Ramsgate 4-1 Sheppey United - They were a tough nut to crack but I thought once we did crack it I thought we were exceptional, some of the football we played was breathtaking, says proud Ramsgate boss Ben Smith

Saturday 07th October 2023
Ramsgate 4 – 1 Sheppey United
Location WW Martin Community Stadium, Prices Avenue, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 0AN
Kickoff 07/10/2023 15:00

The Isuzu FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round
Saturday 7 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports 

RAMSGATE manager Ben Smith says some of the quality in the second half was a joy to watch after the club reached The FA Trophy First Round for the very first time.

The Rams went into this Kent derby sitting in tenth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with six points from three games and this was their ninth (of 10) Cup game in a row.

Ramsgate have defeated Northwood (3-0) and league rivals Sevenoaks Town (3-1) here to reach this stage of the competition, while Sheppey United arrived on the Kent coast sitting in thirteenth-place in the table with five points from three games and this was their ninth cup tie of the season, their eighth in a row.

The Ites have defeated their league rivals East Grinstead Town (1-0) and Sittingbourne (2-1) and were one win away from replicating the class of 1985, who reached The FA Trophy First Round before losing 3-0 away to Dagenham.

Sheppey United were the better side during the first-half but clearly missed five-goal talisman striker Dan Bradshaw, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Ramsgate attacker Jordan Green was also suffering with the same injury.

However, Ramsgate grabbed the lead through striker Joe Taylor, who notched his 13th goal of the season, from the penalty spot, seven minutes before the interval.

Ramsgate turned on the style in attack during the second half, clinically scoring three goals in a devastating seven minute period.

Substitute right-winger Medy Elito, 33, scored twice, before central midfielder Bode Anidugbe drove into the corner from 35-yards.

Sheppey United’s right-winger Danny Leonard drove in his fourth goal of the season to score a consolation goal.

“Obviously really pleased.  As I’ve said to you before, the Cups have not been our priority but we seem to be doing well in them, so you’ve just got to keep going with that and we’re building some momentum,” said Smith.

“I think it was a tough game, certainly first half.  They were a tough nut to crack but I thought once we did crack it, I thought we were exceptional.  Some of the football we played was breathtaking and I was very proud of the players, the way they carried out the job and took on board the instructions at half-time. It was a good show of how we play.”

When asked about reaching the next stage of The FA Trophy, the former FA Vase Semi-Finalist with Canterbury City, replied: “I’m quite blase about it to be honest with you.  We’re not going to win this trophy, so we’ll take it game-by-game and it’s all about us building.

“It’s about getting better every game and finding out about the good teams that we’re going to play in the league.  We’ve had Sevenoaks in the last round, Sheppey this round, it’s good for us because I know so much about their team from playing them.”

When asked about making four changes to the side that defeated Frome Town here 4-1 in the last round of The FA Cup, Smith replied: “We’ve got a good squad. We’ve got a big game next week and we’ve made a few changes there.  We could’ve made a few more. We made more in the last round but when you’re looking at match ups against them, we thought that was the right side to put out there.”

Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten said: “It was a tough day for us. I thought we played decent in the first half and played some good football, created some chances and at this level now, if you don’t take your chances, then games can turn.

“Ramsgate are a good side, they were always going to have a spell in that game and they made that count.”

Centre-half Joe Ellul and right-winger Benedict Bioletti were both withdrawn after treatment and when asked about the pair’s injury status, Smith revealed that their withdrawals were ‘tactical’ and not down to knocks.

Batten, meanwhile, revealed Bradshaw’s status, as he was the only change from the Sheppey United side that came away from Merthyr Town with a rather impressive 4-1 FA Cup win last weekend.

“Dan’s unfortunately got a hamstring injury. We’re very much hoping that he’ll be fit for next Saturday for The FA Cup but at the moment it’s looking doubtful,” revealed Batten.

“We missed him very much. We’ve got a bit of a thin squad at Sheppey at the moment. We’ve only got the one recognised striker in Dan.  Obviously we’re looking to improve on that but the right player at the right placer has to be available for us.”

Batten did reveal the current financial status at Holm Park.

“We’ve gone through a period of trauma at the club with the chairman leaving and left jus a bit short on sponsorship that was promised to the club, so we’ve had to cut back a little bit with the budget and the boys and all credit to them, they’ve took a bit of a cut to stay together as a group and we’re getting ourselves back on track after the chairman went, the manager went, coaching staff went and hopefully now it’s come together.  The lads have had a good start to the season and we’ve got another big game next week.”

Sheppey United started the game on the front foot, creating their first chance after only 189 seconds.

Holding midfielder Richard Hamill hit a left-footed volley out of the defensive third to release Leonard down the right channel and he cut the ball back to six-goal attacking midfielder Jacob Lambert, who found a pocket of space three yards inside the Ramsgate box to hit a first time right-footed drive towards the bottom far corner, only for goalkeeper Tom Hadler to pull off a great save, diving to his right and using a strong right hand to push the ball just around the foot of the post.

“We played some good approach football and I thought at times we created those situations through our passing and our movement and unfortunately we didn’t finish and if you don’t finish, you don’t score a goal,” said Batten.

Smith added: “It’s in all the way from where I’m sitting and Tom’s made a great save, shown what a good goalkeeper he is.”

Ramsgate offered very little inside the first 30 minutes and centre-half Sinn’kaye Christie played a long ball forward to Michael West and the attacking midfielder released Taylor, whose right-footed chip sailed over the advancing goalkeeper and the crossbar from a tight angle some eight-yards from goal.

“I think JT (Taylor) has got to do better with that.  A little reverse ball from Westy.  JT’s been crying out for those little balls slipped to him for him,” added Smith.

Ramsgate centre-half Ellul fouled Lambert some 30-yards from goal and Hadler lined up a two-man wall for Josh Wisson’s right-footed free-kick but the goalkeeper comfortably gathered the ball at the second attempt.

Batten added: “I mean, again, I think the way to try to play our football, there’s going to be opportunities to have those strikes and you’re hoping that one is going to go in.”

Ramsgate’s holding midfielder Lee Martin floated in a free-kick which appeared to be sailing harmlessly past the far post but visiting goalkeeper Aiden Prall stretched and used his left hand to flick the ball behind for a corner.

Sheppey United went close to taking a deserved lead in the 16th minute, however.

Hamill’s left-footed pass played in former Corinthian striker Oscar Housego and his left-footed shot from inside the D was placed agonisingly past the foot of the left-hand post.

Batten said: “I think that was another good opportunity. Oscar turned and that was good approach play for that. I think we moved the ball quite quickly and created that opportunity and again we didn’t finish – very frustrating!”

Smith said: “They had a few attacks, didn’t they, that looked quite dangerous. They were obviously bang up for it, on the front-foot.  We just had to weather that and it’s good to see how we came through that.

“We weathered the – I’m not going to call it a storm – because we weren’t pinned in. We weathered the mini storm and I think once we regrouped and we got switched on in a couple of areas, I thought we then nullified it and the goals helped.”

Sheppey United kept knocking on the door and Leonard played the ball inside to Hamill, who wasn’t pressed and he took a couple of touches in the centre of the pitch before stroking a left-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, which was comfortably saved by Hadler, dropping down to his knees.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the 22nd minute incident when Sheppey United’s versatile centre-half Connor Wilkins appeared to have fouled Taylor on the corner of the six-yard box, with penalty claims being waved away by referee Joe McKay.

Smith claimed: “It’s a stonewall penalty! He’s rolled him. The lad got to him too tight. Connor Wilkins is a good player, he’s a central midfielder playing centre-half. He’s got too tight and JT’s rolled him and he’s the wrong side.  The ref said there was not enough contact.”

Batten replied: “I mean we’ve all seen referee’s give them and I’ve seen referee’s not give them.  It’s objective isn’t it?  I wasn’t sure if there was enough contact. I think Joe’s trying to turn him. I think Connor sort of stood his ground and he went over his leg but I couldn’t tell you if it was.  Ten times again, I don’t know how many times it will be given? Perhaps six or seven? I don’t know.

“Connor’s very versatile. We lost Briggs Ojemen, who was with us at the start of the season, two recognised centre-halves, Connor was at right-back and we switched Conor inside to centre-half and he’s done particularly well. He’s a very versatile player. He’s been excellent.”

Ramsgate started getting into their stride after the half-hour mark and had a spell of dominance of keeping the ball in and around the Sheppey United penalty area, but Batten’s men put their bodies on the line to protect Prall.

“We had a five or six minute spell where we started dominating the ball in their half and we were penning them in a little bit with lots of possession around the edge of their box.  I think we smelt a bit of blood and I think something was going to come from it,” said Smith.

Batten added: “I think Aiden was really only called upon a couple of times in the first half.  I think we were still on a high from last week and we carried that on with our first half performance but again it all comes down to putting the ball in the back of the net!”

Ramsgate’s pressure almost paid off in the 36th minute when West went very close to scoring a high-quality goal from 20-yards.

Right-back Jack Paxman floated in a cross into the box, the ball was cleared by Wilkins inside the six-yard box and came out to the former Herne Bay midfielder, who smacked a stunning right-footed volley across the goalkeeper and swerving agonisingly past the foot of the far post.

“We were on him before the game, he’s got to shoot more,” said Smith.

“The quality he brings, he’s got to bring more goals to the team and he was so close to scoring there.”

However, Ramsgate grabbed the lead with 37 minutes and 34 seconds on the clock, with Sheppey United centre-half Olamilekan Majoyegbe at fault.

He played a poor back pass back towards his goalkeeper, which was pounced on by a pressing Taylor and Prall slid in just a yard from the edge of the box and sent the former Cray Wanderers and Lewes striker to the deck and referee McKay pointed to the spot.

Prall bounced up and down in the centre of his goal with both hands raised in the air and dived to his left and managed to get a hand to Taylor’s right-footed penalty, which nestled inside the bottom right-hand corner.

“I thought we pressed really well at times. When we got it right, we were causing them a lot of problems.  There was a couple before that when we thought we were in but once we regained off the press, we played backwards or our first touch let us down,” said Smith, who has challenged Taylor to score 20 goals by December.

“JT’s spot on and he’s in the right place.  I thought it was a lesser pen than the other one but it’s a simple one isn’t it? He’s nicked it, yes, the referee is not going to not give that after not giving the other one before, that’s for sure.

“Goal thirteen.  There’s no big (goalscoring) targets. He’ll want 20 before December, he’s just got to get going.”

Batten said: “I think it was a bit unfortunate, in those situations. I’m not sure whether Lekan had a view of where he was or where the goalkeeper was.

“I think Aiden may have given him some help there and asked him to clear his lines. He tries to play it back and it’s short, the back-pass was short, so that situation occurred.

“I’m not sure from where I was standing, Aiden said he didn’t touch him and he’s gone over and he gives the referee another decision to make and after turning down the first one, I think it was odds on that he was going to give it.

“I didn’t think (Ramsgate deserved the lead).  I think on the balance of play I was happy with our performance and this is football. It’s all about taking your chances and unfortunately you don’t get anything for good play.”

Sheppey United were playing some neat football in attacking positions in the first-half and a 4-1 defeat looked unlikely.

Lambert and Housego linked up inside the final third before a through ball put Hamill through on goal and his left-footed shot from 12-yards on the angle trickled across Hadler and agonisingly past the foot of the far post in a one-v-one.

Taylor dropped deep and inside the Ramsgate half before playing a 10-yard short pass back to West, who slipped a through ball on the deck to put Anidugbe through on goal.  Four Sheppey players were trying to rush back but the former Herne Bay midfielder lacked composure inside the box, drilling his right-footed shot over the crossbar.

Ramsgate went even closer with the last action of the first-half as Christie crossed the half-way line and continued his run before Taylor laid the ball off to Christie, who dragged his shot across Prall and past the far post.

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts going into the interval.

Smith said: “We had a tough rocky 20 minutes and we’ve come through that with flying colours and to see the quality in the second half, I thought it was a joy to watch.

“We just said we’ve got to play higher up the pitch and just understand how they were pressing us and once we understand where our out-ball was, the game opened up for us.

“The amount of times that Jack Parter had the ball, they pressed really well in the first half but they’re not going to keep that up because you have to be incredibly fit to keep that up because they were doing well with it but then there’s always going to be somewhere because they were pressing with an extra body, there was going to be an extra gap somewhere.  It’s just literally spotting that gap.

“We identified the gap. On another day it might be somebody else but today that was the out-ball and I thought Jack Parter and Alfie Paxman linked up well. I thought Parts was exceptional in the second half.”

Batten added: “Just asked them to keep believing and carry on with what they were doing.  I always thought that Ramsgate were going to have a spell at some point but I thought we didn’t really had to change anything. I thought we were attacking good and passing the ball well and just that magical finish was missing.”

The first 15 minutes of the second half proved to be a cagey affair, lacking in quality, but Ramsgate did go close to scoring after 188 seconds.

Left-back Jack Parter and winger Alfie Paxman were a constant threat to Sheppey United’s right-back Mamadou Diallo.

The pair linked up and the ball was worked over to West, who swept a half-volley across the keeper and just past the far post from 20-yards.

“It was on the bounce on the half-volley.  Again, those are the ones we are talking about. When he starts scoring those, once he starts scoring, we’re in real business,” warned the Ramsgate boss.

Ramsgate then proved why they are favourites to land the league title by clinically scoring three goals in a seven minute spell.

Ramsgate doubled their lead with 16 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock.

Alfie Paxman released Parter down the line before the ball was worked into a deep Taylor, who released Anidugbe in behind Wilkins and Prall came off his line to smother the shot. The ball came out to Elito and the former Barnet and Welling United winger stroked his first-time left-footed drive into the bottom left-hand corner from 15-yards.

“Super sub, wasn’t he?  We said it before the game, obviously we left him out today.  You see his ability in training, his ability is a joke!  You can see why he’s played in the Football League,” said Smith.

“You want him to have more influence on the game but when you look back and we sat down before the game and stripped it back, most games he’s either had an assist or scored so quietly behind the scenes his numbers speak for themselves and he comes on today and he was the calmest player on the pitch.

“You’ve got people throwing themselves in front of him and there’s players on the line and he’s just picked out the spot. That’s experience of him playing at a much higher level.”

Batten said: “I thought Ramsgate second half, especially getting that second goal, I think that was quite key to them.  It changed the game a little bit and I thought they deserved that within the period of play in the second half.  I think there was only one side in it.”

Ramsgate then scored their third impressive goal with 19:22 on the clock.

Parter played the ball into the middle for Taylor, who’s first time pass was swept out to Alfie Paxman on the left and he put it on a plate with a fine ball across the face of goal for an unmarked Elito to sweep his left-footed shot into the centre of the goal from within the six-yard box.

“That goal was the best goal I’ve seen all season,” insisted Smith.

“I mean, that’s got to be 30 plus passes with us recycling the ball. You’re hearing the crowd shouting ‘ole!’ and to build it and to watch it all the way through, all the way through the thirds, most, if not every player has had a touch of the ball.  I can’t wait to see that, it was unbelievable and we nearly scored another one like that.”

Batten added: “I think Ramsgate had some confidence with the way that they started in the second half and once they got the second one, I think they started to play some good football and good movement and they started creating their chance, which were leading to those opportunities.”

Sheppey United didn’t create much in the second half but winger Bessey-Saldanha went close with a right-footed drive from 35-yards, which flashed past the diving Hadler and only just flashed past the right-upright.

“I think we need to take a leaf out of their book don’t we – it’s all about being clinical in football and credit to them, chances came along and they finished it well,” added Batten.

“James has been playing well this season. I think it was a decent strike and again, on another day, it might go in.”

Ramsgate hit their fourth goal with 23 minutes and 21 seconds on the clock, through an unlikely source in Anidugbe, scoring his third goal of the season.

Parter and Alfie Paxman linked up inside the Sheppey half down the left and the ball was played inside to Anidugbe, who wasn’t pressed, and his low right-footed drive from 35-yards nestled inside the bottom right-hand corner.

Smith said: “A great goal!  We played Bode further forward today.  He normally sits in. They were backing off, worrying about JT and you do get opportunities like that. It was a great strike. I don’t know about the celebration!”

Batten admitted: “I think we dropped off a little bit after it went to three and it showed a little bit. 

“We’ve got a thin squad, the boys have been playing relentlessly and I think we started to suffer a little bit physically and we couldn’t keep the pace up that we had in the first half.”

When asked about Ramgate’s threat down Diallo’s side of the pitch, Batten replied: “I think there were times when we got exposed down those sides. I think we were too eager to get the ball. Sometimes instead of getting in position, we were leaving our position and getting drawn to the ball and unfortunately when there’s good players playing, they created angles to draw us in and then the next ball was finding the third man running.”

Shell-shocked Sheppey United did pull a goal back with 34 minutes and 17 seconds on the clock.

Housego was in space inside his own half and smashed a 60-yard diagonal ball over to Leonard, who cut into the box before cutting the ball onto his left-foot to drill his shot past Hadler.

Batten said: “It’s a quality goal. It was a great ball out to him. When you’ve got Danny in situations like that, more often than not he’ll cut inside and score a goa, or he’ll set something up and that’s what he’s been doing all season.

“I think we’ve got to be more clinical, I think that’s it today and it showed today because we’ve had other games where we’ve suffered with this all season really. We’ve created a lot and lot of chances to win football matches and we’re going in at half-time where we should be two or three goals ahead and you’re not and it adds pressure because especially when you play a good side, you can’t afford to miss that sort of percentage.

“We’ve got Dan Bradshaw missing, our main target man and if he played today, we don’t know, but a couple of those chances might have gone in.

“If we’ve learnt anything today, against good sides, you’ve got to take your chances when they come along.”

Smith added: “Danny Leonard is their main man quite clearly and I thought Parts done a great job on him before that.  Parts was on a booking, we were shouting over to him ‘just to be careful.’  You want him to go and make a tackle higher up the pitch. He’s like a lamb to the slaughter there really. He done well to cut back and it’s a good finish. Danny Leonard is a good player.”

More poor defending from Diallo almost gave Ramsgate a fifth goal with 44:39 on the clock when Lee Martin’s cross from the right was met by Alfie Paxman’s towering free header,  from 15-yards, which looped over the crossbar.

Attention now turns to The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round next Saturday, with both club’s away from home and one win away from the First Round.

Sheppey United have never reached that stage of the competition before and travel to ninth-placed Isthmian League Premier Division side Billericay Town.

Gary McCann’s side snatched a 4-3 home win over Felixstowe & Walton United in The FA Trophy today.

Sheppey United have never reached The FA Cup First Round.

“I think we’ll go there with confidence.  I think we’ve shown that we’re a decent outfit and we play good football. It’s a 3G pitch, which will suit our style. There’s no reason not to go there and put a good performance in and get a result,” said Batten.

“We’ve created a record last week, that’s the furthest the club has ever been in our history, so we’re very happy with that but to go one more, you’re entering dream land then because the lure of those ties against the likes of Derby County, Bolton Wanderers, Wrexham, Charlton Athletic, the list goes on.  Ramsgate? That’s possible, that’s possible, so we go into that game with confidence and hopefully we can get the result and keep going in The FA Cup.”

Ramsgate, meanwhile, are taking at least 250 fans to Hampshire for their clash against eighth-placed Southern League Premier Division South side AFC Totton, who defeated Plymouth Parkway 2-1 at home in The FA Trophy today.

Smith is keen to replicate Jim Ward’s class of 2005, who lost
2-0 at Nuneaton Borough
in the last time that the club reached the First Round.

Ramsgate have already defeated seventh-tier opposition in Chatham Town (5-1) and Cray Wanderers (3-2 after a 2-2 draw at Hayes Lane) in The FA Cup this term.

“We’re underdogs but we’re underdogs with a chance so we’ll see what happens.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t go there and win but on the flip side of that, they’re a good side and they won their league last year and we’re a new side thrown together,” said Smith.

“We don’t know quite how good we can be yet, so it makes for an interesting tie.  I think is the best way of putting it.

“I think we’re well prepared for it.  The problem we’ve got is can we get some of our injured players back in time?

“Jordan Green, he had a little run earlier and his hamstring has gone again so he’ll be out for a good three or four weeks minimum and that’s a massive blow.
You talk about the JT’s of this world but Jordan Green is right up there.  He shouldn’t be playing at this level of football – it’s a huge miss for us.”

Smith added: “It will be brilliant (if we reached the First Round) to match Jim Ward’s side.  I’ve had the pleasure of his company and playing golf with him and stuff. 

“I’m not one of those manager’s that don’t want him around.  They’ve had a lot of managers here in the past where they see Jim in the background and not quite sure what’s going on.  I embrace it (his wisdom, experience, advice), it’s brilliant.  I listen to some of his advice, some stuff I ignore!”

Ramsgate: Tom Hadler, Jack Paxman, Jack Parter, Lee Martin, Joe Ellul (Daniel Johnson 45), Sinn’kaye Christie, Alfie Paxman, Bode Anidugbe, Joe Taylor (Wes Hennessey 75), Michael West, Benedict Bioletti (Medy Elito 53).
Subs: Jordan Green, Louie Procopi, Freddie Oliver, Tijan Jadama

Goals: Joe Taylor 38 (penalty), Medy Elito 62, 66, Bode Anidugbe 69

Booked: Jack Parter 30, Bode Anigugbe 73, Sinn’kaye Christie 84

Sheppey United: Aiden Prall, Mamadou Diallo, Frankie Del Morgan, Richard Hamill (D’jean Spencer 77), Olamilekan Majoyegbe, Connor Wilkins, James Bessey-Saldanha, Josh Wisson (Maliq Morris 63), Oscar Housego, Jacob Lambert (Oladipo Durowoju 67), Danny Leonard.
Subs: Daniel Birch, Hadley Glock, Aiden Clark

Goal: Danny Leonard 80

Booked: Connor Wilkins 35

Attendance: 520
Referee: Mr Joe McKay
Assistants: Mr Kieran Williamson & Mr Michael Corderoy