Eastbourne Borough 3-1 Sheppey United - Now we’ve got to focus on having more big nights and big Saturday’s in the league and The FA Vase, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Tuesday 13th October 2020
Eastbourne Borough 3 – 1 Sheppey United
Location Priory Lane, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN23 7QH
Kickoff 13/10/2020 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Tuesday 13 October 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Priory Lane

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says he wants his side to focus on having more big nights and big Saturday’s in the league and FA Vase after giving Eastbourne Borough a massive fright in The FA Cup Third Qualifying Round.

Sheppey United experienced their first defeat of the season at the thirteenth-attempt as they arrived at Priory Lane sitting in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 16 points from six games.

However, in The FA Cup this season they have beaten Sutton Athletic (1-0); Uxbridge (4-1); Steyning Town (5-0) and caused an upset by beating Vanarama National League South side Welling United 2-0 at Holm Park.

Danny Bloor’s side needed penalties (4-3) to beat their Vanarama National League rivals Dorking Wanderers in The FA Cup Second Qualifying Round, after the two sides were locked at 3-3 after 90 minutes.

The two sides met here on the opening day of the season with Marc White’s side gaining revenge in a 3-0 win but Eastbourne Borough came away from Hemel Hempstead Town with a 4-1 win at the weekend and went into this FA Cup tie with the same side that played in that game and sitting in eighth-place in the table, three levels higher than Sheppey United.

The last time that any Sheppey football team had reached The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round was back in 1930 and when Billy Bennett tucked home his eighth-goal of the season inside the opening 10 minutes behind closed doors on a wet night, their second giant-killing act was on, as Batten’s boys impressed during the first half as they expressed themselves on the slick artificial pitch.

However, Eastbourne Borough dominated the second half and sealed their place in the final qualifying round on 24 October by scoring three goals inside the final 23 minutes.

Greg Luer, 25, came off the bench to score a brace to rescue his side and former Gillingham man Chris Whelpdale, 33, notched his sixth goal in four games.

“I was extremely pleased with them. It’s hard. I’ve gone in there and they’re very, very disappointed but that’s a mark of how we’ve been this season,” said a proud Batten.

“I thought we’ve played some super football, especially in the first half- and maybe we could’ve got another goal or two, which would’ve made it really interesting but I’ve got nothing but praise for the lads.

“We knocked Welling United out in the previous round and I thought for an hour it looked we might do the same but it wasn’t to be.

“There was a 10-minute spell where we switched off a little bit and it cost us but other than that I’m extremely pleased with the performance.

“It shows what the lads’ can do when they play right up to their abilities and hopefully we can take this forward now into the league, which is our bread and butter.

“I’ve said to the lads, Saturday is probably the biggest game we’ve got this season because it’s a top of the table clash and we need to go down to Corinthian’s and get something out of that game.”

Eastbourne Borough started the game on the front foot, penning Sheppey United in their own half but the away side were a well-organised outfit in defence.

This game proves that Bennett (who played behind striker Jack Midson in the first half before finishing the game in a central midfield role) and wingers Harrison Carnegie (left) and Danny Leonard (right) can play at National League South level after dominating their higher league markers for the entire first half.

Eastbourne Borough created their first opening inside the opening five minutes when Whelpdale (who was more wide right than a central striker during the first half) cut in and shrugged past Connor Wilkins before drilling his right-footed drive past the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Sheppey United’s tactic of soaking up the pressure before hitting diagonal balls out to either Carnegie or Leonard, who both murdered both Eastbourne’s full-backs, was a threat.

Bennett released Carnegie, who easily cut inside right-back James Vaughan to whip in a cross/shot which was comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Franco Ravizzoli, the 23-year-old Argentinian goalkeeper, on his knees.

Just 27 seconds later it was the turn of Sheppey United keeper Adam Molloy to make a comfortable save on his knees as the unmarked Dean Cox, a left-winger, found himself in space in a central position and tried to score from 30-yards.

An open start to the game, Sheppey United created another opening inside the ninth minute following their first of two corners.

Wilkins swung the ball in from the left and Midson rose to flick his free header over the crossbar.

“Set-pieces haven’t been our forte in previous seasons but this year we’ve worked on them and they’re paying dividends,” said Batten.

Sheppey United produced a well-worked three-man move as they took the lead with nine minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

Wilkins clipped the ball up to Midson, who knocked the ball on to put Bennett through on goal and his finish was composed, sweeping his right-footed shot underneath the keeper and into the centre of the goal from 12-yards to the delight of the travelling committee members and substitutes sitting in the main stand.

Batten said: “It was a super move. We have been playing that type of football this season. It’s slick and quick and it doesn’t surprise me. We score goals against most teams playing like that.”

Batten felt a giant-killing act was on the cards for the second time.

“It kind of felt like it a little bit.

“When the chances came first half and I thought we were excellent first half. I just thought we needed that second goal to come in at half-time with that two-goal cushion.”

In games like these you always need your goalkeeper to excel and Molloy made a couple of fine saves.

Whelpdale skipped past Sheppey’s holding midfielder Richard Hamill down the right and he released Joel Rollinson in behind left-back Danny Devine.

Rollinson drilled a cross into the box towards the penalty spot and an unmarked Charlie Walker planted his header down towards the bottom right-hand corner, forcing Molloy to dive to his left and use a strong hand to push the ball around the post.

“You’re going to expect them to have chances. I thought we defended well tonight but Adam made a good save,” said Batten.

“Adam’s been good this season. He’s come in from Erith Town, he’s got a point to prove. He wants to be in a successful side and he’s played extremely well to date.

“You need your keeper to have a good game and he did have a good game and the goals that we’ve conceded, I thought he couldn’t do a lot about them.”

Cox cut the resulting corner in from the right and central midfielder James Hammond got in front of his slow-reacting marker but drove his first-time shot harmlessly past the post.

A goal up and Sheppey United were enjoying their night and put in a very impressive performance. However, all that was missing was a second goal.

Bennett released Carnegie in behind Vaughan and the winger cut into the box and curled his shot just over the top of the far post from just inside the corner of the box.

Cox split open Sheppey’s centre-halves Jahmal Howlett-Mundle and George Crimmen to put Rollinson in on goal but Molloy rushed out of his box and got a vital touch to the ball as the attacker tried to poke the ball past him and run on to slot into an empty net at the halfway point.

Bennett used the outside of his boot to spray the ball out to Leonard, whose pace destroyed Eastbourne’s left-back Kai Innocent and his left-footed angled drive from 25-yards was comfortably saved by Ravizzoli on his knees.

On his two wingers, Batten said: “When they’re on their game they’re very difficult to stop with the pace that Danny Leonard’s got and Harrison Carnegie’s trickery, they can undo most defences.”

Devine tripped Rollinson, who skipped past him latching onto a ball over the top, referee Shelby Elson awarding Eastbourne Borough a free-kick just outside the corner of the box.

Hammond’s fiercely hit free-kick moved in the air but Molloy was right behind it, juggling the ball before grabbing hold of it while stepping to his left at his near post.

Hamill hit a first-time left-footed diagonal to release Carnegie, who once again cut inside Vaughan but this time his right-footed angled drive was gathered low down by the busy Eastbourne Borough keeper.

The home side created their last first-half chance in the 33
rd minute.

Walker drilled his right-footed free-kick from 35-yards, forcing Molloy to dive low to his right to parry and there were no Eastbourne players reacting to the loose ball so the former Erith Town keeper gathered at the second attempt.

Sheppey United were glad to see their higher-league opponents often hit aimless long balls forward or out of play for the rest of the half, although the home side had plenty of possession.

“I just said ‘carry on,” obviously the second goal is always going to be massively important in a game like that,” admitted Batten.

“But 1-0 is a funny result because it’s twist or stick and mentally we may have sat back a little bit too much instead of getting hold of the ball like we did in the first half.

“We seemed a little bit happy just to sit in and see what happened, rather than force the game a little bit.”

Bloor certainly rallied his troops during the half-time interval as Eastbourne Borough were a much better outfit and dominated the second half, while Sheppey United were guilty on sitting back and not utilising their threats on both flanks like they did earlier on.

Eastbourne Borough squandered a glorious chance just two and a half minutes in.

Cox sprung into life and reached the by-line, cut the ball on to his right-boot to float in a cross. The ball was rolled back by Walker to Rollinson, who leaned back and lashed his left-footed drive high over the crossbar from 18-yards.

“It was quite wet out there tonight so the ball was flying around a bit and you’re going to expect chances especially when balls are being played into the box,” said Batten.

Sheppey United were comfortable on the hour mark, by which time Bloor had been forced into making a couple of inspired changes that kicked-started his side into life.

Sheppey United created an opening 17 minutes into the half when Hamill floated a deep free-kick towards the far post which was met by Howlett-Mundle’s diving header, which was straight at the goalkeeper from a tight angle.

“I just felt if we could get the second goal, I thought that was going to be massive. Of course, it didn’t come and when you’re playing a quality team, they’re going to get chances and it’s about how you defend,” said Batten.

Eastbourne Borough restored parity through super-sub Luer with 21 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Hammond fed the ball into Walker, who played a diagonal pass out to right-winger Luer some 40-yards from goal. He easily ran with the ball at his feet, cut into the box and put Molloy on his backside before rolling his left-footed shot past him to place the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

“It was a little bit disappointing, the goal,” admitted Batten.

“We mount an attack and I think Dan Birch burst down the right-hand side and crossed a lovely ball across the goal. They clear it and I’m thinking ‘we’re going to score’ and 10 seconds later the balls in the back of our net!

“That’s the quality they’ve got. They broke very quickly and I thought we were caught out a little bit. We left a man over on the right-hand side and gave Luer too much space and he cut in. Perhaps we could’ve defended it a little bit better but that’s Cup football.”

Eastbourne Borough took the lead just 65 seconds later.

Left-back Innocent ran down the channel and whipped in a cross of high-quality into the corridor of uncertainty and Whelpdale got in behind Crimmen to smash his volley past Molloy from six-yards.

“You give people space and room in the box like the player of that calibre then you expect to be punished,” admitted Batten.

Batten made a tactical switch by bringing on striker Junior Aikhionbare to partner Midson, Bennett slotting back into the middle of the park alongside Wilkins.

Dominant Eastbourne Borough were to strike the woodwork twice during the latter parts of the game, Batten blaming fatigue.

Defensive midfielder James Ferry drilled a free-kick into the Sheppey penalty area and Walker’s looping header sailed across Molloy before clipping the far post.

Batten said: “We started to tire a little bit. We put an awful lot into the game and players were getting away from us a little bit, so it did open up a lot. We put so much into the game, a little bit of fatigue set in and we gave them a little bit of space.”

Eastbourne Borough killed off Sheppey United by scoring their third goal with 29 minutes and 32 seconds on the clock.

Whelpdale and Ferry linked up before the ball was played out to Walker, who whipped in a cross towards the near post and Luer got in behind Crimmen (who seemed to have lost confidence and or fitness as soon as he was booked for stopping Whelpdale breaking in midfield) to glance his free header into the top near corner from inside the six-yard box.

Batten said: “We were a little bit disappointed with that because Jahmal and Crimmen, if you don’t pick-up markers then you expect to be punished.”

Eastbourne Borough were showing why they play three levels higher than Sheppey United after the hour mark as Sheppey United missed their chance of causing an upset during an impressive first-half showing.

Sheppey United kept plugging away, however, and on three occasions the ball flashed across the face of goal but no-one could slide in to score.

Aikhionbare broke through the heart of the pitch before playing the ball over to Leonard, a good first touch saw him burst past his man and he put in a great low cross which flashed across the face of goal but neither Aikhionbare or fellow substitute Timothy Ogunrinde could poke the ball into the net.

The other occasion, good defending from centre-half Mitchell Dickenson ensured Midson couldn’t meet Ogunrinde’s low centre.

“On the counter-attack, when we could get the ball to the wide people, first half I thought we did that extremely well. Second half it was getting more difficult to get the ball to them,” added Batten.

“But when we did we showed that, we’ve got three tremendous balls that needed touching home anywhere across the goal and maybe at 3-2 you never know, then the panic stations set in on their side and maybe another one goes in.

“We needed to get that one goal back and get it back to 3-2.”

Eastbourne Borough then struck the crossbar as the game reached its conclusion.

A big kick from Ravizzoli released Walker down the left channel and his cross was met by Whelpdale’s bullet-header, which crashed against the underside of the crossbar and Molloy grabbed hold of the ball as it dropped.

“The dream’s over, for the football club it’s a great advert. The coverage that we’ve had we’re really grateful for, the radio and the media like yourself
, it can only be good for Sheppey United. It’s still only a relatively young club in terms of it was reformed six years ago, 2014 we out of the County League and here we are 2020 playing a National League side, it’s incredible.”

The only disappointment was that the UK Government have banned fans from attending matches at Elite level - Premier League, EFL, National League, National League North and South.

“The atmosphere would’ve been electric tonight if we could’ve brought fans - I’m sure we would’ve brought a few hundred fans with us if they could’ve travelled down here and Eastbourne, it’s a lovely stadium. I’m not sure how many they get for their games? FA Cup, probably would have been 1,5000 fans here tonight. What an atmosphere that would’ve been.

“Our committee members made enough noise (when we scored) didn’t they, so I’ll have to make sure they stand behind the goal in future games!”

Sheppey United travel to league leaders Corinthian (seven wins out of seven) on Saturday, five points behind Michael Golding’s side but with a game in hand.

“It’s a big game, if you’re a side trying to achieve something, then you expect to have big games. If you’re successful, you’re going to be in the cup competitions and you’re going to be having top of the league clashes and that’s where we want to be.

“We certainly do want more of them. That’s what we’re working towards. The FA Cup is a massive competition, it can only be good for the football club but now we’ve got to focus on having more big nights and big Saturday’s in the league and The FA Vase.”

Eastbourne Borough: Franco Ravizzoli, James Vaughan, Kai Innocent, James Ferry, Mitchell Dickenson, Steven James, Dean Cox (Leone Gravata 60), James Hammond, Chris Whelpdale, Charlie Walker, Joel Rollinson (Greg Luer 51, Charley Kendall 81)).
Subs: Daniel Blackmore, Charlie Lambert, Charlie Towning, Luke Glover

Goals: Greg Luer 67, 75, Chris Whelpdale 68

Booked: Chris Whelpdale 78

Sheppey United: Adam Molloy, Daniel Birch, Danny Devine, Richard Hamill (Junior Aikhionbare 72), George Crimmen, Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, Harrison Carnegie (Timothy Ogunrinde 80), Connor Wilkins (Ryan Freeman 88), Jack Midson, Billy Bennett, Danny Leonard.
Subs: Warren Mfula, Tommy Taylor, Callum Emptage, Sami Meziane

Goal: Billy Bennett 10

Booked: George Crimmen 66, Adam Molloy 86

Attendance: 0
Referee: Mr Shelby Elson
Assistants: Mr Harry Wager & Mr Anthony Andrews