South Park 1-1 Herne Bay - Next season we’re hoping we should be in the play-off positions and that’s our target, says Herne Bay joint-boss John Embery

Thursday 05th April 2018
South Park 1 – 1 Herne Bay
Location Moatside Stadium, Weldon Way, Merstham, Surrey RH1 3QB
Kickoff 05/04/2018 19:45

Bostik South Division
Thursday 5 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Weldon Way

HERNE BAY joint-manager John Embery says he is proud of his young players for their efforts this season.

The club are stuck in the middle of the Bostik South Division table with 58 points on the board from 40 league games, a couple of places above South Park, who have collected 51 points from their 37 league outings.

This game was switched to Merstham’s ground and South Park drew first blood through a curling effort from right wing-back James McElligott inside the opening nine minutes.

But Herne Bay came away from their first league draw on their travels at the 20th attempt when holding midfielder Joshua Wisson hit a 30-yarder into top bins with 10 minutes left to earn a deserved draw.

“We started poorly but we had to make a lot of changes like an hour before the game,” revealed Embery, who runs the side alongside Jermaine Darlington.

“We’ve got a couple of players injured who we thought would be able to play and they couldn’t, so it kind of left us a little bit short and how we were going to set-up.  We had to change our plans completely how we were going to approach the game and personnel. 

“They’re a good bunch, they’re doing well.  Today was a little bit of a learning curve for some of them because some of them it was their first opportunity at this level and we were missing five players.

“You’re asking players to come in and do jobs and get up to a tempo and up to pace and it’s hard but they coped very well.”

Hosts South Park started the game on the front foot, playing with three central defenders, two wing-backs, a midfield diamond and one up top.

Jack Mazzone, sitting at the top of the diamond, rolled the ball out to left-wing-back Jordan Bird, who whipped in a great cross towards the near post for striker Daniel Stone to glance his header across goal and past the far post from six-yards, inside the opening three minutes.

Bradley Schafer threw the ball to Herne Bay striker Jake Embery, but his right-footed shot on the turn deflected harmlessly wide.

Herne Bay enjoyed plenty of possession during the game but their play was often frustrating as passes either went sideways or backwards, especially when they fell a goal behind with eight minutes and 22 seconds on the clock.

McElligott started and finished the move when he played a sublime through ball along the deck in behind Ben Gorham to release Jack Mazzone, who cut the ball on to his left foot before delivering a deep cross for Bird, who teed up McElligott, who took a touch before curling a peach across the keeper into the far corner from 16-yards.

“We didn’t track our runners, it’s as simple as that,” highlighted Embery.

“It’s a knock down, if we track the runner, we deal with it. We switched off, ball-watched the ball come back across and he’s finished it, it’s as simple as that.

“That was naivety. We started slow and I think we weren’t switched on enough for the first 20-25 minutes.”

Wisson pinged a diagonal pass out to Thomas Carlton, whose low angled drive was comfortably gathered by South Park keeper Tom Miles.

Both sides suffered from giving the ball away cheaply, one guilty-party was Herne Bay’s left-back Simon Kabama and South Park went close to doubling their lead in the 18th minute.

Luke Elliott clipped a long ball out of defence which sailed over Kabama’s head and McElligott latched onto the pass, skipped past the left-back’s sliding tackle and played the ball inside for Dean Lovegrove to sweep his first time shot over the bar from 18-yards.

Herne Bay were almost levelled through a great piece of sill from Carlton into the 21st minute, however.

Shafer pinged a quality 60-yard diagonal ball through the air, which sailed over Elliott’s head and Carlton watched the ball drop out of the sky to drill a right-footed volley, which screamed across the keeper and past the far post from 15-yards.

“You know what, you back him to score that, he’s got a lovely technique Tom,” said his manager.

“It just went the wrong side of the post. He done everything right, he probably could have taken a touch, he’s good enough to take a chance and maybe set himself. He opted to take it first time, he’s got his shot away, it’s gone across goal and he’s done everything text book that you’d ask.  There’s not a lot you can really say other than it’s not gone in!”

It took 23 minutes for the first foul of the game to be committed as this game had an end of the season midtable feel to it with nothing to play for.

Visiting keeper Benjamin Hunter kept his side in the game by making a diving save in the 27th minute, getting his huge frame down to his left to tip behind Senior’s right-footed drilled angled drive from the edge of the box.

Embery said: “He’s a good keeper, he’s a great shot stopper Ben and he’s a big frame, he’s six foot eight.  He covers the goal pretty well for a big man and he gets down fast. He's a very good shot-stopper.  He needs to work on other parts of his game, his kicking, but as a shot-stopper there’s not many better goalkeepers.”

Nathan Ayling, who was playing at the heart of the home side’s three-man defence despite wearing the number 11 shirt, delivered the resulting corner which dropped at Tom Windsor’s feet outside the box and his speculative chip dropped over the crossbar.

Herne Bay defender Gorham was given time to play a long ball out of defence down the line and Kabama’s low cross was cleared away by the first man and came out to Schafer, whose looping shot from 25-yards was plucked out from underneath the crossbar from the Sparks keeper.

Mazzone, who has scored 21 goals for South Park this season, started the game like a house on fire but Gorham got to grips with him as the half wore on.

Herne Bay finished the first half with a chance, courtesy of lovely build-up play down the left.

Kabama, Schafer, Wisson all liked up with slick passing and Schafer escaped his man to wriggle his way towards the by-line before cutting the ball back for Jake Embery to lash his first time drive over the crossbar from the corner of the six-yard box.

“He tried to put his foot through it but I think it took a little bit of a deflection,” said the manager.

“We spoke about that in the changing room and he said it came of their defender but it looked a bit wild from us but it’s hard to say when we’re so far away from it but it would’ve been a good goal.”

“We got into the game but for me the first 20 minutes, we was poor and after that we settled down,” said Embery, when asked for his half-time thoughts.

“We didn’t have enough penetration. We were comfortable in possession, we were moving the ball ok and we started getting on top possession wise but we didn’t offer enough in the final third in respect of getting shots away and really putting them under pressure so we made a change.

“Teddy Deverson is only a young lad. I gave him 45, he done alright to be fair to him, he’s a good lad. He’s got a good future in front of him but we brought him off and brought Darnell Weise on.  We asked him to work hard.  We took a little time to get into the game.”

Herne Bay were caught cold at the start of the second half and Sparks produced a sweeping three-man raid which resulted in Mazzone hitting a right-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 25-yards, forcing Hunter to parry the ball low to his left before gathering at the second attempt after only 27 seconds.

Embery added: “We just switch off, sometimes a young side takes a little bit of time just to get up to pace and just get to grips with it after the start of the second half.  I didn’t think it was a hard save for the goalkeeper, there the ones he should be saving. From that point of view that’s what goalkeepers are there to do.”

South Park played a more direct game, while Herne Bay’s passing game continued to frustrate as the ball kept going back and sideways.

Mazzone drove forward and the ball was worked out to the right to Windsor, who drove in a low centre which bounced off Mazzone at the near post and rolled behind for a goal-kick.

When Herne Bay finally put the ball into the South Park box, striker Embery should have scored in the 61st minute.

Centre-half Danny Rumbol played the ball inside to Gorham, who floated in a cross towards the far post and Embery ghosted in and got to the ball before the keeper only to glance his header past the near post from eight-yards.

“He’s got to go across the goalkeeper! Jake knows that he’s done ever so well to get there. It was a great delivery from Ben but he tried to put it in to the top corner. All he has to do is direct it back across himself and he scores.

“He’s been getting loads of goals (21) this season and but hopefully he’ll learn from that because we’ve gone in the changing room and we’ve hammered him over it. 

“Even if they’re not on target, knock it across and someone taps it in but he’s got to learn from that but he’s young, he wants to score goals, he’s always there to miss them or to finish them.  That’s the one thing you can say about Jake, he’s always going to get there, he’s a bit single minded but he’s got to learn.”

Mazzone was impressive for South Park and the ball sat up for him to crack a half-volley from 30-yards, which was smacked harmlessly wide.

Herne Bay switched their formation to 4-1-2-3 with 73 minutes on the clock and the decision to push Miles Cornwell, 28, up front in the middle with Embery and Carlton either side of him gave Herne Bay fresh impetus and they finished the game on the front foot.

Added that South Park’s Bird was forced off with a knock to his lower back, also helped Herne Bay’s attacking desire levels to increase as the home side pushed Daniel Stone into his position.

“We pushed Miles up through the middle, that’s how we’ve been playing for the past six weeks.  Miles has been playing through the middle up top with Jake and they’ve got good combination and when we changed that we started getting into the game,” admitted Embery.

“Miles gives us something different. He’s strong and powerful and he runs channels well and he gets hold of the ball. His touch is good, he shields it and he brings other players in to the game and then he allows players like Jake and Tom to run off of him and everybody knows how quick Jake is and how clever Tom is so it gives us a different option and it frightens defenders and it forces them back so they start dropping deeper and deeper and deeper which allows us to push further forward up the park.

“If we had players turn up today that were fit, Miles would’ve started up top but you have to set things up at times what you have available.”

Herne Bay grabbed an equaliser with a beautiful strike, timed at 34 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Cornwell played the ball inside from the right to Wisson, who was given acres of space to drill a stunning right-footed drive into the top right-hand corner from 35-yards, which goalkeeper Miles dived high to his left to get a hand to the ball but couldn’t stop the sublime strike.

“It’s one of those shots, if you catch them well, the goalkeeper’s got no chance! He’s absolutely hammered it! It’s a great strike.  It’s one of those it either goes in the top corner or it goes 60 miles wide! He’s caught it well. It’s a great strike and we deserved it to be fair. We deserved a goal at that point.  We looked like the only team that was going to win the game from that point onwards.”

The final minutes produced a basketball match as the game swung end-to-end as both sides could have snatched a dramatic late win.

Stone played the ball out to substitute Jack Stafford whose right footed angled drive from the right flashed past the foot of the near post for the home side.

Herne Bay should have won it in the 87th minute when Schafer’s threaded pass split open the South Park defence and Carlton did well to keep the ball in on the by-line and wrap his foot around the ball to whip in a low cross which Embery tried to bundle into the bottom near corner at the near post from close range only to be denied a couple of times by brave goalkeeping from Miles.

Manager Embery said: “It was a great pull from Tom because it was going out of play.  The pass was from Bradley, it looked like it was overplayed but Tom is a bright lad and he’s wrapped his foot around it just before it went out of play and Jake’s made a run to the near post. He’s caught it.  I think the keeper saved the first one and it came back and he’s tried to kick it and the keeper saved it again for a corner.”

McElligott played the ball into Mazzone who laid the ball off to Dean Lovegrove, whose right-footed half-volley was spilt by Hunter and the ball was quickly punted up field and Embery was denied by Miles rushing off his line and making a vital block.

“Jake’s gone through in behind and he’s worked the goalkeeper. Maybe the better option was to square it but he reckons he didn’t see Josh.  His head was down. If he pulls it then Josh just side foots it in to win the game.  Jake’s worked the goalkeeper so that’s always a good thing.”

Lovegrove swung in a late corner from the right which was glanced across goal by Isiaq Adebayo and Lovegrove crossed the ball into the Herne Bay box again, the ball was knocked down and Adebayo couldn’t apply the close-range finish at the near post.

Herne Bay could have snatched it with the last kick of the game but Embery’s stinging drive was caught by Miles at his near post.

“It is tough at times when you want to win these games but you have to accept that a draw is better than nothing,” said Embery.

“We don’t do too many draws, we either win or lose, we’re gung-ho at times but do you know what, it keeps it exciting I guess.  At least it’s not going to be a boring 0-0! We either win or we get beat.  Sometimes as a young team we need to learn how to see games out because we have lost games where we have been drawing.

Embery takes his side to relegated basement side Shoreham on Saturday and Herne Bay have six league games left to play where Embery wants to “win them all!”

Shoreham have banked a miserable 8 points from 39 games and are heading back down after a disastrous debut season at this level.

“We’ve got to go there with the right attitude.  We’ve said to the boys don’t think it’s going to be an easy game because any team in this league can beat you if you’re not switched on and you’re not focused and you’re not tuned in and think it’s going to be easy.

“If we approach it the right way and don’t be lazy in our minds, the best teams are the ones that go against teams and be switched on with the same attitude and the same mannerisms and keep doing the same things. If we do that, we’ll be alright.”

When asked about Herne Bay being in the middle of the table, Embery replied: “We’re happy but we really should’ve been higher. We’ve given away a lot of points which we shouldn’t have. If we put those points on the board we would’ve been in the play-off positions but a young side, they’ve learnt ever so much so we’re proud of them. They’ve worked hard, they’ve got results.”

Embery, meanwhile, explained why he wants his young side to “finish strong.”

“Because it helps you to carry on into the following season.  Next season we’re hoping we should be in the play-off positions and that’s our target so now it’s all about pushing on and building. It also gives us a chance to blood some more young players as well, which is a good point for next season.”

South Park:  Tom Miles, Dylan Merchant, Jordan Bird (Isiaq Adebayo 73), Dean Lovegrove Nathan Ayling, Luke Elliott, James McElligott, Tom Windsor, Ben Senior (Jack Stafford 81), Jack Mazzone, Daniel Stone.
Subs: Sam Remfry, Jake Roberts, Henry Lester

Goal:  James McElligott 9

Herne Bay:  Benjamin Hunter, Daniel Adams (Henry Collins 70), Simon Kabama, Joshua Wisson, Danny Rumbol, Ben Gorham, Bradley Schafer, Miles Cornwell, Jake Embery, Teddy Deverson (Darnell Weise 46), Thomas Carlton.
Subs: Sami Mezaine, Samuel Menzies

Goal:  Joshua Wisson 80

Attendance:  68
Referee:  Rick Adams (Gravesend)
Assistants:  Mr James Paternoster (Sidcup) & Mr Kane O’Beirne (Bexley)

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