Sporting Club Thamesmead 1-2 Kent Football United - We've had our backs against the wall in trying to do things in such little time but results and performances like this makes all of that hard work worth it, says Richmond Kissi

Thursday 22nd August 2019
Sporting Club Thamesmead 1 – 2 Kent Football United
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 22/08/2019 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Thursday 22 August 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

KENT FOOTBALL UNITED joint-manager Richmond Kissi hailed his players’ work-rate after winning their first game of the season.

Sporting Club Thamesmead would have taken advantage of this Thursday night game by climbing above FC Elmstead to reach the summit of the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table with a victory, but Dartford-based Kent Football United put in a hard working performance to get their season up and running.

Kent Football United took the lead through striker James Owolabi’s bottom corner finish inside the opening 23 minutes and they grabbed a second through substitute winger CJ Gwolla’s breakaway goal inside the final 16 minutes.

Sporting Club Thamesmead notched at the death through a header from centre-half Jordan Lovell.

Kent Football United opened their new campaign with a 6-2 home defeat to Forest Hill Park, before drawing 1-1 at Holmesdale before losing 4-1 at home to Meridian VP at the weekend.

Sporting Club Thamesmead, meanwhile, came away from Lydd Town with a 4-1 win, lost 2-1 at Rochester United and 80 people watched last Friday’s 2-2 home draw against FC Elmstead.

“The boys’ gave me everything!  We spoke about work-rate. We said that work-rate will beat most teams in this league and we said to them just leave everything out there,” said Kissi, 28.

“After a disappointing result on Saturday, which if we had taken our chances it would’ve been a different scoreline, I just told them to put everything out there and if a result goes against us at least we’ve left everything out there.  It was a much improved performance than on Saturday.”

Kissi made seven changes from their last outing – and his boys’ showed plenty of heart and desire underneath the floodlights at Bayliss Avenue.

“There were some players who had work, obviously being a midweek game on a Thursday, some people couldn’t make it through work but the boys’ that came in definitely gave us something different.”

Kissi revealed why he watched the game from the main stand and not inside the technical area down below.

“That’s part of a ban when I was playing at the back end of last season so it’s carried on as manager,” he said.

“I was kicking every ball but you get to see the whole pitch so I prefer that staying up in the stand because it gives me an opportunity to see everything that’s going on, on the pitch.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead manager Jason Long read his side the riot act during the post-match press conference.

“Really disappointed.  I felt that we weren’t good enough from start to finish today. We lacked a lot of quality on the ball. We looked like we couldn’t put two, three, four passes together.

“It looked to be a few players’ that were not willing to work hard for the cause of wanting to win your individual battles first and earning the right to play before playing and hope we didn’t underestimate them but maybe they did a little bit and maybe looked at where they were in the league and thought this should be a win.

“You can’t do that and it’s proven again that every team in this league can do a job against you if you’re not prepared to win your battle first before you want to play.

“They were better than us tonight. They were technically better on the ball, they wanted it more and they deserved the win!”

Sporting Club Thamesmead started the game like a house on fire, taking only 27 seconds to hit the crossbar.

Jedd Smith rolled a diagonal pass out to Merrick Simms, who reached the by-line before crossing towards target-man Tim Beckford, who knocked the ball down for central midfielder Alfie Evans to smack his right-footed volley bouncing off the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick from 25-yards.

Long said: “A little combination play and let this set the tone for the game, which it did but you have to continue that. It can’t just stop there, you have to continue that.

“We didn’t play with a tempo. We didn’t seem to find our passes. We didn’t trust enough on the ball. The ball kept going forward and it just kept coming back. It just wasn’t good enough tonight!”

“They were very lively and I expected that,” said Kissi.

“We gave them as much respect coming into the game as we possibly could. We knew they would be a threat and I know Merrick Simms would be a quality player and always is and we had to try to nullify that threat and everything that they had.”

A big kick from Acre goalkeeper Aaron Cathrew sailed over David Amire’s head and Smith cut the ball back to Reion McFarlane, who whipped in a first time cross which sailed over the head of visiting right-back Steffan Kermin.  Simms reached the by-line and put it on a plate for Beckford at the far post but his free header from four-yards looped over.

Cathrew’s big kick was hooked by Beckford and fell nicely for Aaron Jeffery, who hooked his half-volley straight at visiting goalkeeper Charlie Cloke from 12-yards.

Kissi’s side rode the early storm and went very close to grabbing a 17th minute lead.

Uchechukwu Alou swept a clearance out of defence and the ball was well-controlled by left-winger Jack Gemmell before he played the ball inside to Aaron Guard, who fed Owolabi, who skipped into the box before laying the ball back to Guard, who cracked a first time right-footed drive screaming just past the post from 25-yards.

“Being a new line-up, it took us time to get into the game. Once we settled into the game I thought we more than matched them in every department,” added Kissi.

“That was a good strike, that’s what he’s got in the locker. That’s why we brought him in, that special player that he is.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead target-man Beckford was upset when he was tactically withdrawn with only 30 minutes and 4 seconds into the game.

“He weren’t happy! He’s coming back from a groin injury. I don’t think he’s quite right. He’s an older lad and I want him to occupy the two centre-halves.  I didn’t think he was doing that well enough and I did think the ball was coming back at us too often,” explained Long.

“He’s a big man and I need him staying high up the pitch so he can bring others into play and he wasn’t doing that.  I needed to make a decision. Maybe it was a bit too early but obviously this is a game where I felt we needed to win to show what we’re looking to do this season.”

Kent Football United produced a good move to take the lead with 22 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock.

Impressive right-winger Akan Kasab fed right-back Kermin before he put in a low cross towards the near post. The ball was flicked on by Thomas Songu and Owolabi nipped in front of his marker to sweep his left-footed shot on the turn into the bottom right-hand corner from 14-yards.

“James Owolabi will score goals in this league, definitely. He’s just a natural born finisher and every team needs one of those,” said Kissi.

“They’re the kind of players that turn one point into three so we’re lucky to have him as well. He just showed up out of nowhere and he said ‘can I train?’ And we let him train and it’s paid off!”

Long said: “I felt that the defence tonight, the back four, weren’t tight enough to their men. There was a lack of communication with one going tight and the others covering around and then making sure the balance in front was there.

“We didn’t communicate well enough to get players in and around the ball and stop them playing and stop them getting in behind us.  If you don’t get tight and you don’t get cover and you don’t communicate as a back four and as a whole defensive unit you’re going to get caught out and that’s what happened.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead were to be denied an equaliser in the 32nd minute when visiting keeper Cloke dived to his right to claw behind Jedd Smith’s curling free-kick from 35-yards.

Long said: “Jedd’s got great quality, he really has and there will be those goals that do come off.  I think he’s just got to learn areas of the pitch where to do it and it’s about the end product and that’s what we need more from him. He’s got so much technical ability. He does want to win and we’re introducing him to men’s football this year. He’ll do really well but he’s got to keep listening and move the ball quickly and link up play and if he can move closer to goal having shots, he’ll score a lot more goals.”

Kissi added: “Charlie is another one who we landed. We just got lucky. We got a phone call saying there’s a goalkeeper available and we gave him a chance and he’s taken it ever since and he’s one of our best performers.”

Kissi and Steve Devereux were both appointed joint-managers on Sunday 7 July 2019 after Danny Wakeling quit the club to take charge of Premier Division side Welling Town.

“We have had our backs against the wall in trying to do things in such little time but results and performances like that makes all of that hard work worth it,” added Kissi.

The home side then created three further chances in as many minutes as Chris Hubbard tried to score with a 30-yard drive, which was caught by Cloke in his midriff.

McFarlane whipped in a deep cross from the right and Simms cut into the penalty area but his shot was heading wide of the near post, only for Cloke to dive to his right to flick the ball behind for a corner.

Diminutive Evans stooped down to bring the ball under control before getting up and having time to flash his right-footed angled drive across the keeper and past the far post from 25-yards.

Smith stroked his second free-kick towards goal from 35-yards, which was plucked out of the air by Cloke, with both hands high above his head as Smith aimed for the top left-hand corner on the stroke of half-time.

Long said: “It weren’t hard to see we weren’t good enough tonight and players’ need to hold their hands up to that but we have got quality in our team and we can play if we want to play but the boys’ have got to earn the right to play and that’s something that they didn’t do enough tonight.

“I don’t think they respected Kent Football enough. I don’t think we showed enough desire to want to win a game of football and that showed!”

Kissi added:  “Just told them to keep the same work-rate up but I was expecting Thamesmead to come out with all guns blazing in the second half and we said just keep working like you did and a chance will open up in the second half and just make sure you’re on it to finish the chance that comes.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead kicked off for the second half and holding midfielder Hubbard pinged a diagonal pass to release Simms charging down the left. Simms shows pace to reach the penalty area but often his shots end up sailing over the crossbar, as was the case after 11 seconds into the second half tonight.

Cloke pulled off a vital near-post save to prevent Sporting Club Thamesmead equalising in the 12th minute.

Lovell’s long ball over the top released Jeffery down the left channel and he cut the ball back for Evans, who floated in a deep cross towards the far post for Smith to hook his shot towards the bottom near corner, forcing Cloke to rush off his line to smother the shot from six-yards out low to his right.

“I’d go on record saying he’s probably one of the best keepers in this league, if not the best,” came Kissi’s response to the save.

Long added: “We had a couple of little chances but end product, that’s what we’re lacking. We’re not seeming to find that net enough.”

Another big target-man, Joseph Sylvester entered the game and he was denied an equaliser halfway through the half, thanks to a brilliant save from Cloke.

Beckford’s replacement, Max Walsh played a diagonal crossfield pass to release Simms down the left. He played the ball inside to Walsh, who teed up Sylvester, who with his back to goal hit an overhead shot towards goal from six-yards, only for Cloke to swiftly get down low to his left to flick the ball over his crossbar.

Long said: “Joe’s trying to prove a point and showing what he can do. It could’ve been a great introduction for him if it goes in, probably sets his season off alight.

“He’s still working hard to find himself a starting position. He’s got to keep working hard to do that. If that goes in we’re back in the game and it could be different, not playing well but could still be in the game.”

Kissi added: “I don’t know how he kept it out but that’s Charlie in a nutshell! He’s been brilliant even though we’ve been on the back of big scorelines, he’s kept these scorelines a bit more respectable, I’d say.”

Kent Football United produced a sweeping move on the counter-attack and this chance should have been taken with 20 minutes left.

Kasab played the ball to substitute midfielder Jack Kensington, who turned his man inside the final third before his attempted through ball took a deflection and fell kindly into Kasab’s path.  He only had Cathrew to beat and was in acres of space just 12-yards from goal, only to place his right-footed shot past the foot of the left-hand post.

“He’s come back off holiday so he’s probably taking a little bit of time to adjust to everything but Akan’s a quality player and I trust he’ll be finishing chances like that in the near future,” said Kissi.

Long wants his two centre-halves Andy Pierce and Lovell to defend better in their next game.

He said: “Just defensive restraint. They just want to win their battle against the strikers, just stand up, be strong and win your battle. Don’t let them have a chance but make sure everyone’s covered round.  I think they have to understand the shape a little bit better but I think that will come.”

Walsh reached the by-line down the right and wrapped his foot around the ball and clipped the ball towards the near post but Sylvester nipped in front of Sam Odubanjo to stab the ball just past the foot of the right-hand post from inside the six-yard box.

Kent Football United grabbed their second goal of the night on the counter-attack with 28 minutes and 13 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Amire played a sublime defensive splitting through ball along the deck, which split Lovell and put Gwolla through on goal down the left.  Lovell managed to get back but Gwolla checked inside the box and held his composure to cut the ball onto his right-foot before steering his shot past the diving keeper to find the back of the net from 16-yards.

“He took his time, why is he checking in but he’s showed me why he’s checking in, it was a quality finish,” said Kissi.

“He’s another one, he’s a good friend of mine. He’s come in, he’s asked for a chance and we’ve gave it to him and he’s repaid us.

“At 2-0, I’m just thinking just be disciplined, manage the game well and just don’t give away anything silly.”

Long admitted: “Defensively, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to be stronger.  You can’t let players go past you that easily and get shots away, simple as that! You’ve got to be stronger!”

Sporting Club Thamesmead missed a sitter in the 70th minute when Hubbard picked a loose ball up on the edge of the box, shifted the ball past Amire to reach the by-line before putting the cross on to Jeffery’s head at the far post but the unmarked striker sent his diving header just past the near post from three-yards out.

Long said: “If Taz puts that in we’re back in the game, or chasing towards the game again but that shows our night unfortunately, it hasn’t gone our way but on another day Taz puts that in.”

Kissi admitted it was a big let off for his side.

“I’ve played against Taz many times and I thought it was a goal. I had my money on him to bury it! Luckily for us, he’s put it wide!”

Jeffery then turned provider to put Sylvester in behind but the big man drilled his shot into the base of the side netting.

Kent Football United produced a sweeping move when Owolabi played in a low cross from the right, Kasab teed up Guard, who completely ignored an inside pass to Gwolla and went for glory himself, looping his right-footed shot into Cathrew’s hands from 22-yards.

“Guardy has got a good shot on him. I bank him in that position to try and have a shot. I thought he should’ve slipped in CJ Gwolla,” added Kissi.

Kent Football United’s substitutes Gwolla and Kensington linked up well but Kensington’s left-footed drive from 22-yards screamed just past the left-hand post.

The home side scored a consolation goal with 46 minutes and 46 seconds on the clock, following their eleventh corner of the night.

Hubbard floated the ball in from the right towards the far post and Lovell found a pocket of space to bury his downward header across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Long said: “I just said to the boys, it took you 90 minutes to really attack a set-piece and get on the end of it and it just shows when you do, you get your rewards.  That’s something that we have to work on a little bit more on the training ground.

“We’re missing a few players, a few away, a few injured, that might’ve made a bit of a difference. Personnel in different positions but it’s just desire. The boys’ didn’t show enough desire to win the game and they’ve got to want to do that if they want a chance of doing well in this league.”

Kissi added: “That’s the only thing that kind of dampens a good quality performance. We spoke about a clean sheet, we said we didn’t want to concede anything sloppy and I think that kind of dampened it a little bit but when you’ve not had the rub of the green as we had, you’d take a 2-1 anyway.”

FC Elmstead remain top with seven points from three games, while Sporting Club Thamesmead remain in seventh-place with four points from as many games, while Kent Football United are in eighth-place with the same number of points.

The Acre travel to sixth-placed Rusthall on Bank Holiday Monday 26 August, while Kent Football United host third-placed Rochester United (both kicking off at 15:00).

“It means a lot, it means that we can actually push on and we can start our season from now. We go on Monday full of confidence and give Rochester a good game,” said Kissi.

“It was just about a good performance after the last couple of games. I thought we knew that we weren’t far away, even though the results didn’t match it or the results didn’t look respectable.  We knew we weren’t that far off.  I thought a performance like that was coming, so we were happy with the victory tonight and we’ll push on to Monday now.

“It’s going to be a tough game. We have to apply the same thing again.  They’re a very, very experienced side at this level and if weren’t not switched on they will punish us so we’ll give them all of the respect they’re due but we’ll be receiving Rochester with the aim of getting another three points.”

Four games into his managerial career, Kissi replied: “It’s stressful but I love it after results like that I love management!”

On their trip to Rusthall, Long said: “It’s going to be a tough test, a tough, tough game. They’re going to be strong and physical and they’ve got a point to prove this year as well (after relegation) but I just hope the boys can recover well over the weekend and want to show a reaction and bounce back.

“They’ve got it about them, if they want to turn up and do a job so let’s hope they do.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Aaron Cathrew, Reion McFarlane, Hussein Afolabi-Shittu (Joseph Sylvester 62), Chris Hubbard, Jordan Lovell, Andy Pierce, Jedd Smith (Joedon Cowin 66), Alfie Evans, Tim Beckford (Max Walsh 31), Aaron Jeffery, Merrick Simms.
Subs: James Jewers, Dan McKimm

Goal: Jordan Lovell 90

Booked: Hussein Afolabi-Shittu 51, Merrick Simms 60

Kent Football United: Charlie Cloke, Steffan Kermin, David Amire, Adewale Oshilaja (Sam Odubanjo 32), Ayorinde Omoyayi, Uchechukwu Alou, Akan Kasab, Aaron Guard, James Owolabi, Thomas Songu (Jack Kensington 53), Jack Gemmell (CJ Gwolla 62).
Sub: Jake King

Goals: James Owolabi 23, CJ Gwolla 74

Booked: Steffan Kermin 78

Attendance: 70
Referee: Mr Joshua Gilham (Welling)
Assistants: Mr Stephen Gorman (Swanley) & Mr Peter Crichlow (Carshalton, Surrey)