Sevenoaks Town 1-3 Maidstone United - It's gone so far according to plan, says Maidstone United boss Jay Saunders

Wednesday 15th July 2015
Sevenoaks Town 1 – 3 Maidstone United
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 16/07/2015 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Thursday 16th July 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins admitted playing three higher league sides at the start of their pre-season campaign has been tough.

The Oaks, top-eight finishers in the Southern Counties East Football League last season, have lost to newly-promoted Vanarama National League side Bromley (0-4), Ryman Premier Leaguers Tonbridge Angels (0-1) and they put in a spirited display to lose to newly-promoted Vanarama National League South side Maidstone United tonight.

The hosts did give the Ryman Premier League champions a helping hand by scoring two own goals during the first half, as striker Austin Gacheru and central defender Tom Ripley beat their own keeper.

A full strength Maidstone United made it three when substitute left-back Tom Mills found the bottom far corner, before Sevenoaks Town ended their 259 minute pre-season drought as substitute Michael Fahm finished off an eye-catching three man move.

Collins said: “They’re a good side, a really good side. I thought we were poor first half, considering the other two games we’ve had.

“We didn’t get near them. I had a moan up at half-time. I thought we came out and played a bit better second half and competed a bit better second half and we gave them a better game. It was too easy for them, they’ve got great quality.”

Collins and his chairman Paul Lansdale are delighted that their first three opponents have brought first team squads and travelling fans to Greatness Park.

Collins said: “Fantastic! I said it about the other two sides we’ve played as well, they’ve all brought first team squad’s down as well, which has shown us some respect, which is lovely, but then they’re my friends so I would expect that. If it was the other way round, we’d do the same.

“Maidstone are a good side, a really good side and you could see why they won the league last year and the boys have just said out the three sides we’ve played, I’d say they’re the best side.”

Maidstone United boss Jay Saunders said: “Good exercise I thought. It was a good evening. It was our first away game of pre-season and we haven’t got many, we’ve only got three and it was good to come down.

“I thought at times we were good, but like anything, every manager will tell you it’s mainly about getting the fitness and the sharpness and I thought we kind of got that. It’s just disappointing we probably didn’t take a few of the other chances.

“I haven’t gone with many trialists this year. We had our trials, no-one really came out of it. There was one lad but he went off back to Greece so other than that we’ve not really gone with any trialists.

“I was quite happy with the business we did in the off season so I think you’ll find every game is what we’ll go into the season with.

“I think we’re very strong this season so it was a case of coming down here and mixing it up from Saturday and the ones that didn’t play tonight will get more minutes at Beckenham on Saturday.

“If you look at that starting 11, other than Reece Butler, who is probably an unknown, everyone is a first team player.”

Maidstone United, who lost their opening pre-season game 1-0 at home to League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge at the weekend, missed a number of opportunities in front of 170 fans at Greatness Park.

The Stones’ took just over six minutes to create their first opening, following a sublime one-touch passing move involving Bobby-Joe Taylor, Charley Robertson and Simon Johnson before Taylor stroked his right-footed shot into Richard Stroud’s hands from sixteen-yards, the keeper diving low to his right to hold.

Saunders said he was impressed with the 20-year-old former Cambridge United winger.

“He’s done well Bob. He’s a player who’s got a lot of, you can see he’s played at a good level at a young age but he’s very quick and he works very hard and he’s one of them that the supporters’ are going to like.

“He gives us a lot of options playing either side and just off the front man.  I think players with pace and are quite direct are very good to have and he was unlucky with his chance. I think it got caught up under his feet a little bit.

“He’s played seven or eight League games last year so at that age you can see why he has. What’s impressed me with Bob, he’s dropped out of full-time football when he could have stayed there because he wants to have a good season under his belt and kick on. He’s had a good start at the club.”

Jack Parkinson played the ball out of Maidstone United’s defence to release winger Matt Bodkin down the right. Right-back Callum Driver offered support and his dinked cut-back was swept across goal and past the far post by Robertson, who was playing behind lone striker Alex Akrofi.

But Maidstone United deservedly opened the scoring with 13:56 on the clock.

The impressive Taylor floated in a corner from the left and Parkinson rose to plant his header back across goal for Gacheru to head the ball back where it came from, finding the back of his own net, in off the far post.

Saunders said: “It’s unfortunate! It was a good ball in. I think deliveries into the box all night from set-pieces were good and Jack’s headed it back across into a dangerous area and unfortunately for the lad it’s crept in – but you’ll take them won’t you?!”

Collins challenged striker Gacheru to score tonight and joked: “Our first goal of the season, well pleased with that!  I said to Austin he’ll get on the score sheet tonight – and he has!”

He added: “We didn’t defend it well and we’ve been really good at defending set-pieces against big sides. I think tonight we were sloppy, very sloppy.

“I think the boys almost turned up, it’s been a tough week playing Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday. We didn’t show enough desire first half, not enough effort. It showed in the goals that we conceded – sloppy!”

Another chance came dominant Maidstone United’s way when Bodkin cut inside to play the ball inside to Robertson, who hit a right-footed drive flashing just past the foot of the left-hand post.

With Stroud diving to his right, referee Jack Owen awarded a corner, despite the keeper appearing not to have got a touch to the daisy-cutter.

Taylor whipped in another corner and Jamie Coyle came up from the back to rise and plant his header towards goal, which was headed behind by Josh Gilbert on the line.

Sevenoaks Town took 21 minutes to create their first opening, through Damien Ramsamy, who showed glimpses of talent during the first half when he was at his most effective.

Gilbert floated in a free-kick into the Maidstone United box which was cleared out to Ramsamy, who swept his left-footed shot into the hands of visiting keeper Will Godmon.

Collins said: “Damo’s come in, which is good. He’ll be a good signing for us. He’s not at his peak fitness so he’ll show glimpses. He’ll give us 10-15 minutes and then he’ll go off the boil because he’s not fit enough!”

The former Beckenham Town attacker drilled a stinging free-kick into Godmon’s hands from the left, but Sevenoaks’ left-back Gilbert was given a torrid time by Bodkin at the other end.

Bodkin cut the ball back to Driver, who flashed his shot across Stroud and past the far post, before a run from Akrofi set up a chance for Bodkin, but the home defence got bodies back on the line to clear their lines.

Highly-rated Sevenoaks Town keeper Stroud pulled off a great save in the 34th minute.

Academy prospect Reece Butler came up from left-back to whip in a cross and Akrofi laid the ball back for Bodkin, who drilled a stinging right-footed drive from 20-yards, which was pushed over the bar by the diving keeper’s outstretched right hand.

Saunders said: “I thought Bod’s looked lively tonight. He’s done one spin session which was Thursday night because of a holiday with his other half.  He hasn’t kicked a ball since the end of the season, so considering that I thought he looked very good and he was unfortunate with that.”

Gacheru cut in from the left but steered his right-footed shot past the near post, before Akrofi’s shot on the turn – following Taylor’s centre - was swept wide at the other end.

Maidstone United deservedly doubled their lead in the 43rd minute but the dubious goals panel sat and awarded an own-goal.

Butler played a nice ball down the line to release pacy striker Akrofi down the left, who cut into the penalty area and Ripley slid in at the last minute to poke the ball past his own goalkeeper, rolling into the bottom near corner.

Collins said: “I think it was (an own goal) so we scored two goals tonight!

“I think he got the run on him, which was good. The kid’s got pace. He was very quick and Tom tried to track him and I think I said to Stroudy, the keeper, should have come out and probably gone through his centre half to try to take the ball. Again, he’s on his heels. It’s pre-season and it’s shinned off someone and it’s gone in. Sloppy again, sloppy!”

Saunders disagreed and insisted his striker should have been awarded the goal.

“He did get the last touch Alex! Alex was just saying, I said ‘be honest?’ – he said ‘I did get the last touch’.  He’s an honest lad, so I believe him!

“It was a great ball from Reece. He’s a young lad out of the Academy and he’s come in and done really well last two games. We played him in the 18’s last year.

“With Alex’s pace, once he gets that side of you, you can’t really challenge him because you’re going to give away a free-kick or a pen. He’s done well to get the wrong side of the defender and yes, he’s just poked it home.”

Saunders explained why he played a 4-4-1-1 formation against a side now three levels lower.

“To be honest, you try a few different things. It was one of them. I thought we put Alex up there and Charley (Robertson) just off him and I think we caused them a few problems whether to go with Charley or not.

“I was pleased with the pair of them. I thought Alex’s work-rate was superb. If we can get him fit – he’s made a big jump up – so if we can get him fully fit, he’ll do very well for us.”

Robertson and Bodkin linked up well on the stroke of half-time but Akrofi – who performed much better before the interval stroked his shot straight at Stroud for a comfortable save.

Neither manager made a substitution at the break, but Collins revealed he moaned at his side as he complained about their lack of desire.

Collins said: “I had a moan. I had a little moan. First moan I’ve had to have because they’ve been exceptional! Their attitude has been great. We just seemed that we didn’t turn up tonight. They felt we’re playing Maidstone, we’ll probably lose and we’ll just go through the motions! Not acceptable!

“You’ve got to get something out of pre-season and chase people and be competitive and I don’t think we were in the first half.  We didn’t get near them. We didn’t adapt to their shape they were playing. Poor all round. I had a moan and we addressed it and I think second half we showed we were better.”

Saunders said: “At half-time, you think about making a couple of changes but I want to give everyone a lot longer than 45 and the others will play Saturday, so it was one of them where I just said to them the last ten minutes in the first half we stopped moving the ball. In the first 35 minutes we moved the ball well and caused them problems by doing that. 

“I thought we started running with it and taking too long to move it but the message was trying to move it a little bit quicker and sort of get another 20 minutes under your belt and we’ll start making changes.”

Maidstone United’s opening chance of the second half came in the 50th minute.

The impressive Taylor whipped in a corner from the left towards the far post which was met by Parkinson’s bullet header and the ball skimmed off Driver’s head inside the six-yard box and went over.

Sevenoaks Town’s first effort swiftly followed as winger Martin Debrah was released down the right and his low centre was swept into Godmon’s hands by Gacheru’s shot on the turn at the near post.

Taylor’s seventh corner of the game was met by another Parkinson towering header, which he planted over just before the hour mark.

Ramsamy offered his side some inspiration when he unleashed a powerful swerving free-kick from 35-yards, which Godmon kept his eyes on to make a catch.

Both managers made three changes each in the 64th minute, while the game entered an uninspiring ten minute spell before coming back to life.

A mistake let in Sevenoaks substitute Tom Skelton down the right and he centred low for fellow substitute Ellis Wilson-Joseph, whose stinging drive from 20-yards forced Godmon to dive to his left to make a fine save.

Collins said: “They had loads of chances. Every team we’ve played have because they’re far better quality than us but we just looked a little bit more composed second half.  We got on the ball a little bit more, worked a bit harder as a unit and showed a lot more desire.”

But Maidstone United made it 3-0 with 76 minutes on the clock through substitute left-back Tom Mills.

Mills ventured into the Sevenoaks half of the field and played a sweet one-two with substitute striker Frannie Collin, before cutting into the penalty area and flicking his left-footed shot across Stroud to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Saunders said: “He played a one-two with Frannie and he’s gone through and slotted it home!

“It was a good finish. It’s one of them. As defender’s you always think they’re going to slash at it but Millsy’s such a calm lad. He’s gone though and he’s side-footed it in so a good finish.”

Collins admitted: “To be honest, I didn’t see it! I was talking to someone behind me and I looked round and Tom Mills went through and put it in the corner so I can’t even comment to the boys what went on because I wasn’t even watching.

“But at the end I said it was a bit easy and we opened up a bit too much and he just ghosted through. I think we put that down to tired legs.

“It’s been a tough week. We haven’t got a big squad. You noticed that tonight. We’ve got four gone away on holiday, we’re down to only four subs tonight so it’s not a big squad.

“Most teams in pre-season have 20-30 players. I haven’t done that this year. I haven’t brought trialists in. I’ve brought people in who are going to sign and it’s the squad we want to have.

“It’s been great minute wise, everyone’s got loads of minutes but it’s been a tough week!”

But spirited Sevenoaks Town scored their first goal of pre-season after 79 minutes.

Skelton’s fine pass released Gacheru charging down the right and he whipped in a sublime low cross which flashed in front of Godmon.

Substitute Fahm lashed his first-time right-footed shot over the keeper’s right shoulder to find the roof of the net from six-yards.

Collins hailed the move and strike, saying, “It was a good goal! When you’re playing against Tom Mills at left-back, to play the way we did, was better.

“It was the first time in the three games that we’ve showed real quality going forward.

“The difficult thing is when you’re playing teams of that quality and that calibre that you feel inferior and the players feel inferior so you don’t express themselves as much as they should. 

“You get your fitness out of it and your bit of shape that you’re looking at because you get exposed quite a lot, but the players themselves don’t get to express themselves quite as much. That’s the risk that you run but I thought at that moment that was great.

“You’re not cutting open another Kent League side or a Step Six side, you’re playing a National League South side who will really will compete this season and we’ve played some great football and get our way in and scored a great goal. It was a good finish.”

Saunders added: “Good goal to be honest.  We gave it away. That was when we started to tire. Take nothing away from them. It was a good goal but I thought Simon Johnson started to tire a little bit and he’s given the ball away and they’ve broke and great ball in by their lad and a good finish.

“One thing I will say, they kept going. First half we were very comfortable. I thought second half they had a good go. It was a good goal for them.”

Stroud made a great save to deny Maidstone United a late fourth.

Highly-rated substitute winger Mitchell Pinnock charged down the left channel and wrapped his left foot around the ball to whip in a precise cross and Collin was destined to plant his header across the keeper into the far corner, but Stroud dived to his right to push the ball around the post.

Collins said: “Stroudy made two great saves the other night against Tonbridge early doors, otherwise we could really be up against it. He’s come up trumps. You expect that of him because he’s good at saving, he’s a good shot stopper.”

Saunders said: “It was a great save! Mitchell has got a great delivery on set-pieces and in open play. He’s got a great left foot and he’s put a lovely ball in there, which wasn’t easy from where he was. It was a lovely move, a great ball, unlucky, great save.”

Another chance came Maidstone United’s way, but Paxman drilled his shot past the near post after a good lay-off from Akrofi.

Reflecting on his side’s opening two games, Saunders said he was “pleased.”

“Dagenham on Saturday was slightly different from tonight. They had a lot of the ball but I thought we worked very hard for 45 minutes.  We were very good until we made the chances.

“I thought tonight, again, we was doing very well and there was plenty of positives and that’s what you want at this stage.

“At the moment, there’s plenty of positives and for us it’s working out who to play, if anything, which is what we’re gearing up for when the season comes.

“I always had in my mind after the Beckenham game on Saturday we’ll start settling it down a little bit more and not chopping it as much. It’s gone so far according to plan.”

Collins admitted his side will not come up against quality like they did against Bromley, Tonbridge Angels and Maidstone United in the bread and butter of their league campaign.

He said: “It’s been three great crowds. We’ve averaged 200 for three friendlies at Sevenoaks, really pealed with that, fantastic!

“We’re a tiny club. We don’t work on big revenue streams. Our chairman’s pleased, I’m pleased. We’ve got no injuries, everyone’s come through it and we’ll train Saturday and we’ll go again.

“I said to the boys, even if you have a great run in The FA Cup, you’re not going to play any one of them because they’re three good sides we’ve played this week. What great experience for our boys. We play at Step Five and to go and play those teams is fantastic and credit to them.

“My friends, Jay Saunders, Mark Goldberg and Steve McKimm, to bring down their first team squads, to show us the respect and want to beat us, which is great because it’s a true reflection then.

“Bromley were strong on Saturday, Tonbridge were quality on Tuesday night and Maidstone eclipsed it probably tonight. I’m really thankful to them.”

Sevenoaks Town: Richard Stroud, Frank Griffin, Josh Gilbert, Gary Stock, Tom Ripley, Jon Lord, Damien Ramsamy (Robert Wickenden 77), Steve Camacho (Ellis Wilson-Joseph 64), Adrian Stone (Tom Skelton 64), Austin Gacheru, Martin Debrah (Michael Fahm 64).

Goal: Michael Fahm 79

Maidstone United: Will Godmon, Callum Driver (Alex Brown 64), Reece Butler (Tom Mills 70), Jamie Coyle, Jack Parkinson, James Rogers (Joe Healy 64), Matt Bodkin (Mitchell Pinnock 64), Simon Johnson, Alex Akrofi, Charley Robertson (Jack Paxman 70), Bobby-Joe Taylor (Frannie Collin 75).
Subs: Manny Parry, Lee Worgan

Goals: Austin Gacheru 14 (own goal), Tom Ripley 43 (own goal), Tom Mills 76

Attendance: 170
Referee: Mr Jack Owen (Sevenoaks)
Assistants: Mr Harry Wager (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Leigh Judd (Tunbridge Wells)