VCD Athletic 0-2 Maidstone United - Tony Russell: I expect them to give everything for this club!

Tuesday 12th August 2014
Ryman Premier League
Tuesday 12th August 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

VCD ATHLETIC manager Tony Russell has promised to wield the axe after losing their opening two games to leave them rooted to the foot of the Ryman Premier League table.

The Vickers went down to a 4-1 defeat at Tonbridge Angels in their inaugural game at this level at the weekend, before Maidstone United came away from Oakwood with a comfortable 2-0 victory.

The Stones jumped from fifth-place to the summit after their 3-1 home win over Metropolitan Police on Saturday was followed up with goals from former Bromley target-man Jay May and winger Matt Bodkin, 30, to ensure it was a perfect start for them.

Maidstone United’s visit to Crayford attracted a crowd of 369 to Oakwood and everybody was impressed with the perfect condition of the playing surface.

The home club have appointed Colin Powell as their new groundsman, who was groundsman at Charlton Athletic for 22 years’ before leaving his post in June.

“I thought they deserved it, I’ve got no complaints,” said Russell, 35, afterwards.

“The two goals we’re c*** in terms of us. A long throw. It’s got nothing to do with levels or whatever. Some geezer can throw a ball long and you’ve got to deal with it better.  I thought it was a foul, but I don’t know.

“The second one we’ve just not reacted. Two set-pieces.

“I thought we was pretty neat, maybe pretty even first half.  Maybe they just edged it.

“Second half we came out and we was just getting going in the first ten minutes.  We started to build a bit of momentum.  I could see they were getting frustrated.  We started to get some corners.

“Their second goal was a killer. That goes in, the game’s over. They probably should have picked us off at the end.”

Maidstone United manager Jay Saunders, 35, is delighted to be sitting at the summit after 180 minutes of football.

“Pleased obviously to start with two wins out of two. You’ve got to be happy,” said Saunders.

“I knew it would be a tough place to come. They play decent football down here and we had to set up a certain way and for the majority of it I think it worked and I’m pleased.”

Reflecting on his clubs position at the summit, Saunders said: “It’s early days. We go to Bognor on Saturday, which is going to be a real tough game. Another team that love to play football and we have to set-up right but you can’t ask for much more than two wins and I’m delighted.”

Maidstone United, unchanged from Saturday, were to be denied the opening goal after only 110 seconds of the game courtesy of a brilliant save from Vickers keeper Nick Blue.

Bodkin whipped in a cross from the right which was headed away by Elliott Cox and Tom Mills cracked a stunning left-footed volley from 20-yards, which was destined to scream into the top far corner but Blue dived to push the ball over his crossbar with his left hand.

Russell said: “It was a good hit. They’ve got some good players. We’ve got a bit of a problem at the moment in terms of our team. It’s not really working at the moment.

“I’ve brought a few new boys in and it’s not worked out in terms of getting what we’re trying to ask them to do. People are just doing their own thing at the moment.

“I’m a little bit disappointed but that’s up to me to get cracking. We’ve had a bit of a disappointing pre-season, two games called off by the club that’s set us back so we’ve only had one session working on our shape and it shows if I’m honest.

“Three of the back four from last year aren’t there so it’s just re-setting them all and at the moment they’re not getting it!”

Saunders said: “I thought Millsy was outstanding tonight! I thought he was up against a very good player in Ellis Green and I thought he didn’t give him a kick for most of it.

“That strike summed up his night. If that had gone in you’ll be looking at goal of the season! To strike a ball, that technique and the way he did is not easy and to be fair it was a great save as well.”

Maidstone United broke the stalemate inside twenty minutes, May’s second goal of the season being met by a bolt of lightning.

Alex Flisher hurled a long throw into the VCD penalty area and Blue was at fault as he came rushing off his line and failed to connect with his intended punch and the loose ball was steered into the right-hand corner of the goal by May.

Russell was disappointed with the manner that Maidstone United took the lead.

He said: “You come up a level and you come up against the juggernaut that is Maidstone.

“At this level of football to let a goal in from a long throw, that’s something out of a Sunday League game!  Some geezer cane launch a throw in and they get bodies around the goalkeeper. Don’t get me wrong it’s effective. I’m not knocking them. I’m just saying from our point of view you’ve got to do better than that!”

Saunders said he’s pleased with May for scoring back-to-back goals since his move from Vanarama Conference South side Bromley.

“Pleased for him. When I brought him here everyone straight away said he won’t score goals and we had the same thing when I signed Zac (Attwood).

“I’m not saying Jay’s going to score 26 goals like Zac but his hold up play is very good and when it’s in and around the box he’ll score goals and I do think with our set-pieces we’re a big side and he can get a few goals this year.”

Blue used his legs to deny Bodkin sweeping home a second goal just 128 seconds later.

Saunders said: “I thought we had a few chances from set-pieces tonight and Bodders was unlucky not to score another one.

“It’s pleasing like things we’re trying to work on are coming off and that’s a good thing.

“I remember a couple of years I won promotion with Margate, set-pieces were a big thing and I think it’s important.”

VCD Athletic’s opening chance arrived in the 25th minute when Karl Dent’s run set up a chance for James Duckworth, whose right-footed shot from 25-yards deflected over the bar.

But the home side were to be denied an equaliser as the rain pelted down from dark clouds above.

Ellis Green swung in a corner from the right and Lea Dawson clipped an over-head kick towards goal and Alex Brown was on hand to head the ball off the line.

Russell said: “No-one said to me it was over the line. I don’t know.

“We just looked a little bit predictable going forward. I thought we got in some good areas and they got in some good areas.  I thought the first half was a good game of football if I’m honest. I thought it was quite open in terms of it took both teams’ good movement and good passing to get the game open.

“I thought both teams were well organised and I thought Frannie and Jay linked up well and Shaggy (Power) and Denty were doing little bits.

“I thought the game was pretty even at half-time. As soon as you’re chasing a game against teams it’s hard and the softest of goals. You can sit here and berate referees but I’m not going to do that. I think overall, they deserved it.”

Michael Power, 30, who scored 19 goals in 22 appearances to help VCD Athletic claim the Ryman League Division One North title on the last day of last season, struggled in his role as lone striker, and was well marshalled by Stones’ two central defenders Sonny Miles and Steve Watt.

“I thought they were outstanding, they were very good Saturday,” said Saunders.

“I was a bit annoyed Saturday, we conceded the goal we did. The fella had a shot, it’s come back off Worgan, hit him on the knee or stomach and gone in and I was disappointed that we didn’t keep a clean sheet on Saturday, so it’s nice to keep your first clean sheet. I’m sure Worgs will be happy.

“I thought the back four in general, I thought Butch was good, Millsy and the two centre halves were good and that’s pleasing.”

Vickers’ left-back Ahmed Dean made progress down the wing before whipping in a cross into the Maidstone United penalty area where Power shrugged off his marker to loop his header into Lee Worgan’s gloves from six-yards.

Russell said: “We got him (Power) isolated. I think he was isolated.  Their two good defenders had everything in front of them. If we got it down the side of them then we’ve got half a chance. That’s where you’re going to do them.  That’s what I’m saying. Everything was into feet. They’ll eat it up all day long.

“They’re two experienced centre halves, good centre halves as well but you’ve got to get them moving about. That’s what gives you a chance.  You come up with your game plan and you have to try to trust the players to implement it but they didn’t do that.”

May swept the ball out to his strike partner Frannie Collin out on the right and he clipped the ball towards the far post where Bodkin jumped and sent his looping header over the bar from eight-yards.

Maidstone United were linking up well up front and Bodkin’s cross from the right was headed away and Alex Flisher’s left-footed drive from 30-yard sailed over Blue’s crossbar.

A long ball out of defence by Miles picked out Flisher, who played the ball inside to Stephen Butcher, who cut the ball to left-back Mills, whose left-footed drive from 25-yards sailed just over the crossbar.

Saunders said: “I’m on at Millsy a lot because I think he offers us so much going forward when he gets round Flish and goes and joins in.  I don’t think he does it enough. I don’t think he did it enough Saturday and we’ve been on at him and I thought today he’s done it very well and he’s looked a threat going forward and we were solid defensively.”

VCD Athletic, who continued to play the ball out from the back, managed to dazzle the Maidstone United defence with their eye-catching brand of football on the stroke of half-time.

Visiting keeper Worgan kicked the ball to Watt, who gave the ball away and Dean Carpenter sprayed the ball out to Duckworth on the left, who linked up well with Dent, who got in behind Miles and Butcher to steer his left-footed angled drive into the foot of the side netting.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

Russell was not pleased with back-chat from his players during the half-time break.

He said: “It’s just a couple of things that I’ve seen creeping in. People want to talk to me at half-time. I’m the manager. I’ve got the centre halves talking to me on Saturday, Tommy Whitnell’s just scored a hat-trick and they want to tell me what’s wrong.  Just do your jobs! It’s creeping in and I’m not having it!”

Saunders said: “I thought we started well. I thought first 15-20 we were quite good and I thought we stopped after we scored. We stopped off the pace and they came into it and were knocking it about without really hurting us other than the one Worgs tipped over the bar.

“I thought they started to get into the game and it frustrated me a bit and we asked them to do a few things differently second half and get a bit tighter. We didn’t give them too much time and I thought we kind of controlled the second half really.”

Both Kent sides cancelled each other out during the early stages of the second half.

Maidstone United created the first opening inside 12 minutes when Mills played the ball inside to Collin, the striker unleashing a first time right-footed drive past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

The Stones started to dominate proceedings and VCD Athletic were finding it tough to support lone striker Power.

Collin was to be denied by a smart save from Vickers keeper Blue after he wriggled his way past two defenders and drilled a right-footed shot towards goal which forced Blue to dive to his left to push the ball around the post.

Saunders added: “I thought their keeper done well tonight. When Frannie normally goes through like that he puts them away!

“I think Frannie’s still not at full pelt. He missed the majority of pre-season, he only came back for the last couple of games so I think it’s been hard on him but he’ll get sharper and sharper and I think the goals will come.”

But Maidstone United deservedly killed the game off with 61 minutes on the clock.

Bodkin swung in a corner from the right which was cleared back out to him and the former Margate winger bent a low left-footed shot through a crowd of players, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.

Saunders said: “Great strike! I thought Bod’s been good in both games and I thought he’s deserved a goal and to be honest disappointed not to have another one tonight but he’s come in on his weaker foot and it’s a hell of a strike into the corner.

“I think we needed it at that point, although we looked quite comfortable. They weren’t really hurting us. I think we needed that second goal and it was a great strike.”

Russell added: “He’s reacted. I thought up until that point we were the better side. We’re coming out of the blocks better than them. I thought we were just getting going and pinning them in.

“It’s a reaction thing. It is frustrating because you want to focus what’s in your brain on a football pitch. Some players are just not getting it. We’ve done a nice long session on it and they’re just not doing it. It’s just frustrating. I’m finding it really frustrating to be honest. I do this because I think I’ve got some ideas that might work and if they’re not going to listen to what my ideas are, I ain’t going to watch that. It’s not good enough!

“When the second one went in, that’s it. In hindsight I’ve got rid of too many of last year’s squad. We’ve lost that togetherness. Last year’s boys’ they went to the end. They made you earn it. I’ve got much to think about. I’m angry. I expect better from myself as well.”

Maidstone United were to be denied a third inside the last 20 minutes when a slick move involving May and Flisher put Collin in behind the defence but Blue came to the rescue to smother the ball at the striker’s feet.

VCD Athletic’s one and only second half chance came in the last nine minutes when Dean threw the ball in from the left and substitute Lewis Perkins hooked his left-footed shot sailing harmlessly over the bar from 25-yards.

Russell said: “The last fifteen minutes you might as well had wrapped it up! There was no oomph or anything there. It was so disappointing!

“We just rolled over and had our bellies tickled for the last 20 minutes. It’s just c***. It’s just rubbish.  I get frustrated of myself.

“Saturday was a shambles but we said to the players after, even the new boys, of my teams I expect them to give everything for this club. I don’t care about wage bills or how many fans we’ve got – you give it everything that you’ve got and we just let them cruise to an easy brilliant away performance.

Saunders added: “We asked them to do certain things at half-time and I thought they did it second half. The last 20 minutes of the first half we didn’t and they came more into the game.

“We asked them to do a few things and it worked and we’re pleased with that because it means the boys are taking things on board and what we’re asking them to do.

“I’m delighted because playing a team that’s just come up who try and play the right way. Ray (Powell) and Tony are good lads and I knew it would be tough. There’s a few ex (Maidstone) players in there and I’m delighted to come here and get a clean sheet and two goals.”

Russell added: “I don’t want to press the panic button.

“You’ve got to five Maidstone credit. They’re a good side. Jay’s got them organised and they’ll do well. They’re by far the best team we’ve played.”

Russell will work tirelessly on the training pitch on Thursday night to ensure their home game against Hendon on Saturday gets points on the board.

“Season starts Thursday,” he said.

“We’ll get them in early. It will be a long night. They’ll better bring their sleeping bags. I will iron it out. It’s my way or the high way. I’ve told them that.

“Some will go after this one. I’m not having it. A couple of things were said in the dressing room and I’m not having it. I do the talking, me and Razor will do the talking, no-one else.

“In the cold light of day, tomorrow, or in training you get feedback from players but you don’t do it at half-time.  We had a little bit of that on Saturday and I addressed it and said we don’t do that!”

Russell insists he will not change his attractive style of playing it from the back.

“No! Why should I? It’s taken this club from the Kent League to the Ryman Premier (in two years’) so why am I going to suddenly stop and just start kicking it long? No I won’t do that!

“I don’t start looking at the table until about 12-15 games. The first thing you’ve got to do is get performances on. That’s the main thing. You’ve got to at least look like you’re going to win a game of football. That’s the biggest thing for me. We’ll get going and we’ve got to do some wheeling and dealing and I’ll speak to the chairman.”

Reflecting on the crowd of 369, Russell replied: “It was nice. This is the beauty of playing at this level. You’re heading towards playing in front of 900 in a week, which we haven’t done. We have to play about 50 games to add all of that up. It’s something I enjoy and want. There’s no point having all those people watching if you let yourself down. We haven’t done ourselves any justice.”

VCD Athletic: Nick Blue, Elliott Cox, Ahmed Dean, Grant Basey, Ben Payne, Lea Dawson, Dean Carpenter, Karl Dent (Lewis Perkins 64), Michael Power, James Duckworth (Leigh Bremner 78), Ellis Green.
Subs: Peter Smith, Steven Smith, Taylor McDonagh

Booked:  Lea Dawson 5

Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Stephen Butcher, Tom Mills, Steve Watt, Sonny Miles, Alex Brown, Matt Bodkin (James Rogers 77), Jack Parkinson, Jay May (Jack Harris 82), Frannie Collin (Charley Robertson 86), Alex Flisher.
Subs: Jamie Coyle, Will Godmon

Goals: Jay May 20, Matt Bodkin 61

Booked: Stephen Butcher 63

Attendance: 369
Referee: Mr Paul Howard (Bermondsey, London SE1)
Assistants: Mr Gerry Heron (Beckenham) & Mr Aivaras Lukauskis (Bermondsey, London SE1)