Rusthall 3-0 Snodland Town - We're not in this league to make numbers up, says Rusthall joint-boss Steve Ashmore

Wednesday 17th August 2016
Rusthall 3 – 0 Snodland Town
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 17/08/2016 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Wednesday 17th August 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm

RUSTHALL joint-manager Steve Ashmore says he wants his side to compete all the way this season after becoming the surprise early pacesetters.

The Rustics are enjoying their best ever start to a season in Step Six and sit proudly at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table after wins over Kent Football United (2-1) and Phoenix Sports Reserves (5-0) and newly-promoted Snodland Town, who went up after finishing in the top three in the Kent County League last season.

Rusthall opened the scoring inside eight minutes when pacy right-winger Sam Jones scored direct from their first corner of the game.

Jones doubled his and Rusthall’s account by drilling a shot into the bottom corner a minute before the break.

Striker Dan Powell notched his sixth goal in three games in the second half to kill the game off to inflict Snodland’s first defeat of the season after they beat Sporting Club Thamesmead 2-1 in their first game.

“Probably wasn’t the best performance we put in so far this season, I think we were a little bit of the pace,” admitted Ashmore afterwards.

“We were probably lucky with the first goal but I’m sure Sam Jones will take that!

“Second half we were a lot better, controlling the game a bit better.  I felt we came out quicker, we were a lot closer to the ball and the opposition than we were in the first half and we got the third goal at the right time and it kind of killed it off for us, which was nice for us to allow us to play out with a bit of a lower tempo and we got hold of the ball and knocked it around a bit more.”

Snodland Town’s manager Gavin Gillies arrived at Jockey Farm late at 19:20, filled in the team sheet and handed it to match referee Steve Roots at 19:33 and despite agreeing post-match to do a post-match interview, rudely walked past while Ashmore was being interviewed, got in his car in the pitch black car park and drove off, so you won’t be able to read his thoughts on the club’s first defeat at this level.

Snodland Town can expect a fine of between £15-£60 for handing in their team-sheet late to the referee.

Ashmore was delighted that his table-topping side attracted a crowd of 165 to Jockey Farm tonight, which was their first league game played under their floodlights.

“It’s very much what we hope to continue,” he said.  “Obviously we want as many people here as possible. It gives the players’ a bit of a lift, it creates a bit of a good atmosphere here and it makes it a bit more enjoyable for players to see a big crowd. It gets them up for the game and long may that continue.”

With Snodland’s players arriving late too, they paid the price as Rusthall opened the scoring with seven minutes and 40 seconds on the clock.

Jones whipped in their first corner in from the right, the flight of the ball was misjudged by flapping goalkeeper Daniel Stevens and sailed over his head and caressed the top of the far post before dropping in to the back of the net.

“I’m sure if you ask him, he’ll say he ‘meant it!’ me? I’m not quite so sure,” came Ashmore’s reply to their lucky opener.

“He did a lot of work on Saturday, he didn’t quite get the rub of the green so I’m pleased for him tonight to come away with two goals, I think he fully deserved it.”

Rusthall were playing the counter-attacking game, while Snodland, who deployed a 4-2-3-2 formation to start off with, were playing the passing game.

Reece Gillies cut the ball back to Josh Gillies, who played the ball into grey-haired striker Dave Sherwood, who played in right-back Jason Harrison, but his shot from a tight angle was saved by Sean Ingleson at his near post.

Snodland’s left-back Scott Potter delivered a deep cross which sailed over Ingleson’s head but the Rusthall keeper caught Sherwood’s header at the far post, from a tight angle.

“They caused us a few issues in the first half that came as a result of us not being quite tight enough,” said Ashmore.

“We allowed him to get too many crosses in. He (Sherwood) had a little bit too much freedom around the box. We’re lucky that they didn’t grab an equaliser or certainly a goal or two in the first half.”

Snodland’s central defender Curtis Riley – who looks very similar to Faversham Town’s John Scarborough who plays in the same position – was the last player to arrive at the ground and he gave the ball away to Chris Stoate, who played in Powell, who swept his shot across the advancing keeper and past the far post from 15-yards after 18 minutes.

Stoate then played a square pass to John Sinclair, who played a fine diagonal pass to put Powell in behind Potter and Riley, but Stevens came off his line to make a vital block.

Snodland Town created a glorious opportunity when Reece Giles cut the ball back to Harrison, who whipped in a deep cross into the area where striker Aaron Chiles planted his free header just over the crossbar, before Chiles screwed his shot past the left-hand post.

Rusthall wasted another great chance to increase their lead in the 25th minute.

Central midfielder John Phillips slipped an inch-perfect pass to put Powell through on goal and as Stevens came off his line the striker’s audacious right-footed chip dropped agonisingly over the top of the left-hand post.

Ashmore said: “Dan Powell works extremely hard for the team and he creates chances out of nothing sometimes just because of his work-rate, shuts the centre halves down and a couple of good efforts didn’t go in but luckily grabbed his goal in the second half that he fully deserved.

“So far this season he’s been outstanding, the work he does for the team, the areas of the pitch he gets himself in.  We’ve spoken to him more about being a bit more selfish and play within the 18-yard box so that he was around to get the chances and he fully reaping the rewards so far.”

Reflecting on that chip, Ashmore added: “The Kent Football United game he had a similar chance and put it in the top corner there.  The goalie was so far off his line the chip was the best option, probably unfortunate it didn’t nestle in to the back of the net like the Kent Football United one.”

Seconds later, Stoate played the ball into his strike partner Powell, whose low shot from 15-yards was held by Stevens, low to his right.

Phillips’ drilled left-footed free-kick from the right-hand corner of the penalty area bounced once into Stevens’ hands for a comfortable save before another Snodland shot sailed over the bar.

Riley, Tom Cackett and John Gilles linked up in midfield and Chiles laid the ball off to Sherwood, who cracked a left-footed shot on the turn which screamed over the Rusthall crossbar.

Chiles and Sherwood linked up well for Snodland in the first half but their threat was snuffed out during the whole of the second half, something that Ashmore was pleased about.

He said: “It took us too long to get to grips with them.  I think we allowed Sherwood to turn us. We gave Chiles too much respect in the air. Some of the crosses they put in, we addressed that at half-time. We asked them to get closer all-round the pitch, not to dive in, stand a man up, which they did and that certainly showed in the second half where we limited them to very little.”

Snodland’s second corner was swung in deep by Reece Gillies and Barry White came up from the back to steer his header wide.

Sherwood helped his defence out when he tracked back to try to prevent Rusthall right-back Michael Tubb to deliver a cross into the box where Stoate’s diving header flashed over the crossbar from the penalty spot.

But Rusthall went route one to double their lead, timed at 43 minutes and 28 seconds.

Goalkeeper Ingleson launched a big kick straight down the middle, Power rose to flick the ball on and Jones took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot past the keeper to find the bottom near corner from 10-yards.

“It’s not something that we work on but nice when it comes off,” admitted Ashmore, who alongside Steve Sands have got off to a flying start in their first few weeks in charge of Rusthall.

“Powell’s done extremely well to get above the bigger centre half and a great flick. We always ask Sam to gamble on all the flick-ons because his pace will hurt teams especially in behind.  Yes, a good flick from Powell, Sam got in and he did what we asked him, which was first touch, sight of goal and pull the trigger and he did. A very good shot, he didn’t give the keeper any chance!”

Snodland continued to put some good balls into the box, this time Harrison’s cross from the right was hit first time by Reece Gilles, who steered his shot past the near post.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Ashmore replied: “We said to them that we felt we started a bit too slow, a little bit too far off the pace and we wanted to get tighter all-round the pitch but we did say we have come in 2-0 up, to use that confidence going in 2-0 into the second half.  Start off quicker, go and grab a third goal and they fulfilled everything that we asked off them, which is nice.  I’m sure it’s not always going to work!”

Rusthall flew out of the traps quickly at the start of the second half. Stoate played the ball to Phillips, whose first time drive sailed over after only 24 seconds and Stoate’s first time drive from 20-yards from the right-hand side forced Stevens to make a fine low save to his right to save.

“He probably hit it too well,” admitted Ashmore.

“They’re the ones where you probably want a little bobble or a mis-hit to find the bottom corner. He hit it so well. It’s a great save by the keeper in all fairness to him.”

Snodland Town, though, rode the early Rusthall storm and created an opening when Reece Gilles played Harrison in behind Alex Rich and he took a touch before delivering a cross into the box which was cleared out to Riley, the captain’s first time right-footed drive flashing harmlessly wide from 30-yards.

But Rusthall killed the game off by scoring their third goal in the 63rd minute.

White, who was in the right-back position at the time, gave the ball away to Phillips, who played the ball to Powell, who played Jones in behind the Snodland defence and his drive was tipped around the post by Stevens, diving full-length low to his right.

Phillips swung in the resulting corner from the left which fell at Jones, who was denied by another fine block from Stevens but the ball fell at Powell’s feet and he poked the ball over the line from a couple of yards out.

“That’s just the rewards for Powell, working so hard,” said Ashmore.

“These are the ones I’m glad he gets to make it a little bit easier for him. The whole move was started by him, he cut inside, he played a great little ball in between the centre half and the left-back for Sam, who maybe got it stuck under his feet, again a great save by the goalie.

“The resulting corner, a nice deep one, made the keeper work and Powell’s right in front of goal to tap it in once it was spilt.”

Rusthall almost made it four when Phillips drove through the middle with the ball, fed Powell, who slipped on the edge of the box but still managed to maintain possession to lay-the ball off to George Rogers, who drilled his left-footed drive just over the crossbar.

Rogers, who had now burst into life, won the ball and played the ball into Powell, who cut inside and cracked his right-footed drive sailing over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Phillips released Stoate down the left channel and his cross sailed over the head of substitute Dan Mitchell but Jones’ free-header at the far post sailed over.

Josh Gillies gave the ball away to Rusthall sub Jack Rusbridge, who stroked his shot past the right-hand post as Snodland were now dead on their feet.

Snodland sub Liam Gillies swept his speculative drive from the right some 30-yards out which bounced once before going well wide.

Powell, rode a strong challenge from Snodland sub Joe Chandler, cut inside to hit a 30-yard drive sailing just over the Snodland crossbar with the last chance of the game with 10 minutes left.

Ashmore was pleased with back-to-back clean sheets.

“I think they ran out of steam certainly when we scored the third goal, it probably did knock the stuffing out of them a little bit,” he said.

“The third goal just gave us that extra bit of confidence to control the tempo and with them trying to grab some goals the game got a little bit more stretched. It gave us an opportunity to counter attack.  The boys worked really hard to what we asked them to do second half, they did it perfectly.”

Rusthall have never been top of a Step Six League and travel to second-placed Glebe, the title favourites, on Saturday.

Glebe manager Adam Woodward, coach Sam Long, chairman Rocky McMillan and centre half Scott Whibley were in the crowd tonight and you wouldn’t put it past them to submit a seven-day approach for six-goal striker Powell soon.

“I’m sure there will be a few people who will take note what he’s done but I’ve known Dan Powell for 10 years and he’s always been capable of this,” said Ashmore.

“He’s so natural in front of goal. He works hard to create his own chances and I believe now he’s reaping the benefit of the hard work that he puts in. May it continue and hopefully he can score a lot more – but stay!”

Ashmore says he is “really looking forward” to the top of the table clash at Foxbury Avenue in Chislehurst.

“I got a chance to watch them against Lewisham Borough, which was good. They’re probably going to be the team that’s going to set the marker and yes, really looking forward to it.

“When we took over, we wanted to come into this league to play against the best teams so we can match ourselves up against them so yes, really excited for it.

“We’ve both had good starts so it should make Saturday a good game so hopefully there will be a decent crowd, a good atmosphere and a decent game of football.”

When asked whether Rusthall are the dark horses for the title this season, Ashmore replied: “Yes, very much so! First of all we always wanted to bring stability to this football club. We’ve started to with some of the signings we’ve made. Then we wanted to be competitive and then we want to challenge and why not?

“We’re not here to make the numbers up! We want to compete all the way. We will fight in every game and we will go as far as we can take them.

“Nothing’s won in August unfortunately. If you speak to all the boys they’ll all say they thrive on that little bit of pressure and it’s nice being up there and being top at the moment, but we’re not thinking overly too much because we’re only three games in.

“I’m pleased with the start we’ve made, we’ve still got progress to make as a squad but we’re not quite there yet but it’s a good platform now to build on and yes we’re hoping for a good season.”

Rusthall: Sean Ingleson, Michael Tubb, Alex Rich, John Sinclair, Stewart Goslow, Luke Stratford, Sam Jones, John Phillips (Jack Rusbridge 75), Dan Powell, Chris Stoate (Dan Mitchell 56), George Rogers (Callum Gallie 66).
Subs: Nick Coxton, Tom Green

Goals: Sam Jones 8, 44, Dan Powell 63

Snodland Town: Daniel Stevens, Barry White, Curtis Riley, Scott Potter, Jason Harrison, Tom Cackett, Reece Gillies (Liam Gillies 66), Robin Grace (Joe Chandler 46), Aaron Chiles, Dave Sherwood, Josh Gillies.
Subs: Lewis Odds, Lenny Laker.

Booked: Scott Potter 59, Josh Gillies 84

Attendance: 165
Referee: Mr Steve Roots (Tunbridge Wells)
Assistants: Mr Mark Moore (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Josh Smith (Tunbridge Wells)+

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