K Sports 5-0 Crowborough Athletic - It was a great team performance, the game plan has worked to perfection today, says K Sports assistant Kevin Brown

Monday 17th January 2022
K Sports 5 – 0 Crowborough Athletic
Location Cobdown Sports & Social Club, Station Road, Ditton, Aylesford, Kent ME20 6AU
Kickoff 17/01/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Monday 17 January 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Cobdown

K SPORTS assistant manager Kevin Brown says he is aiming for a top-half finish after thrashing ten-man Crowborough Athletic on a chilly night at Cobdown.

The Paperboys delivered an impressive performance with some superb wing play to move into eleventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, having taken their tally up to 29 points from 22 games, while Crowborough Athletic’s third league defeat on the spin keeps them in eighth-place with 30 points on the board from 25 games.

K Sports took only 135 seconds to take the lead when striker Herve Mbongue scored following a devastating counter-attack, before central midfielder Harvey Killick swept home at the far post and centre-half Jack Bray found the top far corner from 40-yards to give K Sports a commanding 3-0 lead at the break.

There was to be a controversial moment in the 61st minute when referee Kennedy Kikulwe showed Crowborough Athletic’s Regan Bowden a yellow card and then a red-card – despite not previously booking the right-back.

K Sports scored twice inside the final 10 minutes.  Winger Oliver Lankshear found the top corner with a wonderful strike before Kane Butler scored from the penalty spot to notch his ninth goal of the season.

Neither manager was in the dug-out tonight as Barry Morgan was serving the second of his three-match suspension, while Crowborough Athletic’s Sean Muggeridge had work commitments so missed the trip to Aylesford, so their assistant managers were interviewed post-match.

“Basically now we’ve got our full strength side back in – we went on quite a bad run – we got a win last week – so it was very good,” said Brown.

“I’ve already spoken to Barry Morgan. I’m in constant communication through the game through our coach so nothing changed, Barry picked the side.”

Crowborough Athletic assistant manager Alan Murray added: “It’s a learning curve for the kids. We’ve got a young team and it was a tough game on Saturday for us against Sheppey when we went down to 10 men and it took a lot out of them where they had to work really hard, a lot harder and I think the quick turnaround coming here on a Monday night, they had to battle hard again.

“The (3G artificial) surface is a surface we’re not used to playing on so the boys worked, which is all we can ask them to do and it’s a young, young team.  I think they are going to learn.  We’ve had a great run, which was amazing. Sean’s created this lovely environment with the team and we’ve had three league defeats in a row so the boys are going to pick themselves up and they’ll get going again.”

K Sports suffered five defeats on the spin before coming away from basement side Lordswood with a morale-boosting 2-1 win in the Challenge Cup Second Round on Saturday, while Crowborough Athletic suffered a 6-0 thrashing at second-placed Sheppey United.

Crowborough Athletic left-back Reece Anderson floated in a free-kick from the left which was plucked out of the air by former Gillingham youth team goalkeeper Charlie Walker.

Walker’s long throw released left-winger Tariq Ibrahim, who had his shirt pulled by Bowden (for which he wasn’t booked for) and the referee waved play on and he short pass played in Mbongue who took a touch before a composed finish past Cameron Hall into the centre of the goal.

“We were very clinical today going forward,” said Brown, who was quick to praise his goalkeeper, who had excellent distribution and good handling.

“Charlie’s a top keeper.  We looked to play that way today with the front three and put pressure on them. We know they like to play-out-from-the-back so you put pressure on their back four, they give you the ball. We’ve had them watched and the game plan has worked to perfection today.”

Murray added: “They counter-attacked against us, it was really quick, the speed of the players maybe caught us out. It’s the first couple of minutes, maybe they caught us off guard. We didn’t shape up well for that free-kick that got delivered in, which caught us, which was a bit disappointing. It’s a learning curve.”

Crowborough Athletic responded well though and called Walker into making a world-class save in the sixth minute.

Anderson whipped in another cross from the left and no one picked up striker Elliott Duncan at the near post, who stooped to send his header towards the top left-hand corner, only for Walker to dive high to his right to make the save before collecting the loose ball inside his penalty area.

Murray said: “Elliott is a young lad as well. He’s been scoring goals for us, which has been great. It’s just a shame he never found the net there. It would’ve been a nice response straight away, which would’ve been great.”

Brown added: “Charlie’s been top class all season, he’s a very, very good goalkeeper and we’re lucky to have him really.”

Both sides were utilising the artificial pitch to play some nice passing football but K Sports were clinical in front of goal.

Crowborough Athletic went close to equalising in the 12th minute when Bowden hung in a deep free-kick from the right and Duncan ghosted in at the back stick to smash his first-time shot into the side netting.

A good move from the home side which included Killick and Mbongue inside the final third resulted in Butler’s right-footed drive from 25-yards being charged down and being controlled by Hall’s feet.

Both sides then hit speculative long-range efforts off target with left-winger Jacob Lambert playing the ball inside to Ali Mouajal, whose speculative low right-footed drive from 35-yards flashed well past the Paperboys’ left-upright.

At the other end, Ibrahim and Mbongue both linked up before Killick cracked a right-footed shot just over the crossbar from 35-yards, aiming for the top far corner.

K Sports holding midfielder Kwasi Amoah released Mbongue down the right and Crowborough’s left-back Anderson struggled for most of the 81 minutes that he was on the pitch with the home side’s wing-play.

Mbongue teed up Mbongue, who drove his shot past the post as the game entered the final five minutes of the first-half.

K Sports doubled their lead with 40 minutes and 55 seconds on the clock, following a well-worked set-piece.

Left-back Jack Longland played it short to Amoah, who fed Longland into the left-channel and he whipped in a cross which flashed across the face of goal and Killick ghosted in at the back post to sweep the ball past Hall from the corner of the six-yard box.

Brown said: “Another good goal, another well-worked goal. Basically that’s the way that we wanted to play. We wanted to get the ball forward quickly and put pressure on their back line. Most of our goals were very identical weren’t they? We got the ball out wide, put crosses in and attacked them.”

Murray added: “So the mistake was we didn’t defend that on well, where he’s managed to play the ball out wide easily and he’s just whipped a cross in. The boys were just looking at each other, trying to maybe defend the cross would’ve been the best thing but then when it came into the box the guy has lost his marker. Whoever was supposed to be marking him wasn’t sure on that but he’s popped it in.”

Killick played the ball out to Longland, who whipped in another cross towards the far post for Mbongue to bury his header straight at Hall from inside the six-yard box, the keeper smothering the ball low to his right.

Murray said: “Oh yes, it was a great save. It was a good save. He’s slipped his marker and it was just a great save by Cam. He’s done this for a few games for us now.”

Brown added: “We gave Herve a bit of stick about that one.  That would’ve killed it off at 4-0.  I mean he’s literally headed it straight at the keeper, anywhere else in the goal, it’s a goal isn’t it?  But we kept plugging away and we eventually got the fourth goal. We could’ve had seven or eight, I think, today.”

However, 19 seconds later the ball was played out to Bray, who whipped a left-footed shot sailing over the diminutive goalkeeper and dipping into the top far corner of the goal from 40-yards.    There was no team-mate inside the Crowborough penalty area at the time of the sublime shot.

Brown said: “Jack said he meant it but I know Jack, he’s our centre-half, our skipper and he’s been immense since he’s come back. He’s been back for the last two games and made such a difference since he’s come back.  Only he will know if he meant it. He’s telling us he did, I don’t know.

“We were clinical. We worked in training the other night where basically the way we wanted to play against this team, especially on the 3G pitch as well. We’ve been playing on a few grass pitches and our game is basically expansive, get the ball out wide, get at teams, put crosses in and it’s worked a treat tonight.”

Murray added: “Well, will he do that again? I’m not sure but a great goal. He’s hit a sweet top corner, caught Cam, good, no one expected it so ok, that’s one of these goals that usually go to Row Z don’t they?

The Scottish Highlander added: “It’s obviously a tough time when you go into half-time losing, so we just said they’ve got to play with passion, play with spirit, be committed, just play for the shirt and make sure they’re doing all of the right things, the basic things and try to compete.

“We thought we’d get into the game again, pick up and get going again and sometimes you can turn it around and you get an early goal and that’s what we hoped for, to get out there and get an early goal.”

K Sports produced another fine passing move in the final third which included centre-half Connor Cheek playing the ball into Amoah and Mbongue laid the ball off to Butler, who drilled his shot over the Crowborough crossbar from inside the D.

Crowborough Athletic produced a sweeping move as Duncan ran the channel and cut the ball back to Alex Emery, who played the ball into Mouajal, who clipped the ball into Walker’s midriff, who dropped down to his knees to make a routine catch.

However, it should have been 4-0 in the 12th minute of the half when Lankshear released half-time substitute right-back Callum Thomas down the right wing and he reached the by-line before cutting the ball back to an unmarked Mbongue, who swept a weak shot towards the bottom corner from eight-yards, which was gobbled up by Hall, clutching the ball low down to his right.

Brown said: “We basically attacked what I thought was their weaknesses and five of them (goals) have come from out wide.”

The tricky Ibrahim was tripped by Bowden as he ran past him and referee Kennedy Kikulwe harshly showed Bowden a yellow card for the foul and then a red-card and Murray claims it was a case of mistaken identity.

Murray said: “We thought he hadn’t been booked in the first-half and we’re all sort of confused what was going on and we’re looking for some more information and when he showed the red you thought this is strange, couldn’t understand it so the kid has to go because he’s been shown the red but we’re trying to figure out what’s been going on.

“The referee’s, I’m not sure what the report is going to show but we feel he wasn’t yellow carded in the first half so there’s either been a mistake in identity or something.  It’s changed the game for us.”

When asked whether the club will appeal Bowden’s one-match suspension, Murray replied: “I’m not sure what happens there, it goes through the club secretary. I don’t know what happens to that.”

Jack Funnell then slotted in at right-back and Jamie Smith slotted in at right-back when he came off the bench for the final nine minutes.

Brown added: “I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t really concentrating on them and yellow cards. It doesn’t affect what I do and what we do so if the ref’s made a mistake that’s down to him.  I tell you now (Crowborough having 11 or 10 men) wouldn’t have made any difference, the way we were playing tonight, I don’t think.”

Despite suffering that set-back, Crowborough Athletic showed some heart and created three chances inside the final 20 minutes.

Lambert stroked a right-footed free-kick underneath the wall from 22-yards, which Walker capped off an impressive nights work by making a comfortable save down on his knees.

Murray said: “Jacob’s a talented player, really skilful on the ball, a good dead-ball free-kick specialist as well.  Has he caught it right? I think he’s tried to put it under but it’s just gone too central hasn’t it, so he’s unlucky.  We thought it we could get this one it could lift us but unfortunately it didn’t go in.”

Less than two minutes later, Duncan drilled a 30-yard free-kick past the near post before the 13-goal striker had an even better chance to add to his tally in the 74th minute.

Anderson whipped the ball in from within the left-channel and Duncan took a touch inside the penalty area before flashing his shot across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post.

“Again, good movement by Elliott. He’s worked hard. He gets into the position, he's had a good touch and just been unfortunate to be off target.  You just hope you’re striker can nick one for you,” added Murray.

Crowborough Athletic were poor in the full-back areas tonight and K Sports wide-men were having a field day often getting to the by-line and putting balls in.

Now left-winger Funnell lost the ball to Lankshear, who raced down the line and reached the by-line again and crossed towards the far post where Ibrahim had his back to goal and back-heeled the ball into the bottom far corner only for the goal to be ruled out.

“Tariq for me was our man-of-the-match tonight. He was brilliant on Saturday and he’s brought that into the game tonight,” said Brown.

“He’s an enigma, Tariq. He’s got so much ability and talent but if he’s consistent he's going to be playing higher, simple as that.”

However, K Sports duly despatched their fourth goal of the night in the 80th minute when Thomas played the ball in from the right wing towards Lankshear who capped off a good night’s work by curling a right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards, leaving Hall rooted to the spot.

“Again, the ball was out wide, ball was played into the box and that was the game plan basically to attack them down the flanks,” added Brown.

Murray added: “I didn’t really see that one. He’s dropped the shoulder and created himself some space and he’s just put it in the top corner.  I think it actually broke to him, it’s deflected and went to him so a bit of good fortune for them.”

Hall’s misery was compounded when he was penalised by the referee for clattering into Lankshear after his shot at goal was superbly cleared off the line by Crowborough centre-half Harrison Mayhew after Killick’s dinked pass put him in.

Butler placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Hall the wrong way, to complete the scoring in the 84th minute.

Brown said: “I tell you what pleased me, the overall performance. You saw that tonight. We ran, we ran, we worked hard, we ran until the final minute, even at 5-0 up. I said to the guys to keep the work-rate up and basically the way we played, the game plan worked. A five-nil victory, you can’t argue with that. It was a great team performance.”

Murray added: “It’s always a hard thing isn’t it, the penalty kicks?  The keeper anticipating goes one way but it’s one of those things.”

Having leaked 11 goals in three days, Murray had this message for the fans that made the trip tonight.

“They’re loyal, they come and follow us, which is always fantastic. We have the same group of guys that come along, it’s fantastic.  They come and support us. Let’s hope they just keep the faith with what we’re doing and I’m sure we’ll get it right.”

Hall made amends when he used his legs to prevent Ibrahim scoring with a low shot when he was played through on goal but Crowborough kept plugging away and Lambert fed Duncan, whose right-footed angled drive was comfortably saved by the impressive K Sports stopper, where you wonder why did the now departed Steve Evans release him from League One Gillingham?

“I’m delighted with the clean-sheet. Charlie’s been tremendous for us again. We’re lucky to have Charlie, he’s a quality goalkeeper.  I think he’s going to go far in the game,” added Brown.

Morgan serves the last of his three-match ban on Saturday when the Paperboys travel to Barnehurst to play Tower Hamlets, now second-from-bottom with 12 points from 23 games, three points clear of bottom side Lordswood, who have two games in hand.

“That’s a tough game, let’s forget where they are in the league. They’ve picked up some results I believe haven’t they and some points so they’ve obviously got some new players in,” said Brown.

“We go there into the unknown. I’ve never been there as a player, or a coach or a manager so we’ve just got to get the boys set-up for that and to try to replicate that performance again, if we can.  It’s a trip into the unknown. We don’t know anything about them so it will be an interesting one.  We know most of the teams in this league but Tower Hamlets is a trip into the unknown.”

Morgan and Brown have got K Sports – usually a workmanlike outfit – into playing some good stuff and Brown, the former manager of Kent County League Premier Division side Borden Village, is keen for the club to push on.

He said: “We’re looking for a top-half finish now. That’s what we’re aiming for, no more, no less.  We’ve got to look at the top eight, top seven really with that side, if we can perform like that week-in-week-out we’ll win more than we lose put it that way.”

Crowborough Athletic have a blank Saturday but welcome Lordswood to Alderbrook on Saturday 29 January.

“We’ve got a free Saturday now so we’re going to have a good training session on Thursday night and we’ve got a couple of sessions next week. We might have them in on Saturday, it depends on what Sean feels and do a session with them,” said Murray.

“It’s always a difficult one when you’re playing against a team that are like that in that position so we respect everyone that we play and we’ll go out with our own game plan and we’ll just try and play the way we’ve been playing and hopefully we’ll get the result.”

K Sports:  Charlie Walker, Greg Smith (Callum Thomas 46), Jack Longland, Kwasi Amoah (Ben Percy 61), Jack Bray, Connor Cheek, Tariq Ibrahim, Harvey Killick, Herve Mbongue (Isaac Bignell 75), Kane Butler, Oliver Lankshear.
Subs: Ziyad Ghali, Martin Youngah

Goals: Herve Mbongue 3, Harvey Killick 41, Jack Bray 44, Oliver Lankshear 80, Kane Butler 84 (penalty)

Booked: Jack Bray 11

Crowborough Athletic: Cameron Hall, Regan Bowden, Reece Anderson (Jamie Smith 81), Alex Emery (Oliver Styles 77), Harrison Mayhew, Tom Boddy, Jack Funnell, Ali Mouajal (Ben Hermitage 59), Elliott Duncan, Lucas Mourain, Jacob Lambert.
Subs: Joe Tyrie, Alex Joy

Booked: Lucas Mourain 16, Alex Emery 27, Reece Anderson 51, Jamie Smith 90

Sent Off:  Regan Bowden 61

Attendance: 94
Referee: Mr Kennedy Kikulwe
Assistants: Mr Daniel Roberts & Mr Christopher Clarke