Balham 2-5 Beckenham Town - It's nice being top but now you've got a target on your back and everyone wants to beat you, says Beckenham Town assistant Billy Walton

Tuesday 21st September 2021
Balham 2 – 5 Beckenham Town
Location Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN
Kickoff 21/09/2021 19:45

Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Tuesday 21 September 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayfield Stadium

BECKENHAM TOWN assistant manager Billy Walton says his side now have a target on their backs after reaching the summit of the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South after an unbeaten eight league games.

However, Greg Cruttwell’s Balham gave them a run for their money as the home side were miles better during an impressive first-half performance at Mayfield Stadium, deservedly taking the lead through Ash Snadden’s first-time finish from 30-yards.

However, Beckenham Town grabbed an equaliser just four minutes later courtesy of an own-goal from Balham’s defensive midfielder Dan David.

And Despite being in the bottom four with five points from their six games before tonight, Balham were gifted a 55th minute lead by a calamitous own-goal from Dennis Doci following another superb corner delivery from Tom Read.

However, Beckenham Town needed something to avoid their first league defeat of the season and three free-kicks from Tom O’Connor were on the money and winger Jamie Humphris (twice) and Danny Waldren capitalised by scoring to turn the game around as Beckenham Town scored three goals in five clinical minutes.

Striker Tunde Aderonmu wrapped up the victory by scoring his sixth goal of the season at the death but it was a game of two halves from Jason Huntley’s side who are now a point clear of Badshot Lea, having picked up 22 points, having played a game more.

“First and foremost I’d like to congratulate Balham on an excellent performance in the first-half particularly,” said Walton.

“Balham surprised us by the way they played football on a really bad surface, which the owners should be ashamed off but fair play to Balham, they really surprised us for the first 35 minutes and it took us 35 minutes to work out how they were playing and sort out their formation and stuff and fair credit to the Beckenham boys and the management team, they sorted it out and we gradually got on top of them.”

Walton added: “It’s difficult on a Tuesday night coming to places like this where it’s not the greatest of places to come to in all fairness by any stretch of the imagination but we showed a little bit of character and showed a little bit about ourselves tonight what we’re all about so I’m well pleased.”

This local derby attracted a crowd of only 58 people to Thornton Heath but Balham played some attractive football on a bobbly playing surface and dominated large chunks of the first-half.

Central midfielder Snadden was pulling the strings for Balham, often dropping deep to spray the ball about and left-back Tomasz Wocial almost benefited in the sixth minute, cutting inside Beckenham right-back Jamie Brown before stroking a 25-yard drive, which bounced into the hands of goalkeeper Richard Mann.

“They had very good movement, some really good movement from them all. A bit like, dare I say, a bit like Man City’s sort of style like. They played some really good football,” admitted Walton.

Balham goalkeeper Haydn Read was called into action in the 16th minute following Beckenham’s first of only two corners.  Balham, meanwhile, won 13 corners.

Doci’s corner was poor and cleared away at the near post and Dami Bada’s first-time pass back to Doci saw him whip in a cross-come-shot from a tight angle, which was palmed away by the diving Balham goalkeeper.

Although Balham played the better football during the first-half, Beckenham created the better goalscoring chances and they should have grabbed the lead in the 21st minute.

Left-back Bada hit a long ball down the line, which was knocked down by Aderonmu down the left channel and Humphris split open the Balham defence to put in left-winger Tyrone Pink, who dragged his left-footed shot across the advancing keeper and past the foot of the far post of an open goal.

“We say to Tyrone, if he gets his head up and realise he’s got a bit more time,” added Walton.

“Against the run of play, we had the best two opportunities to score. He just pulled it wide. I think a little bit more composure, he would put it away.”

Tom Read, who has scored six goals for Balham, whipped in some high-quality corners and Snadden got in at the near post to flick his shot looping over the crossbar from the corner of the six-yard box.

Aderonmu’s skill saw him ghost past three Balham defenders but his low right-footed angled drive was comfortably saved by Haydn Read at his near-post.

O’Conner whipped in a cross from the right touch-line towards an unmarked Aderonmu, who swept his first-time shot straight into the hands of the Balham keeper from the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Balham’s impressive first-half performance was rewarded with the opening goal of the game, timed at 37 minutes and 38 seconds.

Beckenham Town had several bodies back in and around their penalty area and a poor clearance was hit first-time by Snadden from 30-yards, which he bent around the diving keeper and nestling inside the bottom far corner to score his fourth goal of the season.

“I think the first 35 minutes, they were by far the better side. Listen, we know nothing about Balham but we certainly do now, so they will beat a lot of teams if they play like that, on better pitches, they will beat a lot of teams,” said Walton.

“I think it’s a great finish really, composed finish, but it came from a bit of sloppy play from us.

“Richard Mann in goal, he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s come in for Bluey (Nick Blue) tonight and he cleared it out and shanked his clearance and it fell to them straight away.

“That’s a Premiership finish to side-foot it with a little bit of bend into that bottom right-hand corner, a top finish.”

Beckenham Town skipper Waldren was clearly upset with his team-mates for conceding only their third league goal of the campaign but the midfielder led by example and played a key role in their equaliser with 41:31 on the clock.

Waldren was inside his own half and clipped a long ball into the Balham penalty area, which was knocked down by Aderonmu but Balham’s captain David kicked the ball past his own goalkeeper and into the bottom left-hand corner of his own goal.

“I thought that was a little bit of pressure that we asserted on them and it forced him (David) into slicing it and putting it into his own net,” added Walton.

“It was a great time to come back, a little slice of luck that you need in football. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t and it was a slice of luck that we needed.”

When asked what was said during the interval, Walton revealed: “Very strong but more tactically than being annoyed.  Let’s give credit to Balham, they worked tirelessly. They’re a young side, energetic, enthusiastic, played really good football land they surprised us really.

“It wasn’t like we showed them no respect or anything like that. We showed them all the respect but they were too good in the first 30 minutes.”

Balham were full value for their 2-1 lead when it fortuitously arrived with nine minutes and 40 seconds into the second half, following their ninth corner.

Tom Read’s delivery from the left was on the money and was whipped in with pace towards the top near corner, which forced keeper Mann to punch the ball straight against Doci, who was standing just in front of him and the ball bounced inside the bottom near corner.

“Listen, the lad who takes their corners, what a great delivery. He put it in a dangerous area two yards out under the crossbar near enough nine times out of 10.

“Unfortunately the one that fell to Richard, he punched it. Could he have caught it? I don’t know unless you see a replay but he punched the ball down and it hit Dennis Doci on the back and went into the net.

“It was just a bit of an unforced error really. We were in trouble but great character from the lads, we came back again.”

However, three fantastic set-pieces from midfielder O’Connor ensured Beckenham Town scored with their next three attempts on goal, timed at 11:26, 13:09 and 16:03 to turn this local derby around in their favour.

O’Connor drew a foul from Luke Hedges and then whipped in the resulting free-kick from the left, which was swung in towards the far post and Waldren rose to knock the ball back across goal towards the far post where an unmarked Humphries rifled his left-footed drive into the roof of the net from eight-yards.

Walton said: “That’s what we’ve been saying to Jamie. He’s three foot two, why are you standing there on the wing? When we get a free-kick get yourself in the box! If it falls to you, you’ve got an open goal and that’s what he did. He got himself into the box, we won the header, no one picked him up and he smashes it into the net, it’s great.”

Beckenham Town took the lead in a similar fashion, following another free-kick from the left.

O’Connor swept another deep right-footed delivery into a great area, the ball was knocked down by towering centre-half Harvey Hanifan and Humphries glanced his header into the far corner to score his third goal of the season.

Walton said: “We switched it around, we put Tom onto the free-kicks and took Dennis (Doci) off them, which was my decision by the way and Tom swung in a great free-kick.

“I thought to myself, I’ll take that all day long. I thought we had the ascendancy then as the game wore on, we got more and more into it and I thought more or less we dominated the second half.

“Our tactics at half-time worked absolutely superb.  I don’t think in the first 30 minutes did they kick the ball more than 10 yards? In the second half they kicked it 50-60 yards 90 percent of the time so we stopped them playing their nice little football and it resulted them going long and then giving the ball to us.”

Beckenham Town scored their fourth goal during their clinical blitz when O’Connor floated in a free-kick from close to the corner-flag from the right-hand side and Waldren buried his header across the keeper and into the far corner from close to the penalty spot.

“There again, that’s Premiership level. You put the ball in those areas and you’ve got people running in and you can’t defend that. That’s a great cross and a great finish from Dan,” added Walton.

Shell-shocked Balham missed a decent chance just 102 seconds later when Tom Read released Hedges in behind Bada but he drilled his right-footed shot over the crossbar from just inside the right-corner of the Beckenham box.

Balham missed an even better chance at the half-way point when centre-half Jake Henry split open both of Beckenham’s centre-halves (Hanifan and Wandgho) with a defensive splitting through ball along the deck to release substitute striker Samuele Pagano but his weak left-footed shot was straight at Mann, who saved comfortably.

“I thought he just scuffed his shot and miss-hit it.  He was the lad who came on, a left-footed player. I watched him in the warm-up and thought he was all left-foot but it was a bit of fortune that the ball’s gone straight through the middle of our defence and he’s run through and got on the end of it and scuffed his shot,” said Walton.

Waldren clipped a diagonal over the head of Balham’s diminutive right-back Erick Arias to put Pink through on goal but keeper Haydn Read rushed out towards the edge of his box in a central position to make a vital block and Doci’s follow-up chip was headed clear.

Balham rallied late on and switched formation to three at the back and created a couple of good chances.

Striker Tom Read dropped deep to flick the ball to David, who slipped the ball through to Pagano, whose left-footed shot from the edge of the box deflected just past the foot of the far post.

David’s diagonal split open Bada to send substitute wing-back Julian Fuller charging down the right and Mann suffered a rush of blood and came out without gathering but he had Wanogho to thank for clearing the ball away after Fuller put in a cross-shot.

Beckenham Town sealed the deal by scoring their fifth goal of the night with 44:49 on the clock, something that didn’t look possible during the first-half.

Substitute right-winger Danny Wood-Brett picked up a loose ball on the counter-attack and rode a strong challenge from Hedges (who was already on a yellow card and should have picked up his second yellow and a red by the lenient referee Tolga Inanc who waved play on) but Wood-Brett’s sublime through ball put Aderonmu through on goal.

Once inside the box Aderonmu rode a tackle from last-defender Wocial and as the keeper came out to narrow the angle, the striker kept composed to roll his left-footed shot across the keeper and trickling inside the bottom far corner from 16-yards.

“I’d like to see that goal again because the young lad (Wood-Brett) has picked it up on the halfway line, rode a tackle, got away from his man and what a lovely reverse pass from a young inexperienced 17-year-old to put a reverse ball through the middle of them little that and put Tunde clean through and round the keeper and scores.  That’s absolutely superb. It finished off a really good second-half performance,” said Walton.

The victory sees Huntley’s side leapfrog over Badshot Lea to reach the summit for the first time in their maiden Combined Counties League campaign.

“It’s nice, it’s nice, now you’ve got a target on your back and everyone wants to beat you, like we’ve had to put up with that for the last three or four years,” said Walton.

“We’ll have to put up with it again but it’s where we want to be, it’s why we’re in it, you want to be top. Let’s hope we’re top whenever they decide to pull the plug on it.

“You’re there to be knocked off and we’ll take every game as it comes and try to win them all if we can and we’ll get up to where we want to be but it’s a long way to go. It’s September, it’s not March or April, it’s September.”

Attention now turns to Saturday’s trip to Hassocks in The FA Vase Second Qualifying Round, a side third-from-bottom in the Southern Combination League Premier Division, with one win and two draws from their opening 10 league outings.

Hassocks haven’t won in five and Walton wants Beckenham Town to go far in the FA Vase this season.

“We know nothing about them and we’ll go there and play our game and hopefully play on a better pitch and be able to get the ball down and play a bit more football than what we did tonight,” said Walton.

“It’s a competition we want to do well in. We’ve got a squad good enough to do well in it so we’ll go there and whatever they throw at us we can deal with and we’ll throw something back at them and see if they can deal with us and hopefully we can come out on top.”

Walton revealed that goalkeeper coach Phil Wilson, 37, will be in goal in West Sussex on Saturday, as Mann is cup-tied, having played for Southern Counties East Football League First Division side FC Elmstead in their 5-0 defeat to Canterbury City in the First Qualifying Round on 10 September.

Meanwhile, five-goal attacker Steven Townsend wasn’t risked tonight after suffering a knock to his knee during their 3-1 home win over AFC Croydon Athletic seven days ago.

Walton said: “We’re hoping Bluey will be alright with his thumb. I don’t know if it’s broken but hopefully, he’ll be alright.

“Richard Mann is cup-tied so it will be super Phil Wilson in goal. Phil is a vastly man mountain who has played top notch football (for Dulwich Hamlet and Merstham) so it will be super Phil in goal, which I think he can deal with.

“Steve Townsend will be ok for Saturday, we just left him out tonight. We’ve got three centre-halves missing so Rob Carter, Callum Henry and Danny Fitzsimons couldn’t make it tonight so hopefully they’ll be alright for Saturday.”

Balham: Haydn Read, Erick Arias (Julian Fuller 71), Tomasz Wocial, Dan David, Marco Erriu, Jake Henry, Sirak Negassi (Samuele Pagano 67), Ash Snadden, Tom Read, Luke Hedges, James Adebayo (Mateusz Bui 67).
Subs: George Marsden, Henry Robertshaw

Goals: Ash Snadden 38, Dennis Doci 55 (own goal)

Booked: Luke Hedges 81

Beckenham Town: Richard Mann, Jamie Brown, Dami Bada, Dennis Doci (Junior Kaffo 72), Harvey Hanifan, Mudioga Wanogho, Tyrone Pink, Danny Waldren, Tunde Aderonmu, Tom O’Connor (Berti Valler 79), Jamie Humphris (Danny Wood-Brett 79).
Subs: Nick Curran, Gary Alexander

Goals: Dan David 42 (own goal), Jamie Humphris 57, 59, Danny Waldren 62, Tunde Aderonmu 90

Booked: Tom O’Connor 27, Dennis Doci 66

Attendance: 58
Referee: Mr Tolga Inanc
Assistants: Mr Roger Wells & Mr Robert Redman