Ramsgate 1-1 Tooting & Mitcham United - You want a bit of fortune but I don't think we had it today, says Lloyd Blackman
Ramsgate 1 – 1 Tooting & Mitcham United
|Location||Southwood Stadium, Prices Avenue, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 0AN|
RAMSGATE 1-1 TOOTING & MITCHAM UNITED
Ryman League Division One South
Easter Saturday 15th April 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Southwood Stadium
RAMSGATE manager Lloyd Blackman admits his side were missing that one per cent execution during their deserved draw against champions-elect Tooting & Mitcham United.
Blackman, 33, has turned around the club’s fortunes since being promoted after Jim and Danny Ward were sacked on 5 January 2017 with the club sitting in the bottom five of the Ryman League Division One South table.
Blackman’s record going into this game was 10 wins, four draws and two defeats and as a result Ramsgate have climbed up to thirteenth-place in the table on 60 points.
Tooting & Mitcham United were seemingly champions after Chace O’Neil grabbed his side the lead, totally against the run of play, five minutes before the break, because second-placed Dorking Wanderers were being held to a goal-less draw by Hythe Town at the time.
Ramsgate left-back Jake MacKenzie’s stunning strike – his fifth goal of the season - ensured the title race will go to the final two weeks of the season as James McShane scored the only goal of the game for Dorking Wanderers in the final four minutes. Dorking Wanderers are now on 99 points, three behind Tooting & Mitcham United and both sides play each other on the final day of the season next Saturday.
“Very positive result. I thought we dominated them, created the better chances. We were unlucky to concede a goal just before half-time,” said Blackman during the post-match press conference held in his office.
“I thought they executed it very well, which we didn’t but generally over the period of taking the whole 90 minutes into account, I thought we deserved the three points to be honest.”
Winning league titles is always tough at Ramsgate, especially on a windy day.
Blackman said: “I think Dorking scored in the last five minutes, didn’t they? It’s difficult for them but I think they’ve got a three points cushion but to be perfectly honest the focus was on us today and make sure that the benchmark where we are against the team up at the top of the league and to come away to say we deserved the three points, which I think is a fair reflection, everyone said the same thing, I think it’s a credit to us and how we’ve come on in the last few months.”
Ramsgate went into this game on a seven match unbeaten run and were the better side until Tooting & Mitcham’s opener.
Ramsgate central defender Oliver Gray put in a man-of-the-match performance, keeping 23-goal bustling striker Michael Dixon in his pocket for most of the game.
“I agree, I totally agree,” said Blackman.
“We created more chances, defensively looked very solid and I know they had a couple of half-chances. We created the better chances, we on reflection over the 90 minutes there was only one team that deserved to win.
“The only thing we didn’t do, we didn’t quite execute everything, that last bit, whether it’s that last yard or it’s the last, a little opportunity at the end. Everything we did was 99% right. It’s the one per cent, that execution that let us down a little bit but generally it was a good performance.”
Ramsgate created the first chance inside the opening seven minutes when Luke Girt cut inside Peter Wedgeworth and laid the ball inside to winger Tom Chapman who hit a rasping right-footed angled drive from 22-yards, which stung the fingers of visiting keeper Kyle Merson.
Blackman said: “He gets himself in some good areas Chappo and to be fair Girty is very effective by pressurising and creating opportunities and that ball bounced down and an opportunist effort and to be fair Chappo did well to get that ball on target.”
Frank Wilson’s side were guilty of hitting too many long balls over the top which left Dixon and Billy Dunn frustrated as Ramsgate defending was resilient.
Tooting & Mitcham’s right-back Ashley Robinson drove the ball forward down the line and winger Claudio Hoban cut inside to curl his cross-shot around the foot of the far post from 30-yards.
Ramsgate rode their luck too. Jordan Wilson rolled a short corner from the left to Hoban and O’Neill’s first time shot from 12-yards was cleared off the line from within a crowded six-yard box.
Merson launched a big kick down the pitch and Dixon knocked the ball down for Dunn to crack a first time right-footed volley over the bar from 30-yards after 20 minutes.
Ramsgate’s central midfielder Jake Munday released lone striker Aaron Millbank down the right channel and he cut the ball back towards the sliding Chapman, but Sol Patterson-Bohner showed more desire to get to the ball first to put it behind for a corner.
Alfie Paxman swung in the resulting corner from the right and Luke Wheatley came up from the back to beat his man to plant his header across goal and past the far post from 14-yards.
Ramsgate’s dominance should have produced goals and there main man Paxman should have scored in the 28th minute.
Millbank jumped in to win the ball fairly from Patterson-Bohner on the left and Paxman was freed and cut into the penalty area and dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post from 16-yards with only Merson to beat.
“He’s got so much ability, a low centre of gravity, he’s able to move and manipulate the ball and he got up against their back line and once he dropped his shoulder and cut back inside, he’ll stick them in the back of the net every week in training,” revealed Blackman.
“I was right behind it and I could see it drifting wide and it was a bit disappointing. He created the opportunity himself and he was unlucky. He’s a young kid, he keeps on developing, he’s getting games, he’s enjoying it and he’s doing well.”
Now, if you had walked through the turnstiles you would have thought that the team in red (Ramsgate) were the team on course of winning the league title, such as their impressive performance.
Tooting & Mitcham United played the get out of jail card in the 33rd minute.
Girt hooked the ball out to winger Chapman on the right and he whipped in an excellent cross into the box where Munday rose to plant his free header against the crossbar from four-yards out.
Blackman said: “Munday hit the bar from a decent cross and to be perfectly honest from an unopposed header, when really you would’ve thought he’s decent in the air Muns and he gets himself in good positions. He scored again the other day and he was unlucky not to score.”
Watkins made a comfortable low save after winger Hoban cut inside Wheatley and stroked his left-footed shot towards goal from the edge of the penalty area.
But Tooting & Mitcham United grabbed the lead, against the run of play, with 39 minutes and 56 seconds on the clock.
Central defender Quincy Rowe controlled the ball inside the centre circle as the ball bounced up and down off the tricky bobbly surface before playing the ball out wide to Wedgeworth down the left. The former Ramsgate left-back whipped in a quality cross with his left foot and O’Neill ghosted into the box unmarked with great movement to stick out his right leg to stab the ball past Watkins from 10-yards.
Reflecting on Tooting & Mitcham United’s 119th league goal of the season, Blackman said: “We sat there and we said we wanted to limit them. We’ve done our homework on them. We know they’re decent from crosses. They can put a decent ball into a decent area. We wanted to make sure that we restricted them any crossing opportunities we could.
“The one time they got a decent ball into the box, one of our midfield runners just didn’t, again, talk about execution, ran 70 yards stayed with him and that last yard or two we didn’t quite get close enough and the lad nicks it in.
“It was a good ball in, a decent area, a good third-man run but when we analyse it ourselves personally we’re a bit disappointed that we’ve given them that chance.”
The goal galvanised the away side and they created a couple more chances before half-time.
Jordan Wilson swung in a corner towards the near post, which Ramsgate got bodies on the line to clear the ball and it dropped onto Robinson’s right boot, who smacked his volley over the bar from 10-yards.
Former Hendon stalwart Kevin MaClaren lofted the ball up towards Dixon, but the immense Gray got to the ball first and Billy Dunn drove forward before hitting a right-footed drive from 20-hards, which was saved by Watkins, low to his left.
Blackman said: “Again, they were opportunities that I expected Luke to save and he did. He’s been fantastic for us over the last four or five months. He had a tricky spell before Christmas but before then he’s been immense at the back and I’ll be surprised if they’d get past him.”
Ramsgate were unlucky to go in at the break a goal-down.
Blackman said: “I totally agree really. We had opportunities to score. We didn’t quite execute them and I keep on saying that word but it’s true and I think the proof is in the pudding really that as soon as they got an opportunity, they took it and it was a bit of a sucker punch for us but we regrouped at half-time and came out well.
“I thought we were unfortunate to be 1-0 down and we knew we’d get more opportunities and chances and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t surprised when we got the equaliser and we were on the front foot looking to get the second but it didn’t quite happen.”
Ramsgate’s sixth of ten corners (their opponents won six) saw them go close when Paxman swung in a quality ball from the left and Millbank hooked his shot over the bar from a couple of yards out.
“We work on set-pieces and we’ve had plenty of plenty of opportunities from set-pieces that we work on and again they’ve just done everything right, just that final little bit of, I don’t like to use that word luck, because I just don’t believe in it but it could come off their shin and go in but we get everyone in the right area, everyone in the right situations and it just didn’t quite drop for us.”
But Ramsgate deserved their equaliser, timed at five minutes and 45 seconds into the second half.
MacKenzie started the move himself by rolling the ball out to Paxman before he played the ball into Munday, who spotted MacKenzie’s run in behind and the ball bounced up for the left-back to smack a stunning right-footed drive into the roof of the net, via the underside of the crossbar, from 15-yards.
Blackman would have been proud of that finish himself, having played as a striker for Brentford and Bromley among others.
“Great finish. He’s touch just set him up for him perfectly. He’s got a tremendous technique MacKenzie and as soon as that ball fell to him and the way he got over the top of it, it was a great finish, a quality finish. He’s got great energy, he knows he’s now learning the times to get himself forward to join in, in attacking phases, something previously he would admit himself he would go too far forward in games in dangerous situations but he’s picking the opportunities well to get forward and he got his rewards today with a good finish.”
Watkins was forced into making a low save to his right in the 56th minute to deny Dixon scoring with a right-footed drive from 22-yards after Robinson played the ball up to O’Neill.
The away side brought with them a large following of vocal supporters but the longer the game went on with Ramsgate giving their side a tough battle the more frustration crept in.
There was a device on top of the away dug-out with members of their management team taking regular glances of updates at other latest scores in the division.
Tooting & Mitcham United took a quickly taken-free kick that saw Jordan Wilson play the ball into Dunn, who played the ball inside to Dixon, the ball bouncing up and the striker dragging his right-footed shot which was easily gathered by Watkins beside his post.
Watkins made a great stop halfway through the second half when Dunn drove through the heart of Ramsgate’s defence and stroked his right-footed shot towards the bottom right-hand corner, only for the Ramsgate keeper to stick out his left leg to flick the ball behind for a corner.
Blackman said: “We got ourselves in good areas again and it just sort of bobbled up and it fell to him on the edge of the box. Had that gone in that would’ve been one of those ones where you just sort of think that would’ve been really, really harsh because I thought we got in good areas to protect the goal. It just sort of ricochet off a few people into the path of Billy Dunn from 18-yards and you think ‘oh god’, that was a good save. He stood up tall and diverted it out for a corner.”
Ramsgate were putting 10 players behind the ball and that tactic ensured that Tooting & Mitcham United continued to press for the all-important winner.
However, Ramsgate almost snatched the victory inside the final 10 minutes on the break and I’m sure Paxman would be playing in a higher league if he was taller and stronger. The youngster just oozes quality.
Ramsgate substitute Macauley Murray released Paxman with a sublime diagonal pass and the winger cut into the box and his drive shot deflected off first defender Rowe and clipped the crossbar.
The Rams manager said: “Alfie’s crossed it and it’s slightly took a deflection didn’t it? Did he have a shot or was it a cross? He put it into a dangerous area, I just think it caught the defender, got a half block on it and you want a bit of fortune, I don’t think we had it today. I don’t think we had the rub of the green. We hit the bar a couple of times and had some good opportunities. On another day, we’ve said it before, we could be beating teams three or four-nil and playing the team top of the league and to say that, then I think we’re doing alright.”
Gray wasted an excellent chance to cap off his great game when he met Murray’s corner from the right but directed his free header across goal rather than in it.
Ramsgate’s talisman Paxman had another chance to win it inside the final five minutes, stroking his left-footed free-kick over the wall from 25-yards, unfortunately the ball went straight down Merson’s throat for a comfortable catch.
Blackman said: “He’s forced the keeper into a save. It was a good strike. Sometimes the keeper second guesses it and take a stride to the left and it ends up in the top corner but fair play to the keeper. He didn’t go either side and it ended up being quite a comfortable save.”
You could feel the tension all around Southwood Stadium and Tooting & Mitcham United created two and a half late chances.
Dixon jumped out of Gray’s pocket and found himself down the left wing and latched onto Wedgeworth’s pass down the line after Ramsgate’s right-back Joe Kane slid in and failed to cut out.
Dixon cut inside and whipped in a deep cross towards the far post where unmarked substitute winger Daniel Clements sent his free header from eight-yards into Watkins’ hands for a comfortable catch with 43 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock.
“We talked about restricting their crosses and we did exactly the same thing for their goal really,” said Blackman.
“They had an opportunity that they got to take the ball into the box and we’re just disappointed that we didn’t cut it out. That’s one of the things we highlighted before the game and fortunately to see it drift over the back-stick Watkins’ got himself in a good area and he had a comfortable save in the end but it’s a good opportunity for them.”
Watkins called “keepers” as he stepped towards the edge of the box and dropped Wedgeworth’s over-hit ball and the ball landed at Jordan Wilson’s feet but the shot from inside the D was blocked by the grateful keeper’s legs.
Wedgeworth then swung in a free-kick into the box where MacLaren steered his header past the far post, putting his head in his hands in despair.
With Tooting & Mitcham United’s fans coming to the Kent coast in force, Ramsgate certainly spoilt their title-winning party and the London outfit have a home game against Carshalton Athletic on Easter Monday before the big one at Dorking Wanderers.
Ramsgate, meanwhile, travel around the coast to Herne Bay on Monday. Sam Denly’s side are in seventeenth-place in the table on 50 points and lost 3-1 at South Park today.
Molesey, safe on 43 points in nineteenth-place then come to Southwood Stadium on the final day of the season next Saturday.
Blackman said: “To be perfectly honest, fair play to Tooting & Mitcham, but I’m not really interested in what they do, I’m interested in what we do and make sure we get a result. That was our focus. Call us party poopers, call us what you want, but we had a game plan to win games and that’s our job and to be honest I thought we were unlucky today.”
Ramsgate: Luke Watkins, Joe Kane, Jake MacKenzie, Tom Hickman (Macauley Murray 78), Luke Wheatley, Oliver Gray, Tom Chapman, Luke Girt, Aaron Millbank, Jake Munday, Alfie Paxman.
Subs: Samuel Lawford, George Crimmen, Tom Roberts, Jacob Mensah
Goal: Jake MacKenzie 51
Booked: Jake MacKenzie 76, Oliver Gray 84
Tooting & Mitcham United: Kyle Merson, Ashley Robinson (Edward Dines 84), Peter Wedgeworth, Kevin MacLaren, Sol Patterson-Bohner, Quincy Rowe, Jordan Wilson, Chace O’Neill, Michael Dixon, Billy Dunn (Jack Mazzone 78), Claudio Hoban (Daniel Clements 67).
Subs: Oliver Bennett, Alex Cunningham
Goal: Chace O’Neill 40
Referee: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester)
Assistants: Mr Peter Conn (Gillingham) & Mr Matthew Pollington (Paddock Wood)
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