Fisher 1-3 Tunbridge Wells - It was just a really good away performance, says Martin Larkin

Monday 05th January 2015
Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup First Round
Monday 5th January 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Champion Hill Stadium

TUNBRIDGE WELLS boss Martin Larkin says he was happy with his side’s performance on the road after they progressed through to the quarter-finals of the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup.


The Wells, who defeated Cray Valley 1-0 at home in the Preliminary Round, joined Deal Town, Greenwich Borough, Lordswood and Phoenix Sports in the last eight after coming away with a 3-1 victory.

Tunbridge Wells went into the tie sitting in fourth-place in the table with 38 points from 21 games, seven points adrift of unbeaten leaders Phoenix Sports, who have four games in hand.

Fisher were in the bottom four with 17 points from 21 games and are five points clear of Erith Town, who occupy the sole relegation spot.

Fisher debutant goalkeeper Charlie Payne had a mixed night, gifting Chris Seenan the opening goal on the half-hour mark, before bringing down debutant Paul Booth, who converted the resulting penalty, before Tolley Beatson came off the bench to score a late third.

Fisher midfielder Alfie Roche scored a late consolation, as their interest in cup competitions for the season came to an end.

The Football Association are £80 richer after referee Mr De Quincy Bailey dished out eight yellow cards, five of them going to Fisher.

When asked his thoughts on their seventh win on the bounce, which extended their unbeaten run to ten games, Larkin said: “Happy! We had six starters out tonight with a flu bug going around plus a couple of little knocks so six guys were not starting.

“The back four, we had two lads who normally play central midfield playing in there, plus a back-up centre half and a back-up right back and they didn’t look out of place at all.  I thought they were superb.

“We controlled it really. It was a pretty straight forward victory.”

Fisher manager Dean Harrison took the positives out of his fifth game in charge, although he is still waiting for his first win in charge.

Fisher have now extended their winless run to thirteen games but 38-year-old said: “I thought we played very well. I thought we kept the ball well. I thought we were good in the final third, second half especially and with a little bit more quality and better finishing, we go on to win the game.

“The keeper’s made a rick for the first one. The second one he’s telling me he’s got a hand to it, it wasn’t a penalty. The ref’s given a penalty and the third one obviously we were pushing and we’ve got caught. Other than that, they haven’t really troubled us defensively.”

Harrison admitted he can see improvements during his short time in charge of the club.

“I can see a difference in the way we’re playing. The boys are buying into the football style that I like to play. They’re moving the ball well, they’re keeping it well. The movement’s a lot better. They’re gelling as a unit and I can take a lot of positives out of tonight.”

Tunbridge Wells called Payne into making a fine save inside the opening three minutes.

Central defender Tom Davey swing in a free-kick towards the far post from the right where skipper Joe Fuller rose to plant his header towards the roof of the net, but Payne tipped his effort over the bar.

Larkin said: “Jake Beecroft who is normally our ball player was playing in the back four. They went a little bit direct, working with what we had.

“It wasn’t until we started using Jamie Lawrence in the middle as a pivot to get the ball out wide to Danny Powell quicker. That’s when we started opening them up and we played a bit better.”

Harrison added: “He done well Charlie, he’s a good keeper. He hasn’t been playing, he’s been training for the last three weeks and he’ll get sharper. He’s a local lad. He’s just dropped out of playing for a little bit and I know how good he is so I want him back in. I want him match fit and I want him to be pushing for the number one spot.”

Tunbridge Wells were keen to hit the ball long in the first half and left-back Jake Beecroft clipped the ball over Jerome Paul’s head but Seenan’s left-footed shot drew a smart save from Payne, saving low to his left.

Fisher’s first opening arrived in the seventeenth minute when pacy right-winger Troy Abbey progressed to the by-line down the right before cutting the ball back for debutant striker Femi Akinwande, whose low right-footed shot from six-yards was saved by Steve Lawrence, low to his right.

The Tunbridge Wells keeper made a comfortable save from Roche from 25-yards, before a blunder from Fisher’s keeper gifted Larkin’s side the lead.

Payne tried to take the ball around the pressing Seenan, but the quick-thinking striker stole the ball off the embarrassed keeper before striding a few yards before slotting his right-footed shot into an empty net for his seventh goal of the season.

Harrison said: “He knows that he’s gutted with himself.

“The ball’s come back to him and instead of putting his foot through it, the forward’s closed him down and he’s tried to chop it past him and trick him but obviously the boy read it, took it off him.

“He was really disappointed about that! He feels he’s let the boys down but these things happen. It’s a mistake, he’ll learn from it and move on.”

Larkin said: “That’s why you press and why you close things down to put pressure on people.

“If you do that you’ll earn yourself a goal. It settled us down a little bit.”

Tunbridge Wells should have doubled their lead when Fuller’s diagonal pass released winger Danny Powell down the right and he cut the ball back to an unmarked Jack Goldsmith, who completely missed his kick inside the penalty area, to the delight of the home fans in the stand.

Lively Fisher winger Abbey showed great skill to cut past two defenders down the right but once inside the box he lacked the killer finish and drove his left-footed shot into Steve Lawrence’s hands from sixteen-yards.

But Fisher squandered an excellent chance to equalise with the last kick of the first half.

Jamie Taylor swing in a right-footed free-kick from inside the left channel towards the near post but Akinwande glanced his free header across goal and past the far post from six-yards.

The Dartford Academy graduate held his head in his hands in agony as he realised he should have opened his goalscoring account for his new club – and so did Harrison.

“He was unlucky. He just didn’t get enough on it but I thought Femi was excellent today. I thought he had a great game. 

“He’s come in from Dartford.  He wasn’t getting on there and he wants to play first team football. He’s a local lad as well. He’s from Rotherhithe and he’ll fit in perfectly here.”

Larkin admitted: “He’ll probably be disappointed not to finish that! A good bit of movement in the box and he’s headed it just wide. It was a bit of a let off really!”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the half-time interval.

Harrison said: “I told them to move the ball quicker. We need to play forward quicker. We need to trust ourselves more in the final third.  Our combination play needs to be better and defensively we need to get in quicker and get our two lines of four in and keep nice and compact and I thought we did that.  I thought they responded really well second half.”

Larkin added: “A bit more patient on the ball. We said we went a little bit, not direct, that’s the wrong word, to be a little bit more patient and play a bit more.

“The game opened up a little bit. I’m not too sure how much time Dean’s had to work with them on the training ground so we thought there might be a few more gaps for us to exploit.  Our guys have been quite used to each other for a long  period of time. 

“Just be a bit more patient and get on the ball and at the same time be aware because we’re a bit makeshift at the back and get rid of it and do the good stuff you do when you’re away from home.”

Fisher almost got the second half off to a flying start when midfielder Al-Hassan Oshilaja clipped a ball into the penalty area but a poor stabbed touch from Abbey saw the ball bounce behind after only 20 seconds.

Tunbridge Wells’ flying winger, Powell, stole the ball off Fisher left-back Kyle Demetrius and burst into the penalty area before drilling his shot over the bar.

Brendon Cass, who has scored fourteen goals for Tunbridge Wells, steered his left-footed drive into Payne’s gloves from 22-yards.

Larkin introduced Booth, who turns 38 years of age on 8 January, and the former Folkestone Invicta striker almost scored with his first touch for his new club.

Davey swung in a corner from the right and Booth directed his header down from six-yards and Payne made an instinctive low block to deny the well-known striker a dream start to life at Culverden Stadium.

Larkin said: “It was a good save, a good header low down and the keeper scrambled it away.

“It was nearly a fairytale start but he had a good 30 minutes on the pitch. He scored one and created enough and looked good.

“It’s a good signing for us. I probably got carried away in the local papers and stuff in terms of bigging it up a little bit but everyone knows who he is and what he’s going to do.

“But Boothy is absolutely class and I thought he looked a level above and was quite comfortable when he came on and was very, very good. He’ll certainly have to work hard. I’ve got some very good forwards now and that’s what we wanted.”

Reflecting on the save, Harrison added: “He did well Charlie tonight. He made a couple of good saves. His hands were good, he organised well. I thought he did ok.”

Booth then played a one-two with Seenan, who centred low towards the near post, but Payne did well to smother the ball at Booth’s feet at the near post.

But Booth won Tunbridge Wells a penalty when referee Mr De Quincy Bailey judged the diving Payne had brought the striker down close to the by-line and after consulting with his assistant brandished his sixth yellow card of the night to the keeper.

Booth stepped up and his perfectly struck right-footed penalty nestled into the bottom right-hand corner of the net after 65 minutes.

Harrison added: “I couldn’t see it clear enough. Charlie tells me he got a full hand to it and pushed the ball away. I don’t know but I trust Charlie. I thought the ref had a poor game.”

Larkin felt the referee was right to award the penalty, although the ball rolled out of play going away from the goal once contact was made.

When asked whether Payne did get a hand to the ball, Larkin replied: “No, I don’t think so from where we stood.  Booth’s taken his foot away and got taken away and the keeper’s clattered him so it’s a penalty for us all day long.

“Even if he had got a touch on it, it looks like a penalty.  It’s one of those because Booth’s taken that touch away from goal, he’s booked the goalkeeper for it so it’s a penalty all day.

“Jake Beecroft is our penalty taker but he’s played 90 minutes with a stomach virus and he was sick before the game and sick at half-time so it wasn’t a surprise when he didn’t run forward to take it.

“Jamie Lawrence has taken penalties at Erith & Belvedere and Seenan normally takes pens so it’s good, it’s nice to see people fight to want to take it and when the guy takes it and he puts it away with a certain amount of class.”

The game almost raced away from Fisher, but Payne made a great save.

Davey swept a long free-kick from inside his own half towards the far post where Goldsmith’s header was expertly clawed away by the Fisher stopper, his to his left.

Larkin said: “Davey’s got a really good delivery from free-kicks and he works on them in training alongside Beecroft.  We’re lucky to have two lads like those two who can really put the ball on a six-pence.”

But Fisher created chances to get themselves back into the game.

Roche’s pass released Akinwande, who stung Lawrence’s fingers at the near post with a right-footed angled drive, the Tunbridge Wells keeper gathering the ball at the second attempt.

Oshilaja then penetrated the visiting sides defence at pace before hitting a shot straight at Steve Lawrence.

Tunbridge Wells finished the game with the oldest forward line in the Southern Counties East Football League when Richard Sinden joined Booth.

Sinden swept the ball over to Booth, who steered the ball across the face of goal and the ball was sliced into Payne’s gloves by Fisher right-back (and captain) Darren Wise.

The impressive Akinwande drilled his shot narrowly over the Tunbridge Wells crossbar from 25-yards, as Fisher created the more goalscoring chances than their visitors.

Fisher substitute Martin Hunter cut in from the left to drill a powerful right-footed drive which was heading towards the top near corner from 25-yards, but Steve Lawrence made a brilliant save, flying high to his right to push behind for a corner with four minutes left.

“A little bit better finishing then I think we win the game, without a doubt,” Harrison said on his side’s second half chances.

“We’re really happy with Steve Lawrence, he’s really progressing,” added Larkin.

“Everyone forgets because of his size and that kind of thing that he’s only 18 because we tend to normally bring a young goalkeeper with more experienced ones.

“Steve was backing up to Chris Oladogba for two years and because he’s been around the club, everyone thinks he’s older than he is. He’s only eighteen and some of the saves he pulls off are sensational.

“His kicking was a little bit off tonight but we won’t complain about it because when he gets that sorted out he’s not going to be playing here. He’s a fantastic goalkeeper and we’re really pleased how he’s progressing.

“We’re very lucky with goalkeepers. If you want to be successful, you need a very good goalkeeper.”

Tunbridge Wells hit Fisher on the break to kill the game off with a third goal with 44:17 on the clock.

Fuller played a sublime through ball to release Booth down the right, who once inside the penalty box easily skipped past keeper Payne and instead of shooting into an empty net, he dragged the ball across the face of goal towards the far post where the onrushing Beatson stabbed the ball over the line from close range to score his first goal for the club.

Everyone expected Booth to slot the ball into the open goal, but instead he decided to give Beatson the glory.

“I spoke to him about that,” said Larkin.

“I said to him why didn’t you rip the net open? He said there was a guy at the back post that definitely would have finished it.

“He’s only been with us for a couple of sessions but he’s already picked up that Tolley is one of the young lads that’s come through the Soccer Elite Academy and Booth’s got so many goals already, he’s got his goal for the night. He’s given Tolley a tap in. it gives him more of a boost and that’s the pro thing to do so it’s fantastic for Tolley to get his first goal.”

Harrison added: “I thought it was a shot to be honest. It got put in on the line, didn’t it?

“We got caught. We were pushing forward weren’t we? At 2-0 we had to push on a little bit and we got caught.”

Fisher pulled a goal back with 48:14 on the clock when substitute Ali Musa’s diagonal pass picked out an unmarked Roche, who beat the offside trap to cut in and drill his left-footed angled drive into the bottom near corner.

Harrison said: “Great goal. Lovely goal and full credit to the boys for going until the end until the final whistle.

“I thought they showed second half, honestly, I’ve just told them in there I’m proud of them. I thought they did really well.  I can see what could be here if they trust each other and keep working hard.”

But Larkin felt the goal should have been chalked off.

He said: “It looked offside to me! Our back four was adamant he was offside. The referee said he looked offside but the lino didn’t give it so there’s not much you can do.

“It would have been nice to keep a clean sheet because it was a very good away performance. We’re happy with six starters not playing and a makeshift back four. We would have taken the win.

“That’s our seventh win on the bounce. It’s not something we’ve done before. We’ve gone on long unbeaten runs before but we haven’t gone on long winning runs. We’ve always had draws to break it up.

“The guys who don’t normally play were superb and the pressure on the front two that Booth has created by coming in made sure they were a little bit sharper and worked really well.

“It was just a really good away performance. We’re very good away from home. We have been the whole time I’ve been here.  We set-up to do it properly. They know what to do to get an away win and it’s good to get another one ticked off in the book.”

Fisher: Charlie Payne, Darren Wise, Kyle Demetrius, Jamie Taylor (Ali Musa 75), Jerome Paul, Aaron Seales, Troy Abbey (Jay Garrick 83), Al-Hassan Oshilaja, Femi Akinwande, Alfie Roche, Nathaniel Bell (Martin Hunter 75).
Subs: Billy Walton, Ellis Etienne

Goal: Alfie Roche 90

Booked: Jamie Taylor 10, Darren Wise 34, Nathaniel Bell 40, Aaron Seales 44, Charlie Payne 64

Tunbridge Wells: Steve Lawrence, Rory Head, Jake Beecroft, Jamie Lawrence (Tolley Beatson 74), Andy Boyle, Tom Davey, Danny Powell, Joe Fuller, Brendon Cass (Paul Booth 59), Chris Seenan (Richard Sinden 79), Jack Goldsmith.
Subs: Jason Bourne, Michal Czanner

Goals: Chris Seenan 30, Paul Booth 65 (penalty), Tolley Beatson 90

Booked: Jamie Lawrence 19, Paul Booth 71, Andy Boyle 90

Attendance: 88
Referee: Mr De Quincy Bailey (Bromley)
Assistants: Mr Phillip Dunkley (Peckham, London SE15) and Mr Kenan Dogan (Dartford)