Faversham Town 0-0 Merstham - I have a burning ambition to try and take Faversham out of this league, says proud boss Ray Turner
Faversham Town 0 – 0 Merstham
|Location||Salters Lane, Faversham, Kent ME13 8ND|
FAVERSHAM TOWN 0-0 MERSTHAM
(after extra time – Merstham win 5-4 on penalties)
Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Semi-Final
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Salters Lane
FAVERSHAM TOWN manager Ray Turner says he has a burning ambition to try to take the club into the Ryman Premier League after suffering penalty heartbreak at the end of a tense play-off semi-final at Salters Lane.
Merstham, who finished in fourth-place, having scored 107 goals in 46 games and collecting 93 points, will travel to runners-up Folkestone Invicta on Saturday in the Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Final after winning 5-4 on penalties.
Stuart King took the first penalty, which was saved by Merstham keeper Brannon Daly and Hayden Bird’s side held their nerve by from the spot.
Peter Adeniyi – who sent Bromley up into the Conference South back in 2007 with the decisive penalty to beat Billericay Town in the Ryman Premier League Play-Off Final – repeated the feat at with the tenth and final penalty.
“Obviously emotions are still a little bit raw after a difficult night,” said Turner.
“I’m very proud of my players. I thought they put their bodies on the line and I felt all along that there was no way Merstham were going to score.
“If we took one of our half chances that we created, unfortunately for us it wasn’t to be.
“I can’t put it down to one single thing. I thought the players’ were tremendous. We just felt short and it wasn’t our night.”
To lose a play-off is cruel, but to lose on penalties is hard to take.
Turner said: “It’s a different feeling to a Cup scenario because you’ve worked so hard over such a long period of time with a group of players and you become a tight group together and when you lose like that you find it very difficult to take. You win and lose together and you do it in the right manner and I think that’s what we do as a club.
“Stuart was very, very disappointed but you don’t put any blame on any individual. It was a team effort and we have to deal with the defeat as a team and move on.
“Congratulations to Merstham. They dug in very deep when we were putting them under pressure.
“There was ebb and flow to the game. They had their little periods. I thought we just edged it on the calibre of the chances.”
A crowd of 678 witnessed a nervy, tight affair, with both sets of defences not giving anything away during the 120 minute stalemate.
The first chance of the game fell to Faversham Town in the 17th minute.
Wayne Wilson’s free-kick was headed across goal by left-back Jamie Maxted and Ashley Brown’s shot rolled towards the goal-line but Marc-Anthony Okoye cleared the ball off the line with Daly nowhere to be seen.
Turner said: “You can’t criticise him. He’s hit the target, especially as a defender going into that scenario, that area of the pitch.
“It was a very good chance and he wasn’t far out. It was one of those games where it was very evident early on that one goal was going to nick it and unfortunately we didn’t get that.”
Aidan Sherlock played a ball inside for central midfielder Wilson, whose right-footed drive sailed over the Merstham crossbar from 25-yards.
Wilson played a sublime through ball from inside the Faversham half intended to release striker Dean Grant through on goal but former Dulwich Hamlet defender Kalvin Morath-Gibbs made an excellent tackle outside the box to keep the score level.
Reflecting on the first half, Turner was delighted that his defenders kept Merstham’s quality players quiet.
“I felt we dealt with their strengths really well. We knew what their strengths were and they knew what our strengths were and I think we negated them very well,” said Turner.
“They’ve got some high quality players through the centre of the pitch and I thought we negated a lot of what they do. I thought our full-backs (Jamie Maxted and Ashley Brown) had to play well against their wide players. I thought we dealt with them very comfortably.”
However, Merstham’s first chance of the game finally arrived in the 48th minute when Robert French came off his line to make a brave save on the edge of his box.
Lone-striker Tommy Hutchings released winger Taurean Roberts through on goal and his right-footed shot was blocked by the advancing keeper’s body.
“Rob French, apart from having to come off smartly off his line, he dealt with crosses rather than direct shots on goal,” said Turner, such was how solid his two central defenders, John Scarborough and Matt Bourne, were.
“He made the right decision. He forced the guy into rushing. He’s been very sharp of late and I’m glad to see the old Rob French back.
“He was in the wilderness a little bit for a couple of seasons and the opportunity was presented to him by the unfortunate circumstances of Simon Overland breaking his leg. He’s been able to resurrect his career. He’s done himself proud in the last period of the season and he’s back to his old self.”
Wilson’s free-kick from the left was met by David Botterill’s towering header, which looped past the far post.
Merstham started to shade the game as the game entered the hour-mark.
“I just felt like they started to force us back a little bit and they had a little bit of possession in the middle third and that’s when they become dangerous,” said Turner.
“They’ve got some really good players’ on the ball if you allow them time on the ball.
“We suddenly lacked a bit of composure and we couldn’t get the ball into the right areas so we got pinned back a little bit.”
Adeniyi stabbed the ball out to Aaron Rhule in space on the left hand side and the former Bromley winger drilled his shot harmlessly wide of the near post.
A run from Merstham’s Simon Cooper found Roberts, who twisted and turned his marker down the left to float in a cross into the box but former Maidstone United attacker Fabio Saraiva missed his header and the ball sailed behind.
Merstham continued to press but both side’s defenders were resilient.
Saraiva, Merstham’s skipper, drove his left-footed shot past the foot of the right-hand post as the second half reached the half-way point.
Merstham squandered a decent chance with 20 minutes of normal time remaining when more good play from Roberts down the right saw him whip in a cross but Cooper directed his free header over the bar from two-yards.
Roberts created yet another chance when his low centre was hit on the turn by Saraiva, which rolled past the foot of the near post.
Faversham Town could have won it in normal time when Botterill released substitute King down the left and his two shots from inside the box were blocked and the ball fell to substitute Josh Stanford, whose low curling shot from fifteen-yards flashed around the foot of the far post.
“I took a risk we brought Josh Stanford into the fold and we played him in behind Jack Harris for a little bit just to give them a little problem and I think that worked,” said Turner.
“He gave us the ascendency, I believe for the later part of the second half and we looked likely to get the goal when Josh came on.
“Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to last very long. I maintain if he stayed on the pitch, we would have won the game!”
Merstham almost won it at the death when Maxted brought down Merstham substitute Reece Hall and Saraiva’s left-footed free-kick from 19-yards flashed past the far post.
Faversham Town’s defence fell asleep following Roberts’ quickly taken free-kick but Hutchings drilled his left-footed shot looping just over the bar.
Despite scoring the most goals in the league (111), Faversham Town couldn’t find the decisive goal to win the game before extra-time.
“Extra-time is very difficult at this level,” said Turner.
“In terms of the fitness levels, I thought the fitness levels was testament to both sides’ organisation and their ability on the field. Their organisation and their ability and their heart to make sure they kept going and they made sure the opposition weren’t going to score. I thought that was very evident, the determination of both sides.
“There was an odd occasion and an odd scare at both ends but the goal looked unlikely to come in extra-time.”
King steered his left-footed shot on the turn from 20-yards, which was comfortably saved by Merstham keeper Daly, only 100 seconds into extra-time.
Merstham left-back Anton Douglas whipped in an excellent cross in from the left and French had to be at his very best to pluck the ball out of the air as the ball seemed destined to drop into the roof of the net.
However, Australian Wilson was unlucky when the crossbar saved Merstham in the 99th minute.
Wilson’s right-footed dipping free-kick from 35-yards beat the keeper and agonisingly curled onto the top of the crossbar.
“Big moment, wasn’t it?” admitted Turner.
“It’s almost like every free-kick he puts down you almost doubt he can do what he’s done all season. He very rarely fails to hit the target.
“He hit the target. It was a long, long way out and the keeper was struggling and it crashed against the bar.
“Those situations can go anyway. It could bounce off the goalkeeper and go in, it can do all sorts.
“You rely on a little bit of fortune but we wasn’t able to do it. It was a great strike and they were fully aware of it and they didn’t give him many opportunities.”
King and Wilson played a neat one-two inside the box but once again a Merstham defender got in the way to make a block in the box.
Faversham Town created the last chance of the first period when Wilson’s cross from the right was headed wide by Matt Bourne.
Faversham Town missed a decent chance inside the opening five minutes of the second period.
King cut the ball back to Maxted, who was given time and space to deliver a cross into the Merstham box but Charley Robertson glanced his header past the far post from 12-yards.
The last chance went to Merstham when Roberts swept the ball inside to Adeniyi, who cut into the box and looped a cross-shot over the top of the far post with the outside of his right-foot.
Despite both teams scoring 218 goals between them in the league this season the game ended in a disappointing stalemate.
Unfortunately for Faversham, the left-footed penalty taker curse struck as King’s first penalty was saved by the right hand of the diving Daly.
Saravia sent French the wrong way with his left-footed penalty to give Merstham the lead.
Robertson calmly slotted his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner to put Faversham on level terms, but Merstham’s best player on the night, Roberts sent French the wrong way to find the bottom right-hand corner.
Maxted lashed his left-footed penalty high into the top right-hand corner to cap off an impressive defensive performance over the 120 minutes.
Omar Folkes, who only featured for 11 minutes of extra-time, was lucky as his penalty found the left-hand corner, despite French diving to his right and getting a hand to the shot.
Wilson never misses, and all Daly could do was watch his right-footed penalty nestle into the left-hand corner of the net.
Merstham’s South African holding midfielder Tutu Henriques found the bottom left-hand corner, despite French guessing the right way.
There was immense pressure on young Faversham substitute Chris Webber for the Lilywhites’ final spot-kick, which he belied his age to roll his penalty straight down the middle, relieved to see Daly dive to his left.
And then it was penalty king Adeniyi, who sent Merstham through to Saturday’s Final, when they will come up against Neil Cugley’s side after Folkestone Invicta needed extra-time to beat Whytleafe 2-1, who missed a penalty in extra-time.
“You back the guy to score. I thought it was a well struck penalty and a good save,” said a heartbroken Turner.
“The one thing you could possibly say was it was a reasonable height for the keeper but I’ve got no criticism of Stuart or anyone stepping up.
“I was struggling to find six players who could walk to the penalty spot from the halfway line, let along take the kick.
“We had Rob French in at number six so that just goes to show how tired the boys’ were but even at that point to only take ten penalties between the two sides and only have one saved is again full credit to both sets of players for maintaining the quality.”
Faversham Town can reflect with pride on their best ever campaign when they finished in third-place in the table with their most points tally (97) and have achieved two play-off finishes in three years under Turner and his assistant Clive Walker.
“I’m very proud. I’ve got a burning ambition to try to take the club out of this league and we’ve got a set of players here who want to do that as well,” said Turner.
“I think they will grace the next league and they will flourish in the next league.
“In terms of the club what we’ve achieved off the field year on year is a tremendous effort by very few people.
“On the football side, the youth side of the club has come on leaps and bounds, which was something that I wanted to address when I first came to the club.
“We’ve now got a full complement of youth sides all the way through. The Under 21s have been successful this year finishing second and won the Kent Cup and that will enable us to build on the footballing side on a strong basis.
“Off the field we’ve got the first stage of the club’s ground redevelopment, hopefully starting in the summer.
“It’s really exciting times and I’m proud to be the manager of the club and proud to be a part of the evolution of the club and take it to the next stage and next era.”
Faversham Town: Robert French, Ashley Brown, Jamie Maxted, Wayne Wilson, John Scarborough, Matt Bourne, Charley Roberton, Aidan Sherlock, Jack Harris (Stuart King 82), Dean Grant (Josh Stanford 74, Chris Webber 90).
Subs: George Monger, Dan King
Booked: Wayne Wilson 19, Jack Harris 58, Jamie Maxted 90
Merstham: Brannon Daly, Simon Cooper, Anton Douglas, Kalvin Morath-Gibbs, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Tutu Henriques, Taurean Roberts, Peter Adeniyi, Tommy Hutchings (Omar Folkes 109), Fabio Saraiva, Aaron Rhule (Reece Hall 77).
Subs: Junior Kaffo, Dean Gunner, Yannick Makiese
Booked: Aaron Rhule 42, Taurean Roberts 55
Referee: Mr Aji Ajibola
Assistants: Mr Graham Swanton & Mr Connor Farrell
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Parker