Corinthian 1-3 Sheppey United - It's a great feeling to get a trophy and hopefully that will spur us on to get the promotion, that is my target, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Tuesday 01st February 2022
Corinthian 1 – 3 Sheppey United
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 01/02/2022 19:45

Kent Senior Trophy Final 2019-20
Tuesday 1 February 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says picking up the Kent Senior Trophy for the second time since the club reformed will hopefully spur his players on to win promotion at the end of the season.

Batten’s men won the much-delayed 2020 edition by beating eleventh-placed Isthmian League South East Division side Corinthian 3-1 at Maidstone Road in Chatham.

Corinthian midfielder Jack Mahoney notched his seventh goal of the current season to give his side the lead, before outstanding striker Warren Mfula scored twice before an own-goal from Corinthian centre-half Ryan Sawyer sent the trophy back to Holm Park for the first time since 2016.

The 2019-20 Kent Senior Trophy Final was delayed 22 months until tonight, due to the coronavirus health pandemic.

For those who can’t recall how both of these sides reached the 2020 showpiece final, Corinthian defeated Deal Town (3-1), Bridon Ropes (4-0), Kennington (3-0) and Beckenham Town (3-1).

Sheppey United defeated Snodland Town (7-0), Fisher (2-1), Erith Town (1-0) and Bearsted (3-0).

The Ites don’t have too long to wait to try to retain the silverware as they travel to Chislehurst to take on third-placed Glebe in this season’s Semi-Finals on Saturday 12 February 2022, with the winners playing First Division side Larkfield & New Hythe or Hollands & Blair in Maidstone on Sunday 10 April 2022.

Batten said: “It was a long time coming wasn’t it?

“I thought it was a good performance from us. I was extremely pleased with the first-half performance although we conceded a goal, for large parts of it we played some good football, created chances and I think the chances that Warren (Mfula) put away were first class and we needed that tonight.  We needed some finishing.

“Our approach play was good and overall it was a great game of football for us.  We had to mix it up a little bit at times but you’re going to get that with Corinthian, they’re a tough outfit. They play a certain style and you have to stand up to it.

“But I thought we came through with flying colours tonight.”

For Corinthian, their wait for a trophy continues as another cup final ends in disappointment.

Corinthian manager Michael Golding said: “I thought Sheppey were deserved winners. I don’t think we really caused them too many problems. I don’t think we turned up to be honest but no issues with the result.

“I don’t think we really warranted anything tonight, whether it was playing a cup game that doesn’t really matter, although it’s always nice to win a trophy and congratulations to Sheppey but we just didn’t really get going. We didn’t cause Sheppey any kind of problem tonight.”

Corinthian went into the game on the back of a 3-0 home derby win over VCD Athletic at the weekend and the Longfield based outfit have collected 34 points from their 25 league games.

Sheppey United are in second-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 56 points from 22 games.

The Ites are now six points adrift of Chatham Town but they do have a couple of games in hand.  Chatham Town have been held to goal-less draws at Bearsted seven days ago and at Deal Town tonight.

“It is a good gage, I think Corinthian are midtable ish, which is a good first (full) season at that level so credit to them but tonight we showed we can compete at that level with a good away performance,” added Batten.

Sheppey United were to be denied by the woodwork after creating their first opening after only two minutes and 47 seconds.

A long ball out of defence from right-back Daniel Birch released right-winger Jefferson Aibangbee in the channel and he cut into the box before clipping the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and onto the crossbar as he tried to find the top right-hand corner in a one-on-one situation.

“I think any touch on that, I think he got a bit heavy on his touch when the chance came.  The keeper was committed, he came running out so it was a chance and hit the bar so just a little unfortunate,” said Batten.

Golding added: “A bit of a breakaway, poor from us. The full-back (Birch) got out, put one over the top and I think probably where they play and train on an Astro the bounce was a little bit unfamiliar to us at times.  I thought it was a relatively cagey start from both sides.”

Sheppey United won the corner count five-to-nil and went close to taking the lead following their second delivery.

Aibangbee whipped in a quality delivery where Billy Bennett found a pocket of space at the near post to glance his header across a crowded goal-mouth and just past the far post.

“You’re thinking to yourself ‘come on, their chances we could be burying on another day’ and sometimes it’s very fine margins. Cup finals are decided with chances like that.  Bill will be a little bit disappointed but it was another good chance,” said Batten.

However, Corinthian silenced the vocal Sheppey United support by grabbing the lead with 12 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

Golding’s men produced some slick passing patterns of play during the early stages of the game and this one paid off.

Left-wing-back Frankie Morgan threw the ball to centre-half Jamie Billings, who hit a long ball into Jamie Miller, who flicked the ball back into Morgan, who played the ball in from within the left-channel into the penalty area.

Mahoney’s first shot was blocked by goalkeeper Adam Molloy but his second shot was stabbed past the goalkeeper to give Corinthian the lead.

Golding said: “Always pleasing to take the lead. I don’t think we really settled at any point but listen we’re happy to take the lead in the game.  Defensively we’ve been good this season, we’ve had a lot of clean-sheets but tonight it just wasn’t to be.”

Batten added: “Yes, I mean they’re a dangerous side.  They get the ball forward quickly and play in the final third.  It was a move down the left-hand side and they got it out wide and pulled the ball but we were a little bit disappointed with the marking to be honest with you. The lads’ felt we should’ve picked up but full credit to them, forced Adam into a save and followed up the rebound.”

Corinthian had a chance to double their lead just 65 seconds later when another low cross from the left from Morgan was hit first time by attacking midfielder Oscar Housego on the edge of the penalty area but his shot flashed past the left-hand post.

“We had a good five minute spell after we scored where we looked like we could get to grips with what they were trying to do,” added Golding.

“Oscar’s playing slightly out of position this year.  I thought it was a half-chance for us.”

Sheppey United then started to click into gear and Birch’s driving run was ended by a poor challenge from Miller, who was one of three central midfielders, and his name ended up in Aaron Conn’s notebook.

Sheppey’s holding midfielder Richard Hamill stroked his left-footed free-kick over the top of the near post from 28-yards.

Sheppey United produced a good move to restore parity, with 27 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Attacking midfielder Bennett swept the ball out to left-winger Henry Dasofunjo, who did well to control the bouncing ball down the flank before cutting into the penalty area and towards the by-line and putting it on a plate with a left-footed cross for Mfula to bury his header past Aiden Prall into the centre of the goal from eight-yards.

Batten was full or praise for his recent acquisition from league rivals Erith & Belvedere.

“I thought Henry Dasofunjo was excellent with his play tonight when it mattered.  When he got down the touchline, took his man on, dropped the shoulder and a lovely cross for Warren to finish.

“I was very pleased because Corinthian are a very tough outfit and if you don’t take your chances you could rue them and I was very pleased to get back on level terms at that point.”

Golding added: “I thought it was poor from us. We pressed in one’s and we didn’t go and do the next little bit.  Listen, that’s why they pay that kind of money because they get goals out from their front boys and they were a handful.”

Aibangbee found himself down the left flank and his deep cross was knocked across the face of the goal by Dasofunjo’s hanging header and the ball was cleared out to Sheppey’s left-back Renford Tenyue who whipped in a deep cross which was steered past the near post from a tight angle by Mfula’s head.

Corinthian offered very little in attack and Housego drilled a free-kick into the penalty area from the edge of the centre-circle but Sawyer’s free header sailed past the left-hand post.

Sheppey United took the lead with 39 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock, courtesy of Mfula’s sixth goal of the current campaign.

Hamill played a diagonal pass out to Dasofunjo, who twisted and turned Morgan before whipping in a great cross from the right with his left-foot and Mfula’s finish was sublime.  Controlling the ball on his chest before smashing an emphatic right-footed volley into the top left-hand corner from 10-yards.

Batten said: “Another good cross. We work both of the wide areas and it was a great delivery in and a first-class finish from Warren.”

Golding added: “Again, it was poor from us and we slashed at a clearance. We didn’t sent it any kind of distance and then the cross has come in, Ryan Sawyer has mis-judged the clearance and got underneath it and Mufula isn’t going to miss from seven or eight yards or whatever it was, that’s what he does.”

Another diagonal pass from Hamill released Dasofunjo down the right and after getting the better off Jamie Billings, he drilled his low shot into the base of the side-netting.

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts at the break.

Golding said: “It was a bit of a nothing game really to be honest. It probably sums up we’re playing a cup final two years after it should’ve been played. It was a bit of a non-event at times.  I think Sheppey were quite happy to soak up some pressure and we huffed and puffed a little bit. It was just a bit of a nothing.

“I said just to try to get a foothold in the game really.  Our distances on and off the ball just weren’t good enough. Our clearances weren’t good enough and I think the wind had a little bit of play about that.

“I just wanted us to win some individual battles. I thought Sheppey dominated each individual battle so it was can we get a bit of a foothold and try, within our formation, to stop their full-backs getting on as much because they were getting a bit of joy there. Just to give it a bit of a go really.”

Batten added: “We talk about our shape and we talked about being resilient in recent games and I thought tonight we carried that on.  We were resilient on Saturday at Holmesdale, we got a 1-0 win there and I thought we pulled that into tonight’s game so that’s very, very pleasing.

“I just said to the boys, ‘look it’s a good 45 minutes, but in football matches games aren’t won in 45 minutes.’  We’ve got to go out and do exactly the same second half and we’ve got to take the game to them. We can’t sit back and that was the instruction.”

Corinthian created the first chance of the second half after 193 seconds through direct play.

Prall’s goal-kick was flicked on by Sawyer and a sliced clearance from Sheppey’s centre-half Jahmal Howlett-Mundle was smacked on the volley by Mahoney but his left-footed effort from 16-yards ballooned high over the crossbar.

Mfula took centre-stage during the second half and it was turning out to be a contest between the Sheppey United number 24 and Prall, the former Charlton Athletic goalkeeper.

The striker cut in from the left and stroked a right-footed drive from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by Prall in the seventh minute.

Aibangbee teased Morgan down the right and cut the ball onto his left-foot before whipping in a cross into the box where Bennett took a touch before calmly teeing up Mfula, who cut inside and drilled a low right-footed shot towards the bottom far corner, which Prall got swiftly down low to his left and used a strong hand to ensure the ball trickled past the post and behind for a corner.

“I thought that was a world-class save because those low ones when their in the corner and they’re slotted like that, for the keeper to get down and push that around the post, I thought that was a fantastic save at that point and that would’ve made it 3-1 and we’re clear then,” said Batten.

Golding added: “Aiden’s a good goalkeeper, we’ve said that for a number of years now and we’re lucky to have someone like him and it was a good little battle to be honest.  There were some good shots and some good saves, two good players.”

Corinthian went route-one and should have grabbed a 57th minute equaliser.

Prall launched a big kick from outside his penalty area and the ball was knocked down by substitute striker Luke Tanner and Mahoney hooked a left-footed half-volley across a crowd of players and flashing just past the far post from 16-yards.

Golding said: “In cup finals you need to take your big moments, although they were only half chances.  It was probably one of the only times in the game when the ball fell to us on a knockdown but Jack Mahoney has done that this year and for many years, getting into those positions and it’s just unfortunate.  It just summed up our night that it went the wrong side of the post for us.”

Batten added: “Yes, anything can happen. The ball drops down there and you think ‘oh, god, no’, I think it went about a yard wide of the target so we’re fortunate that he didn’t get it on target.”

But after Corinthian enjoyed a short spell off possession, without really looking to score again, Sheppey United finished the game on the front foot.

Prall produced a world-class save in the 70th minute, diving high to his left and using his left-hand to push over Mfula’s left-footed drive, which was heading straight into the top right-hand corner after the striker took a touch inside the Corinthian box.

Batten said: “I thought he was keeping them in the game at that point. He’s a first-class goalkeeper. He’s a keeper that played at our level (a couple of seasons ago) and he’s capable of pulling off saves like that. He’s done that in many, many games that I’ve seen.”

Golding added: “A great save from Aiden. It came from an Aiden mistake because he came out and headed the ball out for a throw-in, rather than let it come in to his area so he’s caused that and then he’s got himself out of it but it’s a great save from a great goalkeeper.”

And inside the final 10 minutes, Birch released Aibangbee down the right and he put it on the plate for Mfula, who swept a first-time shot towards goal, which Prall palmed up before catching the ball as it dropped from the dark sky, not helped by some poor floodlighting at a stadium that has seen high sums of investment going into it in recent years.

Sheppey United sealed the deal, courtesy of an own-goal, with 42 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Hamill’s diagonal pass sailed over Billings' head and sent Aibangbee on his way down the right.

Morgan didn’t press the stationery ball just on the edge of the penalty area and Aibangbee easily cut inside the left-wing-back and whipped in a cross where Sawyer hooked the ball past his own goalkeeper from inside the six-yard box.

Standing in the Corinthian technical area was dad Paul Sawyer, who is Golding’s assistant manager.  Sawyer enjoyed a long and illustrious career at nearby Dartford, both as a player and as Tony Burman’s assistant manager.

“Jefferson was a threat all night.  I thought if he can get a one-on-one with his man, generally he’s going to get past him and if you keep putting in the ball you keep asking the question.  Keep crossing balls into their box, it’s a percentage game. Unfortunately for them, the guy’s tried to clear it and he’s hooked it in,” said Batten.

Golding added: “The build-up play before that, we had a couple of mistakes.  We didn’t quite pick the right pass and they’re lively on the break.  Ryan’s probably gone with his wrong foot, if we’re being ultra-critical but at that point, it probably doesn’t really matter.”

Dominant Sheppey United should have scored an injury-time fourth goal when Tenyue hooked a long ball out of defence to released Mfula down the channel and Prall came rushing out of his penalty area and was relieved to see Mfula’s hooked shot from 22-yards bounce past the foot of the far post of an open goal, as Batten’s side ran out well-deserved and comfortable winners.

Batten added: “Warren was hell bent on a hat-trick tonight.  I thought I’m going to give you two more chances and then you’ve got to come off, so I think he held his head as the substitute board went up.  Warren was great tonight. He really led the line and you need good performances to win trophies.

“We’ve got a trophy in the cabinet. It’s the second trophy that we’ve got since the club reformed six seasons ago.  We’ve had a couple of promotions in that time, coming out of the county league and into the SCEFL Prem, which is a tough league to get out of and our aim this season is to get out of this league.

“I think it’s a great feeling to get a trophy and hopefully that will spur us on to get the promotion, that is my target.”

Sheppey United are at home to bottom-four side Punjab United on Saturday, before playing fifteenth-placed Canterbury City on Tuesday 8 February and Batten does not want a repeat of his side’s 2-0 league defeat at Glebe on 18 January, when they return to Foxbury Avenue in the Semi-Finals of this season’s competition on 12 February.

“I said to you previously that could we be the first side in history to win (the same competition), two times in one season?

“We’ve done the first bit, obviously it’s going to be tough again. We need to work hard to get a result up at Glebe,” added Batten.

“Punjab is another tough game. They’re fighting for their lives and we need to prepare and we’re coming training on Thursday and get ourselves right for Saturday for another tough game. It’s three points at stake and we’ll take each and every game and prepare for that game and make sure we get the points on the board.”

Reflecting on the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title race and Chatham Town being held on the Kent coast tonight, Batten added: “It just goes to show what a tough league this is.  Chatham have been punishing a lot of sides recently but they’ve had a couple of draws at Bearsted and one tonight. It just shows what a tough league it is to get out of.

“I think there’s a few twists and turns to go.  There’s a lot of games left and by no means anything is decided now.

“It’s been a very good night for the football club and great to have the fans here.  We just need to continue now with the progress.  I think it shows that you’ve got winners at the football club. They want to win things and it shows we’ve got the capability to win something so it bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Golding takes his side down to Brighton on Saturday to play a Whitehawk side struggling in the bottom five with 24 points from as many games, just two points adrift of the relegation zone, currently occupied by Lancing and Phoenix Sports.

“Looking forward to it.  It’s a long time since we’ve been there as a club.  Whitehawk came to ours earlier on in the season and pumped us 4-0 so we’ll be looking to get some revenge,” revealed Golding.

“They’re probably one of the best sides - on that night - that we’ve played this season, so we certainly owe them a little bit of a comeback.

“We’ll be in on Thursday, we’ll re-asses and look at injuries.  We’ll go down there, we’re smack bang in that middle, we’re eleventh-place. We’ve been there for a little while now and we want to try to close that gap on the teams above us.”

Corinthian: Aiden Prall, Jack Holland, Frankie Morgan, Jack Bath, Jamie Billings (Louie Clarke 90), Ryan Sawyer, Jack Mahoney, Josh James, Josh Stirman (Luke Tanner 71), Oscar Housego, Jamie Miller (Emmanuel Oloyede 56).
Subs: Harry Lashley, Olamilekan Majoyegbe

Goal: Jack Mahoney 13

Booked: Jamie Miller 26

Sheppey United: Adam Molloy, Daniel Birch, Renford Tenyue, Richard Hamill, Ashley Sains, Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, Henry Dasofunjo, Liam Gillies (Helge Orome 83), Warren Mfula (Dean Grant 90), Billy Bennett, Jefferson Aibangbee.
Subs: Ashley Sheppard, Michael Hagan, Liam Northwood

Goals: Warren Mfula 28, 40, Ryan Sawyer 88 (own goal)

Booked: Jefferson Aibangbee 42

Attendance: 397
Referee: Mr Aaron Conn
Assistants: Mr David Rowland & Mr Ashley Rodi
Fourth Official: Mr Dan Blades