Fleetdown United Reserves 1-2 Lewisham Athletic - We look to continue to climb up the leagues, says Lewisham Athletic boss Steve Cormack

Tuesday 19th April 2016
Fleetdown United 1 – 2 Lewisham Athletic
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 19/04/2016 19:30

Barry Bundock West Kent Challenge Shield Final
Tuesday 19th April 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

LEWISHAM ATHLETIC manager Steve Cormack says he’s on the verge of guiding the club to their seventh consecutive promotion.

CHAMPIONS: Lewisham Athletic skipper Simon Read retains the Barry Bundock West Kent Challenge Shield
Photo: Julie Hoare

The Downham-based outfit have breezed through the South London Alliance and are on course of winning promotion into the NRG Gym Kent County League Division One West as they chase down Club Langley’s ten point lead with eight league games left to play.

Unbeaten in all of their 14 league games, Lewisham Athletic retained the Barry Bundock West Kent Challenge Shield with a deserved victory over Fleetdown United Reserves.

Fleetdown United Reserves took an early lead through a fine strike from striker Dan Bliss, scoring his 11th goal of the season.

Lewisham Athletic levelled through skipper Simon Read, who held aloft the Shield this time last year following a 2-1 win over Metrogas Reserves.

Lewisham Athletic dominated the second half and won it late on through Chris Diamond’s header which went in underneath the goalkeeper.

“It’s one of the goals we set ourselves at the start of the season,” said Cormack after the game.

“We spoke about it as a group, we felt we had the quality this year to go on our good form last year into this season so I’m over the moon with the result.”

Fleetdown United manager Jim Martin was very vocal during the game but he sent out his assistant manager Ian Allchin for the post-match interview.

“Obviously disappointed. I thought we had a very good first half and took the lead,” said Allchin.

“Lewisham, I think were a bit strong, certainly midway through the second half. They started to get strong, they got the goal, maybe a little bit fortunate and I thought we pressed at the end, a little bit unlucky, the goalkeeper made a save but 2-1, it was a very close game.”

A crowd of 104 at Sevenoaks Town’s Greatness Park witnessed a poor Final and Lewisham Athletic created a couple of early chances but John James’ shot sailed wide and Diamond’s free header looped over the bar following Lewis Morgan’s first corner of the game.

“Lewis’s free-kicks have been excellent for us all year, all dead-balls really. We’ve got a few players in the team who are more capable of delivering some quality balls,” said Cormack.

Lewisham Athletic went into this game unbeaten in all of their 14 league games in second-place in the NRG Gym Kent County League Division Two West table, 10 points adrift of leaders Club Langley but with six games in hand.

Fleetdown United’s Reserves compete in the same division and arrived in Sevenoaks in fourth-place on 32 points from 19 games, four fewer points than the holders.

And the Dartford based outfit took the lead with their first chance, with only three minutes and 45 seconds on the clock.

Right-winger Connor Chapman got the ball out from underneath his feet and played a sublime 50-yard diagonal pass to put Bliss through on goal and he took a touch before drilling his left-footed shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner.

“A great finish from Dan, very good, he can do that,” said Allchin.

“We got in the lead and that was good and we thought we were going to go from there but we couldn’t get another one. If we got another one, I think we might’ve gone on and won it.”

Cormack said: “Just inside the half he played the ball from. We spoke at half-time, we needed to be pressing the ball there. We allowed them to play the ball into the box and it was a really good ball. Once it left his foot it was a great goal by them.”

Bliss was then denied by a comfortable near post save from Lewisham Athletic keeper Jonathan Roberts.

Lewisham Athletic equalised following a set-piece with 15:37 on the clock.

Set-piece specialist Lewis Morgan drove in a corner from the right towards the near post where Read flicked his shot across goal and into the bottom far corner from 10-yards.

“Great goal by Read, he’s come up with some good goals for us this year in a lot of games,” said Cormack.

“He scored in the semi-final previous and he scored in the final here last year as well. He’s captain of the team and he leads the boys by example.”

Allchin, a man of little words, added: “They’ll think it’s a good goal, we think it’s a bad goal. We didn’t defend at all for that!”

Lewisham Athletic went on to dominate the remainder of the game against a feisty Fleetdown United side.

Allchin said: “I thought we were the better team in the first half. I thought we were more aggressive as a team and moved the ball well.

“It was quite a physical battle. I think one or two decisions went against us but all in all it was a hard fought game.”

Cormack said: “It was tough. The game was struggling to get going, it was stop-start. You can tell both teams were getting frustrated with the lack of game play. The game kept stopping. We thought at half-time that we had the upper hand.”

Lewis Morgan whipped in a quality right-footed free-kick from the left which was glanced onto the crossbar by Read at the half-way point.

“Unlucky for them, a bit of luck for us perhaps,” came Allchin’s swift reply.

Lewis Morgan then delivered another free-kick which came out to central midfielder John James at the far post, directing his free header over the crossbar.

Fleetdown United went close through Chapman, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot from 25-yards which drifted across keeper Jonathan Roberts who stuck out his right hand and allowed the ball to sail harmlessly wide.

Fleetdown United should have taken the lead just before the half-hour mark.

Chapman swung in a free-kick into Lewisham Athletic’s box, a poor back header from Read set up Bliss, who could only head straight at Roberts, who made a reaction block from close range at his near post.

Chapman swung in the resulting corner from the right and the ball appeared to have struck Dave Cox’s left shoulder as the ball sailed past the far post.

James shrugged off the attentions of Fleetdown defender Matt Dudley in midfield before sweeping the ball out wide to Lewis Morgan, who floated over a cross which lone striker Lewis James sent his free header sailing across goal and past the far post.

Fleetdown left-back Kyle Gurney put a free-kick into the penalty area and the ball ran loose to Mike Beattie, whose low shot took a deflection and Roberts made a comfortable low save diving to his left.

Lewisham Athletic struck the crossbar for the second time on the stroke of half-time.

Central midfielder Kit Southam floated in a cross from the right and Lewis James’ near post flicked shot looped up and kissed the top of the crossbar.

Cormack said: “We felt the chance was going to come, it was inevitable.  The chance was going to be there. We just had to keep going and not be distracted or let our heads drop. We grew in confidence, every time we got closer and closer to break them down.”

Lewisham Athletic were the better side during the second half and a chance was not taken inside the opening nine minutes.

A mistake by Fleetdown defender Dudley wasn’t punished by Lewis James, lashing his shot high over the bar from 15-yards when he only had goalkeeper Joe Pithman to beat.

The quality in the final third was poor on both sides with Rob Lecomber proving that when he took a touch and drove his shot well wide of the Lewisham Athletic goal from 20-yards.

Lewis Morgan shrugged off the attentions of Fleetdown defender Tim Colman, before turning to drill his right-footed shot sailing past the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Lewisham Athletic continued to press and Lewis Morgan’s set-piece deliveries were their main threat.

Cormack felt his side had clinched the deserved victory at the half-way mark but Diamond’s free header was grabbed by Pithman as the ball was sailing into the far corner.

“We came very close with that chance,” said Cormack.

“I thought that was it that one but obviously we kept pushing and kept going.”

Allchin added: “In the second half the came out and they seemed to get on top of us certainly for a good 20 minute spell.”

Lewisham Athletic struck the woodwork for a third time when Diamond released Lewis James down the left channel and he chipped the ball over the keeper who raced outside his penalty area but the ball clipped the near post and bounced behind for a goal-kick.

Allchin said: “I don’t think the goalkeeper should’ve come. I think he took a step back and then came, we were well lucky there!”

Cormack said: “From the touchline it was agonisingly, I thought it was in and it hit the post and looking for a rebound to come back and get a second chance, just looked like it wasn’t going to be for a little while.

“We made sure we kept that pressure up.  I thought it was the pressure we were pushing them back into their own half.

“I always felt we had the goal in us. It was pretty much a carbon copy of what happened last year, where we scored the winner (over Metrogas Reserves after 85 minutes), obviously the goal came a little bit earlier (tonight).

“But I was confident we were going to do it. It was about making sure we didn’t get caught on the break ourselves.”

Lewis Morgan released John James skipping through the heart of the Fleetdown United defence but his final finish lacked composure and was blazed high over the bar from 30-yards.

But with extra-time looming on a chilly night, Lewisham Athletic claimed the victory that their performance deserved, Diamond’s seventh goal of the season timed at 33:29.

Inevitably the ball came from Lewis Moegan’s right-foot, who drilled his 40-yard free-kick into the Fleetdown United penalty area and Diamond flicked his header which bounced underneath keeper Pithman to nestle into the back of the net.

Cormack said: “It was a good move by Chris. We talked about it as well, they spoke about it.  He told him where he was going to go and Lewis Morgan’s good with a dead ball situation and put it exactly where he told him where he’ll be and Chris done the business.”

Allchin added: “They got their goal, they deserved it on their second half performance.

“Unfortunate, yes, a little bit unlucky. I think there was a little touch there just something that put the goalkeeper off certainly.”

The goal did wonders for an uninspiring game, as Fleetdown United created a couple of late chances.

Beattie released Bliss through on goal with a lovely pass but the striker’s left-footed shot was saved by Roberts, diving low to his right.

Otherwise untroubled Roberts prevented extra-time when he dived full-length to his right to prevent Gurney planting home his header after meeting Chapman’s free-kick from the right as the game tip-toed into time added on.

Cormack said: “It was an excellent save. Jonathan is a fantastic keeper. He does big saves for us this year. He’s been excellent for us, reliable for us all the time.”

Allchin added: “We threw everyone on. I think we done well. The goalkeeper made quite a good save from us right at the end from a free-kick. Great header, great save.”

Fleetdown substitute Tom Bell hit his left-footed drive sailing over the crossbar after the ball came to him after Chapman clipped a last-gasp free-kick into the penalty area from the edge of the centre circle.

Lewisham Athletic are favourites to go on and win the league title and seal another promotion in only their second season playing Kent County League football.

“It’s been great to come into the Kent County, we’ve enjoyed our time so far,” said Cormack, 34.

“We look to continue to climb the leagues, obviously we’ve got a title to win now. 

“We’re ten points behind Club Langley, we’ve got six games in hand and we’ve still got to play them as well so we’ve got a lot of football still to play in a short amount of time.”

Cormack said being unbeaten in the league is spurring on his side as they have to play eight league games between Saturday and 17 May.

He said: “I’m pleased about that. That’s the thing that’s spurring the boys on at the moment. We’re looking at that zero and that’s the aim, is to finish with that zero. I think from our position if that number stays zero the title’s in the bag.

“We feel we should be winning the title. I would say we’re in a better position from where we are. It’s about making sure we manage our fixtures and manage the boys through and bring the title home.

“We’ve had a good rise up through the leagues up from the South London Alliance. We went up from Division four, three, two, one consecutively and we’ve done the same since we went into the Kent County League. Six consecutive promotions, this will be the seventh in as many years.

“It’s a good record. It’s a group effort. I’ve got a good group of lads and I played for the club previously before taking over so I know what it’s like to play for the club. I know the club inside out. I get great support from the youth coaches as well.”

Fleetdown United Reserves are next in action when they host Lewisham Athletic in a league game next Tuesday, 26 April.

“We haven’t played them in the league yet so it’s the first time we’ve seen them tonight,” said Allchin.

“I hope we can beat them in the league. We’re still hoping to get into the top three so I don’t think they’ve lost all season so they’ve done really well.

“They’ve won (the West Kent Challenge Shield) for a second time, good luck to them. We’ll try to win it off them next year.”

Fleetdown United Reserves: Joe Pithman, Dan Hanley, Kyle Gurney, Tim Colman(Dan Allchin 65), Matt Dudley, Dave Cox, Connor Chapman, Rob Lecomber, Dan Bliss (Harley Edwards 88), Charlie Taylor (Tom Bell 76), Mike Beattie (Terry Knott 88).

Goal: Dan Bliss 4

Booked: Tim Colman 36, Matt Dudley 41, Charlie Taylor 48, Mike Beattie 77

Lewisham Athletic: Jonathan Roberts, Dan Lambert, Ben Miller, Kit Southam, Simon Read, Ben Joselyn (Arran Miller 74), Reece Morgan (Damilola Oluokun 65), John James, Lewis James, Lewis Morgan (Dave James 85), Chris Diamond.
Subs: Sam Morgan, James McInerny

Goals: Simon Read 16, Chris Diamond 79

Booked: Chris Diamond 30, Simon Read 90

Attendance: 104
Referee: Mr Derek Peck (Bexleyheath)
Assistants: Mr Trevor Windget (Swanley) & Mr Vince Kennedy (Welling)
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Halpin (Meopham)