Fleet Leisure 0-3 Sutton Athletic - Winning your first trophy is the hardest one, says James Collins

Saturday 10th May 2014

Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League Challenge Trophy Final
Saturday 10th May 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

SUTTON ATHLETIC manager James Collins says he is pleased that his side have claimed their first piece of silverware as a Kent Invicta League club.

The Hextable based side won the Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League Challenge Trophy after beating Fleet Leisure 3-0 at Thamesmead Town’s Bayliss Avenue.

Sutton Athletic finished their 28-game campaign in third-place with 52 points, the same number of points as Fleet Leisure, who finished fourth.

Fleet Leisure started the better side but two clinical strikes in the space of seven minutes put Sutton Athletic in the driving seat after striker Adam Williams and left-back Tom Carlse scored.

Adam Williams hit the post before Fleet Leisure twice struck the woodwork before Chris McGinty’s 26th goal of the season ensured skipper Ben Williams held the trophy aloft at the end.

Sutton Athletic defeated Rusthall (5-2 on aggregate); Hollands & Blair (6-4 on aggregate) and Bridon Ropes (6-1 on aggregate) to reach the final.

Fleet Leisure eased past Crockenhill (14-1); Seven Acre & Sidcup (10-3) and Lewisham Borough (9-3).

“I’m so pleased for the players.  I said to you when you spoke to me the other day they’ve been brilliant and they deserved it,” said Collins, 31.

“They’ve lacked a bit of belief sometimes so things like this is good for us.

“I’m really pleased.  Hollands & Blair and Bly are the other two winners and they’ve both won the league so hopefully we can continue that.”

Fleet Leisure manager Lee Richmond was a disappointed man at the final whistle.

“I thought first 20 minutes it was all us,” he said.

“They had two chances, took them and we didn’t. I thought (it was) game over so a bit of a let down really.

“It’s still a good season for us.  We’ve just went out with a whimper really.”

Richmond admitted he missed his midfield playmaker son, Colin, in the middle of the park.

“I think so because he just puts his tempo on the ball and makes us play. A player like that you’re going to miss anyway, but with 12 games to play they wait until we’ve played them all and then he’s suspended from last Wednesday, which is hard to take but that’s why they do it.  It’s just a shame he’s missed the final.”

Sutton Athletic created the first chance after only 17 seconds but Adam Williams’ hit a speculative right-footed drive harmlessly over the crossbar from 35-yards.

But Fleet Leisure swiftly stamped their authority on the game and pressed to keep Sutton Athletic on the back foot.

Joe Degnin released left-back Karlton Blake in behind Sutton right-back Jack White to whip in a quality cross which bounced off Chris McDermott’s feet at the near post and Joe Loft’s follow up shot was pushed around the post by keeper Dean James.

Loft turned provider when his cross was headed away and came out to right-back Daniel Nash, who was given time and space to crack a right-footed volley sailing harmlessly wide from 30-yards.

Fleet Leisure got much closer when Nash whipped in a hanging cross into the penalty area where McDermott looped his header into the keeper’s hands.

The blustery conditions and showery rain was proving an obstacle for players and supporters alike, who were soaked despite sitting or standing up in the main stand.

Fleet Leisure squandered an excellent chance to deservedly open the scoring after seventeen minutes.

George Goodwin dinked the ball out to Loft on the left who floated over an excellent cross towards the far post where 27-goal striker McDermott glanced his header wide of the far post from eight-yards.

Richmond said: “We work on set plays and things like that but you’ve got to do it on the day!  If you don’t do it on the day you don’t win games.  They had two chances when we was on top and they took them so you can’t really fault them.”

Collins added: “That is absolutely the worst we’ve played for 20 minutes and I said to my assistant funny not turning up today! We were just nervous and I knew if we could keep it tight that we’d grow into the game and we’d get better.

“I knew once we got into our groove that we’d start playing and we’ll be ok but it was a case of we would’ve taken going in at 0-0 at half-time.  To score two goals was a massive bonus really.”

Fleet Leisure wasted another good opening when referee Neil Baker awarded a free-kick 22-yards from goal, just outside the corner of the penalty area, but Loft got his left-footed free-kick over the wall and also over the bar.

McDermott missed another good chance to give Fleet Leisure a deserved lead with a second header.

Loft swung in a corner in from the right which sailed over towards McDermott at the far post but he couldn’t keep his effort down from eight-yards.

Fleet Leisure were made to pay for their profligacy as Sutton Athletic scored against the run of play in the 30th minute.

Ben Williams played the ball into Carlse, who poked the ball through to Grant Brown, who slipped the ball through to Adam Williams, who drilled his right-footed shot into the right-hand corner from fifteen-yards, via a deflection of Andy Pierce.

“It’s the first time that Adam and Brownie have played together all season,” revealed the Sutton Athletic manager.

“We got Adam in and Brownie was injured and then Adam had work commitments in midweek and stuff so we’ve only really had him on Saturday’s, so I wouldn’t say it was a gamble but we was excited seeing how it work would and I thought at times it linked up quite well.

“It was a really good finish. He’s done that at a higher level hasn’t he so that was the game changer really wasn’t it?”

Richmond added: “I think that was their first attempt on goal and they put it away so fair play to them.

“We had the first 20-25 minutes and didn’t score so you’re always open to a breakaway, which they did and then done it seven minutes later to make it 2-0.”

The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Fleet Leisure for the rest of the game.

Sutton Athletic went close when Brown played in Carlse, who cut the ball back from the by-line to McGinty, whose flicked shot (with his back to goal) rolled into Michael Elder’s hands from four-yards.

But clinical Sutton Athletic doubled their lead in the 37th minute through Carlse’s first goal of the season.

Fleet Leisure switched off and allowed Harry Montgomery to throw the ball short to Carlse, who swept the ball to McGinty, who played a reverse pass to send Carlse into the penalty area with ease before drilling a right-footed shot across Elder into the bottom far corner.

“He’s been so good for us this season,” Collins said of Carlse.

“Good finish! He just drives on for fun.  I think that’s his first goal of the season.  I think he should score more.  He sets up a few.

“That’s the worst I’ve seen him play in terms of us starting. He just wasn’t composed.  We have a very young side and they were very nervous but I knew once we’d get into the groove we’d be ok.”

Richmond lambasted his side’s defending.

“He’s just walked through! We didn’t tackle or didn’t put a tackle in or anything.  We said get close but he must have run through three of them and then just put it in a corner, so it’s disappointing from our side but we’ve got to learn from it.”

Brown played the ball inside to his fellow central midfielder Chris Mirrlees, who was given time and space to unleash his left-footed drive over the Fleet Leisure crossbar from 35-yards.

Ben Williams whipped in a hanging cross into the Fleet penalty area, which was spilt by Elder and fell to Montgomery, but the former Erith Town winger failed to punish the mistake and George Snelling was on hand to smash the ball away.

Brown linked up well with McGinty, playing a one-two, but Brown’s right-footed drive from 25-yards deflected wide of the goal.

Both managers were asked what their words were during the half-time interval.

“Well put all your money on Fleet because we keep giving away 2-0 leads,” quipped Collins.

“I said to them football’s all about learning and we’ve given it away, I think, four times and I said if there’s a day to learn it’s today.

“I think people say the next goal is the most important but I said even if they score I still fancy us to score.

“Sometimes it’s not pretty but I said to the boys after winning your first trophy is the hardest one I think so it gives them that belief.  We had to slow the game down at times.  The longer it goes on the more anxious they get and the game would open up and that’s what happened at the end.”

Richmond added: “We said keep playing. We was on top for the first 20 minutes. We just thought keep playing like that.

“We got them in at half-time and said we’ve got to get back to what we was doing for the first 20 but 2-0 down is difficult, but we threw on a few forwards towards the end, just pulling at straws and then they scored the third one so game over!”

Fleet Leisure continued to be a threat from set-pieces and they created an opportunity through this method inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

Nash swung in a free-kick with his right-foot into the penalty area where Snelling came up from the back to plant his header wide of the right-hand post from fifteen-yards.

Brown smacked a right-footed volley over the Fleet Leisure crossbar from 25-yards during a feisty part of the game.

Sutton Athletic striker Adam Williams clipped a right-footed hooked volley straight at Elder from 25-yards.

The goalscoring striker then turned provider for McGinty, who took a touch before hitting a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which flashed harmlessly wide.

But Sutton Athletic were to be denied a third as the game entered the hour-mark.

Brown slipped the ball forward to Adam Williams, who wriggled his way past the Fleet defence to roll his right-footed shot past Elder, only for the ball to bounce agonisingly against the foot of the right-hand post from fifteen-yards.

Collins said: “He created it out of absolutely nothing, didn’t he and I thought he and Chris Mirrlees was a cut above everyone else on the pitch.”

When asked how the former Ebbsfleet United striker has adapted to life in the Kent Invicta League, Collins replied: “He’s brilliant! He pays subs to play now.  He came about because (VCD Athletic manager) Tony Russell (who was watching the game) rang me and said he might look at him in the summer but he hasn’t played all season and he needs to get fit.

“Me and Tony are friends. I rang Adam and he seemed keen and he’s said he’s really enjoying it. He’s adapted well.  I said to the boys the other day when we played Lydd we have to play to his strengths otherwise you run the risk of him being non-existent but I thought we played to his strengths today.  I thought that was positive for us.”

Adam Williams clipped a left-footed free-kick over the wall from 25-yards, which was gathered at the second attempt by Elder.

Richmond rued his luck, however, as his side struck the post in the 63rd minute.

Nash, who was putting in some quality crosses, whipped the ball towards the far post which was punched away by James and the ball dropped to Goodwin, whose right-footed drive from 25-yards agonisingly curled against the right-hand post.

Richmond said: “It’s just one of those things and Chris McDermott hit the bar later on so you’re thinking it’s probably not our day!”

Collins was pleased with the clean sheet.

He said: “Dean was saying that’s our nineteenth clean sheet of the season.  That’s what’s so frustrating. We conceded three against Meridian, three against Rusthall, two against Eltham Palace.  We’ve been conceding goals

“We had a tendency to work as hard as the opposition make us work.  It is easy for us, I think you could see it when we were 3-0 up, we switched off a little bit.” 

Fleet threw bodies forward in the final stages of the game and Blake rolled the ball into substitute Marcus Heddon, who hit a right-footed shot on the turn from 35-yards, which sailed harmlessly wide.

Fleet Leisure were to be denied by the crossbar in the final eight minutes.

Pierce pumped a deep free-kick into the penalty area and James failed to gather the ball and McDermott’s header agonisingly bounced off the crossbar.

“You do need luck,” admitted Collins.

“I said to the boys afterwards, the pressure was off us a little bit because I wanted us to finish third after the season we’ve had and we’ve had a difficult route to the cup final but sometimes you don’t have a difficult route to a cup final.  Maybe the draws we had we’re difficult.  Maybe we earned that little bit of luck today.”

Sutton Athletic wrapped up the game with their third goal in the final six minutes.

Carlse advanced forward before playing the ball inside to McGinty, who unleashed a left-footed drive towards goal from 25-yards, the ball caressing the inside of the top of the left-hand post.

Collins hailed his striker and admitted he faces a fight to keep him at Lower Road next season.

“Great finish! Again he’s been brilliant for us.  We’ve had a lot of banter with him this week. He keeps telling how many goals he’s scored – 26 but he could have had 56!

“He should be playing higher! That will be the hardest thing for me as well.  Can I keep this team together?

“When I first signed Chris he wasn’t getting games at Cray Valley and I said come down score yourself some goals and people will take notice and that’s what he’s done so I’m pleased for him. He’s scored so many goals, he deserved that.”

Richmond added: “He’s had a good season Chris, he’s a goalscorer. We’ve got Chris McDermott who has scored 27 goals but it wasn’t his day today so it’s one of those things. One forward scores and one doesn’t and that’s the difference.”

Fleet Leisure created the last chance of the game when substitute Jason Sowle played the ball to McDermott, who blasted his right-footed shot over from the edge of the box.

The Sutton Athletic boss was pleased with a trophy at the end of his first season in charge of the club.

“I’m really, really pleased,” he said.

“I’m so pleased for all the players and it’s a massive thing for us to win that first trophy.

“The hardest thing I have with the players at the beginning of the season I believed in them and even going to Hollands & Blair that was our turning point because I said I believed you can beat these teams. I don’t know if you believe you can beat them so you’ve got to go out and do it and when you do it then you will believe it and today I said the first trophy to win is the hardest one so hopefully it’s the first of many.”

Sutton Athletic can claim their second trophy when they travel to Oxford Road in Sidcup to play Seven Acre & Sidcup’s first team in the Hospital Cup Semi-Final on Tuesday evening (6:45pm).

The winners will play Phoenix Sports reserves side in the final at Park View Road next Friday, 16 May.

“We said that we wanted to finish third and win two cups,” added Collins.

Richmond, meanwhile, said he’s looking forward to having a rest after guiding the club to their highest ever finish in their entire history.

He said: “I’m proud of the lads. We’ve had a good season, our first season in it and we’re fourth in the league and contesting a major final so you can’t really fault that.”

Richmond revealed the dressing room was a quiet place after his players collected their runners-up medals.

“You can hear a pin drop, they’re gutted.  It’s not so much losing 3-0, it’s the way we lost.  We know we could have done better. We’re learning all the time. It’s our first season in it. We didn’t expect to be in the final or where we was so I can’t complain.”

Richmond revealed higher league clubs are interested in some of his players, with his son Colin and McDermott topping the list.

“A few players have been rung up by other clubs higher than us,” he said.

“There’s a few Ryman Premier clubs that have come in and things like that so we just have to sit down and see whose staying and see who’s not so we might have a better team or a weaker team.

“We’re not sure yet.  We’ll let the dust settle and go from there.  We’ve ended the season.  We’ve had ten wins on the trot and people start coming and watch and see what it’s about.  We’ve had a few phone calls.”

Billy Manners, who helped VCD Athletic win the Ryman League Division One North title on a dramatic final day of the season, featured for Fleet Leisure in the middle of the park.

The manager said: “He signed at the start of the season and luckily when he was out injured he came back and played a few games for us on loan and one was the cup tie and what with Colin’s suspension, it’s a nice fit.”

Fleet Leisure: Michael Elder, Daniel Nash, Karlton Blake, Billy Manners, Andy Pierce, George Snelling, Jack Walter (Jason Sowle 57), Joe Degnin, Chris McDermott, George Goodwin (Marcus Heddon 72), Joe Loft.
Subs: James Truman, Ben Hiscoke, Grant Duff

Booked: Billy Manners 53, Joe Loft 90

Sutton Athletic: Dean James, Jack White, Tom Carlse, Chris Mirrlees, Tom Fitzgerald, Sean Heather, Ben Williams, Grant Brown (Richie Humphries 81), Adam Williams (Arlie Desagnes 86), Chris McGinty, Harry Montgomery (Jack Howlett 64).
Subs: Will Roomes, Danny Ball

Goals: Adam Williams 30, Tom Carlse 37, Chris McGinty 84

Booked: Grant Brown 69

Attendance: 221
Referee: Mr Neil Baker (Welling)
Assistants: Mr Brian Woodhouse (Sittingbourne) & Mr Adam Crane (Tunbridge Wells)
Fourth Official: Steve Martin (Orpington)


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