Erith & Belvedere 1-0 Yaxley - They were probably the best team we've played this season, admits Matt Longhurst

Saturday 21st March 2015

The FA Vase Fourth Round
Sunday 18th January 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Matt Longhurst says it’s a fantastic achievement to reach the last sixteen of The FA Vase in his first season in charge of the club.

The Deres – in second-place in the Southern Counties East Football League table on 47 points from 20 games, a point behind unbeaten leaders Phoenix Sports – can seriously dream about reaching the Wembley Final on 9 May.

Adam Marsh’s tenth goal of the season and a heroic goalkeeping display from George Kamurasi, 23, booked their place at this stage of the competition for the first time in their history.

“We’ve already broken a few club records this year and it’s another one that we’ve broken,” said Longhurst afterwards.

“I can’t fault the boys. I thought they were probably the best team we’ve played all season. I thought they were very good. They passed it and there movement off the ball was very good.

“I felt our goalkeeper has probably kept us in the game at times but there’s two sides to football. Sometimes it’s on-the-ball, sometimes it’s off-the-ball and I thought off-the-ball today we worked really, really hard.

“That’s what goalkeepers are there to do and I think a very good goal won the game so I’m over the moon with the boys with three clean sheets in a row.”

The Deres were watched by their largest crowd in eight years and the crowd of 212 was their largest attendance for a FA Vase tie.

And the home fans celebrated the winning goal with only four minutes and 33 seconds on the clock.

Byron Walker – who scored Herne Bay’s first goal in their 2-2 home draw against West Auckland Town in the semi-finals back in 2012 – but missed the away leg which saw Simon Halsey’s side lose 2-1 up in the North East – played a major part in the winner.

The left-winger picked the ball up on the edge of his own penalty area and made a dazzling 70-yard run before slipping the ball through to Marsh, who turned and drilled a low right-footed shot across the diving keeper into the bottom far corner from 18-yards.

“We sort of changed it,” explained Longhurst.

“The last couple of games we’ve changed formation and we changed it again today. We had them watched and we knew what we could do to try and get them. We know they’ve been on a coach.

“We came in yesterday and we spoke about the first 20 minutes, us needing to get at them with pace and Byron being an outlet on the left-hand side.

“It was a great finish from Marshy but good work from Byron. That’s what we set out to do, to try and get at them in that opening 15-20 minutes.”

Peterborough-based Yaxley, who arrived sitting in third-place in the United Counties League with 47 points from 22 games – ten points adrift of leaders AFC Rushden & Diamonds – were by far the better side throughout the game.

Striker Scott Carter played the ball out wide to impressive left-winger Dan Cotton, who cut inside and whipped in a great ball, which forced Kamurasi to dive to his left to tip the ball away.

This sparked dominance from Brett Whaley’s men and Kamurasi put in a man-of-the-match performance to help grab the Kent side the victory.

Kyle Nolan played the ball into Carter, who laid the ball inside to Liam Hook, who screwed his right-footed shot wide from 20-yards.

Cotton then cut in from the left and drilled a right-footed angled drive which produced the very best out of Kamurasi, who dived to his left to push around the post.

David Cobb played the resulting corner back to right-back John-Paul Duncliffe, who whipped in an excellent low cross and with his back to goal Carter flicked the ball straight at Kamurasi from six-yards.

The Erith & Belvedere keeper excelled again in the sixteenth minute when he dived high to his right to prevent an unmarked Hook drilling his right-footed shot into the top left-hand corner from 25-yards.

“They’re a team that’s going to create chances against you,” admitted Longhurst.

“You’ve got to hold your hands up and say they’re a decent side. I felt we could probably get close to them.  The shape weren’t quite right and we couldn’t get the message across to the players.

“You probably saw I spent most of the time up in the stand because it’s just easier to see and that’s an advantage we have here.”

But Erith & Belvedere weathered the storm and could have doubled their lead when Walker cut in from the touch-line to play the ball inside to Marsh, who couldn’t replicate his earlier success, this time hitting his left-footed shot sailing past the near post from 20-yards.

Erith & Belvedere received a stroke of luck when Hook drilled a right-footed shot against the left-hand post following a four-man move on the half-hour mark.

Longhurst added: “I think you’ve got to give massive credit to them. They’re a decent side and they’ve got some decent attacking players.

“You’ve got to accept that they’re going to have chances.”

Erith & Belvedere’s 31-goal striker Alfie May worked tirelessly to help his team-mates by dropping back but he lost a dual with Duncliffe, who clipped a deep cross from the half-way line into the box but Cotton drove his shot into the side-netting.

Impressive Yaxley produced another fine move when Rob Hughes played the ball to Cobb down the right and Kamurasi punched away the cross and was out of his goal but Hook sent his chip sailing wide of the left-hand post from 20-yards.

But Erith & Belvedere came close to doubling their lead in the 38th minute.

Allan Matthews launched a throw into the penalty area, which was cleared back to him and he caressed his cross-come-shot on to the top of the crossbar and behind from 35-yards out on the right.

“Cross, shot? I’m not too sure. He’s not renowned for his goalscoring Allan Matthews,” admitted Longhurst.

“I think he scored his second goal in 114 games the other night.  It’s an opportunity. You go 2-0 up then I think it’s a completely different game because they would probably have left a bit more space open.”

But Yaxley were given a lifeline in the 43rd minute when Alfie May gave away a penalty for tripping Cobb inside the penalty box and referee Thomas Ramsey pointed to the spot.

But midfielder Hughes’ weak right-footed penalty, intended for the bottom right-hand corner, was gobbled up by Kamurasi, who dived to his left to make the save.

Longhurst said: “Centre forwards wins games for you. Goalkeepers win games for you and probably our goalkeeper today has certainly contributed in us winning the game.

“The last two games he hasn’t had a thing to do. We beat Sevenoaks 5-0 and beat Fisher 4-0 and he really hasn’t had a lot to do but today he has had to come to the fore.”

Reflecting on the decision, the manager replied: “I think it was maybe a little bit soft. The penalty maybe a little bit soft but we got caught out from the throw.

“It was a great save. He’s a decent goalkeeper and that’s why we brought him in. He’s been immense especially in this competition. He saved a penalty at Eastbourne when we went down to ten-men.”

Yaxley, playing quality football which was as bright as their all-orange kit, swiftly recovered from that set-back and created a couple more chances before the interval.

A sweeping move down the left saw Cotton play the ball inside to Cobb, who flicked the ball up and cracked a dipping drive narrowly over from 25-yards, before Cobb cut in from right to middle before stroking his left-footed drive wide from similar distance.

When asked for his half-time thoughts, Longhurst said: “I just said to us I thought we did really well. We did what we asked of us and I felt we just couldn’t quite get the message across about how to defend against their players and how to stop them and nullify.

“We changed our system after about 15-20 minutes just to stop their two full-backs getting out and it worked to an extent but I wasn’t happy with the midfield. That’s why I changed it. 

“Luke (May) was on a booking as well and with the way the game was going that could have caused us problems and that’s why we eventually took Marshy off being on a booking.

“Their two weakest links were their two centre halves and maybe we could have worked them a little bit more.

“I just said to them we just need to stay patient and just keep doing what we’re doing and try and get hold of the ball and that’s why we brought Lee Hales on, to just give us a little bit more and try to stop them doing what they’re good at so yes that was really the half-time team talk, just try to nullify a little bit more what they do and try to have a little bit more of a go at them.”

Longhurst’s tactical switch by taking off Luke May for Lee Hales had the desired effect as Yaxley were not the same strong force for the second half.

Marsh fell to the ground inside Yaxley’s half and lost possession and Yaxley broke down the left but Cotton steered his left-footed shot across the diving keeper and past the far post after 54 minutes.

Erith & Belvedere were almost given a helping hand in the 63rd minute.

Holding midfielder Colin Richmond played the ball into Alfie May’s feet, who played right-back Matthews on the overlap and Yaxley’s central defender Lewis Stone sliced his left-footed clearance behind for a corner.

Kamurasi pulled off a great save to keep the lead intact within two minutes.

Hook delivered a long ball over the top of the Erith & Belvedere defence and Cotton beat the offside trap and he only had Kamurasi to beat but the big keeper came off his line and used his chest to make the block.

Longhurst said: “George has made some decent saves. He’s come out and smothered it. A great save.

“I think we should have defended it better. We tried to play offside. We got caught and I thought Sam Groombridge and RJ (Ryan Johnson) were excellent at centre half today but they got caught out and the big man has come out and you’re going to find it difficult to beat him.”

Walker was quiet in the second half but he almost grabbed a second when he cut in from the left and curled his left-footed shot agonisingly around the far post from a tight angle.

Paul Springett then hit a speculative right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was never going to trouble Aaron Butcher in the Yaxley goal.

Bill Parkinson came on as substitute for the final fourteen minutes and Longhurst explained why the defender was playing as a lone striker.

He said: “When he played for Maidstone in the under 21s, he scored a load of goals when he played up front. It’s not a natural for him but that’s probably the one thing we’re trying to get. We lack having that other forward. We utilised him there today.”

When asked about his side’s lack of goalscoring chances during the 90 minutes, Longhurst admitted: “You have to hold your hand up and say they had a lot more of the ball than us.  I will probably say that’s the first time this season we’ve played somebody that’s had more possession than us and that’s why I’m pleased with the players afterwards because when you’re normally used to having lots of the ball, sometimes you’ve got to just be organised off the ball.

“I thought we were organised. George made a couple of decent saves but they were late on and they were sort of one ball. Other than that I don’t feel like they really cut us open loads. We kept them in front of us and kept them down the side of us and I was pleased with that.”

It was clear that Erith & Belvedere were content to sit back and soak up the pressure for a nervous climax on a bitterly cold day.

Duncliffe whipped in an excellent low cross from the right which forced Kamurasi to make a smart low save to his right.

The right-back then put in another cross and Yaxley substitute Andy Furnell’s low shot deflected wide.

But Erith & Belvedere squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off with nine minutes left.

Substitute Joe Minter swung in a corner from the right towards the far post but Springett directed his free header past the near post.

Longhurst said: “I think he’s definitely got to hit the target. You can never say he’s got to score but he’s definitely got to head it back the way it came. It’s a free header seven or eight yards out. I think if that goes 2-0 then I think it’s done and dusted but it didn’t and we’ve had to get on with it.”

Hughes whipped in a free-kick from the right and Carter powered his free header screaming past the near post from sixteen-yards and Carter’s lay-off set-up the impressive Cotton, who was denied by another outstanding save from Kamurasi, who stuck out his left leg to make the save at the death.

Longhurst added: “He’s made three or four, including the penalty, very, very good saves and they’re match winning saves. No different to the goal, it’s a goal worthy of winning a football match.  That’s his job. Ninety percent of the season this year he hasn’t had a great deal to do and he’s won us one or two cup games.

“If you’re going to do well in this cup competition you’ve got to have a decent goalkeeper. At Tunbridge Wells they had Chris Oladogba, a great goalkeeper and I’m sure there would have been times on the way to the Vase Final he’s had to keep them in games and George has done that for us today.”

Erith & Belvedere host Crowborough Athletic (24 January) and travel to struggling Deal Town seven days later, before playing in The FA Vase Fifth Round on 7 February.

Phoenix Sports, who came away from Bodmin Town with a 2-0 win yesterday, join Erith & Belvedere in tomorrow’s draw.

Ashford United host Norwich United on Tuesday after yesterday’s game was called off and Tunbridge Wells have home advantage over Highworth Town next Saturday after coming back from Wiltshire with a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Walsall Wood or Shaw Lane Aquaforce; North Shields, Holbeach United; Chadderton or AFC Mansfield; Worksop Town or Glossop North End; Dunston UTS; Tadcaster Albion; Stanway Rovers; Ascot United; Bradford Town; AFC St Austell and Flackwell Heath are also dreaming about playing at Wembley Stadium.

Longhurst said: “Brilliant, it’s absolutely brilliant. We’re obviously challenging in the league, which is fantastic. It’s our first season, we’ve only just come in here (after leaving Corinthian) and be in the League Cup Quarter-Final, be in the last sixteen of the Vase and be second in the league challenging with Phoenix is a fantastic achievement with the players.

“There’s a buzz in the dressing room, the chairman and the club.  As you saw today this was our biggest crowd for eight years and that’s why I said to the boys to make sure you clap them off because we want them to come back.

“The club had an extremely poor season last year (finishing bottom in the Ryman League Division One North) and the club was in a mess and hopefully now by getting the crowds back and trying to get a few more people in the gate they can see we’ve got a decent group of players here.”

When asked who he wants to play in the next round, Longhurst predicted that they will be drawn against Phoenix Sports.

“I’ve got a feeling who we’re going to get. I’m not going to come out and say it but I’ve got a feeling who we might get.

“But there’s sixteen teams left in a national competition and we’re one of them and you’ve just got to beat what comes up against you.

“It’s a cup competition, it’s our level’s FA Cup and for a club that’s just come back down in to the Kent League and started again, it’s a fantastic achievement to be in the last sixteen so it gives you a chance.

“To have four (Kent) clubs in the draw out of sixteen is phenomenal for the league so it just shows you the strength of the league.”

And reflecting on replicating Deal Town (FA Vase winners in 2000) and Tunbridge Wells (runners-up two years ago), who have played in the FA Vase Final at Wembley Stadium,  Longhurst replied: “Look, I’m not going to lie. Everybody in there is going to be sitting at home thinking it’s possible.

“We’ve got as good a chance of all the sixteen teams that are left in the competition. I think we’re as good as the other teams that I’ve seen at step five, probably as good.

“I think Yaxley were probably as good as we’ve seen this year and we’ve won the game.  You’ve got to take game-by-game. We’ve been saying to the boys since the start of the season, we’ll just worry about the next game. The next game’s Crowborough.”

Erith & Belvedere: George Kamurasi, Allan Matthews, Lee Craig, Colin Richmond, Sam Groombridge, Ryan Johnson, Paul Springett, Luke May (Lee Hales 46), Alfie May, Adam Marsh (Bill Parkinson 76), Byron Walker (Joe Minter 80).
Subs: Ben Wilson, Joe Jackson

Goal: Adam Marsh 5

Booked:  Luke May 45, Adam Marsh 56, George Kamurasi 89

Yaxley: Aaron Butcher, John-Paul Duncliffe, Luke Hipwell, Kyle Nolan (Ricky Hailstone 76), Lewis Stone, Wayne Morris, David Cobb, Liam Hook (Andy Furnell 69), Scott Carter, Rob Hughes, Dan Cotton.
Subs: Gav Cooke, Andy Coleman

Booked: Liam Hook 42, Lewis Stone 56, Rob Hughes 73

Attendance: 212
Referee: Mr Thomas Ramsey (Chelmsford, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Andrea Timpani (Colchester, Essex) & Mr Stuart Gillman (Colchester, Essex)
Fourth Official: Mr Craig Pullen (Romford, Essex)