Maidstone United 3-0 Wingate & Finchley - We can play better than that, says Jay Saunders

Sunday 05th October 2014

Ryman Premier League
Sunday 5th October 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from James Whatman Way

MAIDSTONE UNITED manager Jay Saunders says his side can play better after reclaiming their place at the top of the Ryman Premier League table after fifteen games.

Margate edged in front following their 4-1 win at struggling Bury Town yesterday, but Maidstone United took advantage of playing at four o’clock on Sunday afternoon by chalking up a comfortable 3-0 win over Wingate & Finchley to move two points clear of Terry Brown’s side.

Maidstone United attracted their largest home crowd of the season when 1,801 fans took advantage of Sunday afternoon football which was played in warm and sunny conditions.

Wingate & Finchley arrived in Kent sitting in sixth-place in the table with 23 points from their 12 games, one point underneath the play-off zone and six games undefeated.

Wingate & Finchley played the better football during the early stages, but two long throws from Alex Flisher were headed in by Steve Watt and Jack Parkinson during the first half, before Flisher scored from a third header in the second half.

“Overall, pleased is the main thing,” said Saunders after his side maintained their 100% home record after seven games.

“We’ve been sitting top of the table for a long time. With all the teams playing yesterday, it’s a different feel.  You know everyone’s won yesterday and you have to get another win on the table against a Wingate side that are having a good season, so it was nice to get a clean sheet and score three goals.  If anything, disappointed we haven’t scored a few more.”

A fine performance by visiting keeper Bobby Smith kept the score down as Maidstone United created a number of decent chances to win the game by a larger margin.

Daniel Neilson’s side certainly relished performing on the artificial surface and they played an impressive slick passing game but failed to get in behind a solid Maidstone United back four, well marshalled by former Chelsea defender Watt, 29.

Saunders said: “We’ve been very good defensively this year. I think at times we sat too deep and probably gave them too much of the ball.

“I think once we got our goals we addressed it second half. We were a little bit better getting tight and getting across them a little bit more.

“We still could have been better. They’re a decent side. We can see why they’ve been winning games.”

Wingate & Finchley - where midfielder Leon Fisher was excellent - created the first chance inside the opening four minutes.

Winger Karl Oliyide, who gave right-back Aaron Simpson a torrid time early on, was released and his right-footed drive was blocked by defender Sonny Miles and the loose ball fell to Carl McCluskey, who drove his shot wide of the right-hand post.

Oliyide cut into the Maidstone penalty area but his progress was held up by a number of Stones defenders but he managed to pick up the loose ball and flash his right-footed drive harmlessly past the near post.

Watt pushed Knight from behind on the corner of his penalty area but Knight drove his right-footed angled free-kick sailing over the crossbar from 20-yards.

But Maidstone United grabbed a fifteenth minute lead.

Flisher hurled the ball into the penalty area towards the near post and the Wingate & Finchley defence allowed Watt to direct his header past the stranded Smith into the corner of the net from eight-yards.

“Their bench was shouting out ‘that’s all they’ve got, a long throw’, but to be honest it’s a hell of a weapon to have,” admitted Saunders.

“It’s a great throw and when you’ve got people like Watty and Jack, big lads in there, they’re going to cause problems.

“It’s a good throw and Watty’s done well to get on the end of it.”

Wingate & Finchley couldn’t have been pleased with the manner of the first two goals, especially as they were playing some attractive football on the deck.

Left-back Kieron Street cut the ball back to midfielder Tommy Tejan-Sie, who was given time and space to drive his left-footed shot past the near post from 25-yards.

But the further the first half progressed, Maidstone United started to play and create some decent chances.

Left-winger, Ben Greenhalgh and striker Frannie Collin linked up well on the edge of the penalty area in the 24th minute and striker Flisher thumped his left-footed volley screaming just over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Saunders said: “He struck it too well probably! It’s one of them. If he shanks it a little bit it maybe goes in, but he struck it so well. I thought he was outstanding!”

Smith made his first decent save of the game within a minute when he dived to his right to claw Greenhalgh’s left-footed angled drive around the post after the former Inter Milan and Welling United midfielder cut into the penalty area.

“The keeper did very, very well for them,” added Saunders.

“Ben grew into it really. I thought he started a little bit slowly on the ball but once he got going he’s a threat. He can come inside, go outside and he asks questions of the full-backs.

“I thought he and Matt Bodkin deserved a goal today really, but it was a good effort by him and the keeper’s done well.”

Collin showed good vision when he played a sublime pass to release Flisher charging down the left and he cut the ball back to Collin, who poked a shot towards goal, but the visitors’ got bodies back to block.

A long ball out of the Maidstone defence by Miles saw Greenhalgh get a sight on goal and his intended dink towards Collin (who was making a run through the middle) was gathered by the Wingate & Finchley goalkeeper, low to his right.

Collin swept the ball out wide to right-winger Matt Bodkin, who whipped in an excellent cross towards the near post but Flisher glanced his header just wide of the far post from six-yards.

Tegan-Sie swept the ball from the middle to the left where Oliyide cut inside Simpson again and his low right-footed drive from 22-yards bounced comfortably into Lee Worgan’s hands.

Maidstone United midfielder Parkinson played a sublime through ball to split open the Wingate & Finchley defence to put Flisher through on goal, but Smith advanced off his line to make a smart block with his legs.

“I think that goes back to what I said,” said Saunders.

“We weren’t great first half but they had a lot of the ball but if you look on chances we’ve had some great chances.

“There was a couple of times that Flish’s gone through and that being one of them and on another day that goes in.

“Matt Bodkin nearly got through a couple of times as well but it was a good save again from the keeper. He stood up big and done well.”

But Maidstone United’s second goal after 40 minutes proved to be a carbon copy of their first.

Flisher was almost in the same place as he launched another long throw into the penalty area.  Wingate & Finchley’s defence once again failed to cope with the threat and allowed the ball to drop in their six-yard box and Parkinson headed down and in to the back of the net, past the stranded Smith, from three-yards to score his sixth goal of the season.

Saunders added: “It’s like a corner really. We’re sort of a big side. If you look at a lot of teams who do well you’ve got to be strong at set-pieces, whether that’ll be throw-ins, corners, free-kicks of whatever.  You’ve got to be strong in box boxes and this season we’ve done that.”

Maidstone United left-back Tom Mills was penalised by referee Graeme Ions for fouling Fisher out on the right.

Knight surprised the Maidstone defence by chipping the ball into the penalty area and Fisher cracked his right-footed volley high over the bar from a tight angle.

When asked what he said to his troops at half-time, Saunders replied: “Just look after the ball a bit better! I thought we rushed things a little bit. We knew we could hurt them and get in behind them.  I thought we probably went that way a little bit too early sometimes when we could have looked after it.

“I told them to just look after it a bit better, have a little bit more quality on the ball and we’ll get chances and that was it really and maybe to press them a little bit more just to stop them playing.”

Maidstone United went close to increasing their commanding lead with an excellent slick passing move inside the opening seven minutes.

Parkinson, Collin and Greenhalgh played their part in an eye-catching one-touch move outside the penalty area and Bodkin was put through inside the penalty area but Street got across from left-back to make a well-timed tackle to win the ball.

Maidstone United wrapped up the scoring as early as the 63rd minute through Flisher’s eighth-goal of the campaign.

Bodkin was put through on goal and his shot brought another fine block from advancing Smith and the ball came to Greenhalgh, who was thwarted by a fine block by visiting skipper Mark Weatherstone.

Moments later, Parkinson put the ball back into the penalty area and Flisher guided his header past the stranded Smith into the far corner from eight-yards.

“We were talking at half-time and Jamie Coyle said I think we can hurt them with third man runners and to be fair that was a classic example,” said Saunders.

“Matt has got blistering pace. It was a good ball through and on another day he goes through and slots it but the keeper has done well for them.”

Dominant Maidstone United squandered a number of chances to improve their goal-difference during the final 20 minutes.

A poor clearance by Smith went straight to Bradley Jordan outside the box and he played the ball inside to fellow substitute Jay May, but a poor first touch from the former Bromley striker allowed Smith to gather.

Jordan then danced his way into the Wingate & Finchley penalty area and Smith made another fine block with his legs.

Parkinson put in another ball into the penalty area and this time Watt saw his looping header drop down and caress the outside of the far post after 76 minutes.

“I think we’ve hit the post twice at the end,” added Saunders.

“It was a great header from Watty and unfortunately it’s just hit the woodwork.”

Saunders felt his side should have added more goals during this dominant spell.

He said: “That’s frustrating for me today. When leagues are tight like this and the way the way this league will be tight between three or four teams at the top, there’s only one team that go up and (one via) the play-off places, the goals become important.

“I’m just disappointed we didn’t play great but in the end we could have had five or six goals today.

“I’m just a bit gutted there were a couple of clear cut ones where we should have scored from.”

Bodkin played the ball into substitute Alex Brown, who cut onto his right-footed and his drive on goal from eighteen-yards deflected over the bar.

The Maidstone United fans were enjoying the second half performance from their side, against a side that are challenging for the play-offs.

Greenhalgh whipped in the resulting corner towards the far post where Parkinson rose to direct his header across goal, which agonisingly clipping the outside of the far post.

Saunders felt his side should have scored their fourth goal inside the final nine minutes.

May played the ball into Jordan, who swept the ball to Greenhalgh down the left-channel and he rolled the ball inside to Brown, who placed a first time right-footed shot towards the corner of the goal from eight-yards, but Smith stuck out his left leg to make another fine save.

Saunders said: “Was that the one a few yards out? I think for me Brownie has got to score that and he knows that. I don’t think he realised how much time he had. He’s rushed it a little bit. Again, the keeper’s done well, but I think he’s got to finish it really.”

Wingate & Finchley pressed forward towards the end of the game.

Substitute Ronayne Marsh-Brown was given time and space to drill a left-footed drive sailing harmlessly over the crossbar from 35-yards, but their best chance of the game followed.

Fisher (their man-of-the-match), striker Nico Muir and Weatherstone linked up well outside the box and Fisher played the ball inside to Tegan-Sie, who curled his left-footed shot towards the top far corner of the net from 20-yards, but Worgan plucked the ball out of the air high to his right.

“Sign of a good keeper! When you’ve not had a lot to do in games, especially in the end of games,” said Saunders.

“I think we sat off for the last five minutes. The lad has done well but Worgs is a very good goalkeeper. He’s stayed alert until the end and plucked it.”

Substitute Rob Laney then whipped in a cross towards the far post from the right flank but an unmarked Knight couldn’t score his thirteenth-goal of the season, heading the ball straight at Worgan.

“Not a bad Sunday, is it?” said Saunders.

“It’s great, a good turn out and it’s nice to get a win.

“When you do something different on a Sunday, a different time and everything’s changed, you just hope the boys can prepare like they normally do and get the result like we have been getting and I’m pleased today that we have.

“I think we can play better than that but a sign of a decent side is when they’re not at full-tilt they’re still getting results.

“Second half, at times, I thought we looked very good. It opened up a little bit.”

Today’s attendance was the second highest for a non-league side in Kent.

Saunders said: “We’re winning games and you’d like to think the crowds will turn up. It’s fantastic. If we can get those crowds and they can really get behind the boys it’s such a difference to it and a big help but we’ve got a 100% record here at the moment and that’s nice and we want to keep that going for as long as we can.”

Saunders has revealed that he’s going to be resting players for their Robert Dyas League Cup First Round home tie against Ryman League Division One North strugglers Cray Wanderers on Tuesday night.

Maidstone United are also the holders and Saunders will not want to lose grip on the silverware at the first attempt against their Kent rivals that are in the bottom three with three wins from their fifteen league outings.

Saunders said: “I thought the boys looked a little bit leggy at times today, especially first half. We’ve had a hell of a lot of games, the same as everyone else in the league.

“It will be nice to be able to go into the League Cup and make a couple of changes and give some a rest.

“They do need a rest to be honest with you.  A lot of them are carrying niggles and knocks and playing. If we were playing Saturday and Saturday, they’d get through it.  We do need to have a little look at it and we do need to give a couple of them a rest and we will look to do that.

“When I say make changes, the lads we’ll be bringing in are people like Alex Brown, Phil Starkey, Bradley Jordan, who came on and done well today, Will Godmon in goal and Charley Robertson, who is now back with us will play.

“They’re good players and they’re just unfortunate they’re just outside (the team) at the moment but the lads who will come in are quality players. It’s not like we’re not bringing in lads that are not good players.” 

Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Aaron Simpson, Tom Mills, Steve Watt, Sonny Miles, James Rogers (Bradley Jordan 69), Matt Bodkin, Jack Parkinson, Ben Greenhalgh, Frannie Collin (Alex Brown 72), Alex Flisher (Jay May 65).
Subs: Phil Starkey, Will Godmon

Goals:  Steve Watt 15, Jack Parkinson 40, Alex Flisher 63

Booked:  Alex Flisher 35, James Rogers 55

Wingate & Finchley: Bobby Smith, Mark Goodman (Ronayne Marsh-Brown 70), Kieron Street, Tommy Tejan-Sie, Mark Weatherstone, Ahmet Rifat, David Knight, Carl McCluskey (Ola Sogbanmu 75), Nico Muir, Leon Fisher, Karl Oliyide (Rob Laney 49).
Subs: Paul Wright, Stuart Lake

Booked: Kieron Street 85

Attendance: 1,801
Referee: Mr Graeme Ions (Tonbridge)
Assistants: Mr Alexis Stacchini (Orpington) & Mr Gerry Heron (Beckenham)