Epsom & Ewell 5-2 Gravesham Borough - It's a bitter pill to swallow, admits Gravesham Borough boss Kevin Hake

Sunday 07th August 2016
Epsom & Ewell 5 – 2 Gravesham Borough
Location High Road, Chipstead, Surrey CR5 3SF
Kickoff 07/08/2016 15:00

The Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Sunday 7th August 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from High Road

GRAVESHAM BOROUGH boss Kevin Hake says suffering defeat on their FA Cup debut was a bitter pill to swallow.

The Southern Counties East Football League First Division side kicked off their campaign with a 5-2 defeat to Epsom & Ewell in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round in Chipstead.

They got off to a dream start when former Welling United defender Charlie Plummer headed in after only 132 seconds into the game.

But Epsom & Ewell – who scored all of their nine goals at Bedfont & Feltham in the second half despite being 2-0 down at the break last Tuesday night – levelled through Daryl Cooper-Smith’s thumping header.

The E’s regained their lead through striker Tom Neale, before Gravesham Borough were reduced to ten-men when Marcus Haddon was sent-off for a challenge with 15 minutes left.

But Gravesham Borough showed character to force an equaliser through Mark Wallis’ thumping header with five minute remaining.

It quickly turned into a nightmare for Gravesham Borough as Epsom & Ewell scored their third goal through an 89th minute penalty from substitute Sam Robinson.

The E’s grabbed two goals inside injury-time.  Striker Cooper-Smith took his impressive goalscoring tally to five goals in two games with a 30-yard curler, before sub Jordan Gallagher netted a flattering fifth to scoop a welcome prize money cheque of £1,500 and a trip to Ryman League Division One South side Faversham Town in the Preliminary Round on 20 August.

Hake blamed his club’s FA Cup exit at the hands of the referee for the vital late penalty – although his players should face the flack for losing the plot.

“Well, obviously bitterly disappointed, the last two goals were down to, we were chasing the game but we could’ve played out there for three days and we wouldn’t have got a decision today,” barked Hake.

“We were five minutes away from a replay, the ref’s already put us down to 10 men. We did extremely well to get back into the game at being 2-1 down with 10 men and then he gives away a penalty that no-one appealed for, no-one in the ground thought it was a penalty, which is sort of bitterly disappointing.

“At 3-2 down, with five minutes to go we’re obviously going to go for it and then we’ve conceded two silly goals, but it’s just a bitterly disappointed to go out at in such an important cup competition in this sort of manner, but look, that’s football, you’re going to get decisions go against you and hopefully over the course of the season they balance themselves out.”

Gravesham Borough started the game with five at the back, three in midfield and two up front but despite their negative tactics they grabbed the lead with their first chance.

Danny Grant, who started the game at right-back, launched a missile of a long throw from the right which landed on Plummer’s head and he guided his header into the top left-hand corner.

“The club’s been going since 1927 and it’s an honour for myself and the players to take us into this competition, it’s still an honour,” said Hake.

“It’s a great start. The old adage, sometimes you can score too early – but we did and it was nice to score early.”

While Gravesham Borough were direct in their approach, Epsom & Ewell played some neat football on the deck.

Epsom & Ewell hit the crossbar twice, the first occasion coming in the ninth minute.

Winger Rob Hendry swept in a deep cross from the right towards the unmarked Cooper-Smith, whose free-header from 12-yuards clipped the crossbar.

Hake said: “They’re a good team, they play a level above us so they’re going to get the chances.  You could see they like to knock the ball around and play. It was a nice surface and they’re a good team.”

Gravesham Borough striker Dan Bradshaw, who scored 41 goals for the club last season, missed a chance in the 16th minute.

Left-back Karl Knight whipped the ball in towards the near post and Bradshaw flicked the ball up before hooking his shot just over the crossbar.

Hake said: “It’s a shame. Look, there’s going to be chances both ways for both teams. Both teams are either going to score and miss them. We didn’t take a few chances today, which was unfortunate for us.”

Elliott Thompson swung in Epsom’s first corner of the game, which was headed away and Hendry put the ball back in and Cooper-Smith cut inside and his low drive from 22-yards was saved comfortably by Ashley Davy.

The Gravesham keeper then saw Neale cut inside down the right and flash his left-footed shot just past the foot of his near post.

Gravesham Borough produced a fine move on the deck in the 21st minute as Shane Uings swept the ball out wide to Heddon, who was given time and space to deliver a deep cross which Bradshaw rose to head wide from a tight angle.

Davy was forced into making a smart low diving save to his left to prevent Neale cutting inside and stroking a left-footed drive into Gravesham’s goal shortly afterwards.

Despite their height, Gravesham’s defenders gave Epsom & Ewell too many headed chances inside their penalty area and a lack of pace cost them later on.

Thompson swung in a corner from the left and Craig Hastings came up from the back at the back post to guide his free header across goal and just over the crossbar.

Grant gifted Epsom & Ewell their third corner and almost pay the price.

Thompson swung in a similar corner from the left towards the far post which sailed over Davy and Hastings guided another cushioned header just over the crossbar from a similar spot from inside the six-yard box.

Epsom & Ewell clearly deserved their equaliser, timed at 39 minutes and 25 seconds.

Right-back James Taylor was given time and space to whip in a brilliant cross into the Gravesham box for an unmarked Cooper-Smith to meet it with a powerful bullet header, which flew across Davy into the far corner from six-yards.

“It was a good goal,” said Hake.  “It was a well-worked goal, so sometimes you just have to applaud it.”

Slick Epsom & Ewell called Davy into making a low save just before the break, a sweeping move involving Hendry and Neale, which fell at Reisse Griffin’s feet, the winger drilling a low shot which was saved by the visiting keeper.

“He was going to be (busy) because they’re a good team, you expect that,” said Hake, whose side were a lot more direct than classy Epsom & Ewell.

“It’s a typical Cup tie. It was a boxing match going forward and backwards.  One team gets the ball down and play, but it was a typical Cup tie today.”

When what he said to his troops at the break, Hake replied: “One-all. You’d take that against higher opposition and you just tell your lads ‘look, this is The FA Cup, some of you it’s the first one that you’ve played in the competition, you just want to go out and give your all.’

“But the lads’ did give it all but we were never going to win the game in a million years’ today.”

The early exchanges of the second half weren’t as lively as the end of the game.

The impressive Coooer-Smith sliced his long-range shot wide and Gravesham substitute striker Danny Hockton – a FA Cup veteran  in the later rounds who was making his debut at this stage of the competition – came off the bench at the break and failed to get his header on target after meeting Knight’s cross from the left.

Grant cut inside and stroked his shot across keeper Michael Eacott and past the far post after the Gravesham winger cut in from the right.

Neale cut the ball back for Hendry, who hit a looping shot which dipped just over the Gravesham crossbar after 54 minutes.

Epsom & Ewell got even closer when Hendry put in a low cross from the left, Neale tried to bring the ball down on the edge of the box and Matt Farrell hit his first time shot just around the foot of the far post.

Hastings came up from the back for a third time to meet Dan Dean’s deep free-kick to power his header straight into Davy’s hands from the edge of the box.

Davy pulled off a smart save in the 65th minute when he advanced off his line to deny Neale tucking home a shot after he was played in behind the Gravesham defence.

Reflecting on the keeper’s save, Hake added: “He done well. It was a good save one-on-one. You always want your keeper, the advantage is always with the striker but he got down well.

“You’re looking at it and you’re thinking it’s the cat and mouse sort of scenario isn’t it?,” added Hake on the game living on a knife edge at that point in the game.

But Epsom & Ewell deservedly claimed the lead with 68 minutes on the clock.

Substitute Matt Ferdinando was freed down the right and he reached the by-line before cutting the ball back to Neale, who picked his spot with his left-footed drive which flashed across Davy.

“Yes, good finish, yes great finish wasn’t it. It was another well-worked move from them,” added Hake.

Central defender Hastings beat his man in the air again, planting his header at Davy after another deep free-kick from Dean, this time swept in from the half-way line.

But Gravesham Borough faced a mountain to climb when referee Lior Koskas pulled out a red-card and showed it to Haddon after his lunge on Neale had the E’s striker requiring treatment.

Hake didn’t need any invitation to berate the match referee during the post-match interview.

“What’s your thoughts?

“You know from the reaction from the opposition bench, you know from the reaction from another team whether something’s a naughty challenge or not and he's taken the ball first and taken the player.”

Epsom & Ewelll struck the crossbar for the second time in the 80th minute, Davy tipping Robinson’s 25-yard free-kick onto his crossbar and behind for a corner.

Hake added: “A good free-kick weren’t it? Our goalie saved it, he pushed it onto the bar because it was a corner. A good save, a good free-kick really.”

But Gravesham Borough pulled it out of the bag and grabbed an equaliser with 39:13 on the clock.

A good move down the left, Knight advanced and stroked a deflected shot from the edge of the box which flashed just past the foot of the far post.

Grant swung in the resulting corner from the right and Wallis showed desire to plant his header through a crowd of players into the back of the net from 10-yards and ran off and celebrated in a wild manner with his team-mates.

“I thought we kept our composure and did well to get ourselves back in the game,” said Hake.

“It was a fantastic header from Mark Willis, who was superb all day and you get yourselves back in the game and you’re thinking, two-all, but we’re never going to sit back! As anyone who watched the game, we’re not going to sit back and say we’re going to take a draw.  We’re always going to try to go for it but unfortunately you get decisions taken out of your hands!”

With the adrenalin pumping through their veins, Gravesham Borough lost the plot and a second bite of the cherry that they worked so hard to grab.

Robinson released Neale through on goal, who easily guided past last-defender Plummer, and his initial shot was saved by Davy, who inexplicably clipped the midfielder who fell to the deck.

Referee Mr Koskas pointed to the spot, Gravesham contested the decision, the referee walked over to consult his assistant and pointed to the spot a second time.

Robinson stepped up and sent Davy the wrong way, driving his right-footed free-kick, low, just left of centre, the goal timed at a heartbreaking 43:30.

Upon impact, you thought ‘what has he done?’ but Hake refused to blame his goalkeeper for their FA Cup elimination – but the easy get-out option.

“I think the way it was going, we actually had the ascendancy, we really did, and if there was any team that was going to get the third goal (it was us), but that was all taken out of our hands,” he said.

“He (Davy) stood his ground, he came out and stood his ground. The guys had a shot, Ashley saved it and then the guys run into him and even their bench, look you know from the reaction from the bench, you know from the reaction from the pitch, none of them appealed for a penalty!

“It was, he missed the shot, he missed it and the ref pulls the thing back. He had to consolidate with his lineman – god knows why – because we knew it wouldn’t have been a sending off because it wasn’t a sending off offence. I don’t know why he had to consult his linesman for five minutes and then he points to the spot.”

Last season, Davy could have been sent off but in the new laws, a penalty and no card was sufficient punishment.

What was to follow was just shambolic.

The impressive Cooper-Smith rode Lee Garling’s tackle down the left and carried on his run towards the box and cut the ball back for Gallagher to place his first time shot past the far post.

Epsom & Ewell scored their fourth goal, the clock timed at 46:56 and Davy is to blame again for letting Cooper-Smith to cut inside and hit a speculative 30-yard shot which fooled him and dropped in to nestle into the bottom near corner.

“You’re 3-2 down with what six or seven minutes to go, that’s when you’re going to throw a little bit of caution to the wind and you’re going to push people up and they’re going to get shots,” said Hake.

“The fourth and fifth, you can accept because we’ve got 10 men and we’re pushing to try and get an equaliser so I’m not too concerned about the last two goals really.”

The E’s hit Gravesham Borough on the break to net a flattering fifth goal, timed at 49:05.

Cooper-Smith raced down the right and cut the ball back for Gallagher to wrap up an impressive performance from Glyn Mandeville’s side. Faversham Town watch out!

Hake said: “It’s just the third one in particular and the decision about 10 minutes before that.”

“All credit to the lads for showing great spirit to come back into the game against a decent team.  You’re coming back, you’ve got 10 men and you show great grit and determination to come back.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, shall we say?”

Hake should have decided to shut up shop and earn a replay on Tuesday night, instead they kick-off their new SCEFL1 campaign against K Sports (the artist formerly known as APM Contast).

A scout from their opponents and Glebe’s manager Adam Woodward were in the crowd today and would have picked up on Gravesham’s poor defending here today.

“Looking forward to playing (K Sports) at Chatham Town,” said Hake.  “We’d have liked a little bit more of a rest between the games, that would’ve been nice but that’s the way it goes.  Again, you just hope this even itself out through the season but one thing for sure we’ve done our fair share after that game.

“Glebe is going to be a tough test and it’s going to be a tough test on the following Tuesday night away to Lydd, as well but if you’re going to do anything in the league, you have to go and beat these teams.

“We just want to improve on what we did last season.  Being involved in The FA Cup has been great, it’s a nice experience. We’ll be involved in the Vase as well. We’ve got ourselves a ground that we can actually start building the club and that’s what we want to do and look to progress in the league and the cup competitions as well.”

Epsom & Ewell: Michael Eacott, James Taylor, Matt Tanton, Dan Dean, Craig Hastings, Elliott Thompson (Sam Robinson 65), Rob Hendry (Matt Ferdinando 65), Matt Farrell, Tom Neale, Daryl Cooper-Smith, Reisse Griffin (Jordan Gallagher 90).
Subs: Jack Watret, Alistair Turpie, Rhys North, Adam Heagney

Goals: Daryl Cooper-Smith 40, 90, Tom Neale 68, Sam Robinson 89 (penalty), Jordan Gallagher 90

Booked: Tom Neale 53

Gravesham Borough: Ashley Davy, Oscar Saxton (Malik Thomas 69), Karl Knight, Shane Uings (Danny Hockton 46), Lee Garlinge, Charlie Plummer, Danny Grant, Dave Ayeni (Ben Jones 13), Dan Bradshaw, Marcus Heddon, Mark Wallis.
Subs: Will Mawson, Luke Snazell, Ryan Golding, Sundeep Hayre

Goals: Charlie Plummer 3, Mark Wallis 85

Booked: Karl Knight 53, Charlie Plummer 58, Danny Grant 79

Sent Off: Marcus Heddon 75

Attendance: 125
Referee: Mr Lior Koskas (Hendon, London NW4)
Assistants: Mr William Cannon (Kingsbury, London NW9) & Mr Peter Panayiotou (Haringey, London N4)

Coverage Sponsored by: