Crockenhill 2-5 Sittingbourne - We had such a good end to the season and I want it to continue, says Sittingbourne boss Nick Davis

Friday 03rd July 2015
Crockenhill 2 – 5 Sittingbourne
Location Wested Meadow, Eynsford Road, Crockenhill, Kent BR8 8EJ
Kickoff 04/07/2015 15:00

Pre-Season Friendly
Saturday 4th July 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Wested Meadow

SITTINGBOURNE manager Nick Davis says he will offload his unwanted trialists to clubs that watched them beat Crockenhill in their opening pre-season game.


With the first team training back at Woodstock, Davis took a team of trialists to play a new-look Crockenhill side, who only had Reece and Ryan Cullen still at the club by the time new manager Liam Kelly took charge of the Kent Invicta League outfit on 24 June.

The former Meridian VP and Eltham Place man admitted he was without a recognised goalkeeper for their opening warm-up game, so in came Mike Boreham, who was at fault for Sittingbourne’s two opening goals, scored inside the opening 20 minutes by striker Bryan Bell, 19.

Crockenhill, who finished in the bottom three last season, pulled a goal back through left-back Daniel Jeffery on the half-hour mark, before Boreham was one of five Crockenhill players to be substituted, before the Brickies went into the break with a commanding 3-1 lead through a header from versatile defender Charlie Dickens.

Sittingbourne’s substitute goalkeeper Rilwan Anibaba gifted Crockenhill a lifeline within six minutes into his debut, which was accepted by Crocks substitute striker Alex Gaggin.

Sittingbourne striker Fred Obasa capped off an impressive performance by adding two further goals as the Crocks tired on a hot day in front of 72 fans at Wested Meadow.

Davis said: “It was what it was I suppose today. It was working with the sixteen lads that we had here. I’ve never seen them in a game. They’ve come training and they’ve done ok in training, not looked out of place, but you need to see them in a game situation and we thought being at Crockenhill away will be an ideal test for them and that’s why we chose this one to come in early.”

Kelly added: “I’m a little bit disappointed with the final scoreline if I’m honest.  We could have done with reducing that deficit down at least by one or two more really.

“I don’t think our performance was that bad to warrant a three goal deficit but a few mistakes in the first half prominently by our goalkeeper (cost us).

“They weren’t really a Ryman South side, were they? I have to be realistic. I’ve got to be disappointed with 5-2 if I’m being honest. That said, they’ve had a lot of good players, very, very quick nippy forwards, but I was a bit disappointed.

“We showed a little bit of resilience to come back into it in the second half and it’s something to build on and move forward with.”

There was concern right up to kick-off that the two assistant referees were not turning up!  Referee Alex Conteh started the game without Clifton Richards running the line on the stand side of the pitch for the first two minutes of the game after he turned up at 14:57 – around ten minutes after his colleague Michael Smallrose strolled into the ground.

Sittingbourne opened the scoring with their first attempt on goal with only five minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Jack Steventon launched a long throw into the penalty area and Bell directed his glancing back header over the advancing goalkeeper into the far corner from six-yards.

Davis said: “Fair play to Bryan Bell, he’s been involved with this club now for two seasons. He’s only 19, you can see the stature about him. He’s great in the air. He’s been such a manager’s dream actually because he comes to every training session, he never complains.

“In the two years that I’ve been here he’s probably started about three or four games but he’s come on probably 15-20 times and in that scored some important goals for us.

“We put him out on loan last year at Woodstock and he scored three goals in five for them.

“He’s a little raw, he’s young. Fair play to him, I’m really pleased. It was a great goal. He’s great in the air and it was a good finish.”

It would appear that Kelly was not impressed with Boreham’s 34 minute display.

“The keeper shouldn’t have come! We’ve got a great goalkeeper coach in John Bourke, he will start working on goalkeeper’s decision making.  As we said in our interview before, a goalkeeper position, we are looking for. It’s one we really, really do need and it is the most important part of the team.

“It’s ok to make a mistake as a goalkeeper, I haven’t got a problem with that. If you get your head down after that it breads through the team and it happened a bit today, but the rest of the team showed enough resilience to get back into the game.”

Boreham made a comfortable save after Sittingbourne’s left-back Lee Watkins – a pupil at long-serving player Hicham Akhazzan’s school - gently stroked his left-footed free-kick into the keeper’s hands from 35-yards.

Crockenhill’s Matt Parker advanced to sweep a first time loose ball harmlessly wide from 35-yards after Sittingbourne had cleared their lines, before the Ryman League Division One South visitors doubled their lead after 20 minutes.

Parker and Jack Saunders – Crockenhill’s two central defenders – were cut open by Obasa’s sublime through ball which put his strike partner Bell through on goal, who kept composed to skip past slow reacting keeper Boreham to slot the ball into the bottom near corner with his right foot from 10-yards.

“We always looked like we were going to get in behind, didn’t we?” said Davis, who noticed that Osaba was caught offside on six of the eight occasions that his side were caught by a well-organised Crockenhill defence.

“Those two are very quick up front. Pace is always going to trouble defences at any level.

“It was a good ball from Fred. He wasn’t offside for once – there was a lot of offsides today – but he took it around the keeper. I thought he took it too wide and it was a good finish. It was a good little move.”

Kelly blamed Boreham for Sittingbourne’s second, by adding: “Another one! That was the keeper’s ball to come out and get that! He had plenty of room on his line. He just wasn’t quick enough, his decision making, he hesitated and he will learn from that.  He needs to be on his toes a little bit more.”

However, Boreham made amends when he kept Crockenhill in the game with a smart reaction save halfway through the half.

Steventon clipped a long ball out of defence, which this time split Jeffery and Saunders to put Obasa through on goal but Boreham advanced to the corner of his penalty area to deny the striker scoring from fifteen-yards.

But Kelly admitted he was impressed with this side of his goalkeeper’s game.

“He’s a great shot stopper, absolutely great in training. He’s the hardest one to put the ball past in a penalty shoot-out, free-kicks, so committed but he’s shot stopping is definitely the best part of his game.”

Davis added: “We said get the third goal we may get four, five and six, but it didn’t happen.”

Crockenhill produced a lovely two-man attack which lead to them pulling a goal back with their first real chance on 30 minutes.

Left-back Jeffery advancing into Sittingbourne’s half and played the ball into striker Aaron McCallum, who took the ball forward before bending his right-footed shot across first team goalkeeper Adam Molloy, the ball hitting the far post.

Sittingbourne’s defence fell asleep and Jeffery reacted to slam his right-footed shot into the middle of the net from six-yards.

Crockenhill’s new boss said: “We had a penalty shout to be fair! I thought it was a penalty. The referee played the advantage, probable the only time he actually did something correct in the game. No disrespect to the officials, he didn’t have his best game, not that I’ve ever seen him before and hopefully I don’t have the pleasure to see him again!

“We gave Dan Jeffery, our left-back, a little bit of licence to go forward. We tried to play a little bit narrow and let our left-back go forward and he came home with a goal in his pocket, which is good.”

Davis added: “We thought there should have been a foul in the box - and their shot hit the post and they’ve scored.

“The lads haven’t played together before. It’s a brand new side. They’ve come from all sorts of levels.

“For me, I think three or four done themselves no harm at all. I’m really pleased.

“I thought there was a foul outside the box, wasn’t there? One of our players went up for and didn’t’ get it. The referee was quite away from the action. We should have cleared it. It still weren’t great defending, you always play to the whistle.

“It looked like it was going in from where I was. It took a bounce, hit the post and they’ve scored. It’s one of those things. I’m never pleased conceding goals but we shouldn’t be switching off.”

Kelly brought on five of his six substitutes after 34 minutes and Sittingbourne capped off a fine first half performance with a third goal with 42:11 on the clock.

Lee Watkins swung in a quality delivery from Sittingbourne’s first corner of the game from the right which was inch-perfect for Dickens to bury his free header at the near post.

Davis said; “It was a great ball. Lee Watkins is one of Hicham’s school pupils. He’s tidy on the ball and he deserved a crack today and he done a great ball for him.

“Charlie, he reminds me off himself. He’s young, he’s very confident in the air.

“He played for Deal last year, played a majority at left-back for them. I spoke to (Deal player-coach) Dean Hill about him and he said he’s going to be one hell of a player!

“I think today he’s one of the shining beacons for me. I think he was absolutely outstanding there at left-back and he’s played centre half as well.

“What a run! What an attack! Great goal! Brilliant. I think he’s got a great future.”

Kelly admitted that right-back Cedric Abraham – a former Sittingbourne player – was to blame for the goal.

“I said it as soon as the ball was released, ‘Cedric don’t lose your man’ and unfortunately Cedric Abraham lost his man and (Dickens) runs to the near post and slotted it in.

“I think Cedric was helping us out today. I’d like to keep him obviously. I see what I can do to twist his arm but I do know he goes off and starts his World Cup qualifiers very shortly for the Dominican Republic!”

The unfit referee blew the half-time whistle with 43:00 on the clock, despite there being a water break when Crockenhill made their changes earlier on.

Reflecting on his side’s good first half showing, Davis said: “We scored three goals, which is always good. Not pleased with conceding as we did.

“I just said to the lads if we do get another one we’ll push on, but it’s not about that.

“I made four subs at half time. I had to give people minutes today. I think other than Louis Watkins everyone else got 45 minutes and quite a few got 90, which is quite a lot in that heat and on that pitch today.

“We made some changes, changed the formation. We done so well last year with that tight diamond we had, losing two in that 15 and we played that in the first half.

“We were a little bit naïve in that 4-4-2 in the second half. I was playing to the players I had and not to the formation.

“I had to change it to give people minutes. We wasn’t as good for the first 15-20 minutes (of the second half), it was a bit scrappy, but I was giving people game time.”

When asked his thoughts at half-time, Kelly replied: “We’re still in the game.   We tried to go a little bit wider in the second half. We moved Aaron McCallum out wide and Alex Gaggin to the other side of the pitch and let them attack them a little bit out from wide.

“We found in the first half we didn’t let our full-backs release the ball because we were so narrow. There wasn’t a lot to aim for, so we scrapped our game plan in the first half and tried to play a bit longer with a winger system.”

Davis waited until half-time to use four of his five substitutes and one of them, goalkeeper Anibaba gifted Crockenhill a lifeline in the 51st minute.

Kelly credited Gaggin for charging down the former Beckenham Town goalkeeper’s right-footed clearance, which ricochet off the striker and bounced into the empty net.

The slice of good fortune was what Crockenhill deserved for putting in a spirited display against a club that are two levels above them.

“I wouldn’t say it was a gift, I’d say it was hard work by the forward closing down! That’s what the forwards do, close down goalkeepers. The goalkeeper got good contact to it and its hit our player, that was the fruits of good work.”

Davis said: “A bit unfortunate. I found out from Junior (Alade) that potentially he might be interested in coming down and having a game. It would be nice to push Adam Molloy.

“He’s come in. I’ve heard good things about him. It was a little bit of a mistake, wasn’t it? I thought it was an oggy!”

Plucky Crockenhill didn’t look like threatening in the final third after substitute Nick Heggarty smacked a right-footed volley high over the bar from 25-yards.

Sittingbourne released Obasa down the right, who showed strength to beat Saunders on the corner of the penalty area and he cut the ball back towards Bell, who was denied by sub keeper Jack Yerlett, who smothered the ball at the striker’s feet inside the box.

Sittingbourne’s pace was causing Crokenhill’s back four problems and Obasa beat Saunders but steered his shot across the keeper and wide when he only had him to beat.

Crockenhill – who had a 17-man squad - made a further five changes during the second half, which affected their chances of pulling off a shock result.

Crocks striker Aaron McCallum was released down the left and cut inside but his right-footed shot rolled into Anibaba’s hands at the near post for a comfortable save halfway through the second half.

Obasa missed a couple of decent chances before he added his name twice on the scoresheet.

Firstly he nipped in front of the hesitant goalkeeper but poked his shot just past the foot of the near post and then he beat the offside trap to go on to drill his right-footed shot over the top of the near post from a tight angle with only the keeper to beat after escaping the offside trap on a rare occasion.

But Davis was delighted that Obasa kept going, scoring his side’s fourth goal in the 69th minute.

Reece Gallagher was congratulated after playing a sublime through ball from the middle of the park and Obasa left defenders Nick Clark-Ferreria and Saunders in his shadow before producing a lovely dinked finish past the goalkeeper to find the far corner.

Davis said: “Great ball! It was good. We was right behind that as well. He put his head down and he produced a great finish.

“He was in behind a few times like that, a couple of them were close. He’s absolutely quick as you like! In training he handles them well. He’s not played at any real level Fred but he’s got that raw pace which is scary for defenders to get in behind.

“Fair play to him, he’s scored two goals today and he took that one very well.”

“I was very disappointed with that one as well,” bemoaned Kelly.

“I think tired legs were showing, they’ve got quick forwards and it paid dividends for them in the end to be fair. They’re technically good players.

“We did make some changes and I think the changes affected the outcome of the final score. If I’m honest the number of changes and maybe the quality (went).”

Crockenhill should have been reduced to ten-men inside the final seven minutes when last defender Saunders fouled Abraham-Richard Tagoe.

The referee could not have seen whether the actual foul took place inside the penalty box or not as he was positioned on the half-way line at the time of impact and assistant Richards did not help out his colleague, who took the safer option of awarding Sittingbourne a free-kick a yard outside the box.

Davis added: “You probably had a better view than I did. I thought it was in the box from where I was. The linesman wasn’t even looking across when we looked over. He had a lot to say the linesman.

“It was in the box. The referee’s whistled, what’s he going to do? Was it going to be a penalty? No one knew did they? He made his mind up from a long way away and then (it was a) free-kick outside the box – it was a penalty!”

Kelly, naturally said, “It wasn’t a foul though really! It was a terrible decision by the referee to give that! It was on top of the assistant and no flag, nothing. The assistant quite shocked if I’m honest. The assistant my end was absolutely gobsmacked that he gave the free-kick, so not a last man, maybe a last man challenge but definitely not a card and definitely not a foul!”

Dickens drilled the resulting free-kick through the wall and Yerlett made the best save of the match, diving low to his right to push the ball behind for a corner.

Kelly said: “In the second half, the young goalkeeper, he’s had a little bit more proper goalkeeper training than what Michael had and you could see he was a little more aware on his line and he wasn’t switching off.”

Sittingbourne had time to score a fifth goal with 44:21 on the clock as Obasa turned Parker on the corner of the box before curling a delightful right-footed shot into the far corner from 15-yards.  The game came to a conclusion without any time added on!

“It was a great finish,” said Davis, who guided his club to a slap bang in the middle of the table last season.

“I thought Fred is definitely a livewire. He’s got the pace that scares defenders. If he could finish then he wouldn’t be playing at this level like this but that’s what we’re working with – they’re non-league players!

“He definitely didn’t do himself any problems today. He was a handful and I was really pleased for him.”

Kelly added: “Not so much I can say about that! He did well to beat Matt Parker, who done really, really well.

“He did well to beat Matt and then it was a really nice finish from the forward.”

Sittingbourne welcome Southern Counties East Football League side Canterbury City to the back pitch at Woodstock on Tuesday night before hosting Ryman League Division One North side Cray Wanderers on Saturday.

“I’ve got to see what I’ve got to do. We had a couple of people watching today to have a look at the players.  The players that I don’t want so that way they can have another club. Baring in mind we’ve got under 21s this year so I might be able to put a couple of them in there.

“I’d love Bryan (Bell) to come on board (with the first team) but we’ve got three forwards at the minute who are going to cause a lot of problems in our league. Are we going to have room for Bryan? I’m not sure. I’d like to hope so but I’d like to have him on dual-registration.”

“The lads that I’ve signed and four or five of these lads will be involved on Tuesday. 

“I know Canterbury are looking at a new ground so they might to be a force in a few years’ time. They ended up midway in the league this year just gone so it’s another test.

“Unfortunately we’re not on the pitch until 1st August so we’ll be on the back pitch so it’s a little bit smaller, then we’ve got Cray Wanderers. I’d be surprised if Tony Russell doesn’t get them up this year, so it will be a test.”

Davis, who said he will take 48 hours before making a decision which of these players will be released, was then asked whether results in pre-season were important.

“It doesn’t mean anything, does it? I’ve been in situations when I’ve won them all and then lost the first four or five (league games) and we haven’t won one and we’ve won the first four of five (friendly) games so it’s difficult to say isn’t it?

“We had such a good end to the season and want it to continue going into Tuesday.”

Kelly revealed he is away for next Saturday’s home game against Tunbridge Wells – Keith Bird’s first game in charge of the Southern Counties East Football League outfit.

“I’d take the better players really. I know there’s at least two players that I don’t really need them right now but it’ll be a little bit of a worry to me to play them in our first (league) game. 

“The rest of the boys, they worked hard. There was some tough challenges in there, there were players who weren’t great on the ball but worked hard, put some good challenges in and I think every team needs those hard workers but less gifted players.

“I’m away next week, Tunbridge Wells will be left in the hands with John Bourke and (chairman) Steve Cullen’s got someone coming in to help John for the day.

“We’ll have a few more players coming back. It may be a completely different line-up but with a little bit of luck we’ll try and retain the back four (Jeffery, Abraham, Saunders and Parker).

“I was really pleased with Dan Frondigoun, he started in centre midfield and moved to right back where he was a lot more comfortable at right back, so I’ll be really happy to keep them there and the rest of the back four that started the game.”

Crockenhill: Mike Boreham (Jack Yerlett 34),Cedric Abraham (Aaron Johnson 65), Daniel Jeffery (Nick Clark-Ferreria 34, Matt Parker 77), Matt Parker (Alex Gaggin 34, Kevin Dalrymple 86), Jack Saunders, Ian Nicholas (Craig Berwick 65), Dan Frondigoun, Reece Cullen (Nick Heggarty 34), Kevin Dalrymple (Reece Cullen 65), Aaron Johnson (Ryan Cullen 34), Aaron McCallum.

Goals: Daniel Jeffery 30, Alex Gaggin 51

Booked: Kevin Dalrymple 88

Sittingbourne: Adam Molloy (Rilwan Anibaba 46), Jack Steventon, Lee Watkins (Billy French 46), Charlie Dickens, Brendan Owusa Ansah (Matt Finn 46), Shaquille Richards, Reece Gallagher, Abraham-Richard Tagoe, Fred Obasa, Bryan Bell (Louis Watkins 60), Ollie Bankole (Junior Alade 46).

Goals: Bryan Bell 6, 20, Charlie Dickens 43, Fred Obasa 69, 90

Attendance: 72
Referee: Mr Alex Conteh (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Clifton Richards (Dulwich, London SE22) & Mr Michael Smallrose (Lewisham, London SE13)