Rusthall 4-1 Welling Town - If your mentality is to give up when things aren't going your way, I'm going to lose patience with you very quickly, warns Welling Town boss Kevin Oakes

Saturday 30th July 2022
Rusthall 4 – 1 Welling Town
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 30/07/2022 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 30 July 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

WELLING TOWN chairman/manager Kevin Oakes read his side the riot act and threatened to wield the axe after suffering an opening day humiliation at Rusthall to slump to the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table.

Rusthall recorded their best start to the season at this level, despite falling behind to Sam Bailey’s controversial free-kick.

However, outstanding left-winger Reuel Powell-Downey rifled in an equaliser on his return from league rivals Holmesdale, before right-back Louis Anderson scored a sublime free-kick to give the bottom three finishers the lead at half-time.

Attacking midfielder Dwan Archer notched on his debut - dual-registered with Isthmian League South East Division Sevenoaks Town – before striker Louie Clarke slotted in a fourth to put Rusthall in second-place in the table behind Punjab United, who were also 4-1 winners, at K Sports.

“Not good enough! It’s as simple as that.  I feared this was coming. I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say on the first day,” said Oakes.

“I think we’ve got a lot of boys in our group that can play pretty football and when you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and battle and be physical we haven’t got enough people who want it.

“I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt but you can only give people a certain amount of chances before you’ve got to face up to reality that at the moment certain people who we thought were going to be good enough, are not and something needs to be done about that and it will be very quickly!

“I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve got a few missing, that’s not meant as an excuse. Maybe people are taking their places for granted as a result because someone who would be competing for their shirt isn’t around. 

“There’s always going to be somebody out there, whether they’re at the club now or not, could be at the club next week, so you’ve got to be performing.  It’s a results business from now, isn’t it? Pretty football in pre-season doesn’t mean much!

“We’re now at a point where we’re playing a side like Rusthall, we’ve had them watched three times.  We know exactly what to expect of them. We stood in the dressing room an hour before kick-off telling them what they are like and likely to do and they’ve come out and done exactly that and we haven’t been able to deal with it.  They can’t say they weren’t prepared or given the right information.”

Rusthall manager Jimmy Anderson added: “A great start, three points, you always want to get your first three points. I’ve waited weeks, probably months here last season for three points. It’s a great start, a good performance from the boys. To win 4-1 against any team in this league, we’ve put in a really good performance today to justify the scoreline.”

This hard-fought battle was played out on a bone dry playing surface at Jockey Farm Stadium, with several players picking up injuries that forced them off.

Rusthall centre-half Callum Adonis-Taylor was helped off the pitch and sent to hospital with ankle ligament damage.

Welling Town suffered three injuries with striker Vinnie Medhurst suffering a broken nose, left-back Conrad Lee picking up an ankle injury and centre-half Luke Exall suffering an reoccurring ACL injury which denied him a summer move to Isthmian League Premier Division side Margate.

Both sides were guilty of treating the football as a hot potato, often giving the ball away during a frenetic and poor quality opening 30 minutes.

Welling Town’s back-four failed to deal with several long kicks from Rustics goalkeeper Tommy Taylor and right-back Damilola Oni was their weak link as Powell-Downey’s pace was a constant threat down the left flank.

Anderson said: “It’s the first game of the season, everyone’s had a good or bad pre-season. It’s hard to judge who has a good one or who has a bad one, you keep changing your starting 11 during pre-season.

“We looked at Welling’s results, they probably looked at ours.  We watched some of their videos and we knew some of their players.

“We gave the information to the boys prior to the game. All pre-season we’ve tried to play football, tried to play out and then for the first 20-30 minutes it was a little bit like a hot potato for both teams, just wanted to kick it, hit areas and not make the first mistake and it wasn’t a great start at all.”

Oakes added:  “I think the first 10, 15, 20 minutes was one of those games the ball wasn’t on the deck as much as we would like.  I’m quietly confident when we do get the ball down and play or we’re allowed to get the ball down and play we can compete with most sides.”

Rusthall went close to smashing the deadlock inside the opening nine minutes.

Luke Miller broke down the right and cut the ball back for Clarke, who got the better off Oni inside the box but Welling Town’s centre-half John Foster cleared his lines and just 10 seconds later Powell-Downey cut in from the left and stroked his right-footed shot just past the foot of the near post.

Archer drew a foul out of Robert Brown some 25-yards from goal and Clarke went close with a right-footed free-kick which only just cleared the crossbar as he aimed for the roof of the net in the centre of the goal.

Another long kick from Taylor was allowed to bounce inside the box by former Holmesdale centre-half Foster and goalkeeper Christian North jumped up to catch the ball but he was nudged by Clarke and the ball trickled into the goal but the 20th minute goal was correctly chalked off.

Anderson said: “Everyone knows Tom can clear his lines pretty well, he’s got a big kick and we use it sometimes.  We felt we could exploit them at certain times during the game with the ball in areas over the top.

“Louie Clarke’s got in, the keeper’s come out and you ask your striker not to pull out. If the keeper pulls out then you’ll be moaning at him so there’s a collision. Nine times out of 10 the referee gives it to the keeper. Louie puts it away and it’s not given.”

Oakes added: “I think that’s a foul. It was one of the physical elements that we’re talking about. I couldn’t have seen that happening at the other end.  If a long ball had gone over the top in to their keeper’s hands, we would probably shood and watched him catch it so it was a big difference from being dirty and horrible and being physical.”

Welling Town’s first chance on goal arrived just before the half-hour mark.

A big clearance from keeper North was drilled down the middle of the pitch and the ball bounced over Adonis-Taylor’s replacement at centre-half Calvin Gitiba and Zak Bryon laid the ball off to Bailey, who lashed a first time right-footed drive over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Welling Town grabbed the lead in controversial circumstances in the 35th minute.

Rusthall left-back Rory Salter cleanly won the ball and cleared it first time just outside his D but Bailey went down like a sack of spuds.

Referee Nicholas Monkman consulted assistant referee Steve Roots and then pulled out a yellow card for Salter, while Bailey was receiving treatment.

Inevitably, you sensed what would happen next.  The former Lordswood winger made a miraculous recovery, got himself up off his sick bed to stroke a low left-footed 22-yard free-kick glancing off the wall and nestling inside the bottom far corner, past the diving Taylor and wheeled away to celebrate with his team-mates with Roots facing the wrath of abuse from the Rusthall faithful.

Oakes said: “I think their player won the ball but I think the manner, I don’t think he’s even won the ball, it was even a tackle really.  I think he’s in possession but the angle of his body with his studs raised he’s gone in and won the ball. 

“From the referee’s point of view, I’d imagine going through his head that he’s considering that to endanger Sam and he’s given the free-kick.  He did need to consult a linesman to give a yellow card. 

“It’s a very dangerous area of the field and one of the pleasing parts of recent pre-season games is our dead ball delivery and it’s something that we’re definitely got a lot of options in our squad and Sam’s not afraid to putting free-kicks in the box.  It was a good finish.”

Anderson added: “Sam’s got that in his locker to be fair. We were all aware of it and aware that he cuts in and he’s got a wand of a left foot so that’s a constant threat throughout the game.

“In that situation, the ball’s gone over the top, Rory’s tried to bring it down, he’s cleared his lines and on the follow through Sam’s run into him and the referee’s given it. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.

“I don’t think it’s a foul because he’s played the ball and clearly he hasn’t hurt the player but Sam’s decided to roll around and say he’s hurt and he gets up and takes a free-kick.  It is what it is, it’s happened, you have to move on.”

Rusthall would have collapsed last season but they showed plenty of character to bounce back and go into the interval with the lead.

They produced a fine move on the deck with centre-half James White playing the ball into Archer, who played a first time lay-off to feed Powell-Downey, and his low right-footed angled drive flashed across keeper North, who got fingertips to the shot to flick the ball around the far post.

“We lost CT (Adonis-Taylor), Calvin Gitiba came on and Calvin’s an unbelievable player and he’s come on and started us playing out from the back a little bit more and gave people confidence.  Then Whitey joined in, it was a great move and the keeper’s made a good save,” said Anderson.

Oakes said: “Christian’s come in at short notice. He’s been away on holiday and his attitude is superb. He was an hour early at training the other night, not because he’s got the time wrong but he’s just that personality, his ambitious and that’s a very, very good save at that point.  You’re grateful that he’s keeping you in front expecting us to be in at half-time 1-0 up, that wasn’t the case sadly.”

Gitiba swept a long diagonal along the deck to release Louis Anderson charging down the right and he did superbly well to keep the ball in as it was rolling down the hill.  He cut the ball back to Luke Miller and Clarke’s shot on the turn deflected past the right-hand post.

Rusthall’s persistence paid off, however, equalising on the stroke of half-time.

Powell-Downey’s pace easily saw him beat Oni before playing the ball inside to Jamie Miller (on the edge of the box)  and he teed up Clarke, whose low shot was blocked by North’s legs and Powell-Downey pounced on the loose ball to rifle a first time drive into the top left-hand corner.

“After their goal, we needed that kick up the backside and the boys got it,” said Anderson.

“We know we’ve got threats in the team.  I’ve built a good squad this season.”

When asked what Powell-Downey gave him today, the Rusthall manager replied: “A smile, a smile.  It’s great to have him back and he’s saying by his standards he said he should’ve had a better pre-season, he’d like more goals. He’s got a goal today, he’s a constant threat.  He’s loved at this club. I’ve managed him for years and we’re friends outside football and I know his family and he knows mine so it’s great to have him.”

Oakes said: “It’s one of those ones where the keeper’s done brilliantly and the ball could’ve gone absolutely anywhere.  He’s done well, it’s fired at him, all he’s really done is put a foot out and it could so easily have gone anywhere other than the goal.

“It’s just our luck that it’s in the back of the net.  I don’t think you can fault the goalkeeper at all.  The first save is brilliant. If you want to be hyper critical, it’s disappointing that two or three Rusthall players were in a position where the ball might drop and I couldn’t say the same about our back line, whilst they can’t be everywhere you do make your own luck at times and Rusthall in that particular phase of play had players in a position that gave them the opportunity to get the luck.”

Welling Town’s holding midfielder Oliver Andrews was penalised for tripping Salter some 30-yards from goal and keeper North stood no chance as Louis Anderson produced pure quality, hitting a well-struck right-footed free-kick from 30-yards, which curled sublimely into the top left-hand corner.

Anderson said: “He’s my brother but I didn’t think he had that in his locker. It’s probably the best strike he’s ever hit! 

“I’m shouting, ‘ask the question, put it in a good area, get the boys running in.’

“The keeper’s just conceded, it’s just before half-time and Louis decided to put it in the top corner – it was a great strike and he’s buzzing!”

Anderson added: “We were really disappointed with the start because we want to play football.  We felt they knew we wanted to play football and they kind of didn’t press high. They were half setting a trap for us to play out and we were just bypassing that.

“We didn’t get Dwan Archer on the ball as much as I would like and we just wasn’t controlling the game so we said that to the boys.

“There were many times last season where I’ll be leading a game and we’d come out and something would go wrong or we’d cause our own mistake and lose the game.  Today, it felt like we would kick on and the boys were confident at half-time and one thing lead to another.”

Oakes added: “A good finish, not much you can do about that.  My mentality is if the opposition score a good goal that you can’t do an awful lot about, it’s going to happen over the course of a long season but you have to take that on the chin and say ‘great finish.’

“At that point we weren’t happy but we weren’t unhappy and we felt that we were in the game.  If the whistle goes five minutes earlier you’re 1-0 up and your conversation is very, very different.

“What we said at half-time, we haven’t really played to our strengths at all and we’ve been in front and we haven’t played to our strengths at all and we’re 2-1 down because of a ricochet goal and a moment of brilliance.

“If we can improve our performance with the wind and slope in our favour in the second half and get the next goal, it’s anybody’s game from there.”

Rusthall were the dominant force during a one-sided second half, which saw a lack of leadership and a lack of desire from a poor Welling Town outfit.

Louis Anderson swept a 50-yard diagonal over to Powell-Downey, who cut inside and onto his right-foot to curl his shot just around the far post from 22-yards after nine minutes.

Rusthall – who bossed the middle of the park with former Corinthian man Jamie Miller dominant in the key area of the pitch on his debut - raced into a 3-1 lead in the 58th minute.

Wideman Luke Miller played the ball down the right wing and Clark would have been offside if he latched onto it but he allowed the onside Louis Anderson to latch onto the through ball.

Anderson played a low cross into the box and Archer took a touch before smashing the ball past North from 10-yards.  Neither Oni nor Andrews could snuff out the chance as Archer was sandwiched by the three Welling players.

“Dwan was a constant nuisance more so in the second half because we allowed him to get on to the ball,” said Anderson.

“He’s just a great little player and we’re lucky to have him.  I know (Sevenoaks Town manager) Harry Hudson really well and we’ve managed to get a link with Sevenoaks and a couple of other clubs.  I though Dwan took his goal really well, probably should’ve scored another one, but he controlled the second half.”

Oakes added: “A good finish. Poor defending frankly. To allow him to get into that position, if you give him opportunities six, eight, 10 yards out, don’t be surprised if the ball ends up in the back of the net. It was poor defending collectively for me.”

Welling Town produced a sweeping move which should have given them a lifeline in the 64th minute.

Bailey, who finished the game as a second striker behind ineffective substitute striker Chris Newell – was released down the right and he played the ball into Robert Brown, who sprayed the ball over to an unmarked George Whitelock. The winger took a touch inside the box before stroking a low left-footed shot towards the bottom near corner from 12-yards, which was tipped around the post by the diving Taylor.

Oakes admitted: “I think at that point that’s when you think it’s not going to be your day.

“The three key injuries doesn’t help and you’ve got square pegs in round holes as a result.”

Anderson was full of praise for the goalkeeper that he landed from league rivals Fisher.

“That’s why we brought Tommy in. He’s known to have a massively big kick on him but he’s a really good keeper for such a young age.

“He’s experienced a lot of football at different various levels so he knows the standard of the league and he knows what we demand and he knows he needs to be constantly on his toes and mentally switched on to put in a performance like he did today.”

More poor defending from Foster, who almost gifted Rusthall another goal in the 66th minute.

Taylor launched another big kick towards the edge of the Welling Town penalty area and Foster’s header back towards his goal was bouncing towards the goal-line but North managed to scramble back and volley the ball off his goal-line at the very last moment.

Archer split open substitute left-back Abdul Muiz Alaka with a diagonal pass which let in Clarke but his left-footed drive stung North’s fingers at his near post.

Rusthall sealed the comfortable victory by scoring their fourth goal in the 74th minute, with a slick move down the left.

Substitute left-back Abdullah Khalil played a one-touch one-two with Archer before cutting the ball back towards an unmarked Clarke, who placed his first time left-footed drive across the keeper and into the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Anderson said: “All Louie Clarke thinks about is goals.  We fought off a lot of competition to keep him here. He loves the club, he’s loved by the fans and he’s scored seven goals in six games in pre-season so he’s flying at the minute.  He was after that goal, he said to me before the game ‘I’m going to get a goal today.’ He’s a confident lad and he slotted it well into the bottom corner.

“Likewise we’ve got Conor Johnson as well. He’s scored goals in pre-season so there’s competition throughout the whole squad.”

Oakes said: “I think the most disappointing thing for me and the comments we’ve made at the end is when things don’t go your way and clearly today they didn’t, are you going to sulk about it or are you going to do something about it?

“I’m disappointed with the reaction at that point.  We looked like we’d given up and I don’t think in any kind of competitive sport or anything in general if your mentality is to give up when things aren’t going your way, I’m going to lose patience with you very quickly.

“Is that a good goal from them or have we just given up?  I think the latter to be honest with you.  I think if they score a goal like that in the first half at 0-0 we give them credit for a good move.”

Gitiba was booked for bringing down Whitelock down the left and Bailey’s tricky low left-footed free-kick from just outside the corner of the penalty area was pushed away by Taylor, who maintained his concentration.

Welling Town were to be denied a second goal inside the final three minutes when a long ball over the top of the defence by Alaka put Newell through on goal and his flicked shot was tipped around the post by Taylor.

Bailey whipped a left-footed free-kick bouncing past the foot of the near post from 30-yards but Welling Town’s performance didn’t impress their manager and Oakes revealed he was only satisfied with two of his players today and insists he will make changes ahead of their next outing in Hextable.

“Apart from maybe Luke Exall (centre-half) on his debut and the goalkeeper (North), I don’t think anybody else can look at themselves individually and be proud of their performance,” said Oakes.

“Ultimately what the bloke next to you may not or may have done, if your performance hasn’t been good enough, don’t be passing the buck!  If your attitude isn’t right, I’m not sure what myself or the coaches could possibly do for anybody when they are challenged, they pass the blame to other people. I’d rather them front it out themselves.”

When asked if there were players who have played their last game for Welling Town, Oakes replied: “I’m all for giving people opportunities. It’s my mentality at work and at football but you can only give certain people so many opportunities. If you go through our squad today every single one of those players played Step Four or Step Five last year, every single one.  We’ve not brought blokes out off the park or out of the Kent County League or kids out of academies who don’t know what they’re doing and that unit as a collective should be better and some of that is on me but for the vast majority it was on them.”

Both sides are in FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round action next Saturday, with Rusthall at home to Loxwood and Oakes demands a reaction for their trip to league rivals Sutton Athletic, 4-1 winners over Canterbury City on their Premier Division debut.

The carrot is huge as the winners face home ties against Isthmian League South East Division sides Ramsgate and Ashford United respectively in the Preliminary Round two weeks later.

Rusthall: Tommy Taylor, Louis Anderson, Rory Salter (Abdullah Khalil 68), Jack Smith (Tommy Lawrence 75), James White, Callum Adonis-Taylor (Calvin Gitiba 27), Reuel Powell-Downey, Jamie Miller, Louie Clarke (Conor Johnson 75), Dwan Archer, Luke Miller (Addo Ambankwah 68).

Goals: Reuel Powell-Downey 45, Louis Anderson 45, Dwan Archer 58, Louie Clarke 74

Booked: Rory Salter 34, Calvin Gitiba 77, Tommy Lawrence 81

Welling Town: Christian North, Damilola Oni, Conrad Lee (Abdul Muiz Alaka 46), Zak Bryon, Luke Exall (Reginald Yembra 52), John Foster, Sam Bailey, Oliver Andrews, Vinnie Medhurst (Chris Newell 28), Robert Brown (Liam Spellward 72), Sam Bailey.
Sub: Michael Fenn

Goal: Sam Bailey 35

Booked: Oliver Andrews 68

Attendance: 154
Referee: Mr Nicholas Monkman
Assistants: Mr Harry Graham & Steve Roots