Erith & Belvedere 0-1 Sheppey United - It's a great day for the club, what a great Final to look forward to, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Sunday 21st February 2016
Erith & Belvedere 0 – 1 Sheppey United
Location Park View Road, Welling, Kent DA16 1SY
Kickoff 21/02/2016 15:00

Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Semi-Final
Sunday 21st February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says it’s a great day for the club after booking their place in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final.


The well-backed third-placed Kent Invicta League club will play Ashford United or Corinthian (who play each other at Homelands Stadium next Saturday) in the Final, believed to be staged by either Bromley or Tonbridge Angels on a date to be arranged.

CELEBRATION: Sheppey United's players links hands and run towards their supporters at the final whistle of their 1-0 win at Erith & Belvedere to reach the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final
Photo: Alan Coomes

Andy Constable, 37, came back to haunt the club where he won the Kent League double three years ago by heading home a first half winner.

“Well, it’s a big day for the club,” said Batten afterwards.

“We started this club, we re-kicked the club a couple of years ago. The club had gone out of business, a lot of supporters will remember and it’s come a long way.

“We started with the ground and re-developed Holm Park, the home of Sheppey United and then we built a squad. We started at the start of the season and in this space of time, eight or nine minutes, we’re getting where we want to be.”

When asked about the vast numbers of travelling supporters, Batten said:
“It just proves going back in the day the people that will remember Sheppey United are a big football club. They went out of business but sometimes things get re-born.

“The people of Sheppey have really taken it to heart. They come out in their numbers. We’re getting incredible numbers in league games now here getting up to nearly 300 for league games, an average of over 200 and it didn’t surprise me today.

“I don’t know how many were here today but it was over 100 of away supporters which is probably unprecedented at this level.”

For John Wilfort, the manager of Erith & Belvedere, he admitted he was not happy with being knocked out by lower league opposition, albeit a club with a larger budget than he has at his disposal.

“Gutted to be honest. We had a few chances but we just weren’t at the races today, too many off players,” said Wilfort.

“I thought Sheppey done well. They hustled. I thought they just looked like they wanted it a lot more than us!

“Why? If I did know I’d be a very clever person, but all around they just worked hard and matched our game all over the park. We didn’t come out at all.”

Sheppey United brought around 100 supporters to Park View Road, as their players bid to claim a double at the end of the season.

But the Ites had their goalkeeper Dean Warford to thank for keeping them in the game by making some well-taken low saves as Erith & Belvedere pressed during the first half.

Ashley-Paul Robinson cut the ball back to left-back Sheriffe Babatunde, who slipped the ball into Denzel Gayle, but the wingers drag-back rolled past the near post after only 17 seconds.

John-Paul Collier then sprayed the ball out wide to Gayle, who cut inside Sheppey right-back Marvin Okundaliye to stroke a low right-footed angled drive from 16-yards, which Warford held low to his right.

“Dean’s a quality keeper. We’ve got players that have got SCEFL experience and Dean was a keeper that we was after for a little while,” revealed Batten.

“We’ve got every confidence in him. He’s there to make them saves and it didn’t surprise me and it spreads confidence when Dean making saves, the confidence is growing.”

Sheppey United arrived in Welling on an impressive 13 match unbeaten run (12 of them wins) and they created their first opening after ten minutes.

George Batten released winger Ben O’Neil down the left and he raced past three defenders and wrapped his foot around the ball to find Dave Abe in space on the other side of the pitch.

The right-winger drilled his shot towards the near post, which was blocked well by goalkeeper Ashley Bourne at his near post and ricochet towards safety.

“I was expecting the net to bulge there,” admitted Batten.

“It was a great move. Ben’s got a wand of a left foot. He’s delivered a great ball in there and I was expecting Dave to finish it, but I think they did well to clear that. There was a defender there or he got a foot in or maybe just hit him.”

Poor defending from George Batten just outside the corner of his penalty area gifted Ashley-Paul Robinson a sniff at goal but his right-footed angled drive from 20-yards was well held again by Warford, low to his right at his near post.

Wilfort added: “We did create chances. Ashley Robinson has had chances in the first half where he’s had two shots outside the box. One-on-one when he’s gone through so there were chances but they were maybe’s where normally I’m quite comfortable knowing they’re going to take the chances.

“But we could’ve been out there until next week where we wouldn’t score!”

Abe stole the ball off Deres’ left-back Sheriffe Babatunde and played a one-two with George Batten but his finish lacked quality, lashing the ball into Park View Road from the right-hand side of the box.

Robinson stroked his trademark one-step free-kick into Warford’s hands from 26-yards, the keeper getting down low to his right again.

But around 100 travelling fans were celebrating the winning goal, timed at 32:36.

Sheppey United won themselves a free-kick on the left touchline and James Huggins floated in the ball towards the near post where an unmarked Constable rose to plant his header into the roof of the net from 8-yards to score his ninth goal for the club.

Batten said: “Andy’s been doing that since time of the memorable hasn’t he?  He’s a great lad. We’ve got some great characters at the club.

“Andy’s 37 and I preach to the other players about him, having that desire and that want to go on and play until his 40 years old.

“I was a striker and I played to that sort of age and you’ve got to have that real desire to want to carry on.

“You get the ball in the box when Andy Constable is around and he’ll always have a chance of scoring. It was a great delivery and a quality header.”

Wilfort played in the same Erith & Belvedere double winning squad under Micky Collins as the match-winner today.

“With the build-up we were saying about marking him and it was a free header,” complained Wilfort.

“It wasn’t even a good ball! It was floated in and he just wasn’t marked. It was a free header.

“The minute I see it land on his head I knew he was going to score because it’s bread and butter for him, those sort of headers.  He’s done it for years!

“Link up play and in the game I didn’t think he did much. We dealt with him. He didn’t hold it up well. He didn’t get in behind us. That’s the thing, one chance, one goal so that’s what he’s always done.”

Erith & Belvedere reacted with a sweeping move which saw Gayle play the ball inside to Romario Hart, who found Robinson, who drove straight at Warford, who once again made a low save to his right.

The home side squandered an excellent chance to equalise just before half-time.

Collier found himself down the left-channel and he whipped in a cross for Hart to hook his volley screaming just over the crossbar from 12-yards.

“It was a good bit of play, we worked it out wide, put a ball into the box and Rom caught it too well, I think and it went over,” said Wilfort.

Batten added: “I didn’t think we were in too much bother. I was pleased with the first half performance.

“The slope here is quite extensive and it does have a big bearing on the game. I thought that we played the slope superbly in the second half and first half we created our own chances.”

Erith & Belvedere created the final chance of the first half when Babatunde fed Collier down the left and he played the ball inside to Robinson, who drilled his first time shot straight at Warford from 25-yards.

Wilfort tore into his players during the half-time interval.

He said: “I said to them today, I didn’t think our wingers today were good enough. They never got past their full-backs enough. Normally our wingers are really good, they can get past the majority of full-backs. Today they struggled and they frustrated them.”

Batten added: “I said to the lads at half-time that I was expecting them to come at us in the second half. With the slope I thought we defended superbly.”

The ball was just not going to get past Warford, who made another save inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

Hart rode a strong challenge from Huggins  (who was booked when the ball was dead) and cut inside and from the corner of the box his driven shot was parried behind for a corner by Warford.

Paul Springett’s corner from the right was cut back to Collier, who from the right hand side of the penalty area took a touch and his shot was deflected behind for a corner.

Collier cut the resulting corner back to Gayle, who cut the ball across the face of goal for striker Daniel Stewart to blaze his shot over the bar after 59 minutes.

Wilfort said: “We get that, we’re back in the game, our tails are up but like I said we could’ve been out there until next week and we wouldn’t have scored. It was just one of those games.”

“I think they had one opportunity, they cut the ball back and one of their lads skied it over the bar,” added the Sheppey United manager.

The glaring miss seemed to deflate Erith & Belvedere, allowing Sheppey United to grow in confidence to end up deserved winners.

Sheppey United should have killed the game off within a couple of minutes.

Striker Adam Williams played the ball into O’Neil down the left, who played a reverse pass to put substitute Andrew Thompson through on goal.

Keeper Bourne came out but Thompson poked the ball past him and rolled agonisingly past the foot of the near post.

“Andrew Thompson got in and had an open goal and slotted wide,” said Batten.

“Agonising! I think he managed to get it past the keeper, just had to roll it into an empty net and whether he fell over a divot or not only Andrew knows .

“He’s been a great striker for us. He’s scored 15 goals, he’s been out with a knee injury for a while. That was his first appearance or probably four or five weeks today.”

Huggins floated in a corner from the left which Abe (who has scored 18 goals this season) rose and glanced his header across goal and past the far post from eight-yards.

Batten added: “Yes, another opportunity.  The game sometimes hinges on chances like that but I always say to the strikers you have to be in there to miss them. 

“It was pleased with the delivery and pleased with Dave getting on the end of it.”

Erith & Belvedere seemed to run out of ideas and Sheppey created the final goalscoring chance with 15 minutes left on the clock.

Left-back Joseph Fornah released substitute Tommy Woodridge down the left and he cut the ball back for Thompson to spin and drill his right-footed shot just past the post from 14-yards.

Erith & Belvedere were reduced to ten-men in the final three minutes.

Captain Zak Henry had been booked earlier in the first half for his challenge on Huggins, but was lucky to escape punishment for his two-footed lunge on Woodridge, sparking melee.

When things calmed down, referee Olly Fyfe took his time to speak to both of his assistants. Henry escaped without a card, while there was a yellow card for each side, Aaron Fray and Ian Batten for their part in the melee.

Henry did pick up a second yellow card when he pulled back Woodridge, as the winger tried to speed down the left wing.

Batten said: “I think later in the game there were a few challenges. I mean football being football, it’s a very emotional game.  I think the longer it went on the more likely it was that we were going to win the game and I think sometimes with the desperation sometimes a little bit of emotion creeps in and those challenges come into the game.

“Poor old Tommy was targeted but he is a quick lad. He’s got good pace. Whether they watched any of our games and thought, there again it’s probably down to frustration on their side.  I don’t think it was anything personal against Tommy.”

Wilfort added: “I spoke to the ref after and he just said he had to give him a second yellow as he pulled him back.

“Zak, my skipper, has been so good for me and he is a fully committed player. Sometimes these things happen, you get away with it.”
Looking ahead to the Final against two clubs that tonight are third-and-fourth in the Southern Counties East Football League, Batten said: “Well what a great final to look forward to! Promotion is our aim and to be playing these teams every week but to have a Cup Final in basically my first season at the club is testament to how far the club’s come in a short period of time.”

Glebe sit top of the Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League table on 57 points from 23 games, followed by Bearsted (55 points from 24) and Sheppey United (54 from 24).

Erith & Belvedere, meanwhile, are in tenth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League table on 31 points from 26 games and have a two-legged Challenge Cup Semi-Final date with Cray Valley to look forward to.

Wilfort admitted his players felt nervous.

“Not happy! I’m never happy when we lose. This was an opportunity for players to get to a final to keep the season alive because we’re not in the league (title race).

“It’s a golden opportunity. We’re in two semi-finals, I know. I’d like to get to two cup finals. That was an opportunity there, I thought missed, which I’m not happy with.

“I think a lot of our players looked nervous to be honest with you.  Maybe (Sheppey’s vast numbers and vocal support) could’ve been a possibility but I think generally as a player you blank that out anyway, you forget about that. I just think we looked nervous on the ball, we were shaky. It ain’t like us.”

Erith & Belvedere: Ashley Bourne, Paul Springett, Sheriffe Babatunde, Zak Henry, Aaron Fray, Nico James, Romario Hart, John-Paul Collier (Diego Dasilva 70), Daniel Stewart, Ashley-Paul Robinson (Daryl Dylan 86), Denzel Gayle (Ennis Fyffe 67).
Subs: George Reed, Cain Cruz

Booked: Zak Henry 54, Aaron Fray 85, Diego Dasilva 90, Paul Springett 90

Sent off: Zak Henry 87

Sheppey United: Dean Warford, Marvin Okundaliye, Joseph Fornah, Rob Saunders, Suliman Bangura, James Huggins, David Abe, Adam Williams, Andy Constable (Andrew Thompson 56), George Batten (Ian Batten 67), Ben O’Neil (Tommy Woodridge 74).
Subs: Grant McIhron, Aaron Abbot

Goal: Andy Constable 33

Booked: James Huggins 50, Ian Batten 85

Attendance: 146
Referee: Mr Olly Fyfe (Sidcup)
Assistants: Mr Tony Woods (Bexleyheath) & Mr Kenan Dogan (Dartford)