Walton Casuals 1-0 Sittingbourne - We just lack a litlte bit of belief at the minute, admits Sittingbourne boss Nick Davis

Sunday 04th October 2015
Walton Casuals 1 – 0 Sittingbourne
Location Moatside Stadium, Weldon Way, Merstham, Surrey RH1 3QB
Kickoff 04/10/2015 15:00

The FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Sunday 4th October 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Weldon Way

SITTINGBOURNE manager Nick Davis says his players need to believe in themselves more after exiting The FA Trophy at the first hurdle.

The Brickies went into this all-Ryman League Division One South Preliminary Round tie sitting in ninth-place in the table with 18 points from 11 games, but they went out to a Walton Casuals side that were one place below them in the table on 18 points from 12 games.

Walton Casuals midfielder Jack Sammoutis capped off an impressive performance by scoring the only goal of an uninspiring game to win it with thirteen minutes remaining.

Anthony Gale’s side will now travel to league rivals Herne Bay in the next round on 31 October and scooped the much-needed £2,500 in prize money.

Sittingbourne have now lost their last four games and Davis said: “It’s a bit of a bad run at the minute.  I don’t know. We changed the formation slightly today. It just didn’t go for us really.

“It was a game of few chances I thought. When we do get our chances, we’ve got to take it. When Fred Obasa’s through on goal he’s got to do better.

“I mean they’ve been on a great run. I think their manager got manager-of-the-month so they’ve won four on the bounce here at home.  We’ve watched them a couple of times and watched them last year and they’ve got the same bulk of players - they’re a decent side.

“I don’t think there was much between the teams.  We just lack a little bit of belief at the minute.  We were on a great run, which is good and sometimes you have the reverse effect and when you lose it doesn’t feel for you.

“We’re disappointed with the results. I still haven’t seen a side in this league that’s really going to scare me if I’m being completely honest with you but yes, disappointing.”

Walton Casuals created the first chance of the game after only 75 seconds, but Davis missed the first few minutes of the game as he rushed back from Enfield to support his marathon running wife.

Sammoutis played a slick one-touch one-two with striker Moses Ashikodi before slipping Gabriel Odunaike through on goal but his low right-footed shot was saved low at the near post by Sittingbourne keeper Adam Molloy.

Walton Casuals started the game on the front foot against a Sittingbourne side that were to lose striker Ollie Bankole (knee), left-back Conrad Lee (ankle) and right-winger Stefan Wright (ankle) through injuries during the game, while Tom Brunt, the club’s captain was unavailable because he was attending a wedding.

Walton Casuals’ midfielder Scott Day broke down the right hand side and once inside the penalty area, drilled his angled drive over the top of the near post, before Odunaike produced a poor header, which hung across the face of goal, after meeting Tom Collins’ cross from the left by-line.

Sittingbourne’s only first half opportunity arrived in the 14th minute.

Right-back Jack Steventon launched a long throw into the penalty area and the home side had two chances to get the ball away and when they did the ball fell at Jake Beecroft’s feet on the edge of the penalty area.  The midfielder cut the ball onto his left foot and hit a dipping drive over the crossbar.

Something was just not clicking for Sittingbourne and Beecroft wasted a good opportunity to test Tom Wellham in the Walton Casuals goal but his driven free-kick from 25-yards smashed against the wall.

Both sets of defenders were dominant during the first half, limiting goalscoring chances to a premium, with George Crimmen and Billy French outstanding for Sittingbourne at the heart of their defence.

Walton Casuals’ left-back Peter Wedgeworth slipped the ball through to Tom Collins and his flicked pass was latched onto by Sammoutis but his right-footed shot was straight at Molloy.

Wedgeworth played a throw to an unmarked Ashikodi, who powered his right-footed drive over Molloy’s left-hand shoulder but the ball smashed against the crossbar from 30-yards with 32 minutes on the clock.

Davis said: “They’re at home, aren’t they, they’re entitled to have chances and they’re entitled to have phases of play.  I don’t know what to say, it’s one of them.”

Sittingbourne’s lone striker Harry Smith endured a frustrating afternoon up on his own and he broke free to cut into the penalty area but his low centre was cut out by Wellham, diving low to his left at his near post.

“We went with one up today and runners in behind but we knew it would be quite tight,” explained Davis, when asked about his lack of goalscoring chances.

Wedgeworth stroked a speculative left-footed free-kick from 30-yards into Molloy’s hands for a comfortable catch, before Smith ran at the Walton Casuals defence and played in Bankole, who drilled a woeful shot well wide of the target from 10-yards.

Molly ensured the game was goal-less at the break when he stuck out his right leg at his near post to thwart Sammoutis after a mistake from Steventon opened the gate.

The crowd of 85 hoped for a more exciting second half when referee Thomas Marshall blew his half-time whistle.

Davis said: “I said keep going, keep it tight. I said it will be a one-goal game, if it’s going to be anything.

“I thought we were the better side in the second half, just keep going and hopefully we’ll create something.

“We changed it around. We had a couple of injuries today. I spoke to (Cray Wanderers manager) Tony Russell yesterday and he said he’s got about seven or eight out injured, the same with us.  I don’t know what it is this year, it seems to be catching.

“We’ve had to make two forced changes through injuries. Two ankle (injuries for) Ollie Bankole and Conrad Lee and Ollie’s knee. He’s come back maybe a little bit too soon but we set up a certain way.

“We’ve got a bit of pace about us, although we’ve done well and we hit people on the break and when we lose those players we’re very neat and tidy and these players really get in behind and got that power and space and that’s what this league is about.

“You look at all those teams they’ve all got someone, three or four players that can hurt you with pace and that’s what you need.

“We missed a couple of those players today. We didn’t run out of ideas as such. I thought we could’ve nicked it couldn’t we or at least taken a draw. We’ve got seven or eight out injured now.”

Walton Casuals created the first chance of the second half inside the opening five minutes, with another slick move on the pristine playing surface.

Day played the ball into Ashikodi on the edge of the Sittingbourne box and Tom Collins cut the ball back to Sammoutis, who hit his right-footed drive from 30-yards straight into Molloy’s hands for another comfortable catch.

Sammoutis then played a one-two with Ashikodi, who linked up well with his team-mates, but Sammoutis hit his shot into the ground and Molloy danced to his right untroubled.

Sittingbourne squandered an excellent chance to grab an undeserved lead in the 58th minute.

Beecroft floated over a cross from the right which was sliced away by Merstham defender Rhys Paul and sailed onto Hicham Akhazzan’s left-foot but Sittingbourne’s longest-serving player lacked composure and cracked his volley woefully wide of the left-hand post from 15-yards. Paul and his defensive partner Quincy Rowe then exchanged high-fives after getting out of jail.

Davis revealed: “I was screaming at him, why not take a touch?! He had enough room didn’t he?

“How many times he comes on that back stick and scores? He does it a lot. He needs to take a touch there, get his head down, he’s got enough time and take his time but he didn’t – he lashed at it!”

This miss sparked Sittingbourne’s best spell of the game as space opened up in front of Beecroft, who drilled a speculative right-footed shot well wide of the right-hand post from 35-yards.

Sittingbourne substitute Antonio Gonnell clipped a fine diagonal pass to find Stefan Wright, who cut the ball back to Akhazzan, who teed up Gonnella, who dragged his shot wide of the far post from 25-yards.

However, Walton Casuals rode that brief Sittingbourne flurry and Ashikodi cut in from the right and rolled the ball onto his left foot before dragging his shot past the near post from 16-yards.

But with the game destined to end in an uninspiring stalemate, Gale made an inspired substitution and brought on Nassim Dukali, who added pace down the left wing.

“He was with us for a little while actually,” said Davis.

“He was one of the Dulwich lads, I think, a few years back. Again, injection of pace isn’t it? Injection of somebody that runs at defences.”

Dukali burst past Steventon and hung over a cross from the final third but Ollie Brown (who came on at right-back) rose in the air with Ashikodi but the ricochet fell kindly for Sittingbourne and looped over the crossbar after 72 minutes.

Molloy kept Sittingbourne in the game when he made a smart diving save low to his left to prevent Tom Collins’ shot from 25-yards finding the bottom far corner after Odunaike’s set-up.

Davis said: “He does that, that’s what you expect your goalkeeper’s to do, someone as experienced as him. He cost us in The FA Cup the other week so it’s swings and roundabouts.”

With a Tuesday night replay at Woodstock Park the most likely outcome, Walton Casuals scored a deserved winner with 31 minutes and 5 seconds on the second half clock.

Walton Casuals won the corner count 11-2, but Sittingbourne took their second corner from Beecroft from the right and Wellham took a fine catch.

Walton Casuals cleared their lines and broke in devastating fashion. Ashikodi crossed the halfway line and once in Sittingbourne’s half he played the ball inside to Tom Collins, who put Sammoutis through on goal and he proved to be the difference between the two sides, by slotting his right-footed shot across Molloy to find the bottom far corner of the net from 12-yards.

Davis said: “Disappointed. It’s come from our corner hasn’t it? We were just a bit slow to pull away from there, our own set-piece. 

“We’ve normally got someone back like Ollie Bankole or Stefan Wright, whose got pace for us. We didn’t have that and we got caught with that. When we got a set piece we have both of them back because if it breaks – and they weren’t there!

“I could see that straight away, unless I put Fred Obasa back, he’s a centre forward and I didn’t want to have to do that.

“It’s one of those, disappointing from a defensive point of view but that’s what it was going to be today, one of those that was going to decide the game.”

Walton Casuals continued to press to add a flattering look to the scoreline in what was a poor game.

Dukali and Odunaike linked up outside the Sittingbourne penalty area to lay the ball off to Ashikodi, who stroked his left-footed drive straight at Molloy at his near post, the keeper making yet another comfortable save.

Odunaike squandered an excellent chance when he was put through on goal and with only Molloy to beat he skied his shot over the bar.

Dukali made a cross-field run with the ball and moved from right to centre before cracking a drive towards the roof of the net, but Molloy capped an impressive performance by diving high to his left to use his left hand to palm the ball over the bar.

Wedgeworth had a free-kick and a shot blocked by the Sittingbourne wall and from the rebound Day clipped his 20-yard shot straight at Molloy.

Smith wriggled out of his shackles to power his header wide of the right-hand post when he nipped in front of his marker to meet Beecroft’s floated cross from the right flank with seven minutes left.

Davis was satisfied with his quiet targetman.

“Harry Smith put a shift in up front. He held the ball up well, he wins his headers. He’s a good player. He’s just turned 20 but it was a lot for him up on his own up there. People needed to get up there quick and help him more and join in with him.”

Walton Casuals squandered another chance when Sammoutis danced past Akhazzan down the right and clipped a cross towards the far post to an unmarked Tom Collins, who smacked his volley over the bar from six-yards.

But Sittingbourne missed a great chance to earn an undeserved second bite of the cherry 28 seconds into stoppage time.

French won the ball inside the Sittingbourne half with a sliding challenge before getting up and playing a low pass up to Gonnella, who played a through ball to put substitute Fred Obasa through on goal.  The pacy striker lost all composure and sliced his right-footed shot high over the top of the far post from 16-yards when he only had Wellham to beat.

Davis added: “He maybe could’ve taken another touch towards goal, couldn’t he?

“You’ve seen Fred a couple of times now, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as quick as him and that is the honest truth. He’s busy, he’s quick and a top, top lad.

“If he could finish he wouldn’t be playing at our level. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t finish. He needs a couple of chances and unfortunately he just rushed it and he’s hit the ball over. That was our chances to get back into it.”

When asked what was missing from his shot-shy side today, Davis replied: “What was missing from us? I don’t know, I don’t know. Injuries at the wrong time really. Conrad Lee has been outstanding for us on the left. Tom Brunt was at a wedding today, he’s our captain and he joins in and Conrad does and they give us a lot of width.

“We’ve scored 19 goals in the league and that’s good for us. I’m always told we’re not going to score enough goals. The last two games we’ll be told you so and that’s a shame because that’s what we missed. We missed our full-backs joining in.

“We miss a little bit of composure when we do find ourselves in good areas. It’s just that final ball at times.”

Davis takes his side to Whitstable Town to play a Kent Reliance Senior Cup First Round tie on Tuesday.

Simon Halsey’s side were also knocked out of The FA Trophy, throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 at home to league rivals Worthing yesterday.

Davis said: “We’ve got Whitstable on Tuesday night. We’re the walking wounded at the minute so I’ll probably play some minutes, my hamstring’s coming back to how it was.

“If it means that I have to play not because I’m the best player in the world but we won six games since I played and it may get a bit more out of these players when I do play because no-one can hide on the pitch when you’re out there.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m playing or maybe a little bit of communication. Unfortunately the better times I’ve had this year was when I’ve played and not when I’ve been watching.

“Billy French was excellent today with George Crimmen. It’s difficult to pull them apart but George has come back from his ankle (injury) so we’ll regroup and we’ll have a look Tuesday and give some people some minutes.”

When asked about the club’s early FA Trophy exit, Davis replied: “It’s always a shame because that money would’ve come in handy and we find ourselves five grand up than we did last year so that’s a plus.

“We’re five points off the play-offs. We’ve had a good start to the season.

“That game could’ve gone either way today. It was never going to be loads and loads of goals, it’s just the way it’s going for us.

“We’ve got Worthing at home next Saturday, so we’ll just keep plugging away. What’s expected of Sittingbourne? There’s nothing expected of Sittingbourne is there? I still believe we can do whatever we want this year in the league.”

Walton Casuals: Tom Wellham, Liam Collins, Peter Wedgeworth, Max Fitzgerald (Nassim Dukali 69), Quincy Rowe, Rhys Paul, Tom Collins, Jack Sammoutis, Moses Ashikodi,  Scott Day, Gabriel Odunaike.
Subs: Kmari Oriogun, Jason Bloor, Daniel Newman

Goal: Jack Sammoutis 77

Sittingbourne: Adam Molloy, Jack Steventon, Conrad Lee (Ollie Brown 48), Billy French, George Crimmen, Jono Richardson, Stefan Wright (Fred Obasa 61), Jake Beecroft, Harry Smith, Ollie Bankole (Antonio Gonnella 38), Hicham Akhazzan.
Subs: Adam Williams, Nick Davis

Attendance: 85
Referee: Mr Thomas Marshall (Eltham, London SE9)
Assistants: Mr James Hurst (Camberwell, London SE5) & Mr Oliver Davies (Putney, London SW15)