Gillingham 0-1 Charlton Athletic - We didn't play our best but it was just about winning, says Charlton Athletic boss Jason Euell

Thursday 30th April 2015
Gillingham 0 – 1 Charlton Athletic
Location Priestfield Stadium, Redfern Avenue, Gillingham, Kent ME7 4DD
Kickoff 30/04/2015 19:45

Kent Reliance Senior Cup Final
Thursday 30th April 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Priestfield Stadium

CHARLTON ATHLETIC manager Jason Euell praised his youngsters for showing professionalism all the way through to winning the Kent Reliance Senior Cup for the third time in the club’s history.


The Addicks’ under 21 squad defeated three non-league sides on their travels to make it a repeat of the Final 20 years’ ago when they needed extra-time to beat Gillingham 4-2 at Priestfield Stadium.

KINGS OF KENT: Charlton Athletic celebrate winning the Kent Reliance Senior Cup after beating Gillingham 1-0 at Priestfield Stadium.
Photo: Charlton Athletic FC Twitter

Euell saw his side knock out holders, Vanarama Conference South Ebbsfleet United (2-0); Ryman Premier Leaguers Maidstone United (5-1) and Ryman League Division One South Ramsgate (5-0) to reach the 126th Kent Senior Cup Final tonight.

Gillingham, meanwhile, progressed after winning three home ties by beating Vanarama Conference outfit Dartford (7-3) and two Ryman Premier League sides in Tonbridge Angels (2-0) and Margate (6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw).

Gillingham have surprisingly only won this competition on two previous occasions back in 1946 and 1948 and they put out a strong side tonight in an attempt to end that unwanted run.

Central defender Leon Legge, winger Jake Hessenthaler and striker Luke Norris all started their 2-1 defeat at Scunthorpe United in League One at the weekend, while Stuart Nelson, Amari’i Bell and Gavin Hoyte were involved in the match-day squad.

Charlton Athletic had just one player in their squad that lost 1-0 at Birmingham City in the Championship at the weekend, central defender Harry Lennon sitting on the bench at St Andrews.

But Gillingham’s wait for County Cup glory will have to be put on hold for at least another year as they banked the £1,000 in prize money from sponsors Kent Reliance as runners-up after Greenwich-born striker, Karlan Ahearne-Grant, 17, scored his seventh goal of this season’s tournament to win the silverware and the £2,000 winners prize money for Charlton Athletic.

“I’m pleased with it. I think we deserved it overall,” said Euell, 38, a player who made 150 appearances for the club in two spells.

“I said to the boys’ before the game, in terms of when we saw the team sheet knowing that there were first team players’ and it weren’t the group of players that got them to the Final. 

“This group has been who has got there and have got there by working hard, getting results and getting to the Final. We’ve done what we needed to do and were deserved winners.”

Gillingham’s manager Mark Patterson, 46, who made 124 appearances for the club, added: “I thought we could have done better! We huffed and puffed a lot.  We had a lot of possession, didn’t create too many clear chances.

“The effort was there but I think as someone just mentioned in the office there that possibly both teams cancelled each other out a bit.

“It was a finish of high quality that won the match. We’re disappointed because it’s a Cup Final but got to give praise to Charlton for their efforts.

“They were a bit younger than I thought they were going to be but their commitment and effort of what we did and they did was very good.

“It wasn’t a footballing spectacle but it was still a decent game of football tonight.”

When asked about the names on the Gillingham team-sheet, Development Manager Patterson replied: “Because it’s the Premier competition in the county and we enter it not to get beaten and we try to win it and we haven’t won it for a long time, to get to the Final is progression for us.

“With the way we played tonight, splitting the players’ young and old, we’ve done it all the way through so it’s not a new thing for us because we like to compete and we use it as a senior first team game.

“They could be youngsters or they could be older, it’s been a split between young and old. We’re hopeful the younger ones learn from the experience of being with the older ones and the older ones, it gives them a chance of being role models if you like but also it’s a game of football and you go into every game wanting to do your best.”

Euell added: “For me, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. It’s about what we’ve got in the changing room.  We’re going to bring young players’ in and these are the stages where we want to see them perform against first team players’ against good players who have played X number of games in League Football and playing at a stadium like this and that’s what we’re building them into and get them a career in that so it’s given them an insight in to what’s going to be needed and wanted from them in the future.”

Charlton Athletic almost grabbed a speculative lead inside the opening eight minutes when right-back Harry Osborne advanced to the by-line to whip in a cross, which sailed over the head of 33-year-old goalkeeper Stuart Nelson to clip the top of the crossbar.

Gillingham went direct with a drilled long ball out of defence from Legge and this released striker Norris through on goal down the middle, hitting a first time right-footed drive just past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

Hessenthaler then released striker Greg Cundle down the right, before cutting inside and his deflected shot flashed harmlessly past the far post from inside the box.

Charlton Athletic called Nelson into making his first save of the night in the 20th minute.

Winger Regan Charles-Cook reached the left by-line before cutting the ball back to Ahearne-Grant, who hooked his left-footed volley towards goal from fifteen-yards, forcing the keeper to dive to his right to parry the ball towards safety.

Gillingham too also cracked a shot against the crossbar, central midfielder Josh Pritchard’s right-footed pile-driver from 30-yards was so unlucky for the hosts.

Charlton Athletic goalkeeper Dillon Phillips then made a comfortable catch from Norris’ glancing header.

“Luke’s hold up play was very good at times,” added Patterson, who added, “We never got people around him to help him a little bit.  Greg (Cundle) found it a struggle tonight coming up against Harry Lennon, who was here with us.”

But Phillips was called into action on the half-hour mark when he used his legs to thwart Cundle’s right-footed angled drive and was relieved when Norris flashed his follow-up shot past the far post.

But Charlton Athletic were gifted the victory by a mistake from Gillingham’s eighteen-year-old right-back Callum Emptage.

Nelson played the ball out to Emptage, who attempted to roll the ball back to his keeper, only to look on in horror as Ahearne-Grant burst on the opportunity.

The talented striker cut into the penalty area on the left-hand side and produced a moment of quality to chip the ball over the advancing keeper for the ball to bounce into an empty net.

Patterson revealed the teenager was almost forced off at half-time with an ankle injury.

He said: “I felt a bit sorry for young Callum because his decisions were alright – he just underhit the pass and the lad on the ball is a lively player and it was a great finish!

“There might have been one or two errors leading up to it as well where we possibly should have dealt with things properly but I’m not going to criticise anybody for it because it’s just one of these things.

“He’ll learn. It’s a part of learning and it will happen again. The hopeful thing is that he will learn from that and take it for the next time that he’s decision may be slightly different.

“But what he tried to do was right but he just didn’t hit the pass so it happens.

“First half, one of my lads did it and Stuart came out and made a good save. Unfortunately Stuart couldn’t get back for the ball and it was a lovely finish over the top of him.

“No-one’s going to single him out and criticise him. He probably knows deep down that his pass led to the goal but we had plenty of time to get chances. It wasn’t as if it was the last kick of the game so there’s no criticism from the lads.”

Euell was full of praise for a locally-born striker who on this performance has a bright future in the game.

“Karlan has been good for us in the Cup competitions. I think he’s got seven goals in the four games that he’s played so you could say he likes this competition.

“He’s had an up and down type of season by starting well for the 18s and 21s and going into the first team and then once you’re a young player, any player, you get that little taste of the first team and you want more of it.

“He was unlucky to get back involved in the 21s. For him to finish the season in the way that he has, he will look back at what he has achieved this year and he’ll want to try to implement that and improve on that next year.”

Reflecting on the actual strike, Euell said: “He had an opportunity there to probably take it in but there was not a lot of distance between him and the goalkeeper. He chose the right way by lifting it over him. It was a really good finish.”

Emptage was sent crashing into the advertising hoardings on the stoke of half-time by a lunge from Charlton’s left-back Lavander Pyke, who was one of five players in red to be booked by referee Ian Fissenden.

But Patterson admitted: “Great! It’s proper football, innit? It’s a Cup Final. I expect that. The one in front of the dug out when Callum got bounced into the boards, there wasn’t anything nasty in the game tonight. There were a few tackles that went in, you expect that. I’m disappointed it doesn’t happen enough in football nowadays, it’s too soft!

“They’re not frightened to put their foot in and that’s what we expect from our players. Without doubt they’re expected to do the same things so it is a good grounding.

“I think professional footballers are something bordering on being a bit soft and you’ve got to have a little but more about you.  If you see something, put their foot in our there head in they’re singled out and they stand out from it. We expect our boys to do that and I hope they do it.”

Euell added: “That’s what it’s about! We knew you’ve got to compete and you have to show that commitment and desire and there were times when the referee got a little bit too carried away with the decisions.

“But you expect that (it’s going to be feisty), it’s a local derby and it’s a first for some of my group playing at this sort of stage. That’s what’s going to be needed and expected from them.”

Charlton Athletic hit Gillingham on the break on a number of occasions but they couldn’t apply the finish to kill the game off.

Hessenthaler whipped in a free-kick into the Charlton box from the left and Phillips plucked the ball out of the air before releasing Ahearne-Grant down the left.

The striker cut into the Gillingham box but lost the ball and it fell to Josh Umerah, the debutant hitting his right-footed drive into Nelson’s gloves for a comfortable save from 25-yards.

Gillingham, meanwhile, went close when Hessenthaler was given time and space to float over a cross from the left and Norris’ glanced his header agonisingly around the far post.

Patterson said: “Luke Norris worked really hard tonight. He was unfortunate he didn’t really get a lot of clear chances but he’s disappointed because he felt he should have done better with his header but it doesn’t always fall for you and you’ve got to make use of what you get.”

Charlton Athletic were denied by a smart low save from Nelson on the hour-mark.

Charles-Cook played the ball inside to Ahearne-Grant, who cut the ball onto his right foot and from fifteen-yards stroked his shot towards the far corner, which Nelson used his hand to flick the ball around the post.

Gillingham were to be a threat from set-pieces and Hessenthaler whipped in a cross towards the far post for Legge, whose downward header bounced off the turf and Phillips plucked the ball out of the air.

Charlton Athletic central midfielder Sam Bone – making his debut at the age of sixteen – received a pass from right-back Harry Osborne – but his right-footed drive from 25-yards brought a comfortable diving save from Nelson, low to his left after 65 minutes.

Gillingham used Legge, 29, as an emergency striker just as he was when he played for Tonbridge Angels before his move to Brentford in 2009.

Gillingham defender Gavin Hoyte played a short free-kick inside to Pritchard who pumped a long ball straight into the Charlton penalty area where Legge’s glancing header sailed across Phillips and Osborne was on hand beside the post to volley the ball away to safety.

Patterson said: “Look at Leggy tonight, every ball was there to be won and he headed it, he kicked it. It’s an attitude that gets you far in the game and we expect our boys to do that.”

Euell added: “It was always going to be the type of game I think, in terms of the way that they played. They played a lot of good balls up to the front man and second balls and we’re not used to playing in that type of way but it’s something new to us and we had to adjust to it.”

Pritchard delivered a free-kick which was cleared out to Hessenthaler, who smashed his volley over the bar from 25-yards.

But Charlton Athletic raided Gillingham with thirteen minutes left.

Pkye played the ball forward to release Ahearne-Grant down the left again and he cut into the penalty area and from the edge of the six-yard box he squared the ball across to Umerah, whose shot from just outside the six-yard box hit Hoyte’s chest before clearing.

“We always knew that with the pace that we’ve got up front that we was always going to get those chances,” said Euell.

“We always want us to be more positive in those situations. I think a lot of times we’ve covered the ground quickly but then we’ve cut back and allowed players to get back goal side on the ball and then it just slows the momentum down but we always knew on the counter attack and we can always cause problems and we’ve done that well.”

Gillingham continued to press as the clock was ticking down.

Euell said: “I think we did started to tire towards the end and it did create a lot of chances for them, easier opportunities.  They put the ball in our box and I thought we defended it very well. We grounded out towards the end and in injury-time we managed to hold on to it.”

A big kick from Nelson found Norris who played the ball inside for central midfielder Michael Freiter to drag his shot past the near post.

Daniel Galbraith played a sublime high diagonal pass to pick out substitute Elliot List and the former Crystal Palace winger cut inside but his right-footed angled drive forced Phillips to dive low to his right to gobble the ball up.

Patterson said: “He’s a good player that we got him from Crystal Palace. He got released and he’s signed a new contract for us next season as a development player so we’re very hopeful that he can go on and do well because he’s like an old fashioned winger. He takes people on the outside and he’s very sharp and very quick.

“Unfortunately, he’s played a lot of games lately so he’s probably a little bit off the pace – but he’s exciting!”

Euell added: “Dillon’s been great for us and I’ve said it before, in the two Cup competitions that we’ve had, that’s been our seventh game and we’ve only conceded one goal in those seven games and that was against Maidstone in the Cup.

“We actually lost in the Premier League Cup on penalties so we know once we can do things right we’re always be hard to beat and I think over the last few weeks a clean sheet was long overdue and that’s been down to Dillon and the back four that’s being playing in front of him.”

Ahearne-Grant deserved to scoop the man-of-the-match award and another run down the left set up a chance for Charles-Cook, who drilled his right-footed shot over the bar.

But the 320 travelling Charlton Athletic fans celebrated their latest Kent Senior Cup title – the first since beating Tonbridge Angels 7-1 at Longmead Stadium in 2013 - when skipper Phillips lifted up the prestigious silverware.

“It’s just about getting the boys’ in a winning mentality because that’s what’s needed when you step-up into the first team, especially the 21s,” said Euell.

“We’re trying to grow these into young professionals and getting them to understand the ways and the means of winning football matches because that’s what’s going to be needed from them if they make that step up so Cup competitions and league games we want to be successful.

“To win the competition three times and two in the last three is just one of those things where we want to be involved in it to the death and we want to go and win it.

“I just think the way that we played in the competition overall, I think when we’re coming up as a young side playing first teams in the lower leagues we’ve done a professional job on it.

“People will look at the scorelines and think we’ve beaten Maidstone 5-1, we beat Ramsgate 5-0 but we’ve had to do it right and we’ve done it professionally and we’ve done it in terms that we’ve want to do it the right way and play good football.

“Tonight we haven’t played our best but it was just about winning the game and we done that so the best thing we could do is all about getting the Cup!”

Patterson added: “They’re learning a lot from these games but it’s always a learning curve when you enter these competitions. You don’t know what you’re coming up against. They didn’t know what we had out and we didn’t know what they had out but both teams learnt a lot from tonight with a good crowd to watch it as well.

“You expect to see players’ having a go and you saw both sets of teams trying.

“I’ll never level any criticism at our players. It doesn’t always work, it’s not through the lack of trying that it didn’t work tonight.

“It’s been a good competition for us. We’ve enjoyed it and they’ve had experience of playing in a Cup Final and we’ll learn from it.”

Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Callum Emptage, Amari’i Bell, Josh Pritchard, Gavin Hoyte, Leon Legge, Daniel Galbraith, Michael Freiter, Luke Morris, Greg Cundle (Elliot List 64), Jake Hessenthaler.
Subs: Aidan Blanchard, Dan Bent, Jack Sellens, Tom Hadler

Booked: Luke Norris 15, Jake Hessenthaler 87

Charlton Athletic: Dillon Phillips, Harry Osborne (Aaron Barnes 80), Lavander Pyke, Sam Bone, Harry Lennon, Terell Thomas, Kieran Monlouis (Brandon Hanlan 80), Regan Charles-Cook, Karlan Ahearne-Grant, Josh Umerah, Mikhail Kennedy.
Subs: Dimitar Mitov,Kurtis Cumberbatch, Jack Munns

Goal: Karlan Ahearne-Grant 37

Booked: Harry Lennon 15, Lavander Pyke 45, Regan Charles-Cook 68, Kieran Monlouis 75, Dillon Phillips 90

Attendance: 1,238 (320 away)
Referee: Mr Ian Fissenden (Gillingham)
Assistants: Mr Ollie Jackson (Sittingbourne) & Mr Adam Bakalarz (Greenhithe)
Fourth Official: Mr Graeme Ions (Tonbridge)