East Grinstead Town 2-2 Hythe Town - We need to string a few results together to get up to midtable, says Hythe Town joint-manager Tony Beckingham

Thursday 15th October 2015
East Grinstead Town 2 – 2 Hythe Town
Location East Court, College Lane, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 3LS
Kickoff 17/10/2015 15:00

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 17th October 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from East Court

HYTHE TOWN joint-manager Tony Beckingham admitted it felt a bit strange making a swift return to his former club.

Joint-managers Beckingham and Clive Cook (who missed the game as he’s on a pre-booked holiday in Ibiza) were in charge of The Cannons for the sixth time and they denied former Erith & Belvedere manager Matt Longhurst a win in his first game in charge of The Wasps.

Hardworking target man Craig Thompson opened his account for the new season to give Hythe Town the lead, before on-loan Gillingham striker Greg Cundle, 18, scored the first of his two clinically taken one-on-one strikes to equalise for their fellow strugglers.

In what was a scrappy affair between two clubs in the bottom five of the Ryman League Division One South table, it appeared that Longhurst was going to celebrate a debut win when Cundle drilled home his second with thirteen minutes left, but Thompson salvaged a point when he hooked in his second at the death.

“Awkward,” was Beckingham’s response on his return to East Grinstead.

“It just felt strange really.  It just felt a bit strange.  It’s only been a couple of weeks really since we were here but it’s nice to come back and see everyone but it was one of them, it did feel strange.”

And on Longhurst taking over from him at East Court, Beckingham added: “I think it was one of those games where we both really wanted to get it out of the way and just move on to the next one really. I think that’s all we can do. I wish him all the best with it. I love the club and I hope they do well.”

Longhurst reflected on his first game in charge of East Grinstead Town.

“Just a little bit disappointed that we ain’t got three points if I’m honest.  I thought second half we were the better team. I thought first half, first 20 minutes, we looked like a team under a new manager and a little bit of a transitional period and I think we was a little unsure of some of the things that we were trying to do overall.

“But I enjoyed it. I would’ve certainly liked to have got off to a winning start, but having said that I can’t fault the boys. They’ve done fantastic for us.”

Longhurst, who has brought trusted coaches Billy Manners, Lee Barnett and Sonny Gladdish with him from Erith & Belvedere, added: “We’ve only been with them for three hours in the week, an hour on Tuesday and a couple of hours on Thursday.

“Second half we certainly looked like one of my teams if I’m honest.”

Longhurst has left Southern Counties East Football League side Erith & Belvedere with East Grinstead Town struggling in the bottom two with 6 points from 10 games, while Hythe Town went into the game with 13 points from 14 outings.

Hythe Town suffered a major blow inside the opening couple of minutes when they lost striker Frankie Sawyer to ankle ligament damage and he was stretchered off so Sam May came on inside four minutes.

Beckingham said: “He’s hurt his ankle. I don’t quite know, I think its ligaments so we’re going to have to wait and assess him tomorrow or Monday and see how he is. 

“You saw the effect that it did have on us. We lost that cutting edge really up front when he went off.

“He just gives us something different. He gives us that pace and the boy’s a goalscorer. He’s a good player. We miss him.”

It was certainly a hard-fought affair, with Hythe Town committing 17 fouls to East Grinstead’s 11.

Hythe Town created the first chance inside 12 minutes when Josh Burchell floated over a free-kick with his left-foot from the right and Laurence Harvey came up from the back to steer his towering header across goal and past the far post.

James Morrish played a free-kick out to Ben Wilson, who hit a speculative first time left-footed drive into Michael Hunter’s midriff from 30-yards, the East Grinstead keeper making a routine catch.

Hythe Town broke the deadlock with 16 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Skipper Morrish delivered a cross in from the right and Wilson fed Thompson in the box, who turned and stroked his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from ten-yards, leaving Hunter rooted to the spot.

Beckingham said: “Good finish! I thought there was nothing in the game at that point to be honest. We probably, I don’t know, we might’ve edged it, but that might be perhaps I’m looking at it through rose tinted glasses, but I don’t think there was anything in the game at that point.

“When we scored we looked the more likely after that. I think if we had got the second one, then I think we would’ve really gone on and won the game.”

Longhurst added: “Disappointing really! I think we can deal with the long ball better. I said to the boys at half-time, I think in this division as long as you deal with the long balls and the long balls into the box and compete and make sure you do the basics right then you can play your football and you can implement what we want to try to do on the ball.

“Both the goals came from similar situations, come from a ball across the box, they’ve won the first header and it’s dropped down and they’ve reacted so I’m disappointed with the two goals.”

East Grinstead Town created a couple of headed openings as the half edged towards the halfway mark.

Left-winger Ade Joshua won and took a corner down the left which he swung in towards the edge of the six-yard box where Greg Haydon came up from the back to steer his downward header towards the near post, which was turned around the post by Joe Mant.

Central midfielder John Difford, who took charge of the Wasps shock 3-2 win at Cray Wanderers in The FA Trophy and their 1-1 draw at Herne Bay in the league, whipped in a cross into the Hythe Town box where former Gillingham right-back Callum Emptage’s downward header was comfortably collected by the former Ashford United stopper.

East Grinstead Town played a slick range of passes in a triangle involving Joshua, Cundle and Ross Morley down the left, but the cross from left-back Tom Carlse was poor and sailed past the near post.

The home side produced another good move which involved five players but Colin Richmond, one of two players who have followed Longhurst from Erith & Belvedere to East Grinstead, the other being central defender George Benner, fed Cundle, who took too many touches inside the box and Harvey was on hand to make a well-timed tackle inside the box.

Hythe Town were to be denied a crucial second goal with 36 minutes on the clock.

Central defender Dave Cook played the ball into Wilson’s feet, who slipped the ball into the feet of Damian Ramsamy, who tried to get the ball out from underneath his feet at the near post.

The first shot from the right-winger was blocked at the near post by Hunter, who was beaten by the next attempt from the former Sevenoaks Town player, but this time Carlse was on the line to clear the ball off the line.

Beckingham said: “We had a great opportunity!  I’m not quite sure we didn’t score but did he make a great save? We’ve appealed for the goal and the linesman’s not given it but from where I was it was really difficult to see but from where I was we’ve got to score from that position and we didn’t.

“I think that was the turning point really. If we had gone 2-0 up then that would’ve been the end of the game, I truly believe that.”

A long throw into the East Grinstead Town penalty area by Morrish was flicked on at the near post by Thompson and Sam May cracked his volley over the crossbar from 12-yards on the right-hand side of the penalty area.

But Hythe Town gifted East Grinstead Town an equaliser with 38 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock.

Ryan Johnson attempted to play a square pass to Morrish but the ball was intercepted by an alert Difford, who played a sublime through ball to put Cundle through in behind the Hythe back four.

Mant rushed out of his penalty area and reached the ball first with his right leg but Cundle pounced on the loose ball, took a touch to compose himself before drilling a left-footed angled drive into the bottom far corner of the net from 20-yards.

Longhurst said: “I thought both of our goals were two decent passes and two decent, two really decent finishes from the kid!

“He’s done brilliant today, his movement is fantastic. He’s played up there, he would normally play in a slightly different role today but we had one or two players unavailable so a great finish. Both finishes were really good but I thought in general, his goals aside, I thought his performance was fantastic.”

Beckingham added: “They got their goal just before half-time, which was diabolical defending on our part!

“Listen, Greg Cundle’s a good player. I got him in on loan from Gillingham (and the right-back Callum Emptage).

“The first game he played for us he scored a hat-trick and he scored two against Cray Wanderers and he scored two again today.

“When he was through on goal it was only going to be one outcome. The boy knows where the back of the net is.  I thought Manty done well to hold him up and I half thought he done enough but it was a really good finish wasn’t it from the edge of the box. It’s alright getting in those positions, you’ve got to finish it and he did.

“Nothing in it! It was even Stevens,” added the Hythe Town joint-manager.

“They’ve obviously got a point to prove to the new manager and you could tell they’re off a couple of good results, don’t forget that!  They’ve beaten Cray Wanderers, who you don’t need to say about that, they’re flying and got a really good draw at Herne Bay, who are also doing well, so we were under no illusions. It was going to be tough today and so it proved. It was a really good even contest today.

“First half, I thought it was alright and I did expect us to come out second half and kick on a little bit – but it never really happened!”

The crowd of 86 witnessed a drab second half as neither side had the quality to create many chances.

You’re right! I think the second half was a bit of a non-entity really in terms of football,” Beckingham admitted.

“For some reason we just didn’t really get comfortable in the game today. We didn’t have any controlled possession. Everything was being given away too cheaply. When we was going forward we was going too long and instead of trying to work it and get it out wide and get balls in, the trouble is when you get into that pattern of play it’s really difficult to get out of it.

“I just felt the whole thing was scrappy and it remained scrappy.  We just couldn’t really impose our play the way we wanted to play on them and I would like to say that’s credit to them. It probably is a bit but it was more down to we didn’t play very well on the day.”

The first chance of the second half came East Grinstead Town’s way when they really should have taken the lead after 57 minutes.

Morrish lost the ball to half-time substitution Hassan Ibrahim in midfield, the left-winger raced into the penalty area and with only Mant to beat, dragged his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from 16-yards.

Longhurst said: “I don’t think either goalkeeper has had a massive great amount to deal with to be honest with you.  Our goalkeeper came and took two or three decent crosses but I thought in general play, I thought we were better.

“I honestly thought we were better than them in general play in the second half but without creating enough.

“But having said that Hass is through on goal and missed. If he puts that away it goes 3-1, I think it’s game over.”

The next chance arrived in the 76th minute, but Benner produced a central defender’s finish, just like he did for Erith & Belvedere in their league game at Beckenham Town last weekend in a similar position when Jamie Wood was put in caretaker charge alongside the club’s under 18 manager Darren Mace.

Emptage whipped in a quality free-kick from the right which sailed over towards the far post and an unmarked Benner screwed his volley across goal from four-yards out.

But East Grinstead Town deserved their lead with 32 minutes and 25 seconds on the clock, simply because they attacked more than Hythe Town, who clearly missed Sawyer and the suspended Alfie May.

Difford’s second sublime through ball released Cundle through on goal – after the striker beat the offside trap – and he drilled his right-footed shot into the far corner when he only had Mant to beat.

The clinical finish from Cundle, his fourth goal of the season, prompted home fans to taunt Beckingham with a chant of “Beckingham, Beckingham what’s the score?” – but he was to have the last laugh!

Beckingham said of Difford’s sublime pass, “I do know him well, which is why I was surprised with both of the balls because I’ve never seen him play two good balls like that! He’s normally smashing them up the park from one end to another. He basically kicks it as hard as he can!

“It’s another one. He’s through on goal and there’s only one outcome! It’s ended up in the back of the net and once again it was a good finish wasn’t it?

“It was a really good finish and you can see why the kid is going to be a good player. Hopefully he’s going to go on and have a career in the Football League, with a bit of luck, if he carries on finishing like that, he’s got every chance!

“At that point I was struggling to see how we was going to get back into the game. We just didn’t seem to have the will to get back into it. We weren’t creating anything!”

Longhurst added: “Great pass, great movement. He was actually offside; he came back onside and arched his run, fantastic bit of movement and a great finish. The kids got a lot of quality and he’s one fantastic.”

East Grinstead Town squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off when Mant denied Cundle a hat-trick with just over six minutes left.

Ibrahim started a sweeping move and played the ball into Casey Johnson, who fed Cundle, who cut inside and his right-footed drive from 16-yards was destined to bounce into the far corner, but Mant dived to his left to push the ball away.

Beckingham had seen enough and made a tactical masterstroke immediately after that warning by putting Cook up front to partner Thompson.

The move paid off, however, as Hythe Town salvaged a point with an equaliser timed at 44 minutes and 1 second.

Left-back Burchell advanced down the wing and whipped in a deep hanging cross towards the far post which Cook jumped to plant his header across goal for Thompson to hook his shot into the bottom far corner from six-yards.

“Two experienced players that have played a lot of games in this level and they’ve put it in the box and I feel we’ve got to deal with it better,” said a disappointed Longhurst.

“That’s what I said to them at half-time, do the not so nice stuff well and then we can play. We do all the playing but weren’t quite creating enough in the final bit, which is something we can work on.  We’ve only been here for a week.

“We just have to be a little bit better in both boxes. That will l come so I’m not going to point fingers at the boys.”

Beckingham said: “Look, listen, it wasn’t working for us the way we were playing. We didn’t want to change it too early but with five minutes to go let’s throw the kitchen sink at it and it worked!

“Sometimes you try these things, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Today it worked out for us. We got the equaliser and I was quite happy at that point.

“The referee’s played seven minutes of extra time and I thought we could’ve nicked a winner really but neither side created anything after that did they and it petered out into a draw.

“I wouldn’t say I was happy with it but the main thing is if we couldn’t win the game which is what we wanted to do, the main thing was not to get beat.”

Beckingham was full of praise for two-goal hero Thompson.

“His endeavour is unbelievable! He never stops working and never stops running and harrying and gives defenders a tough time. I haven’t worked with him for very long but I know his attitude. I love the way he plays the game. He puts his heart and soul into it.

“But the one thing he hasn’t had up to now was an end product really so today I’m pleased for him that he’s actually notched a couple of goals.  Hopefully he’s on his way now and he can get a few more.”

At the final whistle, Hythe Town dropped a place and are now seven points clear of East Grinstead, now one place below them.

“It’s a big job on but sometimes you have to respect the point. We’ve come here, the boys are three unbeaten now,” said Longhurst.

“They’ve (Hythe Town) have come here, big-spending club, have come away, they’ve got a new manager, got a lot of new players, they’re spending a lot of money and they’ve come here and I feel we were better than them over the 90 minutes. We probably edged it.

“We take the point and you move on.  The more you stay unbeaten the more the confidence breeds in the dressing room. I’m confident it will take two or three weeks for us to get going and get us to where we want to be, but as long as the boys stay resilient and stay listening to what we want to try to do we’ll certainly climb the table.”

And that’s exactly what Lordswood based Beckingham is striving for on the Kent coast.

“We need to string a few results together still and then hopefully once we do that we’ll get up to midtable and then hopefully we’ll stay out of that (relegation zone) then.

“Seven points now but you know yourself, two weeks in this league; it’s relentless in this league. The games come thick and fast, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday and you can very easily get on a bad run, as you can get on a good one. That’s why it’s important to stay undefeated and pick up points and wins.”

East Grinstead Town: Michael Hunter, Callum Emptage, Tom Carlse, John Difford, George Benner, Greg Haydon, Ade Joshua (Jordan Gallagher 85), Ross Morley, Greg Cundle, Colin Richmond (Hassan Ibrahim 46), Casey Johnson.
Subs: Josh Bonnett, Simon Mensah

Goals: Greg Cundle 39, 77

Hythe Town: Joe Mant, Stephen Butcher, Josh Burchell, Ryan Johnson, Damian Ramsamy (Jordan Wells 59), Laurence Harvey, Dave Cook, James Morrish, Frankie Sawyer (Sam May 4, Phil Stevenson 72), Craig Thompson, Ben Wilson.
Subs: Michael Yianni, Jamie Collado

Goals: Craig Thompson 17, 90

Booked: Stephen Butcher 79, Craig Thompson 90

Attendance: 86
Referee: Mr Graham Kane (Brighton, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Michael Barnes (Heathfield, East Sussex) & Mr Lee Martin-Cramp (Lewes, East Sussex)