Sevenoaks Town 0-1 Cray Wanderers - We've been kicked between the legs twice in two games, says Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins

Saturday 29th December 2018
Sevenoaks Town 0 – 1 Cray Wanderers
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 29/12/2018 15:00

Bostik South East Division
Saturday 29 December 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins says he has been kicked between the legs twice in two games against title challengers Hastings United and Cray Wanderers over the festive period.

The Oaks came away from Hastings United with a 1-0 defeat on Boxing Day after centre-half Jack Miles was sent-off in the 67th minute before Sam Cruttwell scored the only goal of the game just four minutes later.

Cray Wanderers extended their lead at the top of the Bostik South East Division table to 11 points after super-sub striker Freddie Parker, 18, swept home the winning goal with 42 minutes and 48 seconds on the second half clock.

Sevenoaks Town – now in 12th place in the table with 21 points from 18 games and are seven points clear of basement side Herne Bay – wasted a glorious chance to grab the lead but striker Luke Coleman hit his penalty straight into Nick Blue’s hands just five minutes before the break.

“I thought we made hard work of it if I’m honest,” admitted Cray Wanderers boss Tony Russell, who has now collected 45 points from their 18 league outings.

“We huffed and puffed and lacked a little bit of quality in the final third.  I think over the course of the game I think we deserved the win if I’m honest.

“It was pretty much us attacking and them trying to counter on us pretty much all game, which was fine. I thought they were decent but first half we had enough chances to really go in front and we’ve missed some good chances from set-plays as well but overall we’ll take that.”

When asked about his side’s missed chances, Russell replied: “Luckily enough, I’m used to it!  I’ve tried to stay calm. The players you’re working with if they take all of their chances they wouldn’t be with you so you have to accept that.

“I don’t think we was overly great today but I think an away performance, a clean-sheet baring the penalty save I don’t remember Nick Blue having much to do.”

Collins, whose side have now lost three on the spin, said: “Disappointed, I think that sums it up, disappointed really. I thought we deserved a point out of it. 

“They’re a very good side, a really good side. Definitely the title contenders and they’ve got some very good players who play a great way of football.

“I thought we held our own. The penalty is a big decision and we get it and we don’t take it. You can’t have those chances in games of football against a side of that calibre and don’t take them. I knew it would come back and bite us on the backside and it did and credit to them. When you’re trying to win titles – it was the same for us last season – when you’re at the top you’re the one that goes and gets that goal and that three points.

“We’re disappointed but we’ve taken two teams of that calibre to the distance and as us as new boys it shows we can pit our wits. 

“The game against Hastings the other day was ruined by a red card that never was and it was a great striker that won it and we’ve come unstuck at the end there today. That’s football, you’ve got to take that on the chin and you have to take your chances when they come along and today we haven’t done that and similar to Hastings. We’vre been kicked between the legs twice in two games.”

This was a tactical battle between Collins and Russell with Sevenoaks Town soaking up the pressure and trying to hit the league leaders on the break.  The Wands had plenty of possession, created many, many chances and failed to take them.

“Do you know what, you have to pay teams of that calibre. we have to pay them respect and we did that because we know if we go and try to match them we’re going to get picked off and they’re going to cause us problems,” explained Collins.

“Sometimes you have to sit in there and stay in the game and see what you can get out of it and all off a sudden can you put your stamp on it?”

Karl Dent drilled a free-kick into the base of the Sevenoaks wall and Bradley Pritchard rolled the ball out to Ben Mundele and his right-footed angled drive from 30-yards was comfortably saved by Ben Bridle-Card down on his knees at his near post inside the opening eight minutes.

Sevenoaks Town’s holding midfielder Ryan Fowler delivered a quality free-kick into the box, which was cleared out to an unmarked Ollie Bennett, who hooked his right-footed volley past the left-hand post from 30-yards.

Sevenoaks Town goalkeeper Bridle-Card pulled off a brilliant save to frustrate Cray Wanderers in the 18th minute.

A long ball out of defence from Mitchell Nelson released Mundele down the right and he cut the ball on the outside to Jerome Federico, who cut in from the wing towards the edge of the penalty area and his curler was superbly tipped onto the top of the crossbar before dropping over by the diving goalkeeper, high to his right.

Russell said: “It was a great save!  I think that was just maybe creeping in. Jerome done excellent to come inside and bent it.  I thought the goalie was really good all game. He commanded his area well and that was an excellent save.”

Collins added: “That’s a great save! We expect that because they’re lively and they’ve got really good players and good quality. You have to ride your luck at times against teams of that calibre and we did.”

Sevenoaks Town created an opening halfway through the first half after Nelson tripped Alec Fiddes but Coleman stroked his right-footed free-kick over the wall and just over the top of the right-hand post from 28-yards.

“They’re half-chances for me, you’ve got to at least hit the target and we haven’t done that, we haven’t worked the goalie,” added Collins.

Sevenoaks Town hit Cray Wanderers on the counter-attack on the half-hour mark.

Winger William Johnson-Cole clipped a lovely diagonal pass that sailed over Nelson’s head to pick out Fiddes out on the right and he whipped in a great cross towards the near post but Barney Williams jumped up with Coleman to steer his header over his own bar and behind for a corner.

Cray Wanderers centre-half Jay Leader, who is comfortable running the ball out of defence, ran forward before slipping the ball into Joe Taylor’s feet and the striker rolled a ball out to Dent, who dragged his shot across goal and trickled past the foot of the far post from a tight angle from eight-yards.

Sevenoaks Town weathered the storm, however, and should have taken the lead in the 40th minute.

Bennett burst into the penalty area and was tripped by Leader on the corner of the six-yard box and referee Joe Stokes pointed to the spot.

But goalkeeper Blue stepped to his right and dived to comfortably pluck Coleman’s poor right-footed penalty out of the air.

Collins said: “Once we got into the game and we actually put our little mark on it, all off a sudden we get the ball and play a bit and start to generate our own chances.

“It’s a poor pen, he’ll be the first to admit that. I’d rather him stick his foot through it and at least make the keeper make a proper save.

“Bluey’s read it and it’s a lovely height, nice wright. It’s disappointing because they’re moments in games you have to take.”

Collins admitted the miss messed up his game-plan as he brought on strikers Frankie Sawyer and Sid Sollis later on in the game.

“Once we get the pen and we can go 1-0 up, then I’m thinking that’s great, they want three points so they’re going to come out and have a go and then all off a sudden it might leave gaps and it might give us something to play to and going in at half-time 1-0 would’ve been fantastic but that’s not the case so you’ve got to live with it but you know you’re going to rue that chance and we proved that with two minutes to go!”

Russell added:  “I think it was a pen, there’s not much argument in that.

“It’s sloppy from us, it’s actually come from us, we had the ball, it was a sloppy clearance and then we’re scrambling. Jay’s gone to ground and we don’t need to go to ground.

“In terms of the penalty, I don’t think it was a particular good one if I’m honest.  He sorts of loops it up but a great save.  Bluey has been with me a few years now and he always saves penalties. He’s pretty much an outfield player how he plays so he reads people really well.

“If that goes in, if you look at Sevenoaks’ team-sheet, they’ve dropped Kenny Pogue, Frankie Sawyer and Sid Sollis.  The game plan was to soak all the pressure up and hope they can get one on the break and try to defend that.

“That was their first shot on goal. If that goes in and they go 1-0 up the game becomes a lot different, it gives them an extra 15-20% energy.”

Cray Wanderers missed a great header within a couple of minutes when Dent floated in a corner form the right towards the near post for Tom Phipp to plant his header just over the crossbar from eight-yards.

“It’s frustrating for (assistant manager) Joe Vines because that’s his baby,” revealed Russell.

“He’s a set-piece guru, he works with them every training session. We call it the three-course meal. Nathan White will do the warm-up and the possession stuff to raise their heart rate and I will do the game plan and Vinsey comes in and finishes with all the set-plays, defending and attacking or whatever ones we want to work on.

“We haven’t scored many of them this year.  What I will say in their defence they’re not here to score goals, they’re a bonus. We’ve got boys here to score goals so they should’ve scored their free-headers, they’re sitters but they didn’t take them but I’m reluctant to question them too much with their finishing.

“We take one of those chances in the first half and we go 1-0 up, I think we go and win by four or five, we just didn’t take them.  We were a little bit sloppy but I thought we played alright in the first half, played some nice football and opened them up but that final pass or little bit of quality was lacking a little bit and it was a little bit of a concern for me.”

Mundele played the ball into Taylor’s feet, who flicked a first time pass into Federico, who drilled his shot just past the base of the near post as the goalkeeper advanced off his line.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Collins said: “Good! They’ve kept to the game plan. There’s bits we can improve on, there’s bits that we looked at where we could have had a bit more going forward – and we did!

“I thought second half we got in three or four times down the right-hand side and we just hadn’t delivered a good enough cross.  There’s bits that you try to work on to make happen and you get men in the box and the crosses haven’t been good enough (from Sam Crabb) so that’s the downside but as I always say we’ve created those chances.”

Russell added: “I was frustrated!  I just felt they were whacking it up to (Johnson-Cole) and they were getting too much joy off that and it was annoying me! Let’s make them work a little bit harder than that.

“It was more really to say don’t panic and don’t force it. You can see what they were going to do, sit back and let us have the ball and hit us on the break.  I said be patient and it will come. It’s easy for me to say that now because we’ve just won 1-0. I said we’ll wear them out, just keep wearing them down. They’re working too hard, we’ll get them, just stay patient.

“I trust them, I know what we’re doing. I know how hard it is. If you look at the number of late goals I’ve got it’s because teams have got to work so hard without the ball and eventually they switch off.”

The referee failed to spot Fiddes grabbing hold of Dent’s shirt inside the Sevenoaks Town penalty area but allowed play to continue for Dent to turn his marker and sweep his shot across the keeper and just past the far post from 12-yards after 153 seconds into the second half.

Russell handed left-winger Daniel Uchechi his debut following his switch from Vanarama National League South side Hampton & Richmond Borough and he played the ball inside to Dent, who leaned back and skied his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Fiddes drove at the Cray Wanderers defence before playing the ball into Coleman, who cut inside and onto his right-foot but his chip from 22-yards sailed over the crossbar.

Sevenoaks Town keeper Bridle-Card was called into action in the 62nd minute.

Mundele threw the ball to Phipp, who skipped past Bennett and bent his low shot towards the bottom far corner, only to be denied by the Sevenoaks keeper, diving full-length to his right to tip the ball behind for a corner.

“I thought that was creeping in,” said Russell.

“Phipp’s come inside and dropped his shoulder and let a right-foot one. It might’ve crept in. The goalkeeper was full-stretched and pushed it around the post.

“We had a lot of possession and a lot of chances but I don’t think our quality was enough. We didn’t work the goalie enough for me. That was a little bit disappointing.”

Nelson played the ball into Taylor’s feet and the former Margate striker held the ball up and turned and slipped the ball through to Dent, whose left-footed drive from 20-yards was caught by Bridle-Card, while stepping to his right.

Sevenoaks Town’s game-plan was working as the longer the game went on and they created a great chance to snatch the victory in the final 20 minutes.

The impressive Bennett released Coleman down the left channel and he cut into the penalty area and tried to place his left-footed shot into the bottom near corner from a tight angle from 12-yards out, but Blue swiftly got down low to his right and used a strong right-hand to push the ball behind for a corner.

Collins said: “It’s a good save but you expect him to save it. He’s done well Bluey because Luke’s showed him like he’s going far post and then changed it and it’s a great strong hand and a very, very good save from him.

“It’s a great strike from Luke actually but it is a save I expect Bluey to make but they’re pivotal moments. He’s made two good saves in the game and kept the score at zero and that’s what good sides do.”

Russell added: “They brought on Frankie Sawyer, which meant they went two up and left one side free so we wanted to release the full-backs and roll the dice.  We worked on it in training. By them doing that they went 4-3-3 instead of playing one wide player, they played two centre-forwards and left one side free so we released Ben Mundele and went for it so that does leave you 3-v-3 but sometimes you’ve got to roll the dice and we did have a go.  The problem with that it does leave you open and it gets a bit frantic. 

“If you’re talking about one chance in the first half and one chance in the second half away from home, I think we’ve done alright.”

Cray Wanderers – who won the corner count by 10-4 – squandered another headed chance from a set-piece.

Dent floated in a corner from the left towards the far post and Nelson planted his free-header over the crossbar from six-yards out.

Fiddes delivered the home side’s final corner in from the left, which was cleared out to Josh Dowling, who was Sevenoaks’ last-man at the other end of the pitch. He had time to hit a long ball back into the Cray penalty area but Bennett steered his downward header straight into Blue’s hands for a comfortable gather from just inside the corner of the box.

Cray Wanderers kept plugging away and another headed chance was squandered when Pritchard floated in his only corner from the left and Leader rose at the far post to send his diving header past the right-hand post from six-yards.

Sevenoaks Town lost centre-half Miles to an injury in the final five minutes and this played a key part in Cray Wanderers claiming their deserved late victory.

“I don’t know (what he’s done) I haven’t spoken to him about it. I just know it’s a dead leg or whatever. That could’ve been pivotal because the cross comes in and maybe Jack deals with it and clears it and we’re at sixes and sevens and they’ve took the advantage,” said Collins.

Pritchard played a free-kick into Parker’s feet on the edge of the Sevenoaks box and he swept the ball out to Federico, who burst to the right by-line before wrapping his foot around the ball to whip in a great cross. 

Nelson, who was still up for the set-piece, planted his header towards goal, which was brilliantly saved by the diving Bridle-Card, beating the ball out high to his left, but the ball fell for Parker, to sweep his shot into the bottom far corner from six-yards to score his eighth goal of the season.

“Shags (Michael Power) got injured and we went with Freddie and I wanted to give him a run in the side. I thought he deserved it,” explained Russell.

“I just felt there was one game, we played Haywards Heath away and I just felt it got to him a little bit and he started talking it seriously, the weight of being the person to score the goals and win the games. He physically got quite upset so I took him out and I told him I’m going to bring a forward in and I’m going to pull you out and you’re going to be patient and score some goals for the under 23s and stay with the squad and bring you back when you’re ready.

“I’m not ruining youngsters, I’m here to guide them and nurture him and I was delighted for him.  He’s come on and the ball’s dropped and it’s a great finish, an absolutely great finish!”

Collins added: “Good save and that’s it, that’s our luck. That’s what happens.  We’ve got to clear it, we let it bounce inside the box. Ben’s made a great save, we have to react to it and just clear it, which we’ve been doing all game and we haven’t and then it’s dropped and he’s got a shot off and we haven’t blocked it and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s done!”

Sevenoaks Town are next in action with a trip to Herne Bay next Saturday, 5 January 2019, while Cray Wanderers host Three Bridges on Sunday, 6 January.

Seven points separate Sevenoaks and Herne Bay, who came away from Sittingbourne with a vital 3-2 win today, while Three Bridges sit in eighth-place with 26 points from 18 games after beating Whyteleafe 3-2 at home.

Collins said: “We’ll take the positives out of it. You can be too negative. It’s our first season (in this league) and we’re learning every single week and we’re learning how people play and how they do things differently to what we do and the calibre of players that we’re playing against. 

“It’s a learning curve and we can’t be too disappointed because they’re going to be games that we can win.  Today wasn’t that day so you have to build again and look to the future and try to put a good team effort together against Herne Bay in a weeks time.”

Russell added: “Three Bridges are the form team in our league. It will be a cracking game! I’ve watched them play, it will be a good game of football. They’re very good going forward, they’ve got some lovely players and they are flying at the moment beating everyone in their sight. Let’s have them, let’s bring it on!”

Sevenoaks Town: Ben Bridle-Card, Sam Crabb, Josh Dowling, Ryan Fowler, Jack Miles (Mikey Dalton 85), Tom Ripley, William Johnson-Cole, Alec Fiddes, Luke Coleman (Sidney Sollis 74), Ollie Bennett, Ainsley Everett (Frankie Sawyer 63).
Subs: Kenny Pogue, Osman Proni

Booked: Alec Fiddes 64

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Tom Phipp,  Mitchell Nelson, Jay Leader, Aaron Rhule (Daniel Uchechi 56), Karl Dent (Sean Roberts 84), Joe Taylor (Freddie Parker 81), Bradley Pritchard, Jerome Federico.
Subs: Malik Solebo, Marcus Evans

Goal: Freddie Parker 88

Attendance: 269
Referee: Mr Joe Stokes (Canterbury)
Assistants: Mr Simon Cutler (Sheerness) & Mr Joe McKay (Maidstone)