K Sports 4-1 FC Elmstead - We're on the right path on and off the pitch, says K Sports manager Kris Browning

Friday 04th November 2016
K Sports 4 – 1 FC Elmstead
Location Cobdown Sports & Social Club, Station Road, Ditton, Aylesford, Kent ME20 6AU
Kickoff 04/11/2016 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Friday 4th November 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Station Road

K SPORTS manager Kris Browning says his club are on the right path both on and off the pitch after comfortably winning their homecoming match.

The home side cruised to a comfortable 4-1 victory over FC Elmstead, who extended their losing streak to four games.

K Sports are now six games unbeaten and this is their fourth win on the bounce.  They climbed up three places into seventh in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table with 23 points from 13 games, while the Cockerels remain in thirteenth on 16 points. 

K Sports raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening eight minutes through striker Caine Smith and an own-goal from FC Elmstead central defender Reece Barratt.

Smith then scored again for his ninth goal of the season before FC Elmstead pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time when striker Dexter Babalola notched his fourth goal of the season.

The Paperboys added a fourth during an uninspiring second half through Robert Norman’s fourth goal of the season from outside the box.

“I’m delighted to be honest with you,” said Browning during the post match press conference.

“It was sort of a cup final atmosphere there tonight. It was our first competitive game here (the club’s first two home games were played on the old pitch), so I’m very, very pleased with it.

“The crowd of 341 was very pleasing. I’m very surprised with the weather and rain lashing down but that’s a brilliant crowd for us.

“There’s been a lot of build up to it.  I just basically said (to my players’ before the game), ‘look, it’s not a testimonial.’ Because a lot wanted to bring their kids on the pitch and everything else. It’s not a testimonial.  At the end of the day, there’s three points up for grabs.  We’ve got to make sure we keep in this league for a while, pick up as many points as we can and we go about our business like.

“We’ve got everything behind us.  The pitch, the lights and everything else and everything that goes with it, which is great, but it is a game of football and we’ve got to show Elmstead respect because they’re not a bad little side and we’ve got to go about our business.

“It’s strange to watch a game of football (on the 3G pitch) if I’m honest. Once the lads got it down on the ground, it was superb. The facilities and the pitch were excellent.”

FC Elmstead boss Fabio Rossi, who missed the club’s FA Vase defeat at home to struggling league rivals Sporting Club Thamesmead because he was on a cruise, was a bitterly disappointed man tonight following his side’s fifth league defeat.

He said: “Disappointing. It was a good night for K Sports. A nice ground here. I like playing a game on a Friday. I have to say I’m not overly keen on 3G pitches but if they offered that to me now, I’d snap their hands off them.

“I love doing the Friday nights. It was dire getting down here, I’ve got to say that. The traffic was really bad but it’s great when you get a good crowd, it was brilliant.”

The home club attracted their largest crowd since joining this level of football as 341 people watched K Sports play on their caged, floodlit, three-sided with a little four-tierd stand that you see everywhere nowadays, artificial pitch for the first time – a venue that is more akin to a school football pitch than a football ground, lacking character, height and atmosphere.

The Paperboys were under pressure to perform on their big night and they delivered.

Smith won the free-kick that they scored from, the first goal coming with only three minutes and 51 seconds on the clock.

Combative central midfielder Jason Perry placed a clever free-kick into the penalty area from 35-yards and Smith was given space at the near post to hit his low right-footed drive past Ade Adeniyi from 12-yards.

Browning said: “They do work on those sort of things at training, it’s good. The thing is they do try it away from home but it hasn’t come off for us with the pitches or whatever but tonight they’re confident and they’re encouraged to do those little things like that and it’s paid off for us.”

Rossi added: “I’m not sure what I can say about it!  My skipper’s (Christian Howell) just held his hands up. He’s switched off. He didn’t track any run, went to sleep and we’re behind. I don’t know what to say really.

“I was thinking ‘that’s not so bad, we can dig ourselves out of a whole but at the moment we’re just lacking a bit of confidence.

“Our goalscorer’s gone, we’ve got a lot of injuries and it’s causing us a few problems up front.  We keep rotating, trying to get the right gel and mixture up front, it just isn’t working at the moment.”

The Paperboys doubled their lead with only seven minutes and 18 seconds into the game.

Josh Brown delivered the first of six long throws into the FC Elmstead penalty area and keeper Adeniyi went to ground at his near post and Barratt poked the ball past him to score an own-goal.

“We do work on that big throw, we know it causes confusion,” said Browning.

“We’ve had many teams over the years do it to us so we just have to get it in to that box and for whatever reason it just causes panic in defences.  We worked on that in training and we’ll continue to work on it because it’s a great weapon to have.”

When asked his thoughts on his side’s dream start, Browning replied: “I couldn’t quite believe it because I thought we’d be a bit nervous to begin with but we told the lads we’ve got nothing to lose mentally and we got at them and I’m delighted to be 2-0 up.”

Rossi added: “Again, just poor. We just didn’t deal with it. It doesn’t matter what level you’re playing at, if you don’t get a head on it, or kick it or do something…We gave away two soft goals and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb really.”

FC Elmstead’s defending was woeful at times and they had Adeniyi to thank for pulling off a great save in the 18th minute.

Brown hooked the ball over the top and Adeniyi bundled over Norman a yard outside the box.  Referee Kevin Greenhead decided to not book anyone, despite both teams committing 38 fouls between them.

Perry swept his right-footed curler towards the top far corner from 19-yards, but Adeniyi dived high to his left to palm the ball onto the crossbar and behind for a corner.

Rossi revealed: “My goalkeeper Dan Teeley went sick at three o’clock. We’ve got a few out with flu’ actually. Ade’s come down, which is credit to him.  He probably improved after that point and started playing a bit. It probably helped his confidence.”

Browning added: “Another good save from the keeper. If that goes in, it’s game over massively but the keeper’s kept them in it with a great save.”

FC Elmstead’s first opening arrived within a couple of minutes.

Set-piece specialist, Christian Howell, swept a deep free-kick into the Paperboys penalty area but Marcus Howell could only steer his header past the far post.

Adeniyi was forced into making a smart save at his near post to deny Smith, who had cut into the penalty area from the left-hand side.

The home side were to be denied a third goal in the 34th minute.

Busy Perry, who would fulfil the midfield playmaker role perfectly if he didn’t go round pushing and shoving opponents, swung in a deep corner from the left where big central defender Michael Russell rose to hang his header across goal and clipping the crossbar and Brown’s looping header was clawed out by Adeniyi, diving high to his right.   

“We worked on set-pieces. We got the lumps (Russell and Dawson) forward . We work on it and everything else.  I’ve told the lads they need to do more set-piece wise.  They need to be getting in the box, that desire to get heads in and everything else and they need to be cashing in the goals or creating chances.”

Rossi admitted: “It was all K Sports at this point! We weren’t competing, we hadn’t turned up.  The lads were saying ‘we were going to spoil their party,’ but you’ve got to turn up to the party to spoil it. We weren’t there, we was nowhere.”

It was no surprise when K Sports raced into a deserved 3-0 lead with 39 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Gabriel Luckhurst clipped a sublime ball over the top of right-back Dan Carpenter and central defender Marcus Howell.

Smith latched onto the ball and skipped past Adeniyi, who had advanced to the right corner of his box, but Smith kept his composure, reached the by-line and then brilliantly dinked his shot into the top near corner from a tight angle.

Hailing the strike, Browning said: “He’s got that in his locker, when his confident and he’s confident at the moment those are the sort of chances he takes. When he’s in that form there’s no one better in those positions than him and it’s a great little finish from him.”

Rossi added: “Good goal from them, but my centre halves were telling me it was offside, but whether it was or wasn’t, he still took the ball well and finished it well.”

FC Elmstead were poor and they needed a lifeline and quick and it duly arrived with one minute and 48 seconds into time added on.

Jack Jeffrey’s last action of the night was to thread a through ball in behind Luckhurst and Liam Dawson to put Babalola through on goal. The striker skipped past the advancing keeper and slotted his right-footed shot into the back of an empty goal from eight-yards.

Rossi said: “Dexter’s done great tonight, probably there’s a couple of players out there that have come out with a bit of credit. A great run, a decent finish. I enjoyed that. Dexter’s performance was good.”

Browning added: “We got a bit slack, we got a bit lazy. We maybe should’ve turned them for the last five minutes before half-time and got ourselves in. We just went to sleep a little bit, got the wrong side. They got a ball through from their player, zipped off the surface between our full-back and centre half and the kid put it in the back of the net.  It’s just a lapse of concentration. It happens, especially at this level, especially when you’re 3-0 up. The lads’ have switched off.”

Both teams had a long way to walk to reach their dressing rooms and both managers spoke about their thoughts at the break.

Browning said: “I just said to them keep their feet on the floor, we’ve got to keep working hard.  If we let them get back in, get another one back, obviously the pressure turns, with a big crowd and being at home as well.

“We just had to get back to basics and to start the second half as we started the first, on the front foot, getting at them and getting the ball back and using the ball a bit better.”

Rossi added: “For five minutes I let of a bit of steam and told them how bad they’ve been and if you defend like that there’s no way you can win any game!

“For the next 10 minutes I was trying to be constructive with how we were going to get back in the game, the areas where we can get the ball into to try to improve, to get us back in the game.

“I told them the next goal would be vital. We did improve but sometimes it’s easy to improve when you’re already 3-0 down. We did improve.  We started competing, we were moving the ball a bit quicker. We were getting the ball into better areas instead of trying to play around the back, but ultimately they scored the next goal and that killed us.”

FC Elmstead missed a glorious chance to keep the game alive in the 51st minute.

Christian Howell swept the ball out to half-time substitute James Pinnock, who headed off in the direction of the wing rather than the penalty spot.  Pinnock played an overlapping pass to right-back Carpenter, who played the ball inside to Louis Sprosen, who flashed his right-footed angled drive across the keeper and just past the far post from 30-yards.

“That was a chance,” admitted the FC Elmstead boss.

“We had a couple of chances and if one had gone in, we may have, just may have been a different game in that period, but we just didn’t take any of them.  I remember James Pinnock had one, Sproz had one. We just didn’t get the goal.”

Browning added: “They hit us on the counter attack quite well but when we pushed to go forward that’s our problem at the moment. We aim to get forward as quick as we can and then there’s lapses at the back.”

Smith was to be denied his hat-trick in the 57th minute when the ball bounced off Carpenter inside the FC Elmstead box and Smith’s angled drive was blocked by Adeniyi’s legs at the near post.

Browning said: “Another great save.  The lads’ are saying Caine should’ve squared it really but Cain’s always like that. If he’s got a chance of a hat-trick, he’ll take it.”

The game then turned into a scrappy midfield battle with not a lot happening, only fireworks being let off in the surrounding areas providing any entertainment.

Browning said: “We just consolidated to be fair. We knew that we had a two-goal cushion. We just had to stay in control of the game and we’ll make other chances so that was the plan really, just keep doing what we were doing, just make sure they didn’t get back into the game and we knew we’d pop up with another one.”

K Sports wrapped the game up with their fourth goal in the 74th minute following their sixth of seven corners.

Perry swung in the corner from the right and the ball was cleared out to Norman, who unleashed a right-footed drive from 25-yards which flashed through a crowd of players and nestled into the back of the net.

“He’s got that in his locker,” came Browning’s reply.

“He’s got a lovely strike of the ball. He doesn’t do it enough for me. He messes around on the edge of the box now and again but we’ve been telling him in the last couple of week, especially on these surfaces, as soon as it comes out to you, let’s just have a shot and that’s what he’s done! It’s not the first time he’s hit a ball from that far distance out and scored, but he’s another one. He needs to do a lot more and chipping in with goals.”

Rossi briefly added: “Pretty decent goal. I thought Ade let it slip under his backside. He should’ve done better. He probably should’ve got it, they worked it well.”

Adeniyi, one of very few FC Elmstead players who came out of the game with any credit, rushed out of his penalty area to deny Brown scoring after the quiet winger danced his way past three Cockerel defenders.

The visiting keeper pulled off another brilliant save when he palmed over a left-footed powerful drive from Ashley Cooper, who cut inside to power one towards goal from 30-yards.

Browning said: “What pleased me was we knocked it around. I think there was about five, six, seven or eight passes that went into that. It fell to Coops, who is more a defensive midfielder and he’s hit it well and it’s been a great save.”

Rossi added: “I don’t remember the incident to be fair.  I think the game was almost dead at that point. They won it and we ran out of steam.”

It took a poor FC Elmstead side 87 minutes to win their first corner and they went close to pulling another goal back from their second and last corner at the death.

Christian Howell’s set-piece delivery from the left was cleared out to Carpenter, who hit his first time right-footed drive just past the foot of the right-hand post from 25-yards.

When asked what tonight meant to him personally, Browning replied: “Personally, to be here in my seventh season at the club, I can’t believe it to be where we’ve been. The farce when we had to go over to Otham (to play at Bearsted’s Honey Lane ground) to play over there for two years and then come back and we were promised sheds were going to turn into stands and changing rooms and not to be told the truth.

“I delivered what I was asked to deliver, promotion, and top five finishes. I delivered all that and then it still never happened and then for it to happen now and get it all done, is just unbelievable and how quick the ground’s gone up and how K Sports, the organisation, have helped us and encouraged us.

“We’re on the right path on the pitch and off the pitch. We’ve got two joint-chairmen Paul Atkins and Philip Hudson, who are superb and also we’ve built our committee up because it was one man and his dog two or three years’ ago. We’re just building the club up around us now. We never had that before. We had no committee, no guidance. There’s a massive amount of people who want to get involved in the club now, which is great.”

Rossi, meanwhile, seeks improvement when Liam Smith brings his Lydd Town side to Oakley Road on Saturday 12 November.

He said: We have to improve and get back to where we was a month ago because for some reason we’ve stopped working, we’ve stopped putting in the graft. 

“Our forward (Steven Strotten) being injured at this point is sapping our confidence, which is a big factor. He’s been out for a while. We need to get him back fit but it doesn’t appear we’re going to get him back.”

K Sports: Joe Cullip, Martin De-Fede, Gabriel Luckhurst, Jason Perry, Liam Dawson, Michael Russell, Josh Brown (Josh West 83), Robert Norman, Caine Smith (Nick Nowotny 76), Ed Morant (Keane Gillett 67), Ashley Cooper.
Subs: James Funnell, Jamie Kelly

Goals: Caine Smith 4, 40, Reece Barratt 8 (own goal), Robert Norman 74

FC Elmstead: Ade Adeniyi, Dan Carpenter, Charlie McLean, Christian Howell, Reece Barratt, Marcus Howell, Ben Slade, Louis Sprosen, Jack Jeffrey (James Pinnock 46), Dexter Babalola, Ashley Wright (George Bryan 76).
Sub: Paul Gorman

Goal: Dexter Babalola 45

Attendance: 341
Referee: Mr Kevin Greenhead (Bexleyheath)
Assistants: Mr Graham Smart (Ditton) & Mr John Quirke (Maidstone)

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