Rochester United 0-4 Stansfeld - The officials had a huge part, in my opinion, of ruining what could've been a very good game, claims Rochester United boss Matt Hume, who has two goalkeeper's sent-off against the league leaders

Wednesday 23rd March 2022
Rochester United 0 – 4 Stansfeld
Location Rede Court Road, Strood, Rochester, Kent ME2 3TU
Kickoff 23/03/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Wednesday 23 March 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Rede Court Road

ROCHESTER UNITED chairman/manager Matt Hume says it was very, very frustrating being in the dug-out to witness both of his recognised goalkeepers being sent-off during a controversial clash against league leaders Stansfeld.

Referee Darren Wilson sent-off Ben Nourse after only 178 seconds into this Southern Counties East Football League First Division clash and Dan Parkinson drilled in a deflected free-kick to give Stansfeld an early lead.

Hume had a goalkeeper on the bench so on came Jamie Kelly but he leaked two goals in 197 seconds as strike pair Tommy Whitnell and Lee Friend gave Stansfeld a commanding three-goal lead early into the second half.

However, Kelly was harshly sent-off for a professional foul in the 67th minute,  so left-back Tom Webb donned the gloves and was beaten by Dan Parkinson’s penalty to put Stansfeld five points clear at the top of the table with eight games remaining.

Referee Wilson also booked Matt Hume and his assistant manager Steve Tremain, put two Rochester United players’ in the sin-bin and at one part of the game the home side had eight players out on the pitch in an eventful encounter, watched by a crowd of 120 at Rede Court Road.

“I suppose I have to be careful what I say but in my opinion the game was completely ruined by the officials really early on in the game,” claimed Hume.

“We’re going to check the video footage but everyone around the ground, from what I saw from it, they were offside from the start.

“Ben’s come out, he’s (Milton) going away from goal and the fact that he should’ve been offside from the start because that wasn’t right. We then go down the pitch, the goalkeeper’s come out for the ball so really disappointed with that and that’s killed the game for us.

“Obviously we’ve put a goalkeeper on and they’ve scored straight from that free-kick and then I think as a team I think 10 minutes after that we were shaky because we had to keep in the game.  We were 1-0 down and then I thought we steadied it and I was really pleased with how the lads reacted for the rest of that half.

“There were a number of decisions all through the game, I don’t want to go into depth about that but I think it really affected what went on tonight.”

Rochester United harboured play-off hopes after beating Stansfeld 2-0 at Foxbury Avenue on 26 February, but tonight was their sixth match without a win and they find themselves in tenth-place in the table with 42 points with eight games left.

Stansfeld extended their unbeaten run to six games and have now eaten up their games in hand following their busy recent schedule and are clear of second-placed Sutton Athletic with the finishing line in sight.

Stansfeld joint-manager Jamie Phipps added: “An eventful game, very eventful.  We kind of knew what to expect when we came down here but they’re a good side.

“The early sending off certainly helped but I did think it was a sending off but after that we were pretty much in control and Charlie Cottrell didn’t have a save to make.”

This was a professional job from Stansfeld and Phipps was delighted with his men who kept their heads when Rochester United were losing theirs.

“There would’ve been a lot of people in the league thinking we would’ve come unstuck tonight but they’ll be a little bit disappointed after that (4-0 win),” said Phipps.

“We kept our heads and the boys did exactly what we asked off them because it’s so easy to get dragged into games like that and you lose your head and you get a player sent-off and they nick a goal and you’re under pressure.

“We knew if we kept 11 players on the pitch, we’d be fine and to be fair to the two boys who were booked I thought they were really unlucky. I couldn’t see why they got booked but obviously the ref’s seen something that I haven’t.”

Stansfeld goalkeeper Charlie Cottrell launched a big kick straight down the middle of the pitch to release Ollie Milton in behind Rochester’s high defensive line and goalkeeper Nourse charged out of his penalty area and clattered into the 16-goal striker, who was heading away from goal.

The challenge was made with 1:59 on the clock and the referee pulled out a red card from his right pocket with 2:58 on the clock, leaving Rochester United with a mountain to climb.

Striker Levi Gold’s night only lasted four minutes and 43 seconds as he was sacrificed to allow Hume to bring on his substitute goalkeeper.

Linesman James Beadle called over the referee, who showed Tremain a yellow card for dissent and with six minutes and 59 seconds on the clock, Dan Parkinson drilled a right-footed free-kick through the wall from 25-yards, which left Kelly flat-footed as the ball found the centre of the goal, with the keeper standing out of position.

Hume continued: “I’ve just been speaking to my brother and he said it went through the wall. From where I was I was a bit disappointed with it going in because it seemed to have gone in near post but by the sound of it the wall broke and then it went in so that was disappointing because had we not conceded that goal and down to 10 men you always feel you’ve got a chance.

“Levi started with a bit of a hamstring and we wanted to start with Levi. He’s a great player with us. We beat Stansfeld well when we went down to their place and we felt tonight we could’ve got something out of today’s game and that was fully the intent that we wanted to go with and Levi’s been a part of that.

“But when we went down to 10 men I looked at that because we weren’t sure how long he’d last so by getting him off early, hopefully we’ve not aggravated that hamstring and he should be ok for Saturday.”

Phipps said: “It’s unusual at this level to have a sub keeper on the bench but there you go.

“A great strike by Dan. I think it took a little bit of a nick off someone, probably wrong-footed the keeper who just come on and didn’t have a chance to warm-up really but it’s a perfect fillip, down to 10 men and then score from the free-kick.  You couldn’t have asked for any better.”

Stansfeld should have doubled their lead in the 16th minute, but Whitnell was guilty of a glaring miss.

Cottrelly launched a second big kick which Whitnell latched onto, easily cut into the penalty area and cut past the substitute goalkeeper and faced with an open goal somehow nodded the ball past the near post from very close range beside the near post.

Phipps said:  “Tommy’s been fantastic for us. We’ve changed the way we play, changed a couple of things and pushed Tommy further forward and it’s paying dividends because he’s getting the goals.  Tommy’s a quality player, we knew that when we signed him and we’re lucky to have him.  We knew he’d get another chance and we knew he’d take it.”

Stansfeld’s holding midfielder Rob Hughes hit a long ball down the line which released Milton down the right. He cut the ball back to right-back Sam Smith, who lofted the ball towards the edge of the box for Milton to knock the ball down for Whitnell, whose first-time shot took a deflection and looped up and was comfortably gathered by Kelly as the ball dropped out of the sky.

With the rather physical Lucas Payne now playing up front on his own, Rochester United started to enjoy a decent spell towards the end of the first-half and created their only real cleat-cut chance of the entire game in the 42nd minute.

Right-back Ben Wyness linked up well with winger Liam Wilkins down the right and Wilkins easily shrugged off Hughes’ shirt-pull on the by-line before hanging up a cross towards the far post where nine-goal left-winger Rex Ejimonyeabala’s downward header from eight-yards was comfortably held by Cottrell, low to his left.

Hume said: “We felt very, very pleased with how we reacted to put in the 10-15 minutes from there and going in at half-time we felt we could do something.

“We went in at half-time, we went down another player. There were so many decisions today I just don’t agree with how it’s been put together. You could even argue they got a few decisions wrong early.”

Phipps added: “Decent header, he was under pressure though so I don’t think he got the power on it that he wanted.  I’ve said it to you many times, they’re saves you know and expect Charlie to make, they’re bread and butter for him.”

Webb was thrown in to the sin-bin with 45:27 on the clock, before returning eight minutes and 51 seconds into the second half – with his side 3-0 down.

With the referee taking centre-stage during the first-half, everyone hoped a football match would break out after the interval.

Hume said: “I said that we’re still in the game. At that point we had someone sin-binned so we went in with nine players and I said we needed to hold on for the next 10 minutes until he can come back on again.

“Towards the end of the first half we’re sort of in the game enough to think we could get something out of it and I felt at 1-0 we always had a chance of nicking something out of the game.”

Phipps said: “We said to them (at half-time) keep your heads and stay calm on the pitch and don’t get the referee a chance to level it up.  I thought they officiated alright tonight but obviously I am going to say that.  You see too many times they can level if up if there’s been an injustice.

“We told the boys to be calm.  We didn’t play at a tempo in the first-half. We were very slow to everything. We were leading and playing against 10 men and we slowed the game down, which doesn’t really suit us so we said keep calm first of all and make sure we keep 11 players’ on the pitch and then we had to raise the tempo, we had to play faster.”

Clinical Stansfeld made the numerical advantage count as they doubled their lead with four minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Rochester United centre-back Max Ciano was booked for petulance after central midfielder Dan Parkinson was fouled inside the final third.

Dan Parkinson drilled the resulting right-footed free-kick towards the near corner from 25-yards on the angle, which bounced right in front of Kelly, who spilt the shot at his near post and Whitnell pounced on the loose ball and slammed the ball into the centre of the goal from inside the six-yard box to score his fifth goal for the club.

Phipps said: “He’s scored a couple like that. Dan concentrated on hitting the target and it’s one of those awkward ones for the keeper where it just bounced in front of him.  They’re hard, difficult but like all good strikers Tommy followed it in and tapped in from two-yards.”

Hume added: “That was disappointing. I’m sure Jamie will think the same. He could’ve done better with the free-kick. It was hit straight at him. It bounced off him and they reacted to it.

“You look at it and the first goal the wall broke, I believe, there was that one that they’ve scored from and the penalty, so there’s three goals there that are individual mistakes maybe but I don’t think we were opened up a lot even though we were down to eight men.”

Stansfeld sealed the deal by scoring their third goal of the game with seven minutes and 48 seconds on the clock.

Milton played the ball down the line to put Whitnell in behind and he cut the ball back towards the edge of the Rochester United box for striker Friend, who dinked his first time right-footed shot into the ground and the ball looped over Kelly’s head and dropped in just underneath the crossbar.

“Lee scuffed it, call it like it is, he scuffed it,” highlighted Phipps.

“It was a good move.  Ollie won the ball and went down the line, played in Tommy who squared it to Lee, who scored.  That’s good that your three forwards are combining to score. It’s fantastic because it’s a great thing to do.

“That’s something else that we said to them at half-time. We knew we had six or seven minutes when they were down to nine men and we said if we play at a tempo we can take advantage of that and we certainly did with two goals in the space of time when they had nine men on the pitch so we took advantage.”

Hume added: “It was a funny one. It seemed to hit the floor and bounce up.  From where I was standing it was strange how it went in. A sort of clumsy made goal. I don’t think there was anything special to it but I think all the time when we were down to that amount of players, I think it was always hard for us.

“Truthfully, I wanted the whistle to go because I was concerned with our players reactions and one of the things we spoke about at half-time was to make sure we kept our cool even though the decisions weren’t going the way we felt.  It was important that we tried to act professionally.

“I found it very, very frustrating being in the dug-out watching what was going on and feeling that the referee had an absolute huge part in what went on. The referee and officials had a huge part in my opinion, ruining what could’ve been a very good game.”

The pacey Milton was a threat in behind Rochester United’s high defensive line and he was released by Dan Parkinson and he cut into the box but his shot was kept out by Kelly at his near post.

Rochester United were reduced to eight men with 23:22 on the clock when centre-half Lewis Cook was thrown into the sin-bin.

Stansfeld caught Rochester United on the counter-attack when Macey Malyon found himself in the right-back position and split open Ejimonyeabala to put Friend in behind.

Goalkeeper Kelly made a genuine attempt to gather the ball as he slid low to his left but he tripped Friend inside the penalty area and referee Wilson pulled out his second red card out of his right pocket with 21:23 on the clock.

Webb took the gloves and jersey and stuck out his right-leg, rooted to the spot as Dan Parkinson rolled his right-footed penalty just left of centre to give Stansfeld a 4-0 lead with 24:29 on the clock to score his eighth goal of the season.

Both managers admitted Kelly should not have been sent-off.

Phipps said: “I’m not too sure about that one. I thought there was a double jeopardy rule? But I don’t know why he’s been sent-off?

“I don’t know if he’s been sent-off for stopping a goalscoring opportunity or what but I thought if you make an attempt to get the ball and the penalty was given, you couldn’t get sent-off?

“I don’t know what the referee or linesman (Stephen Luke) gave, whether it was violent conduct but it didn’t look violent, so I don’t actually know.

“When we took Dan off he was talking in the dug-out and he said ‘everything’s against you as a penalty taker because you’ve got an outfield player in goal and if you miss it you’re on a hiding to nothing’, but Dan’s scored a few penalties this year so we never had any doubt.”

Hume added: “Double jeopardy? This is another big decision that we’re questioning why? If it’s a penalty then it’s a double jeopardy and the goalkeeper should stay in.

“When we first asked the question, they actually said it’s not a penalty, it’s a free-kick.  That’s what the linesman said and then he changed his approach because then he’s realised the ref’s given a penalty. He then said it must’ve been a dangerous tackle. It wasn’t reckless and this again is another frustrating decision.

“I know I have to be careful what I say about the refs but that was awful as far as I’m concerned.

“We’ve lost two goalkeepers for a game in both cases.  Who’s heard of two goalkeeper’s being sent-off in one game? I haven’t!

“They’re 3-0 up, we’re down to eight men our goalkeeper’s come out. Do you then send him off and make it even worse?  Even if you were doing the letter to the Law sometimes they’ve got to use their common sense a little bit.”

Hume added: “I had a go at Webby for missing the penalty – no, only joking.

“I was really pleased with us, as bad we felt everything was going against us tonight, I felt no one gave up. They all worked really hard. Webby went in goal and done the best he could and I thought he done ok but everyone on the pitch, we didn’t let up, we still kept trying and kept working hard and I think that’s all credit to them.

“Stansfeld are top of the league and we’ve all said in there today that there’s no reason why we can’t do that next year looking at them being top and us thinking we easily felt we could’ve got something out of the game, with 11 players on the pitch I think we could’ve beaten them again tonight so in that sense we’ve all really got to be encouraged by the run we’ve had.”

Webb came off his line to thwart Milton after he was released through on goal inside the final nine minutes before the underside of the crossbar denied Stansfeld a fifth goal at the end.

Milton whipped in a deep cross from the right to find Friend in acres of space at the far post and he cracked a rasping right-footed drive which screamed over the rooted Webb and cracked off the underside of the crossbar.

“He’ll be disappointed about that, Lee.  He’s a goalscorer, loves scoring goals and he’ll be gutted he lifted his head there and hit the bar because he had a lot of space to aim for there,” added Phipps.

“Lee’s been fantastic for us, he’s played the last five or six games, he had to be patient. He picked up an injury soon after he came to us – he was cup-tied in the Vase – but his work-rate is really good and he’s quick as well.

“We knew they play a high line from the first game. It was a good avenue for us to get in behind but sometimes we were a little bit too eager or we just held on to the ball for a split second too long when the forwards went so a little bit more care or attention we could’ve had more goals.”

Sutton Athletic (64 points from 30 games), Larkfield & New Hythe (39 points from 30 games), Snodland Town (56 points from 32 games) and Tooting Bec (56 points from 31 games) are within the play-off zone.

Hume takes his beleaguered side to Forest Hill Park on Saturday, while Stansfeld travel to Staplehurst Monarchs United.

Rochester United were held to a 2-2 home draw by Forest Hill Park on 16 March and Darrell Queeley’s side have since extended their winless run to five games and are second-from-bottom with 23 points from their 30 league outings.

Hume said: “All we’ve got to do is finish as strong as we can, so our morale doesn’t get too down because it shouldn’t do because there’s a lot of good things that are going on now.  The players’ are enjoying themselves, we’ve got them working in a certain way, we should be really excited.  We’ve got to really finish the season good so we can enjoy ourselves and then look forward to next year.

“I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference between the top of the league and the bottom and I’ve said it a lot in all of the games I’ve been at.  We’ve found it tough against bottom end sides and we were one of them only at Christmas.

“We’ve got to go to Forest Hill. I think they’re fighting to stay up so that’s going to be tough so we have to go there with a real positive attitude and let’s finish as strong as we possibly can but we’ve got to take every team seriously because we’ve done it when we’ve gone into a game thinking it’s going to be a little bit easier and Greenways was a great example of that and we lost and we deserved to lose that game and Greenways were better than us.”

Staplehurst Monarchs United, meanwhile, are in the bottom five with 30 points from as many games and haven’t won in their last six outings and Phipps insists his title-challengers are not going to be complacent going to Jubilee Field.

Phipps said: “There’s still a lot of points to play for. We’ll keep our heads and keep calm and we’ll just take each game as it comes, it’s the oldest cliché in football I know but we’ll have a tough game away to Staplehurst on Saturday, we won’t take anything for granted.

“We had five players missing tonight (Casey Killilea, Ted Bailey, Aidan Hayes, Ross Morley and James Hawkins), five players who would be pushing to start in the tame so it just goes to show the strength-in-depth that we have to come here with the team we have, a very good team and a very good bench.

“We played Staplehurst twice at home this season and beat them twice but they’ll be tough.  Every game is going to be tough. When you’re top of the league people want to beat you. It’s a scalp.

“Rochester wanted to do the double over us.  No one has or can now beat us twice and that’s a fantastic achievement. They really wanted to beat us tonight, really wanted to beat us.”

When asked what it would mean for the amateur outfit to seal promotion into the ninth-tier of English football for the first time, Phipps replied: “It will be such a fantastic achievement, not just for the team because the team work hard but the boys who come up through the reserves and the committee and everything, it will be fantastic for a club like ours.  We work hard, we all do it for nothing and it will be a fantastic achievement – but we’re not there!

“We’ve still got a long way to go, six wins out of the last eight games and we’re pretty much there but there’s still a load of tough games in there.

“Until we’re there, we’re not planning for anything (next season) because I’ve been in football a long time and it can easily come and bite you in the backside if you get too carried away, so we’ll certainly won’t be doing that.

“You know what we’re all about, they’re mates so they work for each other. There’s no clique, everyone’s in it together so they won’t let each other get complacent irrespective of what we say from the dug-out or in the changing room.  They manage each other as well and that’s a fantastic place to be and that’s why we are where we are. The league table certainly doesn’t lie. Let’s hope it’s like that in a month’s time.”

Rochester United: Ben Nourse, Ben Wyness, Tom Webb, Tony Whitaker, Max Ciano, Lewis Cook, Rex Ejimonyeabala, Harrison Hume (Emilio Regini Moran 87), Levi Gold (Jamie Kelly 5), Lucas Payne (Jack Hardy 57), Liam Wilkins.
Subs: Luise Dos Santos, Jack Longland

Booked: Steve Tremain 7 (assistant manager), Lucas Payne 13,  Max Ciano 49, Matt Hume 55 (manager), Harrison Hume 60

Temporary Dismissals: Tom Webb 45, Lewis Cook 69

Sent Off:  Ben Nourse 3, Jamie Kelly 67

Stansfeld: Charlie Cottrell, Sam Smith, Joe Boreland, Rob Hughes, Billy Parkinson (Sam Jeal 78), Rob Curtis, Macey Malyon, Dan Parkinson (Lewis Osborne 74), Lee Friend, Tommy Whitnell (Jay Osborne 76), Ollie Milton.
Subs: Frankie Beale, Billy Shinners

Goals: Dan Parkinson 7, 70 (penalty), Tommy Whitnell 50, Lee Friend 53

Booked: Billy Parkinson 13, Dan Parkinson 17

Attendance: 120
Referee: Mr Darren Wilson
Assistants: Mr James Beadle & Mr Stephen Luke