Stansfeld 2-1 FC Elmstead - We've not played well but we'll take the three points but we will need to play better if we want to achieve our goal, admits Stansfeld boss Jamie Phipps
Stansfeld 2 – 1 FC Elmstead
|Location||Foxbury Avenue, off Perry Street, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6SD|
STANSFELD 2-1 FC ELMSTEAD
Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Tuesday 22 February 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Foxbury Avenue
STANSFELD joint-manager Jamie Phipps admits his side found a way to beat FC Elmstead to maintain their hopes of winning the Southern Counties East Football League First Division title.
The Bermondsey outfit have closed the gap to leaders Sutton Athletic to one point and they do have three games in hand on Daniel Kelly’s side from Hextable after grabbing a victory against an FC Elmstead side in 12th place in the table and only three points clear of the relegation zone.
Stansfeld’s two strikers, Ollie Milton and Macey Malyon got on the scoresheet during the first half, taking their goalscoring tallies to 15 goals and nine respectively but FC Elmstead enjoyed plenty of possession during large chunks of the game at Foxbury Avenue.
FC Elmstead pulled a goal back with eight minutes remaining, courtesy of a long throw from the central midfielder Callum Keeble. The ball was flicked on by three players and Stansfeld’s centre-half Casey Killilea got the final touch to score an own-goal.
“We didn’t play particularly well,” admitted Phipps.
“We got off to a great start, scored a good goal and we kind of sat back a little bit, didn’t really control the game at any time.
“It was a good second goal from a throw-on that we’ve been working on in training a little bit and we sat back a little bit and invited pressure on.
“A long throw is always a threat and they got their reward from that. I thought they were unlucky not to get something from the game.
“I would imagine they’d be some teams around us looking at that thinking we were going to slip up but we’ve done it most of the season where we’ve not played well and we’ve still found a way to win, so we’ll take the three points but we will need to play better if we want to achieve our goal.”
FC Elmstead manager Peter Nolan added: “I think we’ve suffered these defeats all season unfortunately. I think a little bit of naivety on our part in the first half and we’re going in 2-0 and we made the game very difficult.
“I thought we played well throughout tonight. I think Stansfeld are a very good side, they’re where they are for a reason. They went far in the Vase, they’re a good outfit.
“We can learn a thing or two with the way they play the game. They’re clever in what they do but tonight I thought we edged it in terms of what we did with the ball, without really creating too much in the last little bit of phase of play.
“But I thought we were very good tonight and we can be very unlucky not to get anything out from tonight.”
Clinical Stansfeld were given a helping hand when they took the lead with the first chance of the game after only 165 seconds.
FC Elmstead’s Michael Holliday sliced a clearance backwards from midfield and Malyon’s ball over the top released his partner Milton, who headed the ball past the advancing keeper before chipping a half-volley into the roof of an empty net from 16-yards.
“It was a really good goal. We tell the boys that we needed to start fast, which we did and we also told the forwards to play quite close together,” said Phipps.
“If they play as a pair and they work off each other then you’ve always got a chance. It was a great finish by Ollie.
“We pushed Macey a bit further forward, he’s been playing in midfield for most of the season but we decided we wanted a bit more presence up front so we played Macey further up and Ollie in the 10. When it works like that, it’s a great decision.
“Ollie’s done well. I think it’s his first goal for a while. I can’t remember the last time he’s scored but he works hard as well. It’s not just about goals. We demand good work rate from the team, which we’ve had most of the season and we like to try to defend from the front and try to put pressure on defenders and win the ball up the pitch.”
Nolan said: “Michael Holliday made a mistake and at this level mistakes can happen. He just gave the ball away in the first there minutes and they go on and scored and then it’s a little bit of an uphill task from then.
“From that point we started to grow into the game. It shows a bit of character that we’ve got in the side where we’re struggling a little bit in the league and we can fold a little at that point but we didn’t and we came back into the game.
“Ollie Milton’s a great player. He’s been here for a while now and he’s always popping up with goals down here and every time I’ve seen him play, I’ve been impressed with what he does.”
FC Elmstead’s pacy striker Akolawole Salami was a threat during the first-half before he was substituted at the interval with a hamstring tweak.
He latched onto Holliday’s swept long ball into the right channel and after easily cutting past Killilea his shot from a tight angle clipped the outside of the near post.
Nolan has high hopes for his 11-goal striker.
“Kola’s our top scorer down here at the club. He’s had a really good season. He’s a threat whenever he’s on the pitch for us. He’s got loads of pace and he scares a lot of sides. He’s still got a little bit of work to become the finished article. He’s nowhere near the finished article but he’s going to play a good level without a doubt. He’s got a lot of ability and he’s a really good kid and he wants to go and play at a really good level as well.”
Central midfielder Keeble’s set-piece deliveries were outstanding and FC Elmstead created a couple of headed chances courtesy of long kicks from his left-boot.
Firstly, centre-half Scott Wason found space at the far post to bury his header straight at Charlie Cottrell, who plucked the ball out of the air – and then Kanan Fitton found space inside the six-yard box and stooped down to head across the Stansfeld keeper, who got down low to his right to grab hold of the ball.
“We’ve got some really talented players down here. We’ve got a young squad,” said Nolan, who last managed in the Kent County League Division One West at Dartford-based Halls Athletic.
“We’ve got Callum Keeble from Phoenix Sports’ under 23’s . He’s come in and he looks a real player. He’s good on the ball and he can play in a couple of positions and as you saw tonight he’s got a little bit of a weapon with his long throw as well and we’re starting to use that and he created a couple of chances.
“Kanan Fitton is another one. He’s a young lad (with two goals this season). He’s just turned 21 and is going to be a really good striker at this level. He’s got a little bit of everything. He’s not quite putting the ball in the back of the net yet but I know he can do it and he's going to score a lot of goals at this level.”
Phipps added: “Poor, poor defending. I mean one you can half forgive, a free header, but two, by then everyone should know who their man is. We pride ourselves on defending set-pieces and it’s disappointing. On another day, either side of Charlie, we could’ve been in trouble.”
Tommy Whitnell, who has played a lot higher than the tenth-tier of English football, was put through on goal on the half-hour mark and tested visiting keeper Ryan McCourt.
Joe Borland’s ball over the top released Whitnell through on goal, timing his run to perfection to beat the offside trap, but his drilled right-footed angled drive from 15-yards was blocked by McCourt’s legs and the ball rolled behind for a Stansfeld corner.
“It was Tommy’s first start for us. He’s only played half-an-hour in the Vase but we know how good Tommy is. He hasn’t played Saturday football for a while so it will take him a while. He done well and you can see he’s got that bit of quality,” said Phipps of Whitnell, who has been playing Sunday football for his local side Aylesford.
Nolan has snapped up McCourt from National League Bromley, where he has made five appearances for their Suburban League side this season.
“We’ve got him in from Bromley’s under 23’s. He’s been with us now for eight or nine games and he’s been superb since he’s come in. I’ve not got a bad word to say about Ryan. He’s got a great attitude, he does all the right things and he looks after himself and he loves football as well and I think he’s enjoying it.”
FC Elmstead kept probing but lacked the quality to open up Stansfeld’s three centre-halves, before the home side grabbed a second, against-the-run-of-play at the time with 39 minutes and 21 seconds on the clock.
Greg Summersby threw the ball short to Milton, who whipped in a great cross from within the left channel towards the near post where the unmarked Malyon buried his header into the top left-hand corner from 10-yards.
Phipps was pleased that a move worked on the training ground paid off.
He said: “It was a good goal, a really, really good goal. We’ve been working on throw-ins in training because what tends to happen is teams just throw the ball down the line and try to play off the second ball, so we try to look at different things in training and on this occasion when you work on something or you make a change and it works, it’s good.
Nolan added: “I think we had a chance to clear the ball a minute earlier and we didn’t quite get it away and they get a throw-in in a very dangerous area. It just shows a little bit of naivety from us.
“I think if the shoes on the other foot, I don’t think they do the same thing. They’d get the ball far up the pitch and I think a little bit of naivety to try to get over the line and we concede against-the-run-of-play.
“It’s a great finish. It’s nothing we can do about the finish. It’s a great header. It’s a good delivery and Macey is a good player. He runs the channels really well and he played well.”
Both manager’s were asked their thoughts going into the interval.
Phipps said: “That we needed to be better because Elmstead had a lot of the ball and we kind of sat too deep and invited pressure on, even in the first-half, although other than the two set-piece chances Charlie wasn’t ever in trouble, but we knew we had to be better and come out and start the second half fast but we didn’t really and invited pressure on.”
Nolan added: “It’s a funny one, this place at Glebe, when you go up the hill in the first half. We really wanted to get in 1-0 down. I said to my assistants if we can get in at 1-0, I fancy us and I was confident in that.
“We knew that we couldn’t concede the next goal. We couldn’t let it go to three but we dominate the second half, without massively creating too much and I think we go and prove that we play some good football, we moved Stansfeld around the pitch and I don’t think Stansfeld will have too many more difficult 45 minutes than that.”
FC Elmstead were kicking down the slope for the second half and Keeble’s short throw went to Holliday who fed Fitton, who cut in towards the by-line but the angle was too tight to get a shot on target and steered the shot past the near post after only 36 seconds.
Stansfeld produced their best move of the game in the 18th minute of the second half, however.
Teddie Bailey played the ball into Rob Hughes, who cut inside and fed Milton, who put it on a plate for Whitnell, whose first-time swept shot from 12-yards while left unmarked was comfortably saved by McCourt.
“It was a good move, probably one of the only bits of football that we played all night,” admitted Phipps.
“If you go 3-0 up it’s game over. Two-nil is always an iffy score because if they get the next goal their tails are up and you could be in a bit of trouble. It would’ve been nice to have killed the game off, but we didn’t.”
FC Elmstead went close to scoring following another set-piece just 119 seconds later.
This time Holliday drilled in a free-kick from the right and substitute striker Joedon Gugas-Cowin threw his head at the ball just six-yards out in the centre of the goal but couldn’t keep his header down.
Nolan said: “Mike’s played really well. He’s made a mistake in the first three minutes that cost us the goal. I don’t think he put a foot wrong since that. Mike’s great. He wasn’t getting minutes at Larkfield and he’s played centre midfield, centre-half. He’s good on the ball, he kept it ticking and I thought he was superb tonight.
“Joedon Gugas-Cowin plays out wide. We used him up front tonight. He’s got so much talent. He was playing a higher level last season but he’s picked up injuries and he’s come down to get a good season in. The kid’s still not fully fit but he’s got so much talent, he really has and I thought he made a difference when he came on.”
Phipps added: “Their set-piece delivery was good all night and they troubled us. We do pride ourselves on defending set-pieces but we struggled a little bit tonight but we haven’t played since the Vase (exit on penalties to Southall) 10 days ago, which may not have helped but it’s not an excuse. We didn’t keep the ball well enough.”
Keeble launched his fourth long throw into the Stansfeld box and Fitton’s near-post flick sailed into Cottrell’s hands for a comfortable catch at his near post as the game entered the last 20 minutes.
FC Elmstead hit the woodwork for the second time, following their fourth corner of the game.
Keeble’s left-footed delivery came in from the right and Cottrell flapped at the ball within a crowded goal-mouth and no one appeared to get a touch before the ball kissed the top of the crossbar before dropping behind for a goal-kick.
Nolan said: “I can’t quite see what went on, a few people shouted it’s over the line but it’s didn’t look over the line but I can’t quite see from where I’m standing.
“It was a good delivery from Callum. He puts it on the keeper and he puts it in an area where you ask a question. We’ve got a few big boys in the side. Stansfeld stood quite tall tonight and weathered some storms and I thought they were very good at that.
“I thought we were unlucky and if we could nick a goal at that point it would’ve been deserved.”
FC Elmstead deservedly pulled a goal back with 36 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.
Keeble launched a long throw in from the right and physically strong centre-half Wason flicked the ball on. The ball hit two Stansfeld players and went in just underneath the crossbar, with Killilea getting the final touch and going down on the scoresheet.
Nolan said: “Callum’s long throw was a weapon all night. Scott Wason and Darel Thompson came from Meridian, who kindly sent both players over to us.
“Scott’s done really well. He scored a screamer last week against Croydon to level us up at 2-2 and I thought he was excellent tonight.
“He’s a great centre-half. He can use both feet and he’s a presence as well. If you stick the ball in the box, people are worried about it and he gets his head to it and the ball hits a few people and he will claim the goal.”
Phipps added: “Poor goal. Poor goal. You want your centre-halves to attack that and head it away. The long throw troubled us all night as well.
“You want your centre-half to come and dominate there a little bit. If you don’t go and attack it you end up paying the price, which we did.
“I’d rather give the goal to their centre-half than our centre-half though.”
FC Elmstead threw caution to the wind and were to be denied a deserved equaliser just three minutes later.
Lucky Nwoso featured in three positions, both centre-half positions and left-back and the captain was to be denied by a fine save from Cottrell.
Thompson’s clever 20-yard pass put Nwoso through on goal and he cut past a couple of defenders before drilling a right-footed shot towards the near post but Cottrell stood tall and beat the ball away.
“It was a great save by the keeper. Lucky is one of a few players who is still with me from Halls in the Kent County. He very rarely has bad games and I thought he was superb tonight.
“We shifted him from right centre-half to left centre-half (and then to left-back) and we told him to go and push on and he skipped past a couple of players and he’s very unlucky not to stick it in the top corner but it was a great save from their keeper.”
Phipps said: “It was a good move. We just backed off. We invited him on and didn’t go and engage and left him to have a shot. It’s a save you’d expect Charlie to make. Charlie’s a fantastic goalkeeper so you expect him to make it but because we sat so deep and invited pressure on, we allowed them to shoot, which could’ve cost us but fortunately it hasn’t.”
Stansfeld nearly caught FC Elmstead on the counter-attack when Malyon broke down the heart of the pitch before playing the ball on his outside to substitute striker Lee Friend, whose deflected shot flashed just past the foot of the far post.
The away side created one final chance from distance but Wason’s drilled right-footed shot from 35-yards whistled past the foot of the far post.
Sutton Athletic are top of the table with 54 points from 26 games and the four play-off positions are occupied by Stansfeld (53 points from 23 games), Tooting Bec (50 points from 26 games), Snodland Town (47 points from 27 games) and Bridon Ropes (47 points from 26 games).
Phipps said: “It’s a good position to be in. If you would’ve given us at quarter-to-eight a 2-1 win, not a great performance and three points then we would’ve ripped your arm off.
“We know we haven’t played well. Midweek games are always a bit tricky. Sutton Athletic have lost their last two midweek games. People are rushing from work, they might’ve had a busy day but it’s all about getting a result and getting the points which we have done so we’re more than happy with that.”
Rochester United visit Foxbury Avenue on Saturday and Phipps is expecting it to be “really tough. They’ve picked up some really good results recently and it will be a tough test. Hopefully we’ll be better on Saturday than we were today.”
When asked what success is for Stansfeld this season, Phipps replied: “At the start of the season our aims are always to make sure that we stay in the division – we’re a club with no budget.
“We’re in a great position to win it. Will we win it? Who knows? There’s a long way to go and a lot of points to play for. Whatever happens if we finish in the play-offs and got in the fifth round of the FA Vase, I think that’s a great season and success for all the hard work that the boys have put in during the course of the season.”
FC Elmstead travel to Dartford to play Kent Football United on Saturday 5 March and they are still not safe from relegation, despite having 29 points from their 28 league outings and three points clear of the relegation zone.
“The reality for us is that’s a really important game for us. There’s no mistake, it’s a huge game over at Kent and we need to go there and if we go and perform like that, we’ll win more than we lose,” added Nolan.
“We wanted to be a little bit higher (in the table) than where we are. We’ve learnt quite quickly but this is my first season at this level. There’s been a few lessons along the way. We’ve learnt a lot this season. We’ve definitely learnt that we’re good enough and we’ve definitely learnt we’ve got the right players around us and got the right kind of squad.
“The truth is we wish we aren’t where we are (in the table). We wish we were a bit higher and a bit safer because we’re still not out of it because it’s so tight down there but I believe we’re in a place where we’ve got the quality to go and beat sides now. We’ve been playing against all these big sides and losing by the odd goal – so that says to me we aren’t far away.”
Stansfeld: Charlie Cottrell, Joe Borland, Greg Summersby, Casey Killilea, Billy Parkinson, Sam Jeal, Teddie Bailey, Tommy Whitnell (Lewis Osborne 65), Macey Malyon, Ollie Milton (Billy Shinners 86), Rob Hughes (Lee Friend 75).
Subs: Aidan Hayes, Dan Parkinson
Goals: Ollie Milton 3, Macey Malyon 40
Booked: Rob Hughes 64
FC Elmstead: Ryan McCourt, Erald Memaj (Paddy Curran 80), Joshua Witter (Lewis Alliston 65), Darell Thompson, Scott Wason, Lucky Nwoso, Joe Plant, Callum Keeble, Akolawole Salami (Joedon Gugas-Cowin 46), Kanan Fitton, Michael Holliday.
Subs: Luke Alliband, Dylan Pratt
Goals: Casey Killilea 82 (own goal)
Booked: Ryan McCourt 38, Kanan Fitton 90
Referee: Mr Kieran Williamson
Assistants: Ms Esther Perry & Mr Daniel McGlynn