Sevenoaks Town 1-0 Chichester City - The exciting thing is we're nowhere near where we want to be but we are still third in the table, says Sevenoaks Town boss Harry Hudson

Saturday 28th October 2023
Sevenoaks Town 1 – 0 Chichester City
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 28/10/2023 15:00

Isthmian League South East Division
Saturday 28 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Harry Hudson says his side needs to be more consistent but the exciting thing is they are nowhere near where they want to be despite sitting in third-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table after nine games.

Sevenoaks Town grabbed an eleventh minute winner through striker Rowan Liburd’s first goal for the club, which was only the third goal that Miles Rutherford’s side have conceded in their eight league outings.

The crowd of 107 were treated to two sides that play an attractive brand of football but Rutherford’s men failed to find the net in 107 minutes of football on a wet day at Greatness Park.

Chichester City arrived in fifth-place in the table with 14 points from seven games, a point above Sevenoaks Town, who had collected 13 points and bounced back from their 1-0 defeat at Burgess Hill Town on Tuesday night.

The Oaks were without midfielder Matthew Attenborough-Warren, who had rolled his ankle in the warm-up on Tuesday night, but central defender Jahmal Howlett-Mundle came off the bench in the 71st minute to make his return from a broken bone in his foot that has kept him out of action since Friday 8 September, when Hudson’s side beat Uxbridge 2-1 in The FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round.

There has been a couple of recent departures with Palace Francis joining Isthmian League South Central Division side Raynes Park Vale, while loanee Tushaun Tyresse-Walters has returned to Premier Division side Hastings United

“I’m pleased with our battling performance.  I thought we defended, especially in the second half especially well but also we had to ride our luck at times,” admitted Hudson.

“There’s no doubt that Chichester are a fantastic side and posed us lots of different problems throughout the game and we had to keep adapting and try to get one step ahead of them.

“Plenty of times we’ve played fixtures where we have plenty of territory and we have a lot of the ball and don’t come away with anything and today we managed to do that to an opponent, so it was a battling performance, one I’m proud off.”

Sevenoaks Town came across a Chichester City side that had more of the ball than they did and Hudson was delighted with his side’s resilience. 

“We showed a different side to our game.  They were better than what we wanted to be good at. We wanted to be like Chichester were today and they were better with the football than we were, so we ended up having to take a different approach and that’s what we did. I’m proud of the boys managed to do that because that’s not been our traits that you associate with our team and we managed to do that today, which is pleasing.”

Chichester City created their first of many openings after 44 seconds, as they were thwarted by a fine save from Sevenoaks Town’s ever-present 30-year-old goalkeeper Amadou Tangara.

Targetman Steven Hutchings stabbed the ball out to left-winger Issac Bella, who charged down the left and cut into the penalty area before his angled drive was comfortably saved by Tangara.

“Amadou made some really key saves in the first half and they were wasteful with the chances they created,” said Hudson.

“They’re an excellent side, so if you don’t get your defensive structure right they will cut through you and they did early on, so we had to adapt what we wanted to do and hopefully we started to stem the flow of their clear-cut chances as the half went on.”

Left-back Robert Hutchings then played the ball to Bello, who released right-winger Ethan Prichard in behind Sevenoaks Town centre-half Rian Bray but drilled his left-footed shot over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Sevenoaks Town created their first opening with 06:21 on the clock.

Right-back Jerald Aboagye played the ball down the line to winger Fumnaya Shomotun, who shifted the ball past Chichester left-back Robert Hutchings to reach the by-line and hung over a cross.

The ball came out to Ricardo Thompson, who recycled the ball back into the box from the left and Liburd’s headed the ball straight at visiting keeper Kieran Magee from inside the six-yard box.

“Rowan dominated aerially all over the pitch today and he got ahead of his man and glanced the header and you want him to get more on it or less on it because he ended up glancing straight at the goalkeeper but if it goes either side or whatever there’s an opportunity there,” said Hudson.

“Both sides had opportunities, clear-cut opportunities in the first half, them more so than us but we were creating.”

Both sides played-out-from-the-back and Chichester City gifted Sevenoaks Town the only goal of the game with 10 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Goalkeeper Magee played the ball short to centre-half Benjamin Pashley, who was pressed by Sevenoaks’ attacking midfielder Emmanuel Mensah in the defensive third.

Seconds later, Shomotun played the ball in from the right wing and Kieron Cadogan’s fine through ball played in Liburd, who clinically drilled his right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

“It’s really pleasing because we worked on a specific way to trigger a press in the week and we didn’t get many opportunities to implement it today but when we did, we scored from it,” said Hudson.

“It was great to regain the ball so high. The quality of the pass from Cadogan and the quality of the finish from Rowan was a joy to see and it was pleasing for him, I’m sure, to break his duck for the club and I’m sure if will be the first goal of many.

“They’re not an easy side to score against, that’s for sure. Maybe they suffocate you with the football and keep you as far away from the goals as they do.”

Chichester City’s two central midfielders, Joseph Moore and Emmett Dunn linked up well in the 17th minute and Dunn’s first time through ball split open Bray to play in Robert Hutchings, who swept his right-footed shot towards goal, only for the impressive Tangara to dive to his right and use a strong right hand to push the ball towards safety.

“There was a big chance and Amadou made a big save in the first half, especially when they cut through us and that was not something that we didn’t want to sustain, so until we got into changing our structure a little bit defensively, they were finding opportunities and that was obviously a challenge and a worry for us,” admitted Hudson.

Chichester City kept plugging away and were to be denied another goal on the counter-attack.

Pashley played the ball along the deck into Prichard, who released Bello, who sped past two men before cutting into the penalty area and was to be denied by Tangara’s third vital save of the first half.

Chichester City’s two full-backs were playing quite high and the away side were dominant for most of this game and another chance was missed 70 seconds into stoppage time.

Sevenoaks Town centre-half Corey Holder fouled Prichard on the edge of the D and Prichard stroked his right-footed free-kick inches over the crossbar, while aiming for the top right-hand corner.

Sevenoaks Town went route-in with their next chance (46:41) when a big kick from Tangara was flicked on by Liburd and this played in Mensah, whose right-footed shot was saved by the legs of the visiting goalkeeper.

“As we were seeing out the first-half, we went a little bit more direct and we got a lot more success from it. Manny almost scored, so we were getting more opportunities from direct play,” added Hudson.

“It was almost playing to our strengths and ultimately today Chichester were better with the football than we were so we had to play to our strengths and that was utilising Rowan and that was what we were planning to do.”

Cadogan was pulled down by Chichester City’s right-back Ryan Davidson and Magee didn’t line up a wall for Cadogan’s floated free-kick from the left, which was knocked across the face of goal by the unmarked Liburd and Magee comfortably plucked Holder’s looping header out of the air underneath the crossbar.

Mensah’s reverse pass played in left-winger Cadogan (who got in behind Davison) and reached the by-line to put in a low cross, which was pushed away by Magee at his near-post.

Referee Lawrence Torz-Brown blew his half-time whistle at 52:57, while the second half reached its climax at 54:17.

“The key message was to try to change our pressing structure to get more impact on them,” said Hudson.

“The most of our half-time team-talk was ensuring that we got our structure better in the second half.”

Chichester City created their first opening of the second half with 06:38 on the clock when Prichard cut in from the left and stroked a right-footed drive towards goal from the edge of the box, which was comfortably saved by Tangara down on his knees.

“It was straight at Amadou. I think it was relatively well hit but if it goes in the corner it’s a different story. Probably from their part it was slightly pretty wasteful,” added Hudson.

Magee’s distribution was of his quality and a long ball straight down the middle was flicked on by Steven Hutchings but Prichard lacked composure when he got in behind Bray, lashing his first-time drive over the crossbar from inside the D.

Chichester City kept probing for the equaliser that their dominance warranted and Prichard played a short free-kick inside to Hutchings, but the left-back’s speculative left-footed drive from 35-yards flashed past the right post.

Robert Hutchings then fed the ball into Bello (who was less of a threat after the break), who cut inside and swept a right-footed angled drive, which forced Tangara to dive to his left and use both hands to fist the ball towards safety in the 65th minute.

Pashley advanced over the halfway line and played the ball out to Robert Hutchings, who whipped in a first time cross which was met by a towering Steven Hutchings (who rose above Holder) who steered his header over the crossbar from eight-yards.

Pashley hit a long diagonal from close to the half-way line, which was flicked on by targetman Steven Hutchings but Davidson cut inside before dragging his shot past the near post from 16-yards.

“Their target-man was a good player and a real handful and I think maybe – I wouldn’t necessarily say they were forced into it – they could see they were getting success from the diagonals into him and it was something that we had to try to modify our shape to try to deal with that,” said Hudson.

“I think in the second half we changed our defensive structure three times because we needed to track him and try to adapt to Chichester and that’s a credit to them and their staff that they were always looking for a new solution and we had to keep trying to match them.”

Hudson had to act to stem the flow of Chichester City raids and brought on Howlett-Mundle to play on the right of a three-man central defence, with Bray in the middle and Holder on the left.

“I was more concerned in the first half than the second half because they had clear-cut chances in the first half,” said Hudson.

“In the second half there were entries into our box, definitely, but I felt like, especially when Jahmal (Howlett-Mundle) came on, I thought we defended that really well.

“Against a footballing side, you can either go after them and if they can play through you there’s opportunities, which happened in the first half, or you can maybe drop a bit deeper and sacrifice some space but because of that there will be more territory for them, which is what happened but I did feel like we looked more secure playing against them.

“I thought when Jahmal came on he helped us and Rian (Bray) was great and Corey (Holder) was out of this world, for me he was man-of-the-match, hands down but I thought the whole group defended.

“You can’t defend with only four players. I thought we defended the box well. I thought the group worked hard and you had to against a team that’s going to pose you different questions all the time.”

Thompson was penalised by referee Lawrence Torz-Brown for fouling Dunn and Tangara lined up a four-man wall only to see Robert Hutchings whip his left-footed free-kick over the wall and just over the crossbar (31:31).

Sevenoaks Town missed a glorious chance to kill the game off with 36:41 on the clock when central midfielder Jaiden Drake-Thomas lacked composure.

Thompson hit the ball over the top of Chichester City centre-half Curtis Da Costa to play Liburd through on goal but keeper Magee rushed out to clear his lines and left an open goal for Drake-Thomas, who hit his left-footed drive over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Hudson said: “Lacks composure, most certainly. I felt like he got caught between trying to chip it in over the goalie and striking it and he did neither, which is a shame, that would’ve killed the game.”

Chichester City dominated the corner count by 11-1 and Sevenoaks Town could have scored from their only flag-kick with 40:07 on the clock.

Drake-Thomas floated a deep ball in from the right towards the back post, Bray headed the ball back from where it came for Howlett-Mundle to hook his shot through a crowd of players but straight at Magee, who made a comfortable catch.

“The second chance was from a set-play where we headed it back across and Jahmal hooked it on and Corey was probably a couple of centimetres away from flicking it either side of the goalie, so both chances came to us late on but I thought as the half went on we got stronger and stronger and I think bringing Jahmal on and changing the shape did help that.”

Chichester City bossed the possession stats but excellent leadership from Holder ensured Sevenoaks Town kept their fourth clean sheet in all competitions this season.

Chichester City should have restored parity with 48:44 on the clock, when Robert Hutchings recycled the ball back into a crowded penalty area from the right and substitute central midfielder Ollie Munt headed the ball straight at Tangara from inside the six-yard box.

“More than a chance, one of the times in the box when we didn’t get the first contact. Amadou was there with a nice safe pair of hands.  I think that was maybe one of the most clear-cut opportunities,” added Hudson.

“What pleased me was we showed a different side to our game, that we showed the ability and the resilience to defend like we did, so that’s great and we should celebrate that.

“Obviously, it’s not how we want football games to be.  Chichester were better with the football than we were and that’s something that we don’t necessarily want to happen here.  We want to be the team that’s on the front foot and dominant and that wasn’t the case today but we are nowhere near where we want to be in terms of our level and our identity and that’s disappointing on one hand but also exciting on the other.

“We haven’t had our time yet. We haven’t hit our level yet and if and when we can there’s an exciting group because we have the ability to defend like we did today, which I’ve never had here previously, so there’s definitely things where we want to improve, no doubt.

“If we play the game 10 times today, I don’t think we win very often and we have to understand the bigger picture that we need to be better than we were today with the football. If we want to achieve what we want to do but in the same breath we should celebrate how committed and determined the boys were today.”

Hudson takes his side to newly-promoted Broadbridge Heath next Saturday, a side in thirteenth-place with nine points from as many games.

Three Bridges remain at the summit (despite losing 4-0 at Lancing today) with 23 points from their 10 games.

Herne Bay are in second-place with 16 points from 10 games, followed by Sevenoaks Town (16 points from nine), Sittingbourne (15 points from eight) and Ramsgate (15 points from six).

“I think it’s probably a bit of a fake position because of the games-in-hand Ramsgate, Cray Valley and Sheppey have over us and that’s not our problem. All we can do is keep winning but we didn’t win on Tuesday and we need to be more consistent but the exciting thing is we’re nowhere near where we want to be and we’re still third in the league.”

When asked what that means, Hudson replied: “In terms of the pattern of the game. You don’t want to be where we were today. We didn’t have much of the ball. We had to sacrifice some territory and we were playing on the counter. That’s not where we want to be.

“League position wise, we want to be as high as we can, no doubt, but in terms of reflection and the bigger picture, we need to ensure that we are much better with the football today, so we give ourselves a better chance to win a football game because Chichester had more opportunities.

“Chichester will feel very disappointed coming away from here losing and picking up no points and I will be if I was in their shoes so we have to reflect on that and not get carried away by just the results because ultimately we need to assert ourselves better than we did today.”

Hudson revealed that Attenborough-Warren will be fit for next Saturday’s trip.

“We’ll start tomorrow looking at them before we train on Monday.  They’ve picked up some good results. It’s a long old drive down to Sussex but we tend to be alright away on a Saturday, we just struggle away on Tuesday nights.  Hopefully we can take maximum points again on Saturday.”

Sevenoaks Town: Amadou Tangara, Jerald Aboagye, Karn Miller-Neave, Ricardo Thompson, Rian Bray, Corey Holder, Kieron Cadogan (Jahmal Howlett-Mundle 71), Jaiden Drake-Thomas, Rowan Liburd, Emmanuel Mensah, Fumnaya Shomotun (Daniel Carr 85).
Subs: Tyrese Osbourne, Andrew Norburn, Daniel Bennett

Goal: Rowan Liburd 11

Booked: Ricardo Thompson 90

Chichester City: Kieran Magee, Ryan Davison, Robert Hutchings, Joseph Moore (Kaleem Haitham 80), Curtis Da Costa, Benjamin Pashley, Isaac Bello, Emmett Dunn, Steven Hutchings, Connor Honore (Ollie Munt 38), Ethan Prichard.
Subs: Jamie Horncastle, Owen Spicer, Kyle O’Brien

Attendance: 107
Referee: Mr Lawrence Torz-Brown
Assistants: Mr Richard Myers & Mr Jack Mottram