Sutton Athletic 2-2 Billericay Town - We can push for the title this year, says Sutton Athletic assistant Paul Curtis

Friday 22nd July 2016
Sutton Athletic 2 – 2 Billericay Town
Location Lower Road, Hextable, Kent BR8 7RZ
Kickoff 22/07/2016 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Friday 22nd  July 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Lower Road

SUTTON ATHLETIC assistant manager Paul Curtis says his side have the ability to win the Southern Counties East Football League First Division title at the end of the season.


Craig Edwards guided Billericay Town to a top-nine finish in the Ryman Premier League last season and he brought a 14-man squad to Hextable to play a Sutton Athletic side that finished the final Kent Invicta League campaign in the top four and were defeated 2-1 by Glebe (after extra time) in the Challenge Trophy Final.

Billericay Town were 2-0 up inside 29 minutes when they punished sloppy Sutton Athletic defending to take the lead through Kaan Yucel’s finish, before the tall striker powered in a towering header from a free-kick.

But goalkeeper Jordan Stansbury, 17, gifted Sutton Athletic both of their goals, which were accepted by full-back turned striker Luke Newman, and on the keeper’s shaky performance tonight he will not be good enough to play in the Ryman Premier League this term.

“We knew it was going to be extremely hard, bearing in mind the position that they’re in, three league’s above us,” said Curtis, who was in charge of the team because manager Ben Young is on holiday.

“I’ve got a friend that’s a chairman in that league and he’s told me their set-up and how they like to play.  We knew it was going to be a very strong game, a very hard game but I had every faith in the squad and the boys that I’ve got and they made a very good account of themselves.

“They battled for every first ball and second ball. We did create quite a few chances. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get on the end of them. 

“I would’ve taken a draw before the game. I’m very happy with the two-all draw.”

Sutton Athletic were without goalkeeper Dean James, midfielder Dan Gunner and strikers Jonny Murray and Dany Ball for their fifth pre-season friendly.

Curtis added: “I’ve still got players who are missing but the depth of the squad at the minute is very good. 

“As you can tell from the result today, a two-all draw with some very important players missing is a great result, so I’m very happy.”

Billericay Town started with only a couple of players (right-winger Dorin Popovici and striker Alex Maitrepierre) that came on at half-time of their 1-1 home draw against Gillingham on Tuesday and the Essex outfit should have taken the lead after 60 seconds.

Left-winger Laurence Vaughan’s low cross was flicked towards the bottom near corner by Yucel, which was gathered at the base of the post by Dean Nash.

“He’s a great, great keeper,” Curtis said of Nash, who is playing with a foot injury.

“It’s unfortunate that he’s got a foot injury from a broken foot that he had about a year ago, but Dean James, who is our first team goalkeeper, had a broken foot at the time and he kept us in some of the games last year. He’s a great, great keeper and we’re looking to sign him again this year.  He’s only got until October because he’s got an operation on his foot and then we’re looking to get him in for next season.  He’s got a lot of years ahead of him.”

The Essex side started well and Yucel shrugged off Sean Heather and laid the ball off to an unmarked Maitrepierrre, whose shot was blocked by Nash and Chris Mirrlees cleared the ball off the line to deny Vaughan.

Sutton Athletic created their first opening inside the first five minutes.

Jack Longhurst’s diagonal pass found Newman in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area and Stansbury saved low at his near post only to spill the ball and the shaky keeper gathered the ball before it bounced over the line.

Curtis said: “Newman’s a great player to have just throughout the squad because he’s actually been playing right-back for us last season, either right-back or left-back.

“He was so good today. He caused them lots of problems with his pace. He was unreal today. He can do stuff like that, even some of the shots he had today. He’s a great addition to our squad.”

Billericay’s third attempt saw central midfielder Laste Dombaxe link up well with Yucel before dragging his shot past the foot of the right-hand post from 16-yards.

But Billericay Town deservedly opened the scoring with 13:01 on the clock, aided by poor Sutton Athletic defending.

Vocal, physically strong central defender Hafeez Sanusi clipped a long diagonal pass to release Vaughan down the left and he shrugged off Heather and played the ball into the box.  Sutton failed to clear and the impressive Yucel hit his shot into the ground, the ball looping up and caressing the underside of the crossbar to score from 10-yards, which disappointed Curtis.

“Chris Page and Will Roomes, they both had a mix-up. One of them should’ve made a big loud call. One of them should’ve made a call but they didn’t. A mix-up, a Sutton mistake makes another team score against us.  If you cut out that mistake, they don’t go ahead so it’s a silly mistake that we’re trying to iron out slowly and hopefully at the start of the season we can iron these mistakes out.”

Sutton Athletic skipper Ben Williams played the ball in from the right and Newman shot bounced past the left-hand post before Billericay doubled their lead in the 29th minute.

Dombaxe swung in a free-kick from the left towards the far post and Yucel rose to glance his header into the top right-hand corner from six-yards.

“I don’t think you can deal with a player that size, even though we’ve got some good height on us in our squad,” said Curtis.

“It’s hard. You can jump with him but more or less 99 times out of 100 he’s going to win a header. 

“The free-kick shouldn’t have been given away in the first place. Jack Longhurst gave it away. He was working hard, he tried hard but it was a silly foul to give away in the first place but with a player with that height, it’s hard to defend against him at times.”

Stansbury made a comfortable save to catch Longhurst’s right-footed dipping drive from 25-yards after the ball came out to him from Williams’ corner from the right.

Billericay left-back Jason Mensah launched a long throw into the Sutt’s penalty area but Nash easily caught Sanusi’s looping header.

Sutton Athletic were gifted both of their goals tonight, their first arriving in the 37th minute.

Roomes lofted the ball into the penalty area from the left, intended for striker Arlie Desagnes but Stansbury flapped at the ball, failed to collect and Newman punished the poor goalkeeping by poking the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

“You look at it, Newman was in a position to tap it in,” highlighted Curtis.

“Some players’ might give up a couple of seconds before that and the keeper could’ve got away with it but Newman was in a position to put it in the back of the net to give us a look in to get back in for the leveller.

“He was well up for today and he was really, really looking forward to it.”

They should have been level when Mirrlees found himself in space on the right to float over a quality cross towards the near post but Chris Page spooned his shot up onto the top of the crossbar and behind.

Curtis said: “For some reason, every chance that Chris Page has had in pre-season, I don’t know how he’s managed not to score?!

“He had one against Faversham Strike Force, a lovely header, 10-yards out and he’s a great header of the ball but for some reason he put it six-yard wide and today he was probably only six-yards out again. It should’ve been a goal. He knows that but it’s one of those things. He just didn’t get a good contact on it.”

Curtis reflected on the first half performance from his side.

“I was happy with the performance. We were playing well, bar the mistake for their goal. We were making a good account of ourselves, we had a good half.

“We told the boys what we wanted to do for the second half and a couple of them had a nice massage to help their muscles get through the second 45 and we came out at the races.

“I gave players’ extra minutes because some have not had a full pre-season training and people have been on holiday, so I wanted to push them for as long as I could.

“I really wanted to take tonight seriously so I didn’t want to make silly changes at half-time.  I really wanted to make Sutton look good enough, make a good account of ourselves.”

Stansbury made another howler by handing Sutton Athletic their equalising goal only 130 seconds into the second half.

Desagnes played a low pass inside from the right flank to Newman, who sent a dipping drive towards the keeper’s midriff from 30-yards, but somehow the ball slipped out of the keeper’s hands and rolled over the goal-line, the goal being awarded by assistant referee Dan Friar.

Curtis defended the former Kent FA representative and Dartford keeper.

“You’ve got to feel sorry for the keeper, he’s a young lad. It’s just unfortunate, two mistakes in the game that’s gifted us two goals but we’ve got to take that. If the shot was a metre higher it would’ve been a great goal. It’s just unfortunate that the keeper made a mistake but I’m happy for Sutton to equalise to make it two-all.”

Mirrlees whipped in a free-kick from the left and Stansbury was relieved to see Desagnes’ glancing header sail past the left-hand post.

Billericay substitute striker Harrison Tweddle dragged his angled drive across Nash and past the far post from the right-hand side of the penalty area after another long throw was hurled in to the Sutton Athletic box by Mensah.

Newman was denied his hat-trick in the 59th minute when Stansbury made amends.

Sutton Athletic central defender Page clipped the ball which split open Euan Taylor-Reid and Gradi Milenge to put Newman through on goal and once inside the box he tried to find the bottom far corner, but Stansbury stuck out his right leg to make a morale boosting block.

Curtis said: “He did make a great save. I thought Luke Newman was going to go and get his hat-trick and I would’ve been so proud of him if he did. I’d be so happy if we’d have gone ahead but the keeper, like you rightly said, made a great save and made amends.”

Billericay Town were also to be denied by an smart reaction save from Nash.

Popovici’s diagonal pass found Dombaxe in space down the left channel and he cut the ball back for Sanusi, who was still up for a free-kick, only for his shot from inside the six-yard box to be well saved by Nash, smothering the ball low to his right.

“Dean Nash is a great keeper. All the boys love him, all the boys know how good he is to make saves like that, that’s why we want him,” added Curtis.

Nash then made a comfortable save to deny Vaughan scoring with a shot on the turn before watching Lloyd Ross go close with a dipping curling drive from the right hand side from 30-yards.

Nash, meanwhile was exemplary with his handling, while the game came to a disappointing end with Sutts’ substitute winger Mike Kalu cutting in from the left and drilling his 30-yard drive past the foot of the far post.

“I thought a few of the boys that haven’t had much of pre-season or been away, I pushed them a bit for minutes and they were probably tiring, that’s why I brought a few fresh legs on. Some games you have 100s of chances and some games you might have one chance and you’ve got to put it away,” said Curtis.

“The boys done amazing tonight, a two-all draw. I’m extremely happy with them.”

Sutton Athletic complete their pre-season campaign with games against Cray Valley (home, next Tuesday) and at Bearsted (30 July).

They kick-off their SCEFL1 campaign with a home game against local rivals Orpington on 6 August.

“Another two tough games that I’ve been left in charge off. Cray Valley are a league above and I know James Collins because he used to be a manager here and he was down watching but again we’re going to be buzzing. We’ve had two good wins in pre-season and a draw tonight against a Ryman team so the boys’ heads will be extremely high going into Tuesday and looking ahead in make a stamp on the game and maybe push for a win on Tuesday.

“It’s hard really,” Carter said of their Orpington league opener.

“I don’t know what their pre-season’s like, or what additions they’ve had. All I’m going to worry about is the squad that I’ve got and if I can keep them all fit and happy.

“Our next two (pre-season) games, can we get great results out of them and good performances? I’m more than worried about the performances.”

When asked about Sutton Athletic’s aspirations for the season ahead, Curtis clearly pointed them out.

“We want to win this league because hands down we know we had the opportunity last year and we fell short and with the few additions that we are making this year and hopefully to make a few more.

“I’m taking the positives out of tonight, playing a very good side and we hopefully will win the league this season, that’s the good thing I can take out of this game.

“We’re pushing for promotion 100%, with the facilities that we’re putting down here. The floodlights were only just installed a couple of months ago; new car park; new fencing has been put up and a new stand will be installed next season.

“We want to push this club higher. The club needs to be higher and no doubt the boys will be raring to go with the ability that they’ve got, we can push for the title this year.”

When asked whom he feels will be up there challenging, Curtis replied: “No doubt, Glebe, with the money that they’ve got. They can afford to push money to players and bring in better players, which at the moment we don’t have that ability to offer people money.  We don’t have a budget. We don’t pay anyone money. Glebe have got money, which is fair enough but they can scout better players and that’s something that we can’t do.

“We got beaten by teams in the bottom and then we beat teams at the top. It’s going to be a tough season but I’ve got all faith in the squad that we can do it this year.”

Sutton Athletic: Dean Nash, Joe Hill (Marvin Francis 61), Tom Hammond, Chris Page (Jack Edwards 85), Sean Heather, Chris Mirrlees (Darren Wheeler 79), Will Roomes (Mike Mills 79), Ben Williams, Arlie Desagnes, Luke Newman, Jack Longhurst (Mike Kalu 75).

Goals: Luke Newman 37, 48

Billericay Town: Jordan Stansbury, Ewan Taylor-Reid, Jason Mensah, Laste Dombaxe, Hafeez Sanusi, Gradi Milenge (Jazime Johnson 69), Dorin Popovici, Lloyd Ross, Alex Maitrepierre (Harrison Tweddle 46), Kaan Yucel (Antoine Fontaine 76), Laurence Vaughan.

Goals: Kaan Yucel 14, 29

Attendance: 61
Referee: Mr Darren Blunden (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Dan Friar (Rainham) & Mr Ricky Adams (Northfleet)