Corinthian 3-2 Alresford Town - The carrot of playing at Wembley is exciting but it’s a million miles away at the moment, says Corinthian boss Michael Golding

Saturday 12th November 2016
Corinthian 3 – 2 Alresford Town
Location Gay Dawn Farm, Valley Road, Longfield, Kent DA3 8LY
Kickoff 12/11/2016 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase Second Round
Saturday 12th November 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Gay Dawn Farm

CORINTHIAN manager Michael Golding says the club will put money into the pot for a team night out after reaching The Buildbase FA Vase Third Round for the fifth time in the amateur club’s history.

Corinthian went into this entertaining game between two good sides sitting in eleventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League table on 17 points from 15 league games and on a four-match unbeaten run (winning their last three, keeping three clean sheets).

Richard Luffman’s Alresford Town, meanwhile, arrived at a wet and miserable Gay Dawn Farm in the bottom seven in the Sydenham’s Wessex Premier Division table with five wins and two draws from their 14 league outings.

Corinthian took the lead totally against the run of play through left-winger Conor Johnson’s fifth goal of the season, before striker Luke Tanner gave the Kent side a two goal cushion inside the opening 18 minutes.

Alresford Town skipper Christopher Mason pulled a goal back from the penalty spot to convert his third goal of the campaign, before Aaron Blaxall notched his fifth of the season to equalise in the second half.

But Tanner took his goalscoring tally to seven for the season by sending Corinthian through to the last 64 of a competition where the prize is a trip to Wembley Stadium to play The Final on 21 May 2017.

“Hard, hard fought victory. I thought it was deserved. I thought it was a really good game, a good game for the neutral, end-to-end, typical cup tie,” said Golding during the post-match press conference.

“I think you can see from the boys’ reaction afterwards, they’re an honest bunch. They work hard together, they’re all in it. We’ve only got a small squad.

“Just to get into the next round is a little bit of kudus for the club and we’d like to think we can compete.

“I thought they were very impressive.  I went to watch them on Wednesday, they draw 2-2 with Newport IOW, so we knew what to expect.  They’d made a few changes, which we expected.  I was impressed with them. I thought the midfield were good. The wide lads, Stephen Hall, who’s their goalscorer, obviously he went off in the first half but they’re a decent side, they’re really good.”

The Magpies from Hampshire started the game on the front foot and Mason played the ball inside to his central midfield partner Blaxall, but his 25-yard drive struck the back of ten-goal winger Stephen Hall and bounced behind for a Corinthian goal-kick inside the opening six minutes.

Corinthian keeper Joe Hagan was forced into making a smart low parry at his near post as Mason attempted to steer the ball into the corner from a tight angle.

But Corinthian grabbed the lead against the run of play with only 10 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Winger Michael Hagan broke down the right, cut inside and dinked the ball over the advancing Wayne Shaw, 44, who is emergency keeper and keeper coach at Vanarama National League Sutton United.

The ball trickled towards the goal-line but Robert Flooks showed desire to get back to clear the ball off the line and couldn’t stop Johnson following up and sweeping his shot into the bottom near corner from 12-yards.

“It was slightly against-the-run-of-play,” admitted Golding, whose side like to play out from the back.

“We’ve always got that with Michael out wide. He’s done it for a couple of years now. He pops up either with a goal or assists. Conor was in the right place at the right time. 

“We felt we could get in behind them and with Wayne (Shaw) in goal, we just felt he wouldn’t be as mobile.  We know Wayne, he’s a good goalkeeper, but we felt if we could get the ball in behind, that was our opportunity today to punish them.”

Michael Hagan’s sublime through ball put Johnson in behind Alresford left-back Sam Burt and Shaw got his large frame down low to his right and Johnson put the ball back into the centre for Tanner to slot his shot into the bottom left-hand corner to double Corinthian’s lead, timed at 17 minutes and 23 seconds.

“Probably not to dissimilar to the first goal to be honest,” said Golding.

“It’s been fired across the goal and I’m pleased for Luke. He works tirelessly for the team as you’ve seen today. He puts in a real shift for the boys and he doesn’t always get the goals his play deserves so I’m really pleased he got the second one. We’ve probably been moaning at him a little bit to go and get those goals in the six-yard box. He does a lot of his work outside of the area so to see Luke pop up there was really pleasing.”

But despite clinical Corinthian racing into an early 2-0 lead, you always felt Alresford Town – wearing a highlighter pen yellow away strip – had the quality to come back into the game.

“It’s difficult, we’ve not been brilliant to start. We couldn’t get into a rhythm and I’ll give credit to the opposition for that,” said Golding.

“They closed us down, they worked hard and we couldn’t get into our rhythm. It's always pleasing to go 2-0 up.  We’ve had three clean sheets in our last three games. We feel like we’ve turned a bit of a corner, which has been hard work but like I say you give the opposition huge respect because they are a decent side.”

Hall teed up Mason, who drove his shot towards the top left-hand corner from 25-yards, which flew past the diving Joe Hagan, who thanked his right-back Joe Brown for heading the ball off the line.

Alresford Town deservedly pulled a goal back from the penalty spot, the goal timed at 21 minutes and 52 seconds.

Referee Richard Carter spotted that Johnson tripped Simon Everett inside the box and pointed to the spot.

Mason drove his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite keeper Joe Hagan diving the same way.

“One slip, one mistake, it’s pouring down with rain and they’re well back into the game so we knew it wasn’t over,” said Golding.

“Conor got caught on his heels slightly. It’s probably an arguable penalty but we’re 60 yards away so we’d probably want the same if it’s the opposite end. I thought it was a little bit soft.

“It’s unfortunate.  We always fancy we’ve got goals in us. I think if you look at the league table our goals scored (26) and goals conceded (35) column this year unfortunately show we’re conceding a few but we’ve also got goals in our team so we didn’t really worry about what the opposition are doing. We’d rather keep clean sheets and keep it tight but we always back ourselves to go and create chances.”

A big kick forward from Shaw wasn’t headed away by Louis Pearce and the ball fell at striker John Cole, who smashed a deflected dipping dive just over the top of the near post.

Oscar Housego’s first corner from the right came out to Michael Hagan at the far post and the Corinthian winger’s hooked shot sent Shaw diving to his right but Alresford’s set-piece specialist, right-back Tom Richards got his body in the way to make the block.

Richards showed better work some 25-yards out when he hit his right-footed free-kick over the Corinthian wall and sailed just past the top left-hand corner.

Corinthian called Shaw into making a smart double save in the 37th minute.

Central midfielder Josh James played a sublime crossfield pass out to Michael Hagan down the right. He shrugged off Magpies’ left-back Sam Burt with ease and bent his shot towards goal, which was parried by Shaw, high to his right and the keeper pounced on the ball as Tanner poked a weak shot into the grounded keeper from the edge of the six-yard box.

“It was almost a carbon copy of Luke’s goal,” said Golding.

“I think if it falls anywhere else, Wayne’s on the floor and it’s hit his hands and stops on the goal-line.  I think if it goes anywhere else, it trickles over the line.

“Listen, they’re probably breakaway opportunities but it’s stuff that we work on. We look at counter-attacking. We look at being clinical when we do get our chances but unfortunately that didn’t go over the line.”

That was the last piece of action of the first half and Golding was asked his thoughts at the break.

He replied: “Just that we needed to keep the ball better.  Like I say, their midfield worked, harried and hassled us in there and closed us down but we didn’t really keep good possession of the ball so we were a little bit put off by the noise from the sideline (vocal manager) at some stages of the first half, which was quite entertaining.

“We just told the boys to keep plugging away, not to take anything for granted that they would get chances, they would get opportunities but we felt that we would as well.”

Corinthian were dangerous on the counter-attack and their first chance of the second half came by this method inside the opening three minutes.

Johnson played the ball out of the Corinthian half and Michael Hagan drove forward before cracking a right-footed dipping drive just over the crossbar from 35-yards.

Johnson and Housego linked up and Johnson’s shot was parried by Shaw at his near post but Tanner stabbed the ball into the keeper’s hands.

Golding said: “I thought we started the second half brightly to be fair.  We came out quite sharp and we didn’t let them get into their rhythm. It was almost a reverse of the first half.

“We probably had three or four of those half chances where we do have Luke, Michael or Conor in there and it just didn’t fall the other way. It was just that little bit of luck today.”

The introduction of pacy left-winger Louis Clarke, 17,  scared the living daylights out of Alresford Town, especially their right-back Richards.

Clarke was the meat in a Alresford sandwich and Blaxall was lucky to only be shown a yellow card for committing a foul as last man as the Corinthian winger sprinted through the heart of the Magpies defence.

Corinthian central midfielder Jack Bath drilled his right-footed free-kick straight down Shaw’s throat, the keeper beating the ball away and Josh James cut inside to stroke a low left-footed drive from 25-yards, which Shaw dived low to his left to hold.

“He (Blaxall) pulled the wool over the ref’s eyes there,” claimed Golding.

“Louis’s a good kid, he’s only 17, one of the kids we’ve brought through. Our under 18 manager has brought him into the club and he’s stepped up to the first team. He’s scored two goals against Sevenoaks a couple of rounds ago. He’s a genuine honest lad, he’s got stuff to improve on but he’s got a lot of raw pace.”

Flooks hurt himself and have to be withdrawn after guiding his free header into Joe Hagan’s hands from 15-yards after meeting Richards’ free-kick from the centre spot after 57 minutes.

Alresford Town deserved their equaliser when it arrived in the 61st minute.

Richards swung in a poor corner from the left which was cleared back out to him.  Richards put in another poor cross towards the near post and an unmarked Blaxall poked his shot into the bottom left-hand corner from four-yards.

“I thought they were a threat from set-pieces the whole game, they were really good at set-pieces, good deliveries,” said Golding.

“After clearing the first one, the first one was the worst corner of the day.  The ball’s gone back out, another duff cross and he’s gone in at the front post. But listen, there’s no blame on the goalkeeper or the centre halves (Marcus Evans and Louis Pearce) today because they’ve been brilliant for the last three or four games and it was just a bit of a mistake at the near post.”

When asked how he was feeling at the time, Golding knew his side would go on to win the game.

“Just to try to get a foothold back in the game.  Again, we always fancied that we will create chances as the game goes on and stretches.  With Louis’ Clarke’s pace on the one side and Michael on the other, we do genuine think we will create opportunities but to weather the storm slightly just for five minutes, just to bed ourselves back in.  The change of Oscar going off with Jack Billings in midfield to add a bit of strength in there, but not to panic, keep playing and trust in what we’re doing.”

Alresford Town then missed a glorious chance to claim the victory and to reach the Third Round for their third time.

Craig Harding played Mason in behind Corinthian’s Joe Brown, who had moved across from right-back to left-back.

Mason only had keeper Joe Hagan to beat but he dragged his shot past the far post.

“Joe Hagan came out and made himself big but again they’ve got their tails up and you’re half expecting the fella to hit the target but we’ll give Joe credit for that,” said a thankful manager.

It proved to be a crucial miss as Corinthian won the game with 72 minutes on the clock.

Brown lofted the ball down the line for Clarke to latch onto with pace and his 40-yard run took him to the left by-line. He kept his composure to cut the ball back for Tanner, who placed his first time low shot past Shaw into the back of the net.

Golding said: “Really pleased for Luke. It’s not how we want to play necessarily.  We like to get the ball down as you know but with Louis’s pace we just felt we could get in behind either full-back and we’ve been working on him driving in behind full-backs using his body and he’s had the composure to pick out Luke and he’s slotted it in to the back of the net.”

Everett was denied by a goal-line clearance when he was left unmarked inside the Corinthian penalty area as Alresford pressed.

Alresford Town squandered another great chance inside the final 10 minutes.

Substitute Mohammad Nyang picked out unmarked left-back Burt at the far post and his attempted chip was awful and Joe Hagan made a comfortable catch when he should have been picking the ball out of his net.

Golding admitted it was a big let off.

He said: “He’s gone through, he’s tried to chip the keeper. They had a couple of opportunities down our right-hand side where we’ve not tracked runners. There was two in a minute which was a bit frustrating.  The fells should’ve scored there but we’ll give credit to Joe.”

Bath hooked a poor shot straight at visiting keeper Shaw but Tanner was denied a hat-trick at the death by some poor decision making by Michael Hagan on another counter-attack.

Hagan sped down the left, cut into the penalty area and should have cut the ball back to an unmarked Tanner on the penalty spot.  However, he ignored the striker and his shot was comfortably saved by Shaw.

Golding joked, “Luke nearly had him round the throat!  Michael’s decision making is the only aspect of his game that we’re really drilling into him at the moment.  He’s worked hard, he’s got in behind the full-back and listen he’s just a young kid. He wants to get himself on the scoresheet in The FA Vase but it’s that decision making. If he passes it to Luke it makes it 4-2 and it’s comfortable and Luke gets his hat-trick that he wanted and deserved.”

Corinthian managed to hold on despite six minutes and 32 seconds of injury time to take their prize money up to £2,025 after their third win in the competition after knocking out Sevenoaks Town (3-2) and Alton (2-0).

Corinthian have a zero playing budget and Golding revealed the club will treat their players to a night out to celebrate.

He said: “Really pleasing for the club. They give us a lot, what we want in terms of pre-season. We ask a fair few different bits and pieces to help the players.  I don’t like using the term budget because there isn’t a budget here so we have to do something different and the club will put some money back into the players’ pit and we’ll certainly enjoy being in the Third Round.

“It’s not a win bonus, absolutely no win bonuses, but we’ll go go-carting or we’ll have a team meal or something like that. The club will help us with some money and the boys will pay half, just something like that.

“Hopefully we’ll get another home draw and I think it’s two rounds until you start going national and that’s what the boys are looking forward to, hopefully playing one of the bigger sides in a couple of rounds.”

Crowborough Athletic, Croydon and Corinthian are through to the Third Round outright, while Canterbury City and Glebe travel to Chichester City and Walton & Hersham respectively on Tuesday night after their games were postponed through waterlogged pitches today.

FA Vase ties are against clubs in Step Five and Six and a day out at Wembley Stadium is everybody’s dream.

Golding said: “It’s the best competition for me because everyone’s got the opportunity to go and win it. We know the northern sides are strong. Listen, we’re not silly and thinking we’re going to go on and win it.  There’s a long way to go but the carrot of playing at Wembley and just trying to progress, the boys take it on a game-by-game basis and I know it’s a cliché but they genuinely do.  They see it as another game to tick off and they’ve done that.

“The carrot of playing at Wembley is exciting but it’s a million miles away at the moment.”

Corinthian: Joe Hagan, Joe Brown, Alexander Jack Billings, Jack Bath, Marcus Evans, Louis Pearce, Michael Hagan, Josh James, Luke Tanner (Brima Daramy 90), Oscar Housego (Adam Cooper 70), Conor Johnson (Louis Clarke 53).
Subs: Malik Thomas, Sam Groombridge

Goals: Conor Johnson 11, Luke Tanner 18, 72

Booked: Marcus Evans 29

Alresford Town: Wayne Shaw, Tom Richards, Sam Burt, Aaron Blaxall, Robert Flooks (Scott Munro 59), Sam Doswell, Craig Harding, Christopher Mason, John Cole, Simon Everett (Tom Ashton 77), Stephen Hall (Mohammad Nyang 39).
Subs: Harry Davies, Marc Cole

Goals: Christopher Mason 22 (penalty), Aaron Blaxall 61

Booked: Sam Doswell 53, Aaron Blaxall 77

Attendance: 52
Referee: Mr Richard Carter (Chelmsford, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Paul Reilly (Chelmsford, Essex) & Mr Ashley Butler (Dunmow, Essex)

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