Corinthian 1-2 Lordswood - We've dug in and we've come away with three points, says Jason Lillis

Friday 08th August 2014

Southern Counties East Football League
Friday 8th August 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Gay Dawn Farm

LORDSWOOD manager Jason Lillis praised his players’ endeavour after getting their new Southern Counties East Football League campaign off to a winning start to move to the summit.

Lordswood, who finished in eleventh-place last season, were 2-0 up at the break courtesy of two goals from left-winger Sam Hallett, before Corinthian’s left-winger, Mohammed Eisa, who finished last season at Leatherhead, pulled a goal back.

However, after three goals, the woodwork being struck three times, there were to be three red-cards at the death.

Corinthian pair Jamie Billings and Nad Nwitua and Lordswood skipper Stephen Hafner were red-carded by referee Elad Amir following an off-the-ball penalty box melee.

Lordswood manager Lillis, 44, who travels to the national football centre at Burton-on-Trent tomorrow to take his A Licence coaching badge, was pleased with his side’s opening night win.

“Not pretty from us. I think first half we worked tirelessly. We closed them down in good areas, hence where our second goal came from.

“We started off really well but all credit to them.  They pass the ball round a lot better than us today, but I just think our endeavour and our organisation just got us through.

“You have to come here and grind a win out when you’re missing two major influences in our team like Gary Cook and Peter Huggens and we’ve had to reshuffle but the boys’ done it. We’ve dug in and we’ve come away with the three points.”

Corinthian’s new manager James Collins, 31, who guided Sutton Athletic to third-place in the Kent Invicta League last season, as well as winning two trophies, admitted he was, “Disappointed with the result.”

He said: “I thought it took 20 minutes to get going. As I’ve explained we’re a new team. It’s going to take us time. I thought we were worth at least a point tonight personally.

“I’ve just said to the players’ in there, you’ve given me everything. If you give me everything, I can’t ask for any more and we will only get better.

“It’s frustrating because you don’t like losing games of football, but lots of positives.”

Friday night football proved to be a successful in Kent again as a large crowd of 137 were at a wet Gay Dawn Farm to see the new bigger and better Southern Counties East Football League campaign get underway.

Corinthian were to be denied the first goal inside only 93 seconds following a fine move.

Midfielder Tom Fitzgerald swept the ball out wide to roaming left-back Jamie Billings, who was given time and space to float over a cross towards the edge of the box where striker Troy Copeland’s downward header was saved comfortably by Matt Byott.

Collins said: “We worked it out well. I think it was Jamie Billings who got the cross in. To have an attempt on target after two minutes is what you want. Good start.”

Not one single player who were included in Corinthian’s sixteen-man squad finished last season under former manager Matt Longhurst, who guided the club to a top five finish and their third successful League Cup final defeat.

Lordswood, meanwhile, had 12 players who featured for Ryman League Division One South side Whitstable Town during last season.

Lordswood’s opening chance fell to right-back Imran Englefield, who charged forward before blasting over a cut-back from lone striker Charlie Smith.

Lordswood scored the first goal of the new league season with 05:30 on the clock.

Jack Crump produced a sublime through ball from the left-hand side of the centre circle to release Hallett through on goal, who brought the ball under his spell with his left-foot before stroking his right-footed shot across keeper Sam I’Anson for the ball to nestle inside the bottom far corner.

Lillis said: “We’ve started off really well. Our movement was really good. We was closing the ball down well.  We was winning it and they never really threatened us but some reason we just let them get too involved in the game, whether that’s down to the big pitch, the fitness levels at this level, they’re not full-time, they are going to get tired.

“But I think we could have done better on the ball and every time we lost it they were coming back at us but I just think if we get tidier on the ball in future, we’ll be alright.”

Collins added: “Such a sloppy goal for us.  The centre halves got caught the wrong side but before that the build-up play at the back was too slow.  He put the centre half under pressure, he’s not over hit the ball, he’s got caught out.

“It’s such a cheap goal to concede. It’s a sucker punch. With a new team (to be losing) after six minutes it’s a bit deflating, I guess.”

Joe Kane then clipped a long ball out from Lordswood’s back four to release left-back Adam Hooper charging down the line before he cut the ball back for James Simmons to roll his shot past the near post.

But luck was clearly going to be turning against Corinthian when they hit the woodwork for the first time within fifteen minutes.

Fitzgerald – who is one of three players to move with Collins from Kent Invicta League side Sutton Athletic – played a diagonal pass to Eisa down the left, who cut inside and curled his right-footed shot from 25-yards, which crashed down off the underside of the crossbar and towards safety.

Collins said of the former Dartford attacker: “I think he’s been about a little bit and he needs to settle somewhere and that’s what we’ve said to him. 

“He needs to stop chasing every club that shows an interest in him.  He has a good game and someone offers him £40 and then he has a bad game the week after and he’s not playing.

“We said to him keep his head down, play for six months or a year, put himself on the map. If three or four clubs come in for him, he can take his pick and do it that way instead of chasing clubs. Let clubs come to you instead of going to trials and feeling under pressure. Come and enjoy yourself.

“I thought he done really well tonight. It was a great effort. You’re sort of willing it to go in but you can’t do any more than that sometimes.  Sometimes they just dip under, sometimes they don’t.”

Lillis added: “They’re two chances from them, one was from the other side as well is we’ve given the ball away,  We’re attacking them, where we should be going into their final third, we’ve just giving the ball away when we shouldn’t do.  We should keep it and they get it wide and the guy’s come in and he was unfortunate but fortunate for us, but that’s football!”

Hafner pinged a ball into the Corinthian penalty area where Smith hit a speculative over-head kick looping over the crossbar from 12-yards, before Hafner stung the fingers of former Orpington keeper I’Anson with a first time right-footed drive from 30-yards.

Corinthian were still playing the eye-catching brand of passing football that Longhurst displayed during his time at the club.

Collins was to be cursing his luck again when in the 22nd minute, striker Nwitua cut in from the right to unleash a right-footed curler, which sailed across Byott and clipped the top of the far post.

“Same situation,” added Collins.  “Inside the post, inside the bar. On another day they both go in and you don’t concede your sloppy goal and you’re 2-0 up. Unfortunately we find ourselves 1-0 down!

“Listen, we’re getting into good positions and we were creating good chances and we were opening them up with good football, which I can’t ask for any more than that really.”

Lillis added: “That’s fine. You’ve got to get it in the goal ain’t you? Unfortunately you’ve got to get it in, but we’ve hit the post as well, so I think it cancels out.”

Lordswood, who were kicking down the slope during the first half, almost scored from a Hafner free-kick, but the unmarked Simmons planted his free header over the bar.

Corinthian were to be denied when Fitzgerald played another fine diagonal pass to pick out Eisa, who cut in from the left and his right-footed drive forced Byott to make a low save to his left to make a fine block.

“This is what Matt is there for,” said Lillis.

“He needs a good season behind his belt. He got disappointed last year. He should have played a lot more in the Ryman (for Whitstable Town) last year, but he never but that’s decisions people make on his behalf, but he’s come back, he’s trained really hard pre-season and he’s worth his weight in gold for me.”

But Lordswood clinically doubled their lead in the 38th minute through Hallett’s second goal of the season.

Full marks must go to Simmons, who played a fine pass to release Crump down the right and as the keeper came rushing off his line, the ball rolled across the keeper towards the goal-line and poacher Hallett tapped the ball into the empty net from two-yards.

Lillis was full of praise for Crump for his efforts leading up to the goal.

He said: “The determination from Jack was great and then all Sam had to do was slot it in the goal and that was great.

“Jack’s stepped up. He’s never played at this level and he’s had a really hard pre-season and there’s a lot more to come from him.”

Collins added: “I’ve just said I don’t even know how the second goal happened!

“Sam just asked me should he had got it? He’s come out and he done the right thing. The guys committed. It’s ricochet off Sam. It could have ricochet anywhere. It’s ricochet to the guy who is standing in the middle of the goal and he’s put it in, so you’re looking bad luck off the bar, bad luck off the post, bad ricochet and you’re sort of wondering are you going to get a slice of luck but it just weren’t to be tonight!”

Hallett turned provider just before half-time when he played the ball inside to Crump, who was denied a debut-goal, his right-footed drive deflected just wide of the far post.

Corinthian squandered an excellent chance to bring themselves back into the game but Ange-Elie Ramariavelo nipped in front of his marker to plant his header wide after Grant Brown’s free-kick.

Poor defending from Fitzgerald on the corner of the Corinthian penalty area gifted Hafner an opportunity to drill his first time shot straight at I’Anson.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

Collins said: “This is what I keep saying all through pre-season.  The abilities here. Once we get the basics right, once we’re wanting to learn how I want us to play, that we can’t be sloppy and you can’t just be footballers all the time and you do the ugly side of things, our football will take us onto the next level and I said that.

“It’s two sucker punch goals, but the football’s been good. We’re a brand new team and we’ve been unlucky.  When you’re a new team you want that slice of luck and we could have been sitting in their 2-0 up!”

Lillis said: “Keep the ball. We need to keep the ball better. We just kept giving it to them and they just kept coming back at us.  To be fair to them they haven’t really changed that much but we’re quite an organised side and we’re hard to break down.”

Corinthian made a couple of substitutions at the break, but Lordswood should have wrapped up the game after only 42 seconds.

Simmons floated over a cross from the right towards the unmarked Smith, who clipped the right-hand post with a free header from 12-yards.

Lillis said: “Charlie worked hard. It’s hard up there on your own. He’s been injured and it was a bit of a gamble. He started tonight but we spoke to him on Tuesday and Thursday and he said he was fine so I thought I’d go with him.

“He worked tirelessly. It’s a thankless job. Unfortunately he was just unlucky not to crown it off with a little goal for himself with his work-rate.”

Former Motherwell defender Brown was delivering some excellent crosses into the Lordswood penalty area, but substitute Brima Daramy sent his header down and across goal and that allowed Dan Wells to clear the ball away.

Brown played the ball into Eisa’s feet, but his left-footed shot rolled into Byott’s gloves and the keeper’s kick was allowed to bounce into the Corinthian half and Hallett played the ball inside, Fitzgerald half cleared the ball to Simmons, whose right-footed drive from 20-yards was blocked by I’Anson, diving low to his left.

As the rain, continued to fall down from the dark skies above, both teams were trying to play good passing football on a quality playing surface.

Collins said: “The pitch helps when you play on a pitch like this.  You can’t not play football so I think that helps.  I think everyone’s been chomping at the bit for weeks and weeks and weeks to have their first game. I thought it was a good game. I enjoyed being a part of it.  I didn’t enjoy the result.”

Lillis said: “Beckenham and this pitch are probably what League clubs would like to go and play on week in week out so credit to the groundsmen who do all that. They’re wonderful.”

Collins agonised again when they went close to scoring in the 63rd minute.

Jamie Billings played the ball into substitute Jack Mahoney, who poked his left-footed shot past the advancing Byott and looked on as the ball flashed just past the foot of the near post caressing the side-netting.

Collins said: “On another day that goes in! It was a great ball from Jamie Billings. He’s gone in and the keeper’s narrowed the angle. I thought the keeper was very good to be fair.  He’s narrowed the angle. I put that down to good goalkeeping.”

Mahoney played a long ball forward from the middle which put Eisa through on goal but the former Dartford striker chipped the ball into Byott’s gloves for a comfortable catch.

A brilliant cross from the right from Hallett found Simmons at the far post, whose bullet header was caught by I’Anson at his near post.

Lordswood substitute Tom Box played the ball inside to Hallett and Hafner skipped past two Corinthian players before hitting a deflected shot past the right-hand post from 18-yards.

Corinthian deservedly pulled a goal back with eleven minutes remaining thanks to good play from two substitutes.

Mahoney played a left-footed pass to release Oscar Saxton down the right and he played the ball across goal for Eisa to run into the area to stab his right-footed shot across Byott into the bottom far corner.

Collins said: “A well worked goal. Oscar came on and he added that bit of pace in behind and he (Eisa) deserved his goal tonight. I thought he was outstanding.”

Lillis felt the goal should have been chalked off.

“I just can’t believe how the linesman hasn’t seen it offside! He was offside in front of me let alone from where he’s seen it. It was ridiculous! If he was three yards offside I might be a little bit lenient on that one. He was definitely offside but I can’t do nothing about that one!”

Two of Lordswood’s substitutes combined to wrap up the game but Tom Wooldridge blasted his right-footed shot over from the edge of the penalty area after Steve Munn’s cut-back from the right.

However, any hope of Corinthian claiming an opening night point were dashed as the game ticked towards its conclusion.

Brown was ready to whip in Corinthian’s third corner of the game but there was an off-the-ball melee inside the penalty area, which held up play.

Once things calmed down the referee brandished straight red-cards to Jamie Billings, Nwitua and Hafner, the last two taking what seemed an eternity to leave the pitch and head towards the dressing rooms at the other end of the pitch.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the incident.

Collins said: “From what I understand one of their guys just kicked one of our guys. We’ve had our boys, they were sticking up for each other. I don’t know how bad it was and people will always say that. I can see people going down and people getting sent off.

“I don’t condone anyone punching anybody. If that’s what’s happened?

“I’m not sure if the referee quite knows what’s happened himself, but it’s a difficult job.

“I’ve just said to them, I like the way we’re a new team and you all stick up for each other and that’s not condoning if there was any violence out there but I like the way they’ve got around each other.

“But it’s another slice of luck. You’re setting up for a corner, one of your players’ get booted off the ball and you end up with two players sent-off!

“I don’t want to take any credit away from Lordswood because they feel their worth their win but I think we were massively unlucky tonight.”

Lillis added: “After the game we’ve asked the referee what it’s for and he couldn’t give me or their manager any sort of explanation as to why.

“He spoke to an official of mine and saying that he’s seriously done something but the referee told me a completely different story.

“If they’re going to make big decisions like that they’ve got to make sure they’re getting the right decisions right and at least give the right explanations so everyone can just hold their hand up and go right fair enough.”

Corinthian had one last effort with nine-men, but Jack Billings stung Byott’s fingers with a rasping right-footed drive from 22-yards.

Collins was delighted with the crowd of 137 tonight, especially after the corresponding fixture here last season attracted a crowd of 43 on Tuesday 24 September 2013.
“It was nice to play in front of people.  It’s a shame we haven’t kicked off with a win but I really enjoyed it. I’m glad that we’ve started now and I can’t wait for our next game now.”

Cray Valley are the visitors to Gay Dawn Farm on Tuesday and Collins said: “I’ve said all through the week, we’re under no illusions. This is a rebuilding job. There’s not one player in the squad tonight that finished the Cup Final with Matt (Longhurst) so it’s going to take time but I felt there was lots of promising signs there and I think we will only get better.

“I think that’s not a bad start. They’re going to get nothing but praise from me for that performance tonight. As long as we continue it and we’ve got to cut out the sloppy goals.”

Lordswood lead the table until five o’clock on Saturday afternoon when the other 18 clubs get their campaigns under way.

“It’s nice to start off. I think it’s nerves. You get the first game out of the way. Everyone’s watching this one tonight. I thought the boys looked nervous, they did at the start as well, first game, so we’ll settle into the season and see where it takes us from there.”

Lordswood welcome last season’s runners-up Ashford United to Martyn Grove on Tuesday night and Lillis said: “Massive game. Big budgets. We’ve got to compete with those boys. We’re here to compete so we’ll compete.”

Corinthian: Sam I’Anson, Grant Brown, Jamie Billings, Tom Fitzgerald, Calum Comerford (Jack Mahoney 46), Marcus Evans, Ange-Elie Ramariavelo (Brima Daramy 46), Jack Billings, Nad Nwitua, Troy Copeland (Oscar Saxton 65), Mohammed Eisa.
Subs: Miguel Piscal-Johnson, Richard Stevens

Goal: Mohammed Eisa 79

Booked: Jamie Billings 77

Sent Off: Jamie Billings 89, Nad Nwitua 90

Lordswood: Matt Byott, Imran Englefield, Adam Hooper, Joe Kane, Dan Wells, Craig Maguire, James Simmons (Tom Wooldridge 77), Stephen Hafner, Charlie Smith (Tom Box 72), Jack Crump, Sam Hallett (Steve Munn 84).
Subs: Ryan Restell, Ross Webb

Goals: Sam Hallett 6, 38

Booked: Joe Kane 26, Charlie Smith 56, Sam Hallett 70

Sent Off: Stephen Hafner 90

Attendance: 137
Referee: Mr Elad Amir (Woolwich, London SE18)
Assistants: Mr Harry Wager (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Phil Dunkley (Peckham, London SE15)