Hythe Town 3-1 Ramsgate - My job is putting Ramsgate Football Club first, not a competition, says manager Ben Smith, who plays his youth team as Hythe Town reach The FA Trophy Second Round for the first time

Tuesday 31st October 2023
Hythe Town 3 – 1 Ramsgate
Location Reachfields Stadium, off Fort Road, Hythe, Kent CT21 6JS
Kickoff 31/10/2023 19:45

The Isuzu FA Trophy First Round
Tuesday 31 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Reachfields Stadium

RAMSGATE manager Ben Smith says he was put in an impossible situation and decided to play his youth team for tonight’s FA Trophy tie at Hythe Town, who reached the Second Round for the very first time.

The Rams play Vanarama National League side Woking in The FA Cup First Round on Saturday 4 Novmeber (15:00), in front of a capacity crowd and Smith made 10 changes to the side that beat Horndean 2-0 in the Isthmian League South East Division 10 days ago.

Saturday’s original game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, so this tie was managed by under 23 manager Sean Hill, with first teamers Joe Ellul, 35, Sinn’kaye Christie, 25, in the heart of defence and Freddie Oliver, 19, sat in front of the Ramsgate back four.

Hythe Town opened the scoring on a rain-lashed night after only 25 seconds when midfielder Ethan Smith drilled a shot into the bottom far corner following a three-man move, before the Cannons doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Aaron Barnes finished off a set-piece to join his team-mate on five goals for the season.

Ramsgate were reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute when left-back Finley Bough, 16, was shown a straight red card by Kane Dempster for something he said to the referee, seconds after committing a foul, and Hythe Town scored from the resulting free-kick, with striker Johan Caney-Bryan heading in his sixth goal of the season.

Ramsgate, who went into the tie on a six-match unbeaten run, maintained their record of scoring in every game, when Hythe Town substitute Sam Flisher got the last touch following a set-piece to deny Ramsgate striker Wes Hennessey his second goal for the first-team.

Hythe Town – who first reached this stage of the competition in 2016 when they suffered an 8-1 defeat at Welling United – went into this game sitting in eleventh-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table, having picked up 11 points from their seven league outings.

The Cannons have defeated Burgess Hill Town (3-1), Chertsey Town (4-2) and Concord Rangers (3-2) – all away from home – and the club have now banked £9,200 in prize money.

Ramsgate, meanwhile, are in fifth-place in the table with 15 points from six games and this was their first outing at this stage of the competition.

The Rams have defeated Northwood (3-0), Sevenoaks Town (3-1) and Sheppey United (4-1) all at home.

Smith was asked to explain his team-selection during the post-match press conference – and resting his first-team squad was on the agenda tonight with their first FA Cup First Round appearance in 18 years on the horizon.

“My job is putting Ramsgate Football Club first, not a competition.  Not even a set of players, my job is putting Ramsgate Football Club first,” said Smith.

“If I said to the first-team lads ‘who wants to play?’ I would’ve had my full squad wanting to play tonight. There was no question about that at all – but you have to make the decisions for the good of everyone and we’re in an impossible situation, so I took it out of the players' hands.

“I’ve put Joe Ellul, Sinn’kaye Christie and Freddie Oliver in tonight purely because (A) they needed minutes and (B) I didn’t want to throw the young lads like lambs to the slaughter because if you look at the characteristics of the players, the three lads that started are all physical players. We needed to have that down here tonight to give the under 23s a chance to try to impact the game with their technical (ability).”

Reflecting on the game, Hill, who was manager for the night, said: “Just looking at our boys really, 23’s stepping up, a really young side. I thought off the ball we done what we needed to, created lots of chances, caused them problems when we were in possession.

“We conceded through set-pieces, which power of first team players against 23s, that’s always going to be our weakness, playing such a young team against them but I thought we coped well, battled well and for spells in the game, especially first half for 30 minutes, I thought we dominated the ball and looked a good side.”

Hill was grateful that Smith gave him the experience of Ellul and Christie at the heart of their defence, especially going up against a vastly experienced outfit.

“The experience and the leadership for the boys knowing it was back there that we can rely on and the talking from (Ellul and Christie), making sure we’re organised off the ball, helping the players and giving them details.

“The (other young players) are not used to being pressed as quickly as they are or having the strength of the players against them so that little communication from the pass and their voices definitely helps our boys out.”

Hythe Town boss Steven Watt – who was handed his Chelsea debut by Jose Mourhino in The FA Cup Third Round against Scunthorpe United in January 2005 – was quick to praise the Ramsgate youngsters for their performance.

“Reaching the Second Round is a good achievement for the club.  First and foremost well done to the Ramsgate boys that played tonight. They fielded a lot of youngsters out there and I think they were a credit to their club.

“I think they need a big pat on the back because it’s not an easy place to come and (the wet) conditions and the pitch.  If think they deserve a lot of credit tonight, those youngster that played for Ramsgate.

“In terms of the game itself, it was what it was going to be, I think.”

Watt was asked his thoughts on Ramsgate’s team selection.

“I don’t speak about other teams, Ben’s got to look after his squad as best he can. He’s got a big game on Saturday. We wish him the very best. I hope they go and do well. I hope they can progress even further.

“Ben’s a good guy and Ramsgate is a good side and it’s always good to see clubs at our level progress further so myself and the football club wish him nothing but the best.

“A manager’s job is to manage your squad the best you can. We would’ve been in the same situation last Wednesday if the Ashford (League Cup) game was on. I would’ve fielded a much different team than what we would’ve played on Saturday, so I would’ve done exactly the same as Ben tonight.

“Look, you can only beat what’s in front of you. These type of games are always difficult. You know what you’re playing against in a full-strength side. I think my players’ mindsets are different and when you’re playing a team full of youngsters, who are full of energy, it can be a difficult game to play.  Sitting on the sidelines even managing it can be difficult.

“I thought it was comfortable and it would’ve been a lot more and their young keeper deserves a credit. He had some fantastic saves and it would’ve been a lot more than what it was.

“I just wanted, from my point of view, to get through, to win and we did that and the young boys got an opportunity tonight for Ramsgate to enjoy the experience. We’ve all been that youngster and when you get these opportunities, it’s good for them, so I’m happy to see that we’ve got through unscathed and it’s good for us.

“I thought they did very well because it was a difficult position they’ve been put in because we’re not the easiest side to play in this league and it can be daunting for a youngster to come here but I thought the Ramsgate team did really, really well and full credit to them.”

Hythe Town, who went into this tie on a four match unbeaten run, took only 25 seconds to beat impressive Ramsgate goalkeeper Archie Simmons, 17.

A long ball out of defence by Lex Allan was flicked on by Caney-Bryan and Ethan Smith got in behind Ramsgate left-back Tom Brisley, to cut inside and from 16-yards drill a right-footed shot underneath the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

Watt said: “I think it’s the only mistake the keeper has made all night.  I think he looked like he was going to save it, it maybe took him by surprise as well because I think Ethan should’ve squared it but he takes a shot and it obviously goes under him.

“It was a good way to start a game. The longer that goes nil-nil, it can be a lot more difficult but luckily enough we get the goal and it kind of eased us.”

Hill added: “My thoughts on the goal? Just a bit of nativity. We didn’t start quick, we didn’t close down the first one.  I kind of expected straight from kick-off for it to go into that area and you’ve got to think the back line have not played together. A little bit of individual mistakes on our shape and maybe positioning. It happens at this level for the young players. If you make those mistakes, you’re likely to get punished and that’s just what it was.”

Ramsgate skipper Tristan Holden turned Hythe Town’s holding midfielder Frannie Collin before playing the ball out to Bough, who drilled in a cross which was comfortably gathered by Cannons goalkeeper Steven Phillips at his near-post.

Ethan Smith was released down the right channel and the ball was hit deep to the other side of the pitch for left-wing-back Barnes, who did a couple of step-overs as he cut into the penalty area.  His low cross was cleared out to Collin, who hooked a first time right-footed half-volley, which flashed harmlessly wide from 25-yards.

Barnes wriggled his way towards the edge of the six-yard box on the right-hand side and Simmons got a decisive touch to ensure the ball went behind for the third of nine corners for the home side.

Hythe Town are a side that are threatening from set-pieces and they called Simmons into making a fingertip save in the 29th minute following their fourth corner of the night.

Collin played a short corner in from the left to Liam Smith and played the ball back to Collin, whose cross was cleared out to Jarred Trespaderne, who fed the ball to Liam Smith, who unleashed a right-footed stinging drive from 25-yards, which was tipped over the bar by Simmons, making only his second appearance for the first team.

“I thought it was always going over. It was always rising but again it was a good strike from Liam and I think the keeper did enough to get something on it,” added Watt.

Hythe Town struck the outside of the near-post just 39 seconds later.

Collin swung the ball in from the right, the ball was cleared to fellow holding midfielder Trespaderne, who played a short pass to an unmarked Allan, who cracked his right-footed shot against the woodwork from 12-yards.

“I think we should score from these chances. It could’ve been a lot more comfortable in terms of chances we had, particularly first half.  These are chances we do create and we normally take them but we didn’t take them at that point,” said Watt.

Impressive Ramsgate right-back Louie Procopi – making his fourth first-team appearance of the season – fed the ball to winger Jack Hawkins, who skipped past Steventon, before cutting inside on the counter-attack and drilling a left-footed 35-yard drive screaming past Phillips and his shot flashed just past the foot of the right-post.

Hill said: “I thought Hawks was excellent today, first half he grew into the game and was strong and he didn’t really get shoved off it.  He was clever on the ball and looked after it when he needed to, circulated it well and was brave enough to look forward and that is the hardest bit for the young players’ coming up is having that braveness that they normally do to try to get forward, turning and being aggressive and I thought he epitomised what we’re trying to do with our 23’s tonight.”

Watt added: “A good strike, good play from him, nice and confident from the youngster, comes inside and it’s a nice strike.”

Ramsgate went close to grabbing an equaliser, following the first of their three corners in the 42nd minute.

Holden floated the ball in from the right and Procopi guided his free-header across the keeper and sailing past the far post.

Hythe Town doubled their lead with 46:24 minutes on the clock, following a well-worked set-piece.

All of the Ramsgate players were expecting Steventon to launch his fourth long throw into the penalty area from the right, instead the central centre-half threw the ball short to Collin, who played the ball down the line to his team-mate.

Steventon whipped in a cross into a crowded penalty area and Barnes swept a shot on the turn across Simmons to give the home side a strong footing going into the interval.

“It’s something we spoke about. They didn’t send people out for short corners really quickly or short throws,” highlighted the Scotsman.

“If we could do it quickly, you get an opportunity for an overload, to try to get balls into the box and we spoke about it and we took advantage of it.”

Hill added: “Again, first minute, last minute, kind of switched off a little bit.  We didn’t do our jobs from the throw, no one was feet. It should’ve been cut off at source and put that down to a little bit of naivety, tried legs and tired minds.

“You’ve got young boys playing against players who have had a lot of appearances at this level.  You switch off for a second and punishment will come and that’s a good learning curve for them.”

Both Watt and Hill were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Watt said: “Not much! It was a difficult game. A difficult game to play in. You’re on a hiding to nothing really. If you win, you’re expected to win. If you lose, you’ve got egg on your face if you like, so it’s always that difficult because it’s much of the same. You just wanted to get through the game unscathed as we can, get through it and just keep doing much the same really.”

Hill added: “We’re in this game really. We’ve caused them problems. I thought 2-0 was down to our errors more than them beating us. It was our errors that allowed the two goals and we should’ve probably had one ourselves.

“We thought we were well in the game here, just keep doing the right things. Let’s make a game of it and let’s see what happens.”

Caney-Bryan held off the close attentions of Ellul in a dual on the half-way line before striker Jake Embery played a first time through ball which released Ethan Smith through on goal but the brave Simmons came rushing off his line to clear the danger after only 137 seconds into the second half.

Barnes’ driving run was ended by a yellow card sliding offence from Oliver and Collin whipped in his trademark quality delivery from 35-yards and Liam Smith’s free-header clipped the top of the far post before dropping down on top of the side netting.

“I think he should score! I say that because he’s got inside his marker, he’s got time to get set and I think maybe he gets caught slightly under the ball, so I think Liam, who scores goals from set-pieces, so it’s one of them where I think he should do better,” admitted Watt.

An unpressed Marcus Goldsmith launched a long ball from the half-way line towards the Ramsgate box where Embery tried to score with an overhead kick, which bounced harmlessly wide of the goal.

Simmons was called into making a diving save on the hour-mark, following another Hythe Town set-piece.

Collin was just in front of the centre-circle and played it short to Liam Smith, who played the ball back to Collin, who stroked the ball out to Barnes on the right, who cut inside before playing a 20-yard pass inside to Trespaderne, who wasn’t pressed and unleashed a low left-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 25-yards, which forced Simmons to dive to his left and tip around the post.

“Archie’s 17. I thought he was superb.  He was quick off his line tonight. He just didn’t defend the box, defended the final third. His distribution was good, slowed it down, played the right ball when we needed to and came and claimed some excellent crosses to relieve pressure as well.  Absolutely superb from him tonight,” said Hill.

Watt admitted Simmons’ performance tonight had a lasting impression on him.

“I thought particularly on their side, he was one of their best players. He made some fantastic saves. I think he’s got a good future ahead of him but you can only work the keeper and he was equal to that effort.”

Hythe Town were comfortable at this stage and Trespaderne was fouled by Bough just outside the corner of the box and seconds after Bough picked up a yellow card for the challenge, out came the red-card for something that was said to referee Dempster.

“It’s something I’ve got to talk to the ref about what was said.  I didn’t know what actually happened afterwards,” said Hill.

“The foul, it was dubious. I think he was frustrated, the lino said he won the ball but the foul was given but he’s 16. He’s got to learn the decision has been made, just walk away and let’s deal with it afterwards, so I don’t know what happened after the foul was given. I can’t really comment on that to be honest with you.”

The 38-year-old Hythe Town manager replied: “I think it was Fran (Collin) was over there and said ‘he has said something to the ref that he shouldn’t have’.

“The youngster maybe said something at the heat of the moment. Maybe a more experienced player doesn’t say that but it’s one of these things. You learn from it.  We’re still learning now at my age.  You can’t say certain things and you can’t do certain things, so it’s something that he’ll certainly learn from.” 

Ramsgate paid the ultimate price for that petulance as Bough – who has been booked in all three of his games for the first-team – trudged off the wet turf  and down the tunnel - and Hythe Town scored from the resulting set-piece, with 24:47 on the clock.

Collin floated in a trademark high-quality delivery from the right for Caney-Bryan to rise and guide his header into the far corner of the net, pleasing Watt.

“A great header, a good delivery from Fran again and Yohan does what he does. If he gets a run and a jump on someone, he’s really difficult to stop.  He had a hand in the first goal, beat Joe Ellul in the air and he’s done it again with that delivery, so Johan in the box is very good.”

Watt, meanwhile, is delighted that his side has scored 13 goals in their The FA Trophy campaign so far.

“It’s something you can see, particularly through this competition, every game we’ve scored at least three goals so far, so it’s something that we’ve addressed in the summer is to get more goals in the team. We’re just conceding some sloppy ones at the other end.”

Hill admitted: “I think that’s just 23 boys down to 10 men, not switched on to the next event, just caused their own issue, mentally switching off from that. It was a good header to be fair to the lad.”

A brilliant double brave goal-line block from Ellul thwarted Hythe Town scoring a fourth goal near the end, before Ramsgate scored a consolation with the last kick of the game (47:24), following their third corner of the night.

Substitute left-winger Zack Jobe put the ball in from the left and Hennessey was lurking at the far post from inside the six-yard box and poked the ball across and the ball came off Flisher before crossing the line to ensure Ramsgate have scored in all of their 18 games this season.

“Wes was a threat all night,” said Hill. “I think we could’ve done better at finding pockets of space. We played to his feet like we normally but on a surface like tonight, when you can’t really plant and turn, it wasn’t his game and we had to adapt to that.

“I think we done better second half. He deserved a goal for the work he put in for us. He just keeps improving week-on-week the lad.”

Ramsgate were renowned for putting local players in to their first team during the successful Jim and Danny Ward era and Hill has high hopes for this current crop.

“I think as a team within our 23s, a lot of the players on tonight were 16-17, their basically a glorified under 18s.  I think it just proves that we can push into the Ramsgate first team, good local Thanet boys, which is what we want to do as a club.  Let’s go and push them and learn the other side of football and I think we’ve got some really good options there and hopefully they keep progressing.”

Reflecting on Ramsgate’s consolation goal, Watt said: “We just spoke about it. A corner’s a corner. Their goalkeeper went up (into our penalty area) but I was more disappointed that we switched off from it. It should never have been a corner I the first place so that was the most disappointing factor of that goal.

“We spoke about those are the moments in games we’re doing at the moment, we switch off at silly moments. It’s disappointing not to get a clean sheet but at that point of the game I was just waiting for the referee to blow his whistle, if I’m being honest. 

“Once the third went in, particularly when they were down to 10 men, I just switched off on the sideline because the game was done and I was just trying to get people off to get rested and try to get through the game with no injuries.”

Hythe Town welcome Vanarama National League South side Tonbridge Angels in The FA Trophy Second Round on Saturday 18 November.  Jay Saunders sent his coach Lloyd Blackman to do a scouting mission on this game.

“It’s something that we wanted to achieve here, the club getting firsts.  Last season was a first, the club has got to a play-off final and now with the situation that happened, we’re fortunate enough to get through to the Second Round.

“We’ve got Tonbridge at home here, which will be a tough tie but we’re at home, which is good. Everyone knows this is a difficult place to come and we’re looking forward to that tie.

“It’s a good thing for the club, it’s a good thing that you’re at a club where you’re able to achieve things, particularly first’s. it’s another first that we’ve been able to do and hopefully we can progress a bit further.”

When asked about the prize money, Watt said: “A club like us, of course it helps. Losing the game on Saturday is disappointing. We would’ve had a bigger crowd. I know we split it with Ramsgate but we would’ve had more takings in terms of that but going through the tie is good because it’s another financial break that the club needs so these games are always important to us, the FA Cup and Trophy. It’s important to get through as far as we can.”

Hythe Town return to League action on Saturday, with a visit from Steve Lovell’s second-placed Herne Bay, a side that are seven points adrift of surprise leaders Three Bridges.

“Hopefully the game’s on. I’ve been on the pitch and it doesn’t look great but we’ll get to work on it this week.  I know there’s more rain forecast so hopefully that’s kind to us but hopefully we can get it on because we’ve got enough of a backlog of fixtures as it is without calling any more off,” said Watt.

“Steve’s gone down to Herne Bay and built another good team, like he does. He did a good job at Ramsgate and he’s started off the season really well, so it’s going to be another tough game.

“But we’re at home, which is good and we need to start winning these home games like we did last season.

“We haven’t lost here in the league since Ramsgate Boxing Day last year so that’s something that we’re proud off.”

Ernie Batten’s Sheppey United welcome League Two side Walsall in The FA Cup First Round on a televised match at a sold out Holm Park on Friday night.  Ramsgate welcome Woking on Saturday, while Steve McKimm’s Cray Valley – unbeaten in the league - have a dream date with League One side Charlton Athletic in a televised clash at The Valley on Sunday.

“I think it’s fantastic for the league. I think it’s great for the clubs. Ramsgate haven’t been there for 18 years, which is great for them. It’s Sheppey’s first time there. Three good teams, three great clubs. It’s fantastic for our division,” said Watt.

“I’m not sure if that’s been done before in terms of three teams being in The FA Cup First Round, so fair play to them. I take my hat off to them all.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career as a player to reach that kind of heights and it’s great memories and Cray Valley going to Charlton will be fantastic, Walsall coming to Sheppey will be brilliant and then Ramsgate have got a very winnable game on Saturday at home to Woking, so it will be fantastic to see at least one of them get through to the Second Round Proper. It will be brilliant!”

Hythe Town: Steven Phillips, Marcus Goldsmith (Sam Flisher 63), Aaron Barnes, Jack Steventon, Liam Smith, Lex Allan, Jarred Trespaderne (Charles Noyelle 80), Frannie Collin (Kane Phillip 80), Johan Caney-Bryan, Jake Embery, Ethan Smith.
Subs: Josh Stirman, Kai Garande

Goals: Ethan Smith 1, Aaron Barnes 45, Johan Caney-Bryan 70

Ramsgate: Archie Simmons, Louie Procopi, Tom Brisley (Zack Jobe 59), Freddie Oliver, Sinn’kaye Christie, Joe Ellul, Jack Hawkins (Leo Todd 71), Harry Sharman (Leo Moore 80), Wes Hennessey, Tristan Holden, Finley Bough.

Goal: Sam Flisher 90 (own goal)

Booked: Tom Brisley 43, Freddie Oliver 52, Tristan Holden 61, Finley Bough 69

Sent Off: Finley Bough 69

Attendance: 205
Referee: Mr Kane Dempster
Assistants: Mr Martyn Milligan & Mr Stuart McKenzie