FC Elmstead 2-2 Lordswood - I've just got to make sure I pick the right players' and keep them all happy, says Lordswood boss Richard Styles

Tuesday 19th July 2016
FC Elmstead 2 – 2 Lordswood
Location Coney Hall Recreation Ground, Church Drive, Hayes, Bromley, Kent BR4 9JJ
Kickoff 19/07/2016 19:15

Pre-Season Friendly
Tuesday 19th July 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Church Drive

LORDSWOOD manager Richard Styles says he’s facing a selection headache ahead of his first competitive game in charge of the club.

This was their fourth pre-season outing after losing 7-1 to Guildford City in Styles’ first game in charge of the club, before beating Crockenhill 4-0 and losing by a single goal against Phoenix Sports in their last game.

FC Elmstead have started their campaign with two wins over two Andreas Carter Joma Kent County Premier Division sides Metrogas (4-3) and Staplehurst Monarchs United (3-0).

Styles decided to leave six first team players at home and the decision backfired as SCEFL First Division side FC Elmstead took the lead through Sonny Robinson, who played in the centre of a back three.

Lordswood put in a much improved performance during the second half and were in front when brothers David Smith and substitute wide-man Dammy Smith scored.

But FC Elmstead levelled eight minutes from time when substitute striker Steven Strotten drilled in a free-kick from the edge of the box.

“Disappointed to draw because I like to win, even at friendlies. I don’t like to lose any games or draw any games,” said Styles,

“I thought we dominated for large spells. I think we maybe started a little bit nervous. The game grew late first half and I thought we dominated and we were getting the ball in good areas. 

“I think when the second half started, all we improved on was the movement. The movement in the final third was a lot better and hence we got our goals from that.

“The only disappointment really I had was going 2-1 up and throwing away the lead to finish two-all.  I was hoping we could see out the 2-1 and maybe nick a 3-1 but it wasn’t and we go again.

“It was a good work out, the boys got some good minutes out there so we go again.”

FC Elmstead boss Fabio Rossi said: “It was a hard work out second half but I’m more than happy to come out with a draw.

“I thought we shaded the first half just. I felt that they were completely on top of us second half.

“It’s pre-season. I’m just looking at the players’, the squad is more than less the same. I’m trying to juggle things around to look at the top striker. We may have lost our top striker from last year Benga Ogunseye.  I’m hoping he comes back (from his trial with Ryman League Division One South side East Grinstead Town), not sure yet so I’m just trying to work out, just trying to get our fitness levels to where they need to be.

“I’ve spoken to (East Grinstead manager) Matt Longhurst, I’ll be speaking to him more. To be honest I desperately want Benga back.  I’ve got no problems with him going up to that level. He wants to play higher, so that’s fine.”

FC Elmstead’s back three suited the home side as Lordswood struggled to cope with the surroundings of playing at Coney Hall Recreation Ground.

FC Elmstead skipper Christian Howell took all of their six corners and Reece Barrett’s towering header at the far post was cleared off the line from inside a crowded six-yard box.

FC Elmstead striker Jack Jeffrey’s run was ended by Tom Wooldridge’s foul and Christian Howell hit a speculative 35-yard free-kick bouncing wide of the right-hand post.

They deservedly took the lead from a set-piece with 14 minutes on the clock.

Christian Howell floated in a deep free-kick from the left channel, the ball was knocked down by another towering Barrett header and dropped kindly for Robinson to hook the ball over the keeper’s left-shoulder from six-yards.

“Sonny has signed for us this year so it’s good for him to get a goal,” said Rossi.

“Scrappy old goal really. It’s just one of them, open for a second knock down, a nothing goal really.”

When asked about playing a three-man defence, Rossi replied: “I thought we done alright! They always moan at me and I’m a bit old school and I play 4-4-2 mainly because it’s easy to coach. We only have an hour or two once the season starts but we need to have a plan B.  The last time we went three at the back it was a disaster, so we went three at the back and it worked out alright, we done alright.”

Styles added: “Disappointing way to concede with the first and second ball in the box from a corner. We haven’t worked on a lot of corners to be brutally honest and over the course of pre-season we will be doing that over the coming weeks so that’s an aim, we definitely have to work on.”

FC Elmstead created a decent chance to double their lead but striker Thomas Pratt drilled his shot past the near post after being played in behind Mitchell Goee and Sam Lovage by a long ball.

“He should’ve taken it a little bit earlier,” admitted Rossi.  “Pratty’s just come back to us from Whyteleafe. I’m hoping he will settle down. He’s a good striker so we’ll see where that goes. Maybe a lack of fitness but no, it was fine.”

Lordswood’s pace was a threat to their lower league opponents and they were to be denied an equaliser in the 19th minute.

Left-back Wooldridge fed striker David Smith, who played left-winger Gary Webb on the over-lap to cut inside and keeper Leigh Hawkes came off his line to win a goal-kick following a kind ricochet.

Elmstead striker Jeffrey played a one-two outside the box with midfielder Jack Doyle and his drive deflected past the left-hand post for a corner.

Lordswood winger Ihis Izokun released Webb down the right who played the ball inside to David Smith, who swept his shot harmlessly past the far post from 20-yards.

But Lordswood keeper Harry Potter, denied FC Elmstead doubling their lead in the 31st minute.

Barrett stroked his left-footed free-kick around the four-man wall and Potter dived low to his left to push the ball around the post.

Rossi said: “Reece is doing well, he’s stepping up, he’s only a young lad.  I think he’s 20-21 now so he’s only a young lad. He’s doing well. He steps up now and takes the free-kicks for us.”

Styles said he has high hopes for the keeper who was turning out for Ebbsfleet United’s under 16’s last season.

He said: “Harry’s a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s only 16. It’s his third game in men’s football, he looks so accomplished and he looked like he was mid-20s and experienced the way he conducts himself.”

Lordswood were to be denied an equaliser on the stroke of half-time thanks to a finger-tip save and crossbar preventing former Gillingham and Hythe Town central midfielder Aiden Blanchard.

Declan Thompson, who played in front of their back four, clipped a diagonal pass out to Izohun, who played the ball inside to Josh Wooley, who found Blanchard in space, who cut in and drilled a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was tipped onto the bar by Hawkes’ outstretched gloves.

“Aiden’s a terrific player technically,” said Styles, adding, “We’ve got to get him a little fitter, which we will. He’s working on that and he knows that and his match sharpness is coming every time he plays. You saw there firsthand what he’s capable off.”

“Leigh’s done well. He plays for Club Langley but he helps us out when our goalkeeper’s aren’t around, he’s a good goalkeeper,” added Rossi.

With today being the hottest day of the year with the mercury hitting 32 degrees, both teams stayed out on the pitch for the half-time break.

Rossi said: “I thought we done alright, we shaded it. I was just looking at fitness levels really, just seeing who’s doing what, who’s going to be forcing their way into the team. I was happy with what they did. I thought we passed the ball really well and probably they didn’t really get that much of a foothold in the game, which I was pleased about.

“We made changes, I’m not sure about the rule of no roll-on-roll-off. We preferred that if we could’ve done that but we couldn’t so we had to make subs at half-time.

“We want back to 4-4-2, we lost a bit of shape. I think Lordswood stepped up to be fair and I was trying to get our lads to match that. They kind of did that in bits and pieces but Lordswood were certainly better second half.”

Styles said: “I wasn’t panicking. I always felt we would create. I always thought we’d score. I just thought it was just a matter of time.  I thought as soon as we did score, another one would come pretty quickly and that is the way it happened. Luckily, it was early doors in the second half.

“I felt we were on top and we had a couple more chances to score but we didn’t take them to kill the game off.”

Styles offered his players’ words of encouragement and it had the desired effect as Lordswood put in a much improved performance.

Wooldridge cut in from the left and rolled the ball to Wooley and Thompson teed up Harry Sheridan who hit a 25-yard drive over the crossbar.

Webb swung in a quality corner from the right and Lovage rose in the box to plant his header over the crossbar.

It was no surprise when Lordswood deservedly equalised with 59 minutes on the clock.

It was a good move involving Lovage, who played the ball out of defence to target-man Alex McKay, who played the ball to Sheridan, who cut open FC Elmstead’s two centre halves to put David Smith in, who produced a calm finish, slotting the ball underneath the advancing keeper and into the back of an empty net from 16-yards.

“Fantastic finish, that’s what he’s capable off,” said Styles.

“He played for (Ryman Premier League side) Leatherhead on Saturday. He’s with them as a parent club, he’s with us as a dual-reg and we saw first hand what he’s going to bring to us this year.”

Rossi added: “I thought they worked that one quite well. They split our defence and pulled our central halves out from each other and we left a bit gap down the middle. 

“I was screaming at the centre halves to try and keep as close as they can but they managed to work the ball, they pulled one centre half out, slipped the ball in, it was a good goal, no complaints really.”

Lordswood took the lead for the first time just 10 minutes later.

Substitute right-back Matt Briggs played a low ball inside to Dammy Smith, who turned in the box and drilled his shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

Styles said: “That’s the first game he’s played for us and he conducted himself brilliantly.  He looked very good when he came on. He’s had a little injury, that’s why he hasn’t played. He’s a bit of an unknown to be fair but it was a great finish and he looks very accomplished when he came on, which is causing me a massive headache.”

Rossi added: “We probably could’ve defended better. We were getting very tired at that point. We’ve been working hard on our fitness but maybe Lordswood had a lot of players so there were players coming on with fresh legs but we should’ve defended it better.”

Lordswood pace in attacking areas will frighten their SCEFL Premier Division rivals this season.

Styles said: “That’s where our strengths are. We knew that when pre-season started when we saw the players’ turn up and arrive and we knew they would be very good, very quick.  We knew they’ll create danger and we see that every game we play to be brutally honest.”

Lordswood full-back Mitchell Goee produced a quality ball in from the left but Dammy Smith couldn’t find the decisive toe poke as he ghosted in at the far post.

FC Elmstead created their first chance of the second half with 15 minutes remaining when Strotten robbed the ball off McKay inside the Lordswood half, cut into the penalty area and his shot deflected past the far post.

Rossi said: “Strotts, that’s him all over when he’s out there. He always ready to take chances so he’s got a very good goalscoring record.”

Styles said: “That’s where we need to just sharpen up. A few boys at the back played 90 today so they were getting a little bit leggy but I wanted them to get 90 in. We know we’ve got to be tight and be sharper there when it comes meaning business.”

But the big target-man drilled in FC Elmstead’s equaliser following a couple of free-kicks. 

Strotten smashed his free-kick into the wall but referee Derek Peck awarded a second central free-kick close to the edge of the penalty area.

Strotten, inevitably, drilled his second free-kick in off the diving keeper’s body to find the roof of the net.

Rossi said: “It was very doubtful. I know that I was standing right there.  I wouldn’t like to have been a goalkeeper trying to get in the way of it. It was a decent, a good strike.”

Styles added: “Disappointing. I saw the first free-kick and it hit the wall in my opinion I didn’t think it was handball but the ref’s given it handball. 

“We haven’t set up in fairness. It was so close it was like it was a penalty and he's hit it well. I don’t think the keeper could’ve done any more. Maybe the wall could’ve been set-up better but again it’s something we need to organise better before the business time.”

Lordswood continued their dominance of the second half with substitute winger Junior Alade sweeping his shot wide; McKay heading Sheridon’s corner wide and Dammy Smith’s 25-yard drive bringing a comfortable catch from Hawkes.

Lordswood continue their pre-season preparations with a home game against Ryman League Division One South side Cray Wanderers on Saturday.

Styles said: “I’m very disappointed we didn’t win. It would’ve been nice to have won it, it’s a shame we didn’t.  It looks bad on paper, a draw, but people won’t know how much we dominated the game. 

“We go again. We go onto Cray. We haven’t lost, we’ve dominated for large spells and we have in every game we’ve played so far so we just have to continue it, build-on the positive and then we’ve got a tough test on Saturday against Cray Wanderers.

“Today we rested six first teamers today, they’re at home and there’s nine trialists that have just played out there so as you know I’ve got a big headache. The thing I’m not looking for are players to come along because we’ve had over 50 over the stage of pre-season but the squad’s coming together. The players are stepping up and players are falling away accordingly as it always does and it’s a good position for me to be in.  I’ve got players at my exposure, we’ve just got to make sure I pick the right ones and keep them all happy.”

Lordswood finished their Southern Counties East Football League campaign in the top four under James Collins last season and travel to relegated Peacehaven & Telscombe in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round on 6 August.

FC Elmstead, meanwhile, finished in 11th place at the end of their debut season in the Kent Invicta League and kick-off their SCEFL1 campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Snodland Town on 6 August.

“It doesn’t mean too much in pre-season, just looking at players, players are coming on and coming off and change your shape and formation.  We’re just looking to up our levels,” said Rossi.

“I think we want another striker if Benga goes. A side than that we’re pretty much set. We’ve got everyone signed on, we’re ready to go and hopefully we can have a decent season.”

FC Elmstead: Leigh Hawkes, Marcus Howell (Tom O’Reilly 46), Reece Barrett, Christian Howell, Sonny Robinson, Jack Doyle (Ben Lockett 46), Ashley Wright (Joe Kearney 46), George Bryan, Thomas Pratt (Steven Strotten 66), Jack Jeffrey, Harry West.

Goals: Sonny Robinson 14, Steven Strotten 82

Lordswood: Harry Potter, Mitchell Goee, Tom Wooldridge (Matt Briggs 64), Sam Lovage (Ken Komage 73), Dan Wells, Declan Thompson (Billy Edwards 64), Gary Webb (Junior Alade 64), Aiden Blanchard (Harry Sheridan 46), David Smith, Josh Wooley (Alex McKay 46), Ihis Izokun (Dammy Smith 46)

Goals: David Smith 59, Dammy Smith 69

Attendance: 41
Referee: Mr Derek Peck (Bexleyheath)
Assistants: Mr Nick Fruin (Hayes)  & Mr Ian Cowell (Dartford)