Otford United 0-3 Kennington - It's only us messing up that's going to cost us, says title-chasing Kennington manager Dan Scorer

Saturday 31st March 2018
Otford United 0 – 3 Kennington
Location Otford Recreation Ground, High Street, Otford, Kent TN15 5PG
Kickoff 31/03/2018 14:45

OTFORD UNITED  0-3  KENNINGTON
Andreas Joma Carter Kent County League Premier Division
Easter Saturday 31 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Otford Recreation Ground

KENNINGTON manager Dan Scorer says the club hope to have a groundshare deal in place to take their place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division next season.

The Ashford based club are 12 points clear at the top of the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Premier Division with 10 games to go after sealing a flattering 3-0 win over a spirited Otford United side.

Otford United went into this game sitting in ninth-place (of 16 clubs) in the table with 27 points from 20 games and this was their third defeat on the bounce.

Kennington remain top with 54 points from 20 games following their 18th league win of the season and are closing in the title despite second-placed Greenways having a couple of games in hand.

Otford United were the better side during the first half but Kennington received a huge slice of luck when Otford right-back Michael Cunningham scored an own-goal in the 32nd minute.

Any dog walkers walking around the picturesque Otford Recreation Ground wouldn’t have thought Kennington were runaway league leaders going by today’s performance – but they got the job done with Tom Scorer and Sam Conlon adding to the scoreline inside the final 22 minutes as they extend their unbeaten run to 13 in the league, winning their last nine games.

“Obviously pleased to get three points in the end. It wasn’t pretty at all,” admitted Kennington boss Dan Scorer.

“The first half was an awful advertisement for the League but at the end of the day it’s three points at this stage, knowing that we’re in a great position and it’s only us messing up that’s going to cost us.  I think it adds a bit of pressure before each game now. 

“We’ve got 10 to go now, we can win it in eight depending on other results, so I’m pleased overall but not the best performance.

“I did say to the boys beforehand Otford had a poor start to the season but I think after eight games or so they were sitting bottom but they’ve got a settled squad now.  They’ve got a number of players who are good battling players with a combination of some footballers in there so I always knew it was going to be a tough test.

“It’s never nice playing in any away game but conditions weren’t too bad, a slightly bobbly pitch but we got through it and three points are massive today.”

While the Kennington manager was being interviewed, Otford manager Mike Langston had to leave owing to a prior engagement.

Kennington started the game on the front foot and right-back Luke Hughes swung in a deep cross which was smacked wide on the volley by unmarked striker Carlum McLeod from 10-yards inside the opening four minutes.

Kennington started the game with a shaky defence and missed composed central defender Adam Phillips, who was relegated to the bench until the start of the season after failing to turn up on time.

His replacement Harry Yates gave the ball away to Joshua Holland, who played in Andy Knight, but the hardworking Otford striker dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post when he only had Tom Barnes to beat.

Otford central midfielder Ryan Lee slid in to tackle Conlon on the edge of his penalty area  and the ball came out to Jordan King, who cracked a right-footed drive into Justin Lee’s hands from 25-yards.

Kennington central defender Ross Lawrie gave the ball away at the back and James Jewers played in Andy Knight, whose right-footed drive from inside the D brought a comfortable save from Barnes.

Otford United were to be denied a deserved 12th minute lead, thanks to a fine save from Barnes.

Otford skipper Jamie Knight played the ball in from the left and striker Jewers cut inside and curled his right-footed shot towards the far corner from the edge of the box, which forced a diving Barnes to dive to his left to push the ball behind for a corner.

“Tom Barnes has been superb this season.  He made another great save towards the end of the game as well,” said Dan Scorer.

“As I was saying to John Ovard, my assistant, he’s got us 20 points this season alone, he’s been brilliant!

“We were wobbly at the start.  Adam Phillips, who normally starts at centre half, was running late so Harry Yates came in, who hasn’t played for three months.  It was nice to get him through 45 minutes. Our plan was to get him half-an-hour towards the end going into Monday and get him a few more minutes but circumstances chance and he did alright.  I’m happy that we’ve managed to keep a clean sheet as well.”

Holland swung in their first of two corners, the ball came out to Jamie Knight, who set-up Tom Cobb, who drilled his right-footed shot just past the foot of the right-hand post from 20-yards.

Otford United keeper Justin Lee pulled off a brilliant save to frustrate Kennington in the 15th minute.

Dale Davis released Conlon down the left-hand channel and the striker cut into the box to whip a curling right-footed shot around the keeper towards the top far corner, only for Justin Lee to dive high to his left to pluck the ball and hold onto it as he crashed to the ground.

“I know Justin Lee from the Kent Rep side because I help Darren Phillips out with the Kent Rep side,” said Scorer.

“Unfortunately, when we played the Quarter-Final up at Sussex he got sent-off but I did say to the boys he’s a very good goalkeeper. His starting position is always fantastic. We often catch back-lines out from just playing the ball quickly but his starting position was spot on today.  I don’t think he could’ve done much about the goals.”

All that was missing from Otford’s impressive play was a goal.  Jewers, who controls the ball well with his feet, played the ball up to Andy Knight, who brought the ball under control with his knee to bring the ball down before drilling his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

But when you’re at the top, luck turns in your favour and Kennington grabbed a lucky goal with 31 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock.

Otford central defender Sam Truman and Jamie Knight left the ball for each other on the touch line instead of smashing the ball away and Conlon instinctively nipped in between the two to cut into the box before floating over a cross towards McLeod at the far post.

McLeod brought the ball down inside the six-yard box and his effort went across the goal rather than towards the bottom corner and Cunningham stabbed the ball into the bottom near corner, despite Justin Lee’s attempts to get down low to his right to claw the ball into his grasp on the line.

“To be honest I was just happy to see the phase of football leading up to the goal because we weren’t moving the ball too well in the final third,” admitted Scorer.

“When we did, Sam found himself in the wide position, floated the ball over.  Calum was unfortunate not to put it away himself. It was a good save from Justin and it got caught underneath his feet.

“I think I’s a stroke of luck really. It was needed because I think we were slightly unsettled in that first half.  I think the team-talk at half-time could’ve been a lot different had we not scored before half-time.”

Kennington almost killed the game off just 94 seconds later when Tom Scorer played the ball into McLeod, who drilled his right-footed shot towards goal, which was pushed around the post by Justin Lee’s strong left-hand.

King and Hughes linked up down the right and Mark Howells flashed his right-footed drive past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Otford gave the ball away in the final third and Conlon bulldozed his way through the heart of the pitch towards the edge of the six-yard box.  He shrugged off last defender Chris Baldwin, before dinking his right-footed shot just past the foot of the right-hand post.

Scorer said: “Sam comes with experience from a lot higher, he’s not the greatest technically but he will work his hardest for you.  He will create himself chances just through hard work alone. He’s been with us since before Christmas and he’s made a big difference to our forward line.”

Scorer admitted he wasn’t best pleased with Kennington’s first half performance.

“I said the first 45 minutes was probably the worst of the season. I wasn’t exactly an advertisement for Kent County football, it was more like a Sunday League game but we just needed to get back to basics, get into our shape and do things simpler and move the ball into the right areas and not overplaying in areas, just where we didn’t need to.”

Both sides made a change a piece at the break.  Injured Holland was replaced by Rory Catt, while Phillips (who liked to boot the ball up field at every given opportunity) took his place beside Lawrie at the heart of Kennington’s defence.

Catt had a glorious chance to equalise for Otford United inside the opening two minutes but he dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Kennington were getting more joy in behind a tiring Cunningham after the hour-mark and Conlon cut inside to set up Tom Scorer, who hooked a shot deflecting past the foot of the near post.

Any Southern Counties East Football League club’s looking for a goalkeeper next season should scout Otford keeper Justin Lee. Not only was his handling supreme, he swept up well and made some great saves.

Conlon sent a long ball down the line to release McLeod, who cut inside Truman and his cross was palmed away by Justin Lee, high to his left and Jamie Knight mopped up inside the box to roll the ball out for a throw-in.

Otford should have been level in the 64th minute but Barnes pulled off a double save.

Jamie Knight launched a long throw into the box from the left towards the middle of the box and the ball was flicked on by Andy Knight and fell to an unmarked Cunningham.  Looking to make amends for his earlier own-goal, he drilled his low shot towards goal from 18-yards, which was blocked by Barnes’ legs and the keeper grabbed hold of Andy Knight’s rebound on the line.

Scorer said: “Tom was man-of-the-match for me today! He’s made great saves at key moments. He kept us in the game in the first half when they could’ve had a couple of chances.

“I think it’s only 1-0, a goal goes in and it completely changes the dimension of the game.  Tom was superb today, my man-of-the-match, he was brilliant!”

Otford United ran out of steam after that chance and didn’t look like scoring again.

Howells played the ball into Davis, who drilled a left-footed drive towards the top right-hand corner from 30-yards, which brought another excellent flying save from the Otford keeper, diving to claw the ball out of top bins and gathering.

Scorer said:  “Dale’s got that about him. He’s hade a couple of them, three or four this season when they’ve just gone rocketing in. The fact that he had a touch that didn’t help. I wasn’t surprised too much (that the keeper saved it), he’s a very, very good keeper. I think after our keeper Tom, he’s probably the best keeper in the league.”

Kennington doubled their lead with 21 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock.

McLeod was released down the left-channel (Kennington were getting a lot of joy down this side) and he cut into the box and centred towards the near post where Conlon hit the underside of the bar with a first time flicked shot and the ball came out to Tom Scorer, who drove his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

“Tom is another one who phased in and out of the game first half but when he’s on his game he’s completely unplayable at this level.  As are Sam and Carlum as a front three,” hailed Kennington’s manager.

“We just need them three to be on it really. It was nice for him to score a goal, he’s getting amongst it this season, as are Carlum and Sam as well.”

Kennington substitute right-back Daniel Binder gave away a free-kick on the corner of his box by foiling Catt, who stepped up to stroke his right-footed free-kick, which was held by Barnes on his knees at his near post.

Kennington’s third goal proved to be a flattering scoreline when it arrived with 40 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock.

Catt took a whack on the back in the build-up and crashed to the deck and play continued and Tom Scorer cut the ball back from the left channel and Conlon placed his right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner.

“The three that we’ve got in the front line any one of them will score when they combine well.  They’re always going to create chances so as long as one of them scores, I don’t really care,” added Scorer.

“First half I felt we were bang average, nowhere near it and I think both sides sort of struggled to settle in the game.

“I don’t know whether a few were out last night, thinking it weren’t going to be on but we certainly come out second half and we were a lot more settled and a lot more organised and we moved the ball in the right areas and we created chances for ourselves, so overall it was better but certainly not our best performance of the season.”

To their credit, Otford kept on going and were to be denied a late consolation.

Ryan Lee was to be denied by Barnes, parrying the ball low to his left, after the home side produced a sweeping move in and around the Kennington penalty area.

Kennington travel to Borden Village on Easter Monday (2:45pm), a side that are in the bottom six with 24 points from their 17 league outings and went down to a 2-0 defeat at Division One West side Club Langley in the Bill Manklow Inter-Regional Challenge Cup Semi-Final today.

“Borden’s another big one, it’s a very similar game to today.  On their day they’re a good side, a very, very good side,” warned Scorer.

“In past season’s they’ve been in and around the top but for some reason they seem to fade away.

“It’s always a big game, there’s always a nice rivalry between us and Borden so I’m looking forward to it but as long as we come away with three points I’m not fussed how the performance goes, as long as we get three points.”

Kennington will need to groundshare a club with floodlights if they are to take their place in a higher division.

“Hopefully we’re going to try to get something in place and all we can do is win the league and present The FA with everything that we’ve got so we’ll see,” said Scorer, who declined to reveal the club’s who they are speaking to about groundsharing.

“The boys are aware of the situation, all we can do and try to get something in place before the end of the season and just hope for the best.”

Otford United: Justin Lee, Michael Cunningham, Chris Baldwin, Scott Ellison, Sam Truman, Tom Cobb, Joshua Holland (Rory Catt 46, Tom Johnson 87)), Ryan Lee, James Jerwers, Andy Knight, Jamie Knight (Bradley Clive 68).

Kennington: Tom Barnes, Luke Hughes, Joe Fisher, Dale Davis (Amir Zureiqi 83), Ross Lawrie (Daniel Binder 75), Harry Yates (Adam Phillips 46), Jordan King, Tom Scorer, Carlum McLeod (Alastair Griggs 78), Sam Conlon, Mark Howells.

Goals: Michael Cunningham 32 (own goal), Tom Scorer 68, Sam Conlon 86

Attendance: 20
Referee: Mr John Quirke (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Nick Cornwell (Maidstone) & Mr Ethan Gillespie (Swanley)


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EMAIL STEPHEN McCARTNEY:
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