Herne Bay 0-1 Burgess Hill Town - We have to make sure we finish the season well, says Herne Bay boss Sam Denly

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 14th March 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Winch’s Field

HERNE BAY manager Sam Denly says he wants his home-town club to finish the season well after slipping up to champions-elect Burgess Hill Town at a windy Winch’s Field.

SLIP UP: Herne Bay manager Sam Denly saw his side surrender fifth-place in the table after losing to unbeaten leaders Burgess Hill Town.
Photo: www.pitchero.com/clubs/hernebay

Burgess Hill Town extended their impressive unbeaten league run to all 36 games as striker Lee Harding’s fourteenth goal of the season extend their lead at the top of the Ryman League Division One South table to fourteen points.

The Hillians move into their last ten league games of the season having only lost four of their 55 games this season, losing to higher league clubs Dartford (FA Cup and FA Trophy), Margate (League Cup) and Whitehawk (Sussex Senior Cup).

Herne Bay, meanwhile, went into the game in fifth-place on 61 points from 39 games thanks to a ten match unbeaten run, but they slipped down a place after Whyteleafe – who won the Southern Counties East Football League title last season – won 3-2 at second-placed Faversham Town and have two games in hand on Denly’s side.

When asked how he was feeling after his side’s fifteenth league defeat of the season, Denly said: “Frustrating if I’m being honest. A game that we didn’t deserve to lose. 

“It was definitely a game of two halves. The wind played its part today and if I’m being honest some decisions went against us that ultimately cost us.”

Denly added: “On another day we could have got something out of the game, if not a win, but certainly a draw.”

Kick-off was delayed for eight minutes due to players’ arriving late following an accident on the motorway.

When asked if that played a part in his side’s poor first half performance, Denly replied: “It doesn’t help but I don’t think it really did. The first half was a hard half to get out of our own box because of the wind.  They scored a goal, a late goal. By that time we’ve settled down. It wasn’t ideal but one thing I made sure it wasn’t going to be an excuse for us. It was what it was so we dealt with it. I don’t think that had any outcome on the end result, no.”

The ball spent a lot of time in the air – or going out of play – during an uninspiring first half – which Burgess Hill edged.

Lee Harding was tripped on the edge of the box by Herne Bay defender Liam Quinn, but Callum Saunders – who scored an 86th minute equaliser at Redhill in midweek – curled his free kick around the far post inside the opening nine minutes.

Burgess Hill Town’s central defender Will Miles then clipped a free-kick into the Herne Bay box from the edge of the centre circle.  The ball came to striker Pat Harding, but his shot was blocked by keeper Jack Delo and Herne Bay had bodies back to survive the scramble.

Hillians’ captain Darren Budd swept a high hanging free-kick into the Herne Bay penalty area and Miles’ directed his downward header and wide of the right-hand post from sixteen-yards.

Burgess Hill left-back Sam Fisk launched a long throw into the box from the right, which was headed away by the busy Quinn.  The ball came out to central midfielder Scott Kirkwood, who cracked a right-footed drive over the bar from 25-yards.

Another Fisk long throw dropped to Joe Keehan inside the box but the Burgess Hill central midfielder steered his left-footed shot wide from fifteen-yards.

The home fans in the crowd of 261 waited patiently until the 42nd minute for their side’s first chance.

Steven Ita raced down the left only to be tripped by right-back Toby Pointing on the very edge of the penalty area.

Danny Walder opted to play a short free-kick to Sam Hasler, who looped his left-footed angled drive over the crossbar from 20-yards.

“Not great, first half,” admitted Denly.

“We was kind of backs against the wall.  We was going up the slight hill with the wind against so we didn’t create a lot and it was all about the second half.

“We said at half-time, it was what we create second half. Let’s get higher up the park, maybe be a little bit more direct and see where it takes us.

“It wasn’t a great spectacle, I would imagine for most of the ground. I said to the players’ at half-time, I asked the question is the wind playing that much of a part and they said it was.

“I thought we were the dominant team second half and they were the dominant team first half.”

But Ian Chapman’s invincibles won the game with 43:53 on the clock.

Budd swung in a free-kick into the box from the left and the ball fell at Lee Harding’s feet inside a crowded area and he hooked his shot on the turn into the right-hand corner from ten-yards to give the leaders a deserved lead.

Denly said: “It was a very, very soft free-kick for the handball for their goal. I don’t think anyone’s even appealed for it!

“A real disappointing goal. The free-kick, I thought was harsh but we still haven’t defended it, which obviously isn’t good enough, which we will address.

“But (it was a) game of few chances. They’ve taken theirs and have had a little bit of luck go the way to win the game 1-0.”

Herne Bay were denied an equaliser following a controversial decision from referee Christopher Myatt inside the opening thirteen minutes of the second half.

Hasler made progress down the inside left channel as he charged towards the by-line and got his left foot around the ball to whip in an inch-perfect cross towards the near post.

Striker Mark Lovell jumped with goalkeeper Josh James to plant his header into the top left hand corner from two-yards, only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul.

These are the decisions that go your way when you’re riding high at the top of any league table.

Denly, however, was bitterly disappointed that Lovell’s second goal for the club was chalked off.

“Again, I don’t want to get in trouble, it’s frustrating,” he said.

“What I didn’t want to do today is talk about the man in the middle and the key decision, he got wrong! It’s a goal! It’s not a free-kick. Simple as that!

“The only one in the ground to see a free-kick is (the referee) and it’s cost us a point so there you go!”

Lee Harding whipped in a corner from the right where Miles glanced his header sailing harmlessly wide of the far post in the 63rd minute.

Herne Bay keeper Delo urged his side to “keep believing,” but their forward play was poor.

Ita’s speculative curling cross-come-shot from the left flank was caught by James before the ball caressed the top left hand corner of the net in the 75th minute.

Delo then made a smart diving save to prevent Burgess Hill Town from doubling their lead.

Pointing played the ball into Pat Harding’s feet, who turned and stroked his right-footed drive towards the bottom far corner, but Delo dived low to his right to push the ball around the post to prevent the striker netting his 21st goal of the season.

Denly said: “Jack’s been outstanding this year. He’s kept seven clean sheets in the last ten games before today. He’s been outstanding. He’s a great keeper. The back four have been excellent to be fair. He plays his part, he’s a massive player for us and he was outstanding today.”

Lee Harding swung in the resulting corner from the left and Keehan steered his shot wide.

Delo was called into action following the visitors’ seventh and last corner of the game.

Lee Harding swung in the ball and Keehan out-jumped Herne Bay substitute Dan Bent to plant his header straight at the keeper.

Herne Bay should have grabbed an equaliser when Walder swung in a corner towards the near post to Ita, who flicked his pass back to substitute Jordan Casey, who lost his composure to blast his right-footed drive high and wide of the far post.

Denly said: “We had a go. We said we’ll have a go second half. We got more men forward, more men into the box.  We weren’t going to die that’s for sure.

“Jordan’s got quality and got himself into a good area and he’s lashed it and missed the target.”

Herne Bay pressed forward towards the conclusion of the game and Burgess Hill’s defence were asked questions for the first time in the game.

Bay’s last chance arrived inside stoppage time when substitute Danny Spiller cut a short corner to Hasler, who’s deep cross towards the far post was headed back across goal by Dan Johnson and Walder cracked his left-footed volley over the bar.

Denly added: “It was hard to get the ball down and play but we created enough chances second half to get something out of this game, so it’s frustrating.”

Denly congratulated Chapman personally after the game and praised his side on their perfect league campaign.

“Fantastic achievement, their unbeaten in the league, they’re a well-organised side and they deserve all the plaudits that they’re getting,” said Denly.

“To get this far in the league, still unbeaten with ten games left, that’s a fantastic achievement and I hope they go on and do it (finish the season unbeaten) now.

“That won’t be done very often – if it’s ever done again – to be invincilble in the league and don’t lose a game will be an outstanding achievement from them and I wish them well and I hope they do it.”

Last weekend, Whitstable Town surrendered fifth-place by losing 1-0 to Tooting & Mitcham United and Herne Bay have done the same today.

Whyteleafe hold the advantage to grab the last remaining play-off place up for grabs, as Burgess Hill (94 points), Faversham Town (80), Folkestone Invicta (78) and Merstham (74) have sown up the top four places.

Denly said: “Disappointing day, Whyteleafe won 3-2, Worthing lost (3-2 at struggling Ramsgate) and Whitstable won (2-0 at bottom-side Horsham). Teams around us have picked up points.

“It’s disappointing in a game I think we shouldn’t have lost today. I thought we were full worthy of a draw.

“Like I said to the boys in there, we won’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ll dust ourselves down, we’ll go again Thursday in training. We’ll work hard and the only way to bounce back is to get a win next week.

“We’re in contention, that’s for sure. I think Whyteleafe have got a few games in hand on us. We’ve got to play them, of course we can (grab a play-off place). It’s up for grabs still. If you look at it now, you’ll say Whyteleafe are favourites. That’s fair enough but we’ll keep going right up until the end and hopefully we’ll go to Whyteleafe the last game of the season and there’s something on the game.”

Nine players in Denly sixteen man squad today all reside in Herne Bay and Denly says this is important.

“That’s one thing I’m trying to do here,” he said.  “We’re certainly got the best of the local players in the area at Herne Bay. There’s a good catchment around here of players’ who are more than capable of playing at this level – if not higher!

“It’s important at this level to get your local lads in playing for their home-town.

“We’ve got a mix in there with a few lads up the line. We’re a good, young side so the future’s good.”

Herne Bay – like bitter-rivals Whitstable Town – are enjoying their best ever Ryman League campaign this season. 

Denly said: “We’re doing fantastically well this year, keep that group of players, which I’m sure we will, there’s some exciting times ahead.

“It’s going well. It’s hard not to feel disappointed but it’s been a fantastic season.

“What we have to make sure we do is we finish it well. We’ve got six more games starting next week at Corinthian-Casuals, but it’s been a good season for the boys.

“We don’t want to let ourselves down by finishing it poorly. We look to go on a good run now and get some more points on the board and see where it takes us.”

Herne Bay: Jack Delo, Michael Turner (Jordan Casey 71), Gary Sayer, Dan Johnson, Liam Quinn, Nathan Eastwood (Dan Bent 64), Danny Walder, Joe Nelder (Danny Spiller 64), Steven Ita, Mark Lovell, Sam Hasler.
Subs: Harry Brown, James Turner

Booked: Sam Hasler 45

Burgess Hill Town: Josh James, Toby Pointing, Sam Fisk, Darren Budd (Dan Perry 71), Andy Pearson, Will Miles, Scott Kirkwood, Joe Keehan, Pat Harding, Lee Harding, Callum Saunders (Rob O’Toole 59).
Subs: Graham Martin, Dan Pearse, Tom Bold

Goal: Lee Harding 44

Booked: Darren Budd 61

Attendance: 261
Referee: Mr Christopher Myatt (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr David Lunani (Bromley) & Mr De Quincey Bailey (Bromley)