Snodland Town 2-0 Stansfeld - We've got the tools, I believe, to give it a go to get in that top five and to compete with everyone in this league, says Snodland Town assistant manager Graham Martin

Saturday 29th July 2023
Snodland Town 2 – 0 Stansfeld
Location Potyn's Sports Field, Snodland Community Centre, Paddlesworth Road, Snodland, Kent ME6 5DP
Kickoff 29/07/2023 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 29 July 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Paddlesworth Road

SNODLAND TOWN assistant manager Graham Martin says Luke Wallond has been given the tools to finish their maiden Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division campaign in the top five.

Manager Wallond guided the club to the First Division title last season and has been handed a squad to challenge for a play-off place in the ninth-tier of English football.

Snodland Town got their campaign off to a winning start against last season’s ninth-placed finishers Stansfeld, scoring twice inside the opening 33 minutes through Ben Davisson’s penalty and an own-goal from Stansfeld’s right-back Sam Smith.

“We set our stall out not to concede to start with.  We looked at their pre-season, they’ve had a great pre-season, we’ve done alright pre-season, but I just think a little bit of sharpness from certain players (helped us get the win), said Martin, who was sent out by Wallond for post-match questions, with assistant manager Adrian Lacey away on holiday.

“But I think overall the start today, three points was more important than anything. We could’ve gone in three or four nil at half-time to be fair to us.

“Stansfeld were always going to be tough to beat, very tough to beat. They’re always good to play against, always tough.

“At 2-0 we just wanted to manage the subs second half and sometimes being at home can be an advantage if we do go down the slope.”

Stansfeld manager Billy Shinners, meanwhile, cut a frustrated figure as his first game in charge saw his men put in a poor performance that lacked desire and any goalscoring chances against a well-drilled Snodland Town defence, well marshalled by former Tunbridge Wells centre-half Robbie Bissett.

“We were completely off the pace,” admitted Shinners, a striker who has been at the amateur club for 12 years.

“After the pre-season we just had, I was really confident coming into this game.  We didn’t win the first ball, second ball, just not how we’ve been in the last three or four weeks.  I get pre-season is pre-season but I’m frustrated, very frustrated.

It was a performance that you do not expect from any Stansfeld side, which Shinners acknowledged.

“That’s exactly what I’ve just said to the boys.  We’ve just been beat at our own game really.  Ultimately we’re hard to beat, compact, work our socks off.  We’ve just got completely beat at our game.  They were a yard quicker than us all over the pitch, a yard faster than us and they wanted it more.

“I’ve been here 12 years and that’s what we’re all about; working hard, working as a team. We’re a good group of boys, a group of mates and it’s so frustrating to see that.”

Shinners will discuss his side’s poor performance alongside his assistant manager Joe Minter and coach Dave Mehmet.

“I don’t understand why. We’ve got a few experienced senior players in the team who could step up, they didn’t. Not good, not good.”

The home side started the game on the front foot, kicking down the slope at their Paddlesworth Road base, creating their first of many openings after 110 seconds.

Left-back Taylor Fisher hit the ball down the left-channel for the threatening Francis Babalola, who whipped in a cross towards the near post for Karl Dent – who plays behind the front three – guiding his free header past the near post from 10-yards.

“Babs is always a threat. He’s a strong lad. He’s played at a good standard, he’s played at Wembley (for Cray Valley) in the FA Vase Final so you know what you’re going to get out of Babs,” said Martin.

“We know with the quality that we’ve got out wide and even players’ that are coming off the bench, we’ve got that sort of quality. We’ve got a lot of quality in the side and we will create but we needed to be a bit more lethal in front of goal and we could’ve put a few more away.”

Right-back Smith was the weak link in Stansfeld’s back four, often opening the gate for Babalola to do his work within the channel and the former Phoenix Sports attacker reached the by-line and hung over a cross towards the back post where Emmanuel Oloyede outjumped Greg Summersby to guide his header looping over the crossbar.

Shinners added: “That’s exactly my point. He (Babalola) just seemed like he had the ball and had a bit of a free run.  No one went out and pressed him and that’s ultimately what we wanted them to do.

“We knew about that (tactic) before the game.  We gave them another yard.  Ultimately let them do what they want, which that’s not us. That’s not us and I’m sure that won’t be us!”

Snodland Town’s pressure paid off as they deservedly took the lead with 13 minutes and 27 seconds on the clock.

Babalola and Fisher linked up well down the left before Fisher put a low ball into the box.  Great movement from Dent saw him nip in front of Stansfeld centre-back Billy Parkinson, who tripped the former VCD Athletic play-maker and referee Simon Cutler pointed to the spot.

Davisson stepped up and confidently stroked his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.

Martin said: “Denty is a great addition to the side. He’s just one of those players.  I think we were a little bit sharper in that area at the time and the lad (Parkinson) was committed, Denty got there and just literally got his foot in front of him but it was a clear-cut pen.

“Davo never, I won’t curse it, but he just doesn’t normally miss penalties and I was quite confident. Going 1-0 up, that just set the stall a little bit and gave us a little bit of confidence to play a bit more.”

Shinners added: “Yes, it was a penalty.  I’ve got no questions about that. I think if Bill can look back on that, he probably knows he should’ve gone and headed it but yes it was a penalty. I can’t argue with that.”

The dominant home side (4-2-1-3) should have doubled their lead in the 18th minute, hitting Stansfeld on the counter-attack.

Oloyede – one of many debutants – hit a long diagonal switch that wasn’t cut out by Parkinson and striker Matthew Gething cut into the box before pulling his low right-footed shot past the near post from 15-yards.

“He’s gutted. He’s come off at the end a bit disappointed. He probably should’ve had two or three goals before half-time and he just pulled it but normally they go in the back of the net,” Martin said of Gething.

However, Snodland Town’s remaining first half chances came from headers, while Stansfeld (4-1-3-2) failed to create a single real goalscoring chance during the entire game with striker Tommy Whitnell often isolated and not getting any service, despite being joined in attack by Ben Hermitage and Joedon Gugas-Cowin during various parts of the game.

Fisher hung over a deep cross from within the left-channel towards the far post and Stansfeld’s left-back Summersby lost an aerial challenge to Gething, who rose and looped his header over the crossbar.

Dent floated over a deep free-kick from right to left on the half-hour mark and Rob Hughes failed to pick up Babalola inside the box, who steered his free-header bouncing into the arms of visiting goalkeeper Charlie Cottrell for a comfortable save.

The powerful Oloyede (wide right) latched onto Davisson’s defence splitting pass before drilling a right-footed shot crashing against the near post from a very tight angle, as Snodland’s dominance continued and the newly-promoted side kept knocking on the door.

“He’s something who has come out of the blue.  We only signed him yesterday, it was done very quickly,” Martin said of the physically strong Oloyede.

“He’s good in the air, he’s just so strong and I think he will give us a lot whether it will be a little bit wider our up top through the middle. He’s a great addition.

“A club like Snodland five or six years’ ago, you would never think we’d be in a position where we are now that two wide players like Babs and Emmanuel to think they’re at Snodland Town and we’re pinching ourselves a little bit.”

Snodland Town sealed the deal by doubling their lead, 32 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a well-worked move.

Dent’s sublime through ball released central-striker Gething in behind a flat-footed Stansfeld defence and he cut the ball back from the right by-line towards Babalola, who tried to bundle the ball over the line, only for Smith to slide in and poke the ball over the line for an own-goal.

Martin said: “You try telling Babs it was an own goal! He’s saying it hit his heal. It was a great move.  Denty threaded the ball through a needle and Geth looked up and put it in the right area. All the time you put it in the right area, whether it goes in off us or goes in off them, who cares! It put us 2-0 up and set the stall.”

Shinners added: “Further up the pitch I want my boys to go and head it and hook it when it needed to be hooked.  They kind of just dropped off. It was a comedy of errors of how it’s gone in, not good.

“There is a hill on the pitch and we did kid of expect that (Snodland first half dominance) to a certain extent but being 1-0 down so early on I was hoping the senior players (would do more).

“To go in at 1-0, with this hill, I would take that to a certain extent because the second half could’ve been a different game.

“Even at 2-0, I had a little bit of a scream up at half-time but hopefully I got them going but even in the second half we didn’t really have anything in the last third really and it wasn’t good enough. We didn’t even have a shot today so I’m not happy, not impressed and frustrated.”

There was to be no positive reaction from Stansfeld, who may suffer from Second Season Syndrome after their decent debut season at this level last season under the joint-managership of Billy Hamlin and Jamie Phipps.

Shinners added: “I wanted a reaction from the boys. I didn’t really get it to be fair. I told them that. I had a scream and shout at half-time. After the game, I’m not about that.  I think the message, I think they all know they weren’t working hard enough from the first minute to the last.

“We created nothing, quite a yard off the pace really, not competing, not winning first, not winning the seconds. We’ve got experienced players, that shouldn’t be the case but it just seems like a bit of, it looked like they were very comfortable throughout the game and we didn’t really get into the game at all.”

Martin added: “I give credit to our lads. I think we battled, we won our battles, fortunately for us a lot of the 50-50s first half went our way…”

Wallond was forced into making a tactical change at the interval as centre-half Ashley Sains was forced off with a groin strain, so holding midfielder Henry Muggeridge slotted in beside Bissett at the heart of defence.

“It was just a matter of game management.  Losing Ashley Sains was big for us.  Henry practically ran the show first half, just knocking the ball around people and he shouts for everything. He made a lot of tackles and got a lot of free-kicks,” added Martin.

“Losing Sainsy, we never had any problem Henry slotting in there. We’ve got a good squad, we’ve got a strong squad.  We could’ve started with any of the five subs.”

Snodland Town created their first opening of the second half inside the opening three minutes.

Gething worked the ball out to Babaloa, who easily got the better of Smith inside the box before cutting the ball back towards Dent before the ball fell at Gething’s feet inside the box and his stabbed shot was gathered by Cottrell beside his near post.

Gugas-Cowin burst into life for Stansfeld when he picked Muggeridge’s pocket inside the final third, cut into the box and ran along the by-line but went to pieces and ran the ball out of play, as Snodland Town goalkeeper Shaun Wicks waited to make his first save of the game.

Stansfeld lacked quality to muster a single goalscoring chance during the 10 minutes that Snodland’s half-time substitute Connor Pring was thrown into the Sin Bin by referee Simon Cutler in the 51st minute.

The ever-impressive Dent poked the ball through towards Gething, whose left-footed shot was parried by Cottrell, one of the best goalkeeper’s in the division.

Stansfeld’s holding midfielder Luke Rooney cracked an ambitious half-volley from 35-yards towards the top right-hand corner, only for the ball to sail over Wicks’ crossbar before Pring re-entered the pitch.

Shinners said: “We just didn’t create.  This year we’ve got some individuals who I do think in the last third we should be able to create some danger but today it just didn’t happen.”

However, the remainder of the second half lacked quality, with more substitutions than goalscoring chances on this warm late July afternoon in Medway.

Snodland Town wasted a glorious chance to grab a third goal in the 66th minute (with Stansfeld now playing with a back three) when Babalola threaded a short pass through to Dent, who skipped past Stansfeld centre-half Charlie Plummer inside the box but Cottrell smothered the shot low to his right.

“Denty knows he should’ve scored. We know he should’ve scored and another day he scores it all day long.  We know we should’ve gone 3-0 up,” admitted Martin.

Shinners added: ”Charlie done really well. That was a great save but like I said to the boys ‘that could’ve been three, that could’ve been four,’ and ultimately Charlie just saved us there with that one.”

Shinners threw on wideman Callum Keeble on at the break and his only impact on the game was to throw the ball five times into Snodland’s penalty area.  However, his well-beaten team-mates lacked desire to get on the end of them and Wicks maintained his clean-sheet by commanding his box and plucking the ball out of the air on three occasions, as the away side lacked ideas on how to break down a resilient defence.

“Bringing (former Larkfield & New Hythe goalkeeper coach) Alan Rogers in, as well as Scott Andrews from Larkfield are both good.  Scott will be Wicksey’s number two at the moment but he puts a lot of time with Wicksy on the training ground,” revealed Martin.

“Wicksy will learn a lot more with better players in front of him there. Keeping a clean sheet today, that’s all you can set up for as a goalkeeper.  That was one of his best games since I’ve been at the club. I think he was commanding today.”

Shinners said: “You just need desire.  Callum’s throws should’ve been more dangerous but it wasn’t.  There’s certain things I shouldn’t need to shout on the sideline. Players should know, the keeper was having an easy time coming out and catching it. It wasn’t really good enough, was it?”

Both sides are in FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round action next Saturday 5 August, with both sides on the road.

Snodland Town travel to Harrow to tackle Combined Counties League Premier Division North outfit Broadfields United, while Shinners demands a reaction against Essex Senior League newly-promoted side Sporting Bengal United.

“It’s a free hit, let’s be honest.  We’re away from, home, everyone enjoys The FA Cup so hopefully we’ll get the boys back together, train and have a good away trip,” said Shinners, who has Lydd Town, VCD Athletic and Kennington below Stansfeld in the league table on opening day.

“If we do win, that team morale because at the moment team morale is low, even though before the game we were confident.  The culture is the most important thing, so hopefully we’ll go there next week and have a free hit and if we get a win that will get our morale and culture back up to where we want it really.  A reaction on Saturday, ultimately a good performance and just forget about today and get us moving.

“I just want a good culture at the club, who all work their socks off.  Yes, I think Snodland will be one of the teams up there if I’m being honest, so I’m not too concerned.  I am concerned, it wasn’t a great game but I think we’ll do better than what we did last season.

“We’re a good group, a good culture. We’ve got more numbers this year. I think last year, especially in the middle of the season, we struggled simply with numbers with injuries and things like that.  We’ve got more numbers this year so I think we’ll do better than last year, definitely.”

Snodland Town go into their FA Cup debut sitting in the top five and with a large budget for this level of football, although Faversham Town have the largest budget in this League’s history.

“There’s a lot going on at the club. The ground is growing all the time (with plans to install a covered area for 100 spectators in the next few months). We’ve come up after a great season last year and what we don’t want to do is just make the numbers up this year.  We want to go in there and we want to compete and we want to upset people,” said Martin, who revealed their pre-season campaign started on 10 June.

“We don’t want to be just a passenger in this league.  I think the board would like us to finish at least halfway and beyond. Me personally, I still think we can push for the top five but again we’ve still got to go out and prove that we can do that.

“Whether it’s this season or whether it’s next, we’ve got the tools, I believe, to give it a go, to get in that top five or six.  I think the club have given Luke the tools to compete with everyone in this league.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure.  The board are very good, they’ve backed us to the hilt.  Looking at what we’ve signed, I think people have got high expectations of us as well.”

Snodland Town: Shaun Wicks, Jonathan Pilbeam, Taylor Fisher, Henry Muggeridge, Ashley Sains (Connor Pring 46), Robbie Bissett, Francis Babalola (Malachi Hudson 73), Ben Davisson, Matthew Gething (Joshua Jackson 78), Karl Dent (Edd Mbango 72), Emmanuel Oloyede (Regan Corke 81).

Goals: Ben Davisson 14 (penalty), Sam Smith 33 (own goal)

Temporary Dismissal: Connor Pring 51

Booked: Emmanuel Oloyede 58

Stansfeld: Charlie Cottrell, Sam Smith, Greg Summersby, Luke Rooney, Charlie Plummer, Billy Parkinson (Billy Martins 77), Joedon Gugas-Cowin, Rob Hughes (Callum Keeble 46), Tommy Whitnell, Ben Hermitage (Alfie Moynes 81), Ryan Fowler (Frank McCormack 65).
Sub: Liam Barrett

Booked: Greg Summersby 30, Callum Keeble 63, Sam Smith 90

Attendance: 239
Referee: Mr Simon Cutler
Assistants: Mr Daniel Payton & Mr Ross Cooper