Batten.

Beckenham Town remain at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table tonight with 46 points from 18 games.

Corinthian leapfrog over Sheppey United into second-place with 40 points from 19 games, while Sheppey United slip one place with 39 points from 18 games, while Chatham Town remain in fourth-place with 37 points from 20 games.

Lindsey takes his side to Beckenham Town next Saturday, while Sheppey United welcome basement side Greenwich Borough to Holm Park.

When asked what today’s win means for Chatham Town, Lindsey replied: “I think it’s a statement for a start because they’re a good side. They’ve been on a winning run, they’re a good side, they’re a really good side. It’s a statement today to show everybody what we can do and I felt we did that.

“Listen, we want to play in big games, those sort of big games are exactly what we’re here for. We want to play in the big games. We relish it, we’re up for it, we’ll be ready again for next Saturday.

“It will be a tough game. Beckenham are a good side and they’re up there for a reason. We’ll have to get ourselves dusted down and organised and we’ll be ready to go again.”

This defeat was a blow to Sheppey United’s title bid as Jason Huntley’s Beckenham came away from Erith Town with a 3-1 win today.

“I think it will be a lot of twists and turns,” said Batten, who will be looking to bounce back against a Greenwich Borough side that claimed their third win of the season with a shock 4-3 home win over Welling Town today.

“The next four weeks will be quite big for us. We’ve got Glebe and Corinthian thrown in somewhere in the next four or five weeks as well.

“Myself and the coaches will see where we are in four weeks’ time. We have to go and get the points next week against Greenwich Borough and then we have got to go to Beckenham (on 11 January) and we’ve got to get points there.

“You’ve got to get something off the teams around you if you’re going to have a chance. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what getting promotion is all about, winning big games.

“It’s such a long way to go. We’ve played 19 games now so it’s halfway through isn’t it so if the league stopped today we’d be third and Beckenham top so we need to replicate that form.

“We had fantastic support today, absolutely unbelievable support, credit to the club and we’re just disappointed that we didn’t give them something to really cheer about at the end with the result.”

Chatham Town: Dan Ellis, Jon Pilbeam, Matt Bodkin, Pat Geddis, Fikayo Ajayi (Justyn Roberts 38), George Sheminant, Reece Butler (Harvey Brown 69), Mikey Dalton, Paul Vines (James Jeffrey 82), Ian Draycott, Jack Evans.
Subs: Jordan Carey, Joe Jarvis

Goals: Jack Evans 3, 59, Ian Draycott 24

Booked: Ian Draycott 86, Jon Pilbeam 90, Pat Geddis 90

Sheppey United: Joshua Pelling, Chris Edwards (Connor Wilkins 8), Greg Benbow, Ritchie Hamill, Danny Rumbol, Lewis Mingle (Laurent Hamici 89), Danny Leonard, Billy Bennett, Dan Bradshaw, Rob Denness (Miles Cornwell 73), Harrison Carnegie.
Subs: Hicham Akhazzan, Jon Ralph

Goals: Danny Leonard 18, 30

Booked: Miles Cornwell 77

Attendance: 927
Referee: Mr Rob Columb
Assistants: Mr Wayne Horsfall & Mr Chandon Chapman