Meridian VP 1-0 Rusthall - Hopefully we can push on and get the target points, says Meridian boss Richard Dimmock

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League
Wednesday 18th March 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Charlton Park Lane

MERIDIAN VP player-manager Richard Dimmock admits his first job in management has been a tough learning curve.

TOUGH: Richard Dimmock, seen here playing for Lordswood, admits his first managerial job at Meridian VP has been a learning curve

The Charlton-based outfit won this Pain & Glory Sports Kent Invicta League basement battle thanks to Dominic Elmes’ ninth goal of the season on the half-hour mark.

Meridian VP’s first league win since 6 December 2014 saw them leapfrog over Dartford-based Kent Football United in the bottom four on 19 points from 23 games.

Rusthall extended their winless run to twelve games and they remain second-from-bottom in the table with 14 points from 20 games, five points clear of Lewisham Borough.

This floodlit match attracted a gathering of only 23 people at Charlton Park Lane, which will stage the Kent Invicta League Challenge Trophy Final between Bearsted and Hollands & Blair on Good Friday, 3 April.

“It was a very hard working result tonight. I brought an experienced eleven in, who absolutely battled tonight and they grounded out a deserved 1-0 win,” said Dimmock, 36, after his side’s fifth league win of the season.

“Defensively, I haven’t got a problem with our back four. All season it’s just individual mistakes from midfield or at the back.  We haven’t really conceded many goals this year so I’ve never had a problem with the back four.”

Rusthall manager Gary Sharman only had 12 players available to him for this fixture.

“Well my feelings are, we were the better side. We were the dominant side. We probably had the majority of the play. We just couldn’t put it in the back of the net.

“That’s the way we’ve been performing over the last five or six games. I felt we should have got something from it this week.

“It’s very frustrating. I can’t put my finger on it! We’re just not getting enough shots off.  I’ve had an issue with defence, but I think we’ve shored that up this week, but previous weeks the defence has been the issue. We had two players (Chris Baldwin and George Allen) back this week and I thought they played outstanding today.”

When asked about his lack of numbers tonight, Sharman replied: “That’s because of work issues and getting people here. I’ve had issues with players. I’ve had players that have left and have gone abroad to work so it’s been difficult and we have a couple of playing coming in but again it’s as and when they’re available.

“We was lucky we’ve got two reserves here as well and we called Stuart Hunter back in again.  He’s a secure player who will always come and commit. His issue is playing against younger sides. He hasn’t got the speed or the fitness but he’ll do a job for us.”

Rusthall created the first chance of the game when central midfielder Greg Nicholson drove his shot wide of the right-hand post from 25-yards after only 57 seconds.

Meridian VP created their first real opportunity in the 11th minute.

Pacy winger Richard Whyte was put through on goal and he rounded goalkeeper Phil Hawkins but from a tight angle his shot was cleared off the line by Calum Hopkins.

Dimmock said: “We knew from the beginning that Richard Whyte, with his pace, if we got the ball in behind, he will cause them problems and first 15-20 minutes I think we did that – and was unlucky not to score really.”

Sharman added: “I thought a couple of them was offside and the lino wasn’t keeping up with play – but he’s a very pacy player.

“I thought Josh Fermor and Calum Hopkins did a job defending against him in most instances.  We wanted to let him know that we were there, which is what they did and he (Whyte) eventually had to come off anyway.”

Meridian right-back Ricky Tompkins sliced his shot from the corner of the penalty area across goal and Whyte picked the ball up and from another tight angle saw his drive pushed away by Hawkins high to his right.

Rusthall offered very little to trouble Meridian VP debutant goalkeeper Ben Ashton, who looked to his left to watch Sam Odell’s angled shot curl wide after Alex Carey’s corner from the right came out to the left-winger.

“Again, we’re not getting enough shots off,” admitted Sharman.

“I felt that we’re holding onto the ball too long, making the wrong decisions in that final third with our passing.  I think it’s going to come and things will change for us. I keep saying it week-in-week-out that we’ve had a bad run.”

Odell ran straight through the heart of the Meridian VP defence and was denied having a shot on goal by a well-timed tackle by last defender Jason Cook.

Gary Phillimore whipped in a free-kick into the Rusthall box but Tompkins directed his free header wide.

Meridian VP scored what turned out to be the winning goal with 29:11 on the clock.

Darren Shelton’s ball over the top left Rusthall’s defence flat footed and former Lordswood striker Elmes kept his composure to round Hawkins, to steer his left-footed shot into the open net from 12-yards.

“I think he’s been deserving that,” said Dimmock.

“Dom’s been playing well, week-in-week-out and he’s been getting into those positions quite a lot but it hasn’t been going right for him, but tonight it actually fell for him. He got in the right positions, rounded the keeper and slotted home.”

Sharman added: “Simple! Simple! Simple! We can’t do that unfortunately and that’s why we’re failing!

“It’s all about making that right decision and that right pass for some unknown reason it’s not happening for us.”

Rusthall went close when left-back George Allen clipped the ball towards the edge of the Meridian VP’s box, which was cleared out to Carey, who cracked his right-footed drive over the bar from 25-yards.

Carey failed to keep another shot down when the ball came out to him after Meridian VP defender Daniel Twin tackled Greg Wailicewicz inside the box.

Meridian’s skipper Twin swept a long ball out of defence to release Whyte hurtling down the right but Hawkins came rushing out of his box to raise both his hands to prevent Whyte scoring with lob from the right corner of the box.

Hawkins made a brilliant save to deny Meridian VP a second goal just before the break.

Phillimore swung in a corner from the right and Tompkins planted his downward header towards the bottom corner, but the long-serving stalwart dived low to his left to push the ball towards safety.

Sharman said: “Phil is a quality keeper and I personally think he’s probably the best keeper in the league.

“He pulled off some great saves and he does week-in-week-out, but we’ve left too many attacks to the opposition’s way.”

Tompkins proved to be a threat in the air all night. Dimmock added: “I did actually think from the corner it was over the line but it wasn’t given. He also had another free header at the back stick, which I thought he should have done better with.  He could have scored another and I think he had another one near post that the keeper saved and they cleared off the line.”

Both struggling managers were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Dimmock said: “Just carry on! I thought when we was on the ball we just seemed to panic every time we got the ball. I just got them in there at half-time and said, ‘look boys, the desire’s there, we just have to relax on the ball, up the tempo’.

“I thought coming out for the first 5-10 minutes  we were still in the changing room. 

“I got our skipper Twinny to give them a bit of a b********g and I gave them a bit of a b********g and all off a sudden we just got our shape back and we could have nicked another two or three goals in the second half.”

Sharman added: “Basically, we wanted more of an attacking second half and more control.  I think we had that but if we’re not getting shots off we’re not putting the keeper under any pressure.”

Rusthall made more of a game off it with a vastly improved second half performance.

But Meridian’s Tompkins had another headed chance – heading Phillimore’s near post corner over the bar – after only 93 seconds.

Rusthall forced Ashton into making a fine save in the 49th minute, diving to his left to prevent Nicholson scoring from sixteen-yards.

Dimmock admitted that he should have doubled his side’s lead six minutes later.

Elmes swept the ball out wide to Whyte down the right who played a low centre for Dimmock to stoke his first time shot past the right-hand post from 20-yards.

He said: “That should have been in the back of the net! Ten years’ ago, that would have been.”

Rusthall produced a fine sweeping move which should have created the equaliser on the hour-mark.

John Phillips and Carey swept the ball forward and Waikicewicz drilled his right-footed shot over the bar from 12-yards.

A dinked pass from Elmes was latched on by Whyte, who slammed his shot into the base of the side netting from a couple of yards out.

Meridian VP missed another chance when Whyte played the ball inside to Elmes, who pulled the ball back to Shelton, who swept his shot past the near post from sixteen-yards.

Rusthall created another good chance with 22 minutes left.

Phillips played a quick free-kick to find Waikicewicz down the left by-line and he put in a low cross to find Carey at the far post but his poked shot was saved at the second attempt by Ashton, making the save to his left.

Sharman added: “Alex Carey had a great opportunity – it was straight at the keeper! Instead of taking a touch, looking up and putting it either side of it, it would have been a different story.”

Dimmock praised his goalkeeper by saying, “They had a few (chances) on occasions but I brought in a keeper tonight Ben Ashton, who was with me pre-season and I thought he had a terrific game. He made a couple of decent saves in the second half. His catching was superb tonight so he came in and done a good job and kept them out.”

Rusthall resorted to route one football when keeper Hawkins launched a big kick which caught out the Meridian VP defence and Charlie Sharman brought the ball under control, cut in from the left but slammed his right-footed shot into the body of the advancing keeper from 12-yards.

Boss Sharman said: “That’s our failing, our striker’s aren’t putting the ball in the back of the net and same as the midfielders.  They were scoring some cracking goals earlier on in the season but for some reason we just seem to be (not scoring).

“I think we’ve resolved the defending side, until we can get the attackers to start doing their jobs, I don’t see us going forward this season.”

Meridian VP substitute Esteban Salgado unleashed a swerving right-footed drive from 30-yards, which stung Hawkins’ fingers before the keeper gathered the loose ball at the second attempt.

Another substitute, Steve Kempster was to be denied by another smart save from the Rusthall stopper.

Salgado put Kempster through on goal and only had Hawkins to beat, but the keeper dived to his left to touch the ball around the foot of the post.

In an attempt to salvage a deserved point, Rusthall skipper Hopkins flashed his right-footed drive just past the foot of the far post from 30-yards, but their miserable run of 12 games without a win is still a cause of concern for their manager.

Sharman said: “We’re hoping to pick up some points. We’re sitting well behind most of the opposition. This is our 20th game, 12 without a win. It’s been an awful run for us. It’s a results game and we’re not taking any results.

“Our job is to motivate the players. They turn up and we feel they are motivated prior to the game. We do feel we do pick them up in the changing room at half-time but for some unknown reason we’re just not getting the results. I think we’re playing well enough. The lads know that it’s going to come but it’s just when and it needs to be sooner rather than later.”

Rusthall have 10 games left, starting with Saturday’s home game against second-placed Lydd Town, who arrive at Jockey Farm six points adrift of leaders Hollands & Blair, who have a game in hand.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” admitted Sharman.

“Big game. We were just talking about the Lydd game. We should have a fairly strong squad to go out against them.

“Last time we played them we had a good result and I think we’ll give them a good game – whatever happens – at home.

“Our target is to try to get to midtable but not beating teams like Meridian is another downer. I did expect to come away with a win if I’m honest. It hasn’t happened. We just have to lift ourselves, lift our spirits and we have to start scoring goals.”

Dimmock, meanwhile, was rewarded for fielding experienced players for tonight’s basement battle, which sees them host Lewisham Borough on Saturday.

He said: “Hopefully that win tonight will give the boys a kick and a buzz and they can go on from here.

“We’ve got to play Rusthall again. We’ve got to play Kent Football United, Lewisham Borough. We’ve got to play Crockenhill so we’ve got to play all the teams in and around us. We’re quite capable of winning those games.”

When asked what his target is for the rest of the season, Dimmock replied: “As high as I can finish! I’ve said it a couple of weeks ago from the Lydd game. We was hoping to get 21 points from our remaining games. That will be our target. Let’s hope we can do it.”

Reflecting on his first season in management, Dimmock said: “It’s been a very tough job. It’s been a very good experience. I’m not going to lie, I’m still learning. I brought myself out of retirement, back playing again because I missed it a little bit but I can only get better.

“The chairman said to me he had a four-five year plan and he’s brought me in at the beginning of the season and said to me he didn’t want any of the squad from the year previous so basically I just got a squad together from scratch.

“This has been a learning curve this season. I’ve just brought in a new management team Jamie Todd and Mike Jones, who are two brilliant coaches.

“We’ve just started a new system and it’s working quite nicely so hopefully we can push on with the new system, with experienced players coming back in so hopefully we can push on and get the target points.”

Meridian VP: Ben Ashton, Ricky Tompkins, Cedric Itona, Rob Hicks (Esteban Salgado 65), Jason Cook, Daniel Twin, Gary Phillimore, Darren Shelton, Richard Dimmock (Steve Kempster 79), Dominic Elmes, Richard Whyte (Elliott Crabb 83).
Subs: Callum O’Sullivan, Tommy Leggett

Goal: Dominic Elmes 30

Booked: Rob Hicks 62

Rusthall: Phil Hawkins, Chris Baldwin, George Allen (Stuart Hunter 77), Greg Nicholson, Calum Hopkins, Josh Fermor, Charlie Sharman, Alex Carey, John Phillips, Greg Waikicewicz, Sam Odell.

Booked: Greg Waikicewicz 89

Attendance: 23
Referee: Mr Zoltan Konkoly (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Mark Jenkins (Welling) & Mr Brian Wheatley (West Wickham)