The club is ready for the Ryman Premier League, says Merstham boss Hayden Bird
MERSTHAM manager Hayden Bird says he’s been rewarded for taking a backwards step in his career.
The Surrey outfit finished in their highest ever position of fourth-place in the Ryman League Division One South table on 93 points from 46 league games to qualify for the end-of-season play-off lottery for the first time.
GOING UP: Merstham celebrate promotion at Folkestone Invicta after beating Neil Cugley's side 3-0 at Cheriton Road. Manager Hayden Bird, is pictured in the suit on the left hand side of the back row.
Photo: Merstham FC
They had to get past Faversham Town (who scored 111 league goals, the highest in the division) and Folkestone Invicta (107 goals) away from home to win promotion into the Ryman Premier League for the first time in their 123-year history.
Last Tuesday, a resolute backward line of Anton Douglas, Kalvin Morath-Gibbs, Marc-Anthony Okoye and Simon Cooper shut out Ray Turner’s side and an uninspiring game finished goal-less after 120 minutes of football at Salters Lane.
Faversham Town’s substitute striker Stuart King had his first penalty saved by Brannon Daly, and Fabio Saraiva, Taurean Roberts, substitute Omar Folkes, Tutu Henriques and Peter Adeniyi – who scored THAT winning penalty to send Bromley into Conference South back in 2007 – sent the club through to the Final.
Merstham stunned Folkestone by taking a sixth minute lead at Cheriton Road yesterday, through Roberts’ close range tap-in after Cooper played the ball across from the right-hand side of the penalty box after Roberts and Douglas linked up on the other side of the pitch.
Merstham keeper Daly pulled off two smart saves to deny Frankie Chappell and Ian Draycott scoring, before Henriques powered home a header following Merstham’s first corner of the game to make it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.
Saraiva bent in a 52nd minute free-kick from 30-yards which found the bottom left-hand corner to make it the Greatest Ever Day in the club’s history.
It was the fourth year on the bounce that Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley has suffered play-off heartbreak after losing to Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United in semi-finals, before losing 3-1 on penalties to Leatherhead in last year’s home final, after a tight game finished 1-1 after extra time.
“When I came Merstham were a little club,” said Bird after yesterday’s glorious day.
“I’ve managed Carshalton (in the Ryman Premier) who when I was there were certainly a big club. I managed Bromley (in Conference South) who are a very, very big club and I decided to take a take a different challenge, an entirely different challenge in my career.
“I had offers to go and work a lot higher but I wanted to take a different challenge on building a small club and created a football club and that’s what we’ve done.
“The beauty here is the development of the team and the growth of the team is matched by what’s going on off-the-field so it’s a marriage between the two so we’re ready.
“The club’s ready, the team is ready. Trust me, with one or two additions, this side will do very well next year.”
The newly-promoted side travel to Woking on Wednesday night to play Metropolitan Police in the Surrey Senior Cup Final.
Metropolitan Police finished in sixth-place in the Ryman Premier League table but Jim Cooper’s side may be invited into the play-offs following the embarrassing and farcical situation with Enfield Town involving Aryan Tajbakhsh.
Enfield Town’s appeal will be heard on Friday 8 May 2015 which will delay the play-offs between Margate and Dulwich Hamlet at Hartsdown Park, which should have been played on its original date of Thursday 30 April, and Hendon’s potential clash against Metropolitan Police or Enfield Town.
A club statement from the Metropolitan Police’s Football Club chairman Des Flanders said: “By dint of circumstance this club has been caught up in the issues surrounding Enfield Town; whether or not they have fulfilled a fixture with an ineligible player and the consequent potential deduction of any points gained.
“As with other clubs who have commented on the matter we are both surprised and disappointed that The FA has apparently taken so long to deal with the case. A month ago it would still have mattered but would not have produced the exaggerated consequence that now is the case.
“We fully support The FA decision to postpone the other play-off semi-final involving Margate and Dulwich in light of the severe disadvantage which will be caused to the teams in the disputed semi-final – whoever they may be but particularly Hendon.
“It is a very unsatisfactory situation all round and we can only hope that The FA will take lessons from this situation and ensure no repeat. There is a sustainable argument that at least one club has been forced into retaining their squad in playing mode with the attendant costs unnecessarily and should be recompensed. As a club we are in that situation with no certainty that we will be involved in a further game.
“Meanwhile Jim and his team will prepare for the ’just in case’ without the certainty of when or if a game will be played. We will not be alone in looking forward to an early resolution of the matter.
“Setting aside all these issues Jim and his team are to be congratulated on their top six finish in a very competitive league.”
Bird, meanwhile, is using the Cup Final as a yardstick to the quality his team will face in the Ryman Premier League next season.
“We said from day one, promotion and Surrey Senior Cup,” said the double chasing boss.
“We got to the Surrey Senior Cup Semi-Final versus Met Police last year and lost unfortunately.
“In my view Wednesday will give us the opportunity to see what’s to come. I know Jim (Cooper) really well. I know all of their players. They’ve done really well this season. They’ve just finished sixth but they could be in the play-offs.
“It’s a game which will be very important to us to try to not only achieve a double but to see what we’ve got to look forward to.”
Visit Merstham’s website: www.mersthamfc.co.uk
Metropolitan Police v Merstham
Surrey Senior Cup Final
Wednesday 6th May 2015
Kick Off 7:30pm
At Kingfield Stadium, Kingfield, Woking, Surrey GU22 9AA