Corinthian 1-0 Fisher - Every time we’ve come here the referee melts. I don’t know what it is or what’s going on but it absolutely stinks and I’m fed up with it, says furious Fisher boss Dean Harrison

Saturday 23rd February 2019
Corinthian 1 – 0 Fisher
Location Gay Dawn Farm, Valley Road, Longfield, Kent DA3 8LY
Kickoff 23/02/2019 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 23 February 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Gay Dawn Farm

FURIOUS Fisher manager Dean Harrison claims referee Joe Kasper melted during this feisty top-of-the-table clash at Corinthian.

A crowd of 103 were at a sun-kissed Gay Dawn Farm with the anticipation of two unfancied sides with small budgets fighting tooth and nail in this exciting Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title race.

But the referee took centre stage and showed both sides five yellow cards during the game and sent-off Fisher winger Trey Small for a second booking in the 37th minute and carded Fisher’s unused substitute Martin Begg after the final whistle.

A game of this magnitude with both sides fighting to win promotion to the Isthmian League has to be officiated by a referee who can cope with the pressure of such a vital game.

Corinthian extended their impressive run of wins to 13 games and deserved to win this game, courtesy of a diving header from inspirational captain Jack Bath from a set-piece with 21 minutes left.

Corinthian are now favourites to win the league title as they remain at the top of the table with 65 points on the board with 11 games remaining, six points clear of Fisher, who have played a game more.

Big-hitters, all with bigger budgets than these two, Chatham Town (55 points from 25 games); Cray Valley (55 points from 25 games); Sheppey United (51 points from 27 games) and Beckenham Town (51 points from 27 games) follow.

Fisher have now suffered back-to-back defeats, having lost 2-1 at home to Cray Valley last weekend.

“The result was influenced by the referee,” claimed Harrison.

“It should’ve been two reds because Jamie Billings should’ve been sent off and it’s the second week in a row that we’ve had a player from the opposite team who should’ve got a second yellow and been sent-off and the referee’s bottled it!

“I think he went early with the yellows but if you’re going to get yellows and go that way, you either go one way.  You either manage the game and don’t give yellows, which the referee did against Punjab and he did it well, or you stay consistent.

“It’s just frightening to watch, some of the decisions were an absolute joke!

“Like I said in my piece to you on your website yesterday, the last two weeks we’ve had two very good referees – he’s nowhere near this fella. He’s not strong enough. He’s absolutely lost it. He melted under pressure from the home team.

“Every time we’ve come here the referee melts. I don’t know what it is or what’s going on but it absolutely stinks and I’m fed up with it! My staff and my players are fed up with it. It doesn’t matter what team I’ve been here with, the refs a homer. It’s absolutely ridiculous because they melt on the big decisions every time!”

Corinthian manager Michael Golding added: “Very pleased. It was a hard game today. Two teams at the top of the table, first-v-second, no team leaving an inch but I thought we were worthy winners.”

When asked about the referee’s performance, Golding replied: “I think that’s what people wanted wasn’t it? Yesterday Dean asked for a strong referee and the referee obviously felt he had to ref it through yellow cards.  There was a couple of them that really weren’t but the referee, I thought he was ok and ended up handling the game quite well because it could’ve ended up with three or four being sent-off because there was a lot of niggly bits but yes you get what you ask for!”

Corinthian started the game on the front-foot and went close to scoring after only 137 seconds when Jamie Billings stroked his left-footed free-kick from 28-yards bouncing just past the foot of the right-hand post.

“We’ve been working a lot on set-pieces, whether it’s direct or crosses and it’s definitely what we’ve tried to add to our artillery but it’s always good to get shots on goal early on,” said Golding.

Sam Bewick, who has netted 17 goals since his return in November from his knee operation, launched a long throw into the Fisher penalty area and the ball came out to Andres Felipe Losada Tobon, who sliced his volley harmlessly wide from the centre of the penalty area.

Fisher failed to clear a Jamie Billings free-kick and Bewick’s acrobatic volley flashed past the right-hand post from 10-yards, as Fisher struggled early on.

Golding said: “We’ve been doing well recently from the kick-off. We’ve been putting teams under pressure. I don’t think we were particularly good after that.

“I think maybe the occasion got to us. We tried to take the emotion out of it and we tried to take the occasion away from what it was today but it was a pleasing start.”

Harrison added: “I thought they started well Corinthian.  We had to deal with them. They started positive and it took us a little bit of a while to adjust.  It wasn’t a pretty game. I think it was quite even up until the point when the referee’s given Trey a second yellow.”

Fisher weathered the early storm and created a glorious chance to take the lead, courtesy of an eighteenth-minute counter-attack.

Bath’s corner was swung into the six-yard box and Fisher keeper Daniel Wheeler plucked the ball out of the air before throwing the ball out to Small on the left.

He slipped the ball towards Afilabi Soyemi-Olade but the pass along the deck should have been cut out by Alexander Jack Billings but he allowed the ball to roll under him to let in Soyemi-Olade but Aiden Prall rushed off his line and made a vital block from the winger’s right-footed poked shot.

Harrison said:  “He was unlucky. I threw Afilabi in today. He came on for us last week. He’s a young lad whose been asking for a chance and I gave him a chance today and I thought he played very well.  I thought he was very positive and the keeper made a decent save.”

Golding was full of praise for the former Charlton Athletic stopper.

“That’s what he’s there for! He’s a very, very good goalkeeper and we’re very lucky to have him. He’s learning his trade with us. 

“Fisher have a very distinctive way of playing and that’s exactly what they try and do and they are good at it to be fair to them.  They are not where they are in the league because of a mistake, they’re a good side when they play the way they want to.”

Corinthian built down the left through Emmanuel Oloyede, Jamie Billings and Bewick and Oloyede’s low angled drive deflected past the far post.

Fisher missed a glorious chance to grab the lead in the 35th minute following their third of six corners.

Small floated a deep corner in from the left which was met by a free header from centre-half Mudiagha Wanogho on the corner of the six-yard box but his attempt was poor and bounced past the near post.

Harrison said:  “He should’ve scored! It’s a well-worked corner and he’s got a free header there and the boy’s coming across to try to get a block on it and he’s taken his eye off the ball. I’ve told him you’ve got to be brave mate. If you’re going to be a centre-half going up for corners, you just have to put the ball in the back of the net and if you’re going to get walloped, you get walloped!”

Golding said: “It was a good match up between him and Jai (McKinlay), two big boys.  They’re very good at set-pieces. They’ve got good deliveries and it was something we had to be aware of today.”

Wanogho showed his desire to deny Corinthian the lead when right-back Jack Holland whipped in an excellent low deep cross from within the channel which came out to an unmarked Oloyede, whose low shot flashed across the keeper but a sliding Wanogho ensured the ball failed to nestle inside the bottom far corner of the Fisher net.

Golding said: “Again, asking questions, putting the ball in the right area. Jack Holland’s got that ability to put in good crosses and Emmanuel’s come in and he’s done well since he’s joined us from AFC Croydon Athletic.  He adds something different to maybe what we had before. We’ve said all along, it’s a squad game and we’ve got a half-decent squad.”

Harrison added: “He did really well. He got round Wheeler and cleared it off the line. It was a chance for them. Up until then, it was a pretty even game. There’s not a lot in it.”

Fisher faced a mountain to climb when Small was shown his second yellow card by referee Joe Kasper, who was being observed.

Small failed to allow Prall to release the ball from the edge of his penalty area – but the decision to send off the 11-goal winger left Harrison furious.

The Fisher boss said:  “From what I could see, he was on the edge of the box with his back turned and the goalkeeper’s gone to kick the ball and he’s thrown it into his back. I can’t see how Trey can impede him when he’s running away and trying to get back in. I didn’t see that at all.”

Golding replied: “I think it was naïve from (Small).  I don’t think he’s necessarily done it on purpose.  You know you’re on a booking and you know you can’t stop the goalkeeper kicking it so Aiden ran out to the edge of the area and he’s stepped across and the letter of the Law says it’s a red card.”

Fisher keeper Wheeler produced a great save to prevent Holland scoring with a dipping drive with four minutes before half-time.

Corinthian midfielders Jai McKinlay and Jamie Billings linked up well inside the Fisher half and the ball was played out to Holland, who was left in acres of space and he hit a right-footed dipping drive from 25-yards towards the bottom far corner, which Wheeler dived full-length to his right and used both of his hands to push the ball towards safety.

In the second phase, Tobon took a couple of touches before flashing an angled drive past the foot of the near post.

“Again, it’s asking that question,” said Golding, “the keeper’s made a good save. Dan’s a good keeper.  Jack’s put it across the face of goal. A great question asked.  It’s not something we always encourage shots from full-backs from long distances but when Fisher are banked in and they’re hard to break down, you have to change it up slightly.”

Harrison simply added: “He got two hands on it and pushed it away, he did well.”

Fisher’s Achilles heel happens to be defending set-pieces and Corinthian had a headed chance of their own from a corner.  Jamie Billings swung the ball in from the right but left-back Alexander Jack Billings’ free header flew over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Golding said: “It wasn’t good enough! We needed to do more! They’ve gone down to 10 men so they’re going to be even harder to break down.  They’ll sit in with their two banks and they’ll keep their big nine (Kushal Campbell-Palmer) up front and try to hit us on the break. 

“Defensively, we’ve had to keep switched on. That’s four clean sheets in a row now in the league, which is really pleasing and a really good habit to get.

“I felt we needed to do more. We haven’t done enough in the first half to warrant being in front but second half we had to keep patient and keep moving the ball and try to open them up and get into those spaces and be clinical when our chance came.”

Harrison added: “What was said at half-time was we sit in with our shape, we stay disciplined. The longer we stay in the game we know we can always nick one and we’ve got the ability to do that and just stay and fight for every ball and just be committed to the end and they did that.

“I’ve got a team in that dressing room that do that regardless, they don’t even need telling. They work hard for each other and when it gets hard, they work even harder!”

Harrison made a tactical change at the interval by bringing off centre-half Daniel Flemming and Harry Tobin became Wanogho’s new partner within the heart of their defence for the second half.

With the referee taking centre-stage, it was so easy for the spectators to switch off and appreciate the sunny conditions and not the hard-fought pitch battle.

Bewick received a long ball and steered his shot past the near post in the eighth minute of the second half, before Fisher keeper Wheeler made a comfortable save on his knees from Bewick’s low right-footed free-kick from 22-yards.

Golding admitted:  “I think it was comfortable.  I’m not out there on the pitch but I don’t think that was good enough! Sam will say the same thing but it was a shot on target and we’ve asked the question but I know Sam would’ve wanted to do better with his chance.

“Sam’s been phenomenal since he’s come back. He had a knee operation in May so to come back at the end of November, the surgeons and consultants weren’t sure he’d play again but to get the amount of goals that he’s got in the amount of games, he’s been brilliant for us. 

“It’s just not his goals. It’s his work-rate and his passion and he’s a leader out there. He had to play out of position today but I thought he led the line well.”

Corinthian physically strong left-winger Oloyede used his strength to cut inside before drilling his shot across the Fisher keeper but harmlessly wide of the mark.

Fisher broke and should have scored in the 62nd minute when substitute Chandler Kasai broke down the left and found Soyemi-Olade in a pocket of space on the other side of the penalty area but he lacked composure and lashed his right-footed shot over the top of the near post from the edge of the box with Prall being the last man to beat.

“It was unlucky! It was another half-chance there. He could’ve hit the target there to be fair. It was a decent break that was what we were trying to do with the 10 men,” added Harrison.

Corinthian went agonisingly close to taking a deserved lead just 127 seconds later.

The ball bounced up and struck Ritchie Hamil on the left hand and referee Kasper awarded Corinthian a free-kick in a great position, on the edge of the D in a central position.

Holland (not Bromley’s captain with the same name) stroked his right-footed free-kick past the stranded keeper and the ball agonisingly crashed off the right-hand post.

“Jack’s got the ability, he’s one of those boys that puts his hand up and he works on free-kicks and these set-pieces and you’re just hoping when it hits that post and it bounces out the wrong way for us, you look at Sam (Groombridge, assistant manager) and we look at each other and you thought maybe it was just one of those games and it will drift out to a 0-0 or they will get a set-piece at the end but thankfully it didn’t.”

Harrison added: “It was a good free-kick, the keeper was left standing but it hit the post with that one, good!”

Corinthian claimed the deserved victory with the only goal of the game coming with 23 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock.

The Fisher defence expected Oscar Housego to have a pop at goal from a free-kick from 30-yards, but produced a moment of quality to float the ball into the box and Bath found a pocket of space at the near post and placed his diving header across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards to score his fifth goal of the season.

Golding said: “Great goal! A really good delivery from Oscar. He’s got licence to shoot from there and in other games he probably does shoot.  It worked out to be the right decision but it was a great ball into a great area and Jack’s got in front of his man and since Jack’s gone to centre-half – he played centre-midfield for us last season – he’s been superb for us.

“He’s got a really good relationship with Jack Healey and I was pleased for the whole back five keeping another clean sheet because they pride themselves on that.

“You want big players to step up at big moments and Jack’s captain because he is one of our big players. He’s an experienced player and one of our older lads in the changing room and the boys respect him.”

Harrison said: “I couldn’t see it from where I was because it was up the other end and there was a crowd.

“As the ball came in, I’m not sure whose man it was. Nobody seems to know in there. They think he was a spare man because we had to have a few in the wall because the free-kick was on the edge of the box.”

If the referee is going to be card happy, all you ask for is consistency and fairness for both sides.

Already on a booking, Jamie Billings escaped a second booking in the final 10 minutes for an obvious foul but was substituted by Golding instead.

“It’s frustrating and you’re always on tenterhooks when you’re players are going to get a yellow card or whether he’s going to get his second red,” said Golding.

“Fisher’s bench made a hell of a lot of noise for the majority of tackles trying to even it up and you always worry that the ref will listen to that but the ref stood strong. There were chances when he could’ve listened to them and he made his own mind up, which you’re always thankful for.

“Jamie was coming off anyway because he’s possibly dislocated his shoulder when he fell over earlier in the second half but he’s played through it. 

“James been in really good form recently but we felt when Jamie Miller coming on he offers us a load of energy and they were going to put the ball into the box more and more so Jamie Miller’s energy and what he offers is what we needed for the last 10 minutes.”

Harrison said: “The four has to go! They knew that so they’ve taken him off straight away.  The referee’s completely melted there. What does the League do about that? What does the observer say in there to him now? Does he say he’s had a good game? The four should’ve gone for another bookable offence because he’s spoken to him twice! How many chances do you get?”

Fisher winger Soyemi-Olade was their main threat on the day and he produced a great solo run as his pace took him past four Corinthian players but his shot was straight at Prall, who made a comfortable low save.

Harrison said: “He was unlucky, he was positive. I thought he was a bright spark.

“You have to have a go, it is what it is. We came here to win, we didn’t come here for a draw, we came here to win.  A draw would’ve been great with 10 men, obviously everything changed when Trey got sent-off so you have to have a go and try to get that goal.”

Golding added: “I think it was a must-win for them and it was probably must not lose for us so it’s difficult whether you roll the dice. We’re the home team, we want to go out and stamp our authority on the game and we want to go for the win when you’re playing against 10 men, you want to go out and win the game.

Fisher pressed for a late equaliser and created a couple of late chances. 

Hamill swung in a free-kick into the Corinthian box, the ball was cleared out to Tobin, whose left-footed shot from the edge of the box deflected just past the top of the right-hand post.

Another Hamill delivery was knocked on by Andrew Mott and the Corinthian keeper made a last-ditch brave diving save to his left to ensure the ball didn’t nestle inside the bottom corner of his net as substitute Chandler Kasi was ready to pounce.

With Corinthian now favourites to win the league title, Harrison was clearly upset with the defeat.

“You don’t mind if you’ve been beaten fairly and squarely.  If you’ve been out played or if you’ve not had as many chances as the other team.  We’ve matched them with 10 men today and in my opinion, the referee’s decided the game, 100% decided the game and it’s not the first time it’s happened.

“It’s still wide open,” Harrison said of the title race.

“It’s a long shot but we’re still in there and still fighting. We will have a say in the league because we’ve got to play those teams so we will have a say in what happens.

“There’s a long way to go. We’ve still got to play Beckenham. We’ve got Corinthian, we’ve got Chatham. There’s big games. People are going to drop points somewhere so there’s a long way to go. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”

But the Fisher boss praised the travelling support, adding: “We’ve got the best fans in this league. They’re brilliant and they follow us everywhere. They don’t stop singing.  You could see them at the end there, it was like we’d won. The way they applauded the boys there because they know, they know.”

Remember when Leicester City won the Premier League title in 2016 – people said at this time of the season that it would never happen and Corinthian are in the same boat. Unfancied and top of the table going into the final two months of the season.

“They were saying the same about Leicester and these things happen and that’s the beauty of football but there’s still a lot of football to be played,” said Golding.

“There’s still 11 games left for us this season so there’s still a lot of football to be played and there’s still a long way to go but I’m very pleased. We’re always pleased to win and keep clean sheets.

“We’re not expected to be there. There’s absolutely no pressure on us. We’ve spoken about that to the boys and there’s still no pressure on us. We’re enjoying it if anything.  Each game that comes is exciting.”

Fisher travel to eighth-placed side Lordswood on Tuesday night, before Richard Styles takes his side here to Corinthian next Saturday, 2 March 2019.

Corinthian: Aiden Prall, Jack Holland, Alexander Jack Billings (Jamie Miller 81), Jamie Billings, Jack Healey, Jack Bath, Emmanuel Oloyede, Jai McKinlay, Sam Bewick (Steven Ita 86), Oscar Housego, Andres Felipe Losada Tobon (Shaun Brown 58).
Subs: Kameron Gyeabour, Jacob Gilbert

Goal: Jack Bath 69

Booked: Jack Holland 20, Jamie Billings 28, Alexander Jack Billings 33, Emmanuel Oloyede 48, Oscar Housego 90

Fisher: Daniel Wheeler, Jamie Brown, Ritchie Hamill, Pat Geddis, Mudiagha Wanogho, Daniel Flemming (Chandler Kasai 46), Trey Small, Andrew Mott, Kushal Campbell-Palmer (Tunde Aderonmu 74), Harry Tobin, Afilabi Soyemi-Olade (Rob Brown 90).
Subs: Jacob Skelly, Martin Begg

Booked: Trey Small 25, Harry Tobin 31, Ritchie Hamill 52, Afilabi Soyemi-Olade 78, Tunde Aderonmu 81, Martin Begg 90

Sent Off: Trey Small 37

Attendance: 103
Referee: Mr Joe Kasper (Gravesend)
Assistants: Mr Wayne Horsfall (Gillingham) & Mr Steve Roots (Tunbridge Wells)