AFC Croydon Athletic 2-1 Bearsted - It should've been a cricket score for them, admits Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens

Sunday 10th September 2017
AFC Croydon Athletic 2 – 1 Bearsted
Location Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN
Kickoff 10/09/2017 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase First Qualifying Round
Sunday 10th September 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayfield Stadium

AFC CROYDON ATHLETIC boss Kevin Rayner says his players were lacking composure in front of goal as they should have rattled in more than two goals against Bearsted.

The Rams booked a trip to fourth-placed Southern Combination Premier side Broadbridge Heath in The FA Vase Second Qualifying Round on 23 September as Bearsted await their first win in the competition having lost 1-0 at home to Pagham at this stage last season.

AFC Croydon Athletic went into this First Qualifying Round tie in the top eight in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 10 points from six games, while Bearsted were in the bottom six with four points on the board.

Bears’ left-back Cameron Croucher lashed in the club’s first goal in The FA Vase to give his side an eighteenth-minute lead against the run of play.

AFC Croydon Athletic levelled through captain Morgan Jenden’s fine low drive and it was only a matter of time that the home side would score the winner as they dominated the entire second half.

While attackers were missing, substitute central defender Jack Higgins showed his team-mates how it’s done by scoring from a near post header following their eighth of 14 corners – Bearsted failed to win a corner during the game.

“I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game,” said Rayner, after their third win on the bounce.

“It should’ve been a little bit easier, a fair reflection should’ve been a couple more, three or four-one. They started better than us but for us from 30 minutes we were fairly dominant and deservedly got through.

“We had tons of chances didn’t we but didn’t take them.  I’m pleased to come from behind and dominate the game for the last hour but disappointing that little bit of composure and a little bit of luck in front of goal was missing today.”

Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens admitted his side failed to turn up for the second half.

“I thought we competed well first half, second half we were poor, very poor,” he said, after his side have now won only one of their eight games in all competitions.

“We stuck to our game plan of trying to play out from the back, which wasn’t working, we kept trying to do it.

“They’re a big, strong side. They pressed us higher, which I thought they would do second half, so a little bit disappointed.  They get the ball forward quickly, they won a lot of second balls and we didn’t compete well. We didn’t win our second balls and that’s what let us down, people not reacting.”

AFC Croydon Athletic, who played a diamond formation, with pace and power in attacking positions, created their first opening inside the opening seven minutes when Junior Kaffo, who was playing on the edge of the diamond, fed striker Emanuel Oloyede, who drilled his right-footed shot on the turn from 22-yards, which forced Scott Andrews to dive to his left to parry.

“We took a little while to get in our stride, but once we did we had chance after chance,” said Rayner.

Stevens added: “It was his bread and butter, on those saves. That’s what he’s good at, so you expect him to save that. It was a decent save.”

Jenden swung in a corner from the left towards the far post for Kaffo to rise at the far post, whilst under pressure from his marker, to plant his header past the post from four-yards.

Bearsted wasted a glorious chance to take the lead in the 10th minute.

Andy Hart swept a lovely ball out of defence with his right-foot to release right-back Sam Flisher further up the pitch and he swept in a lovely first time cross for  Collins, who hit his volley over the top of the right-hand post from eight-yards.

Stevens said: “Reece is only a young lad.  He’s scored four goals since the start of the season. He’s a good player, as he gets more experienced, he’ll put those away.”

Rayner said: “Bearsted had a couple of chances, scored with one of their two chances they had first half and after that I think we settled down, got the shape sorted out a little bit better and then just dominated the game.

“It was quite a good move actually. I thought we were a little bit slow to start today so I wasn’t surprised when we went behind but once we did score we were fairly dominant and happy after. It should’ve been a bit more comfortable.”

Rams’ right-back Olatunde Bolaji advanced into the final third and winger Marlon Wallen hung over a deep cross which was met by Nahum Green’s downward header from 14-yards, which bounced into Scott Andrews’ hands.

Bearsted switched off from Wallen’s throw-in and Jenden lashed his right-footed shot just past the top of the near post from 20-yards, the ball crashing into the side-netting.

Bearsted grabbed the lead, against the run of play, with 18:00 on the clock.

Charley Epps cut in from the right touch-line, skipped past Kaffo, to play the ball inside to Ignacio Garcia-Fernandez and the central midfielder dinked a reverse pass into striker Constantine Scarlat, who from inside the box cut the ball back for Croucher to lash his left-footed rasping drive in off the underside of the crossbar from 16-yards.

Stevens said: “Probably slightly against-the-run-of-play! I think they started the brighter, just as we started to settle at that stage, but it was against-the-run-of-play. It was a good strike, it gave their keeper no chance but it was nice to take a 1-0 lead.”

It was to be the club’s first ever goal in The FA Vase and Stevens added: “Yes, you’re right there. I will have to remind him of that!”

Rayner said: “That’s the luck, isn’t it.  We’ve had one like that hit the bar and bounces down and doesn’t go in. He hits it quite well, good strike and it’s gone in.

“I wasn’t too concerned.  We had plenty of time to go.  We can certainly improve an awful lot and we sorted one or two tactical things out and I thought it worked quite well pretty much thereafter.”

AFC Croydon Athletic’s left-back Kallon whipped in a quality free-kick which skimmed off Wallen’s head and sailed just past the far post from eight-yards.

Five-goal striker Green played the ball into Oloyede’s feet but he dragged his shot past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Bearsted’s Epps unleashed a right-footed angled drive flashing past the near post from 26-yards after Graeme Andrews, who was making his first appearance following his two-week holiday, punted a deep free-kick forward.

Bearsted rode the storm, home players started getting frustrated with themselves and the away side should have doubled their lead in the 32nd minute.

Scarlat came to life and produced a precise through ball to put Collins through on goal but he allowed the ball to roll across him before he lashed his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 16-yards.

Stevens said: “It looked to me it took a slight bobble and he stretched for it and that’s why it sort of lifted straight away.  We talk about Reece hitting the target, I do think he was stretching slightly on that one.”

Bearsted received a stroke of luck when Bolaji whipped in a cross from the right touch-line some 35-yards from goal, which sailed over Scott Andrews head and crashed down off the underside of the crossbar before Hart hooked the ball away from inside the six-yard box.

“It was a cross, a bit like Harry Kane the other day for Spurs. It was a cross but again it’s hit the underside of the bar and we’re not sharp enough to follow up,” said Rayner.

Stevens’ reaction was similar, adding, “Was it a shot? Was it a cross? Only he will know!  It’s one of those where the keeper can’t get nothing on it, catches him by surprise.”

AFC Croydon Athletic missed yet another chance when Kallon released Oloyede down the left channel and he stroked a crossfield pass to Wallen, who laid the ball inside for Jenden to drag his low left-footed shot past the post from 26-yards.

Croucher tried to score another fine strike but this time his left-footed looping drive rose into the top of the side netting from 25-yards.

AFC Croydon Athletic’s equaliser was certainly deserved when it finally arrived with 40 minutes and 55 seconds on the clock.

Kallon threw the ball in from the left and Jenden initially turned Graeme Andrews and the midfielder was given the licence to cut inside and let the ball roll across him before stroking a lovely right-footed angled drive across the keeper to nestle inside the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards.

Rayner said: “Great strike!  Morgan’s got a great strike on him and thankfully he caught it well. As soon as he’s hit it, it’s going in.  I thought we deserved that.  We were well on top at that stage and thoroughly deserved to equalise.”

Stevens added: “That last five minutes that goal summed it up really, something that we went on to do in the second half. He had too much time. Two or three of our players had a chance to close him down. He shouldn’t have got the shot off. That went on into the second half, unfortunately.”

Green hung over a quality cross from the left towards the far post which was met by Wallen’s bullet-header, which was straight at Scott Andrews, who made a vital near post block.

Bearsted striker Collins impressed during the first half when he ran the channels but was isolated during the second half.

A quickly-taken free-kick from Epps gave Collins his big moment on the stroke of half-time but he lacked composure when put through on goal, so much so that Francis Ameyaw didn’t have a save to make.

Stevens said: “Disappointed with that!  It caught them. They were arguing with the referee, very clever by Charley but that should’ve been easy! That was two against the keeper. If Reece don’t score, it should’ve been set up to be rolled in by the other.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Rayner said: “Just keep doing what we’ve done for the last 10 minutes.  I thought we were totally on top.  I didn’t want half-time to come. We came out with a good tempo and good commitment.”

The Bearsted boss replied: “I said we competed well. They started a little bit quicker than us but I thought we came into the game really well during the second period of the first half.  I think we were in the game big game. 

“That last five minutes, about the goal they scored, the last five minutes we looked like we were running out of steam slightly.  I don’t know if some of the players were lacking in energy after Wednesday night’s win at Rochester.

“We were in the game, we had a game plan second half but it didn’t quite come off unfortunately.”

AFC Croydon Athletic dominated the entire second half.

“We were poor, we were very poor, probably the poorest half we’ve had this season.  I mean it should’ve been a cricket score for them.  We showed desire but we gave them too much time and space,” admitted Stevens.

Jenden stroked his right-footed free-kick over the wall from 26-yards, which Scott Andrews dropped down on to his knees to catch, spill and gather, inside the opening four minutes.

Kallon played a sublime 60-yard diagonal pass and Wallen outmuscled Croucher on the right to cut into the box before floating over a cross, which skimmed off Green’s head and sailed past the far post from six-yards.

Wallen cut the ball back for Jenden, the ball was bouncing like a hand grenade and Jenden’s drive from outside the box deflected into Scott Andrews hands for a comfortable catch.

Bearsted almost grabbed the lead in the 61st minute when Josh White robbed the ball off Higgins on the by-line and Tayler Maddock made a block to deflect the ball into the hands for the former Croydon keeper.

AFC Croydon Athletic’s dominance had Bearsted hanging on for the rest of the game.

Green cut onto his left-foot on the right to deliver a deep cross, the ball was knocked down by Wallen and Oloyede spun in the box and drilled his shot against the underside of the crossbar and Scott Andrews grabbed hold of the ball as Jenden attempted to score with his head.

Rayner said: “We didn’t really have the luck in front of goal.  Their one comes out and goes in and ours didn’t quite go in.  Morgan follows up and the keeper’s made a good save from the follow-up!”

Stevens added: “In the end, a good save from Scott but it’s the same story.  They just had passages of play where they could do what they wanted too, which is really frustrating.  I think we had tired legs.”

Green swung in a free-kick from the right which was glanced wide by Maddock, before substitute Andy Walker played in Oloyede, who dragged his low drive into the foot of the side netting from a yard inside the Bearsted box.

AFC Croydon Athletic kept knocking on the door and their winning goal finally arrived with 26 minutes and 21 seconds on the second half clock.

It came from their eighth corner of the game, swung in from the left by Jenden and Higgins planted his powerful header in at the near post from three-yards out.

“It’s one of the chances that we created at a time Bearsted were a little bit shot and leggy and we were getting in all over the place,” said a relieved Rayner.

The Bearsted boss added: “We talk a lot about set-pieces, stay with your runners, don’t give anything easy and that was pretty easy for him, so yes, disappointed.”

AFC Croydon Athletic continued their dominance after their breakthrough in this one-sided half.

Maddock swept a ball over the top of the Bearsted back-four to put Oloyede through and his cross was met on the volley by Walker, which the left-winger  skied over the bar from six-yards.

Walker then turned provider when he played the ball into Oloyede, his angled low drive from 25-yards was tipped around the post by Scott Andrews, diving low to his left.

“A great save actually, I thought, from where I was,” said Rayner.

“He’s cut in and he’s caught it well and the keeper’s made a good save.  Fair play to the keeper, without him it would’ve been a fair few, he’s had a good game.”

Out-played Bearsted went close to grabbing an equaliser that they certainly didn’t deserve inside the final nine minutes when substitute Peter Williams stroked his right-footed free-kick into the side netting from 20-yards.

Stevens said: “We had a good view of that, he probably missed that by a yard!  It went around the wall well, it was always struggling to get on target.”

Rayner admitted: “That was it, it was disappointing that we conceded a silly free-kick. We’ve given away a nothing free-kick that could’ve hurt us so I think I would’ve gone home had that one went in!”

Walker released fellow sub Carlton Murray-Price, who outmuscled Hart, before dragging his shot past the far post from the edge of the Bearsted box.

Scott Andrews then made a superb double save inside stoppage time, using his legs to deny Green’s shot and then diving to his left to tip around Murray-Price’s rebound.

Stevens said: “That’s what he’s good at, he’s a very good shot-stopper Scott, a very good double save. He’ll probably be aching tomorrow morning, that’s for sure.”

It appeared to be a training game of defence-versus-attack during a one-sided half.

Stevens said: “It was disappointing, without a shadow of a doubt.  Definitely our worst showing, second half performance in any game this season. 

“They are really direct, unless you deal with that properly, which we didn’t, they’re going to create chances and I think we had some tired legs out there.”

Rayner admitted: “I think we’ve got to do better, just a little bit more composure. It just wasn’t happening. We were creating enough chances but the composure in front of goal just wasn’t quite there today.”

Impact sub Murray-Price played the ball down the line to release Green down the left and he crossed into the box for an unmarked Kaffo and only he will know how he blazed his shot over the bar with the keeper to beat from 12-yards.

Rayner now prepares his side for a trip to Broadbridge Heath in the next round, after playing host to Cray Valley (Tuesday) and Tunbridge Wells (19 September).

“I think they’re the Bears, the same as Bearsted so a bit of a grizzly draw, you want to say,” joked Rayner.

“I expected it to be Broadbridge (who won 7-2 at Southwick yesterday), a tough game but we can go there, it’s a distraction from the league and we can enjoy it and give it a go.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the second half today. If we can keep it up, I’m sure we can go close.  I think if we can do well in the next one, we’ll see. It’s the luck of the draw.  We’ve not been too well blessed in the FA Competitions so far over the last couple of years so we’ll see what we get.”

When asked about getting to Wembley for the Final, Rayner replied: “It’s virtually impossible isn’t it? But we’ll see. If we can get three or four rounds down, then you’ll never know. It’s the luck of the draw, who knows?”

AFC Croydon Athletic:  Francis Ameyaw, Olatunde Bolaji, Ibrahim Kallon, Ben Rayner, Tayler Maddock, Osman Sesay (Jack Higgins 23), Marlon Wallen (Andy Walker 65), Morgan Jenden, Emanuel Oloyede (Carlton Murray-Price 80), Nahum Green, Junior Kaffo.
Subs: Abraham Opoku, Leigh Wise

Goals:  Morgan Jenden 41, Jack Higgins 72

Booked: Ibrahim Kallon 85, Tayler Maddock 89, Carlton Murray-Price 90, Nahum Green 90

Bearsted:  Scott Andrews, Sam Flisher, Cameron Croucher, Matt Garner, Graeme Andrews, Andy Hart, Josh White (Peter Williams 64), Ignacio Garcia-Fernandez (Luke Hughes 73), Reece Collins, Constantine Scarlat, Charley Epps (Chris Carcary 73).
Subs: Ryan Golding, Matt Blendell

Goal:  Cameron Croucher 18

Booked: Chris Carcary 83

Attendance: 68
Referee: Mr Zach Jacquart (Sutton, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Rodney van Niekirk (Sutton, Surrey) & Mr Notis Liappis (Croydon, Surrey)

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