Beckenham Town 1-0 Jersey Bulls - That's fantastic for us to go and fight like that with 10 men against the favourites for the league this year, says Beckenham Town assistant Billy Walton

Saturday 31st July 2021
Beckenham Town 1 – 0 Jersey Bulls
Location Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3JL
Kickoff 31/07/2021 13:00

Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Saturday 31 July 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Eden Park Avenue

BECKENHAM TOWN assistant manager Billy Walton says his players proved how much they want to win something this season after becoming the first side to beat Jersey Bulls.

Jason Huntley’s side played with 10 men for 58 minutes after winger Stefan Cox was sent-off for something he said to referee Dele Sotimirin, within half a minute of being booked for a foul on Jersey Bulls’ number 10 Ruben Mendes Pestana.

Beckenham Town completed the smash-and-grab raid when Steve Townsend clinically converted a 54th minute penalty – their only shot on target – as Huntley’s side opened their first Combined Counties League Premier Division South campaign with a win, courtesy of an outstanding second-half performance from returning goalkeeper Nick Blue.

It was a personal triumph for Walton, who sadly lost his wife Stella to cancer in January.

“I’d like to first of all dedicate that to my wife, who sadly passed away. She told me not to pack up,” said an emotional and tearful Walton.

“It’s very emotional for me. I’ve had a really bad time and football has helped me tremendously.

“The lads’ dug in and showed a lot of bravery, fight and determination, just like my wife did, so I’m really pleased.

“Credit to Jersey, four hours travelling and come and perform like that is an absolute credit to them. They’re a very, very good, well-organised side and they stifled us a bit.  I think they stifled us in midfield and they done quite a good job on their tactics and the way they wanted to play against us, so I’m full of praise for them.

“To beat a team that’s been undefeated and they’ve beaten everyone in sight and to beat them with 10 men, just speaks volumes for Beckenham Town – what a great effort!”

Jersey Bulls came to Eden Park Avenue with a 100% league record over two seasons and 31 league games in the level below and Beckenham Town gave them too much respect during a cagey first-half.

Jersey Bulls edged the game when it was eleven-a-side, with Beckenham Town appearing to be nervous at the start knowing this game was billed as an opening day six-pointer with both clubs expected to be challenging for promotion.

Jersey Bulls created the first opening in the sixth minute after playing out from the back and centre-half Luke Campbell clipped the ball through the middle into Pestana’s feet who flicked the ball inside to striker Lorne Bickley, who cut inside before drilling a right-footed shot over the crossbar from 22-yards.

“The nine (Bickley) is a good player. He’s a really good target man. He links the play up well for them and he was a handful all game.  Fortunately for us the strikes he got on goal were high and wide,” added Walton.

Jersey Bulls’ left-back Jay Giles drove a free-kick into the Beckenham box where Bickley glanced his header from the edge of the box across goal and harmlessly wide of the target.

Beckenham Town took 19 minutes to create their first opening when good link-up play down the left involving full-back Archie Johnson and winger Townsend saw Townsend take a touch before drilling his shot just over the crossbar wide on the left some 25-yards from goal.

“I expect Steve to bury them,” admitted Walton. “He does that all the time in training and when he plays. He’s scored quite a few goals from that angle so I was expecting him to score to be honest with you.”

Jersey Bulls got into some promising positions during the first half but lacked the cutting edge during their first outing of the season.

The referee was lenient when the challenges start to come in towards the half-hour mark, choosing to decide to talk to Pestana and then Beckenham’s central midfielder Tom O’Connor for challenges on Danny Waldren and Adam Trotter.

So it was rather surprising when referee Sotimirin showed Cox a yellow card for a challenge on Pestana down the left-wing before being shown a straight red card for saying something to the referee as he walked past him after 32 minutes.

“I can’t answer you. I’m yet to go in and talk about it and ask him,” admitted Walton.

“I weren’t really concerned about Stef getting sent off, I was just more concerned about how we were going to play the next 60 minutes, so I haven’t really asked him. I don’t know why. He must’ve said something to the referee. I don’t know what he’s said. I haven’t spoken to the referee but it’s something we’ll definitely ask him what happened.”

Waldren cracked a right-footed free-kick curling around the far post from 30-yards after the home side won a free-kick down the left-hand side of the pitch.

The 32-year-old midfielder warrior is Beckenham Town’s marquee summer signing, with experience in National League and National League South for Bromley, Dulwich Hamlet, Welling United and Billericay Town and is just the player to sit in the trenches in the middle of the park and fight for the cause.

“He gives us a lot of things really in a game like that,” Walton said of Waldren, Beckenham’s captain.

“Fair play to the management, they’ve managed it well in terms of how we set up for the second half and Dan managed it all round the pitch as well, as did the rest of the lads.

“He gives you a vast amount of experience though. He’ll go down and have a rest when he needs to have a rest. A young, negative player won’t do that sort of thing and he just gives you a bit more time to get your breath back.”

The first clear-cut chance of a disappointing first-half fell to Jersey Bulls in the 43rd minute, following their fifth of 12 corners.

The ball was rolled back to an unmarked Giles, who drilled his shot through a crowd of players from 25-yards, forcing Blue to dive to his right to tip the ball around the post.

Half-time came at the right time for Beckenham Town.

“I thought we were just a bit lethargic, a bit slow out of the blocks and we didn’t pass the ball well enough and we didn’t keep it well enough,” admitted Walton.

“But that’s credit to them. I’m not one of those people that are going to stand here and say ‘it was our bad play’.  They played well Jersey, they worked really hard in midfield, the three lads that they had in midfield worked tremendously about shutting us down.  They didn’t just do it for 45 minutes, they did it for 90 minutes, shutting us down and they didn’t let us get in any sort of rhythm and play our football.”

Huntley, Dave Mehmet and Walton changed showed their tactical nous at the break by bringing on Rob Carter at the break and playing him on the right-hand side of a back three, with Mudiagha Wanogho in the centre and Callum Henry on the left.

Within seconds of the restart, Carter put a tackle on Pestana to insist that Beckenham Town were going to be a hard nut to crack.

Beckenham Town grabbed the only goal of the game when Blue launched a big kick up field which sailed over Townsend’s head and Archie Johnson made his only foray forward from his left-back role.

He cut inside Jersey right-back Jonny Le Quesne and was tripped by centre-half James Queree, a soft penalty award just inside the penalty area.

Townsend sent goalkeeper Euan Van Der Vliet the wrong way with a clinical right-footed penalty that nestled into the bottom left-hand corner to give the home side something to hang on to for the rest of the game.

Reflecting on the soft penalty award, Walton said: “I mean, penalties, you see them given for that. I think that’s just modern football. You can’t touch anybody now in the penalty area can you? You touch anyone and they go over they just give a penalty straight away.

“It was a penalty. He got tripped, it was definitely a penalty, no arguments about that but from their point of view, it’s a soft penalty to give away.

“He took a good penalty didn’t he, a great finish from Steve.”

Townsend’s strike tested Jersey Bulls’ character and they swiftly responded with a slick move on the deck through the heart of Beckenham’s back three with the impressive Sol Solomon (who started as a left-winger and now pulling the strings in the middle of the park) slipped Bickley through on goal but a brave Blue came rushing out and smothered the ball at the striker’s feet and Solomon slid in to loop his shot over the crossbar from six-yards in the 56th minute.

Beckenham Town remained resilient and slammed the door in Jersey Bulls' face until the halfway point of the second half when Blue came to Beckenham’s rescue again, outstanding on his second debut for the club.

Queree and Trotter linked up before the ball was played into winger Fraser Barlow who played in Solomon through on goal but Blue got down low to his left and blocked the shot with his thigh.

Jersey’s right-back Le Quesne was often released in behind the Beckenham back-line to put in crosses and Bickley’s towering looping header was comfortably caught by the man-of-the-match.

Jersey Bulls continued to press and had most of the possession while Beckenham Town were a well-organised outfit, keeping bodies behind the ball but the ball kept coming back as lone substitute striker Tyrone Pink couldn’t make the ball stick at the other end of the pitch.

Jersey Bulls kept knocking on the door and Blue excelled again in the 75th minute when the away side thought they had made the deserved breakthrough.

Holding midfielder Kamen Nafkha played a lovely through ball along the deck which split open the home side’s resistance to put Bickley through on goal but Blue stuck out his leg to make another save.

Blue pulled off an excellent save just 39 seconds later when Solomon whipped in a cross which was smacked towards goal by substitute striker Luca Margaroli, the keeper diving to his right and tipping the ball around the post again.

“Nick Blue was outstanding. He’s a great signing (from Isthmian League South East Division side VCD Athletic).  What can I say about Nick Blue? He’s done that all of his life. He’s played for some top clubs for a reason because he’s a top goalkeeper, simple as that,” said Walton.

“Playing with 10 men and our shape is not something you don’t really prepare for at this level.  It’s pretty much done from the side and at half-time. 

“You ask Damien Ramsamy to go on and play wing-back, where he’s never done it in his life, worked tirelessly up and down. Steve Townsend just ran his socks off from winger to forward to midfield player, just worked exceptionally hard for the team.”

Blue has excellent distribution and his big clearance gave Townsend a chance of grabbing a second goal as he watched the ball drop from out of the sky before cracking a right-footed half-volley over the crossbar from just outside the Jersey Bulls penalty box.

Beckenham’s game management clearly frustrated Jersey Bulls by taking their time when the ball went out of play – as this was a vital game to win.

Jersey Bulls kept probing and Margaroli ran towards the penalty area before teeing up Trotter but the central midfielder lashed his shot over the crossbar from 20-yards with three minutes remaining.

Jersey Bulls’ continue to be wasteful but their final chance fell to their goalkeeper following their 12th and final corner of the game deep into injury-time.

Solomon swung the ball in from the left and no one picked up Van Der Vliet at the far post and the goalkeeper planted his header just over the crossbar from six yards out.

“I think the referee must have got his watch off Del Boy Trotter – I don’t think it had a battery in it,” joked Walton, after eight and a half minutes of injury time.

“When you’re in our position and hanging on to 1-0, time seems to take for an age but the other side when you’re Jersey Bulls, it goes as quick as a flash. We hung on to the win.”

The crowd of 325 saw a different side to Beckenham Town today, one that are serious title contenders in their new league and one that can grind out an ugly smash-and-grab victory.

“It was a style of football that I don’t like,” admitted Walton.

“But listen, I can’t fault their effort and their will to fight and that’s fantastic for us to go and fight like that against the favourites for the league this year, with 10 men and go and work your socks off like that.

“That’s a testament to all of those lads in there, how much they want to win something. 

“You’ve seen us over the years, we would’ve got beat today. We would’ve thrown it in with certain players but they took on board what we said to them at half-time and they went and done it.

“In some respects, we restricted them to long shots and Bluey saved them but they didn’t really hurt us and get in behind us so it’s a testament to those lads in there how hard they worked with the shape that we asked them to do.

“We mean business. It’s not a statement, we’ve won one game. It’s a good win for us. We’ve got three points on the board and we move onto the next game.”

Gary Freeman was St Peter’s manager when Beckenham Town beat them 3-2 here in the Kent Senior Trophy Semi-Finals in February 2019.

Jersey Bulls were top of the Combined Counties League Division One table with 27 wins out of 27 league games when the 2019-20 campaign was declared null and void due to the Coronavirus health pandemic struck and won all four of their league games last season before the campaign was curtailed.

Reflecting on their first-ever league defeat, Jersey Bulls’ manager Freeman said: “Always disappointing not to win but for our first game of the season I thought we played well in spells and on another day I think we could’ve got something out of it.

“We’ve heard a bit about Beckenham and thought they’re one of the stronger teams in the league and to be fair to them they managed the game very well today and made it awkward.

“I think first 15-20 minutes we played very well and then it got scrappy and they managed the game well with 10 men.  I think their keeper’s obviously had a great game and the frustrating point on our part, we’ve just said to the lads, we’ve probably lost the game and they haven’t had a shot on goal (other than the penalty).

“It’s a tough one to take but we have to take it on the chin and we’ll go again.”

Jersey Bulls clearly won the possession stakes but couldn’t find a way past the outstanding Beckenham keeper.

“From our nice start we moved the ball quite quickly but no real clear-cut chances. The keeper made one save towards the end (of the first-half).

“Second half, I don’t think a great deal changed.  They changed the shape a little bit but it took us 10 minutes to get going, unfortunately in that spell they got the penalty and then it was a case of knocking on the door trying and we’ve had some good chances and the keeper’s made some good saves but credit to Beckenham and thank you for their welcome actually, they’ve been great.

“We spoke at half-time, we changed the shape a little bit thinking they would stay similar and we would get the overload in midfield and get our full-backs up high but they went to a back three and that counteracted that a little bit and it took us a little bit to get going and react again.

“It’s all things we will learn, it’s a higher level, so it’s good for us to have these challenges as coaches and as players.”

When asked about the penalty decision, Freeman said: “A bit of slow motion. I think the lad (Johnson) got the ball caught under his feet and it just tempted him (Queree) to stick a leg out or an arm, I couldn’t quite see what it was, but he probably has given him a little touch, I think and maybe enough.

“We still had a long way to go from that point. We still had three or four very good chances as it went on. We were still in the game.  You’re playing against 10, we still thought we could win the game and we had lads who came off the bench and keen to make an impression. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite happen and we couldn’t quite get the goal.

“The keeper (Blue) had a great game.  There was a couple of great saves there but that’s why he’s there for and he’s done his job. Unfortunately for us, we haven’t quite got past him.

“Losing is something we’re not used to but if you analyse the game and look at the game on another day we could’ve come away 3-1 winners and everyone would be saying we’re unbeaten, so at least no-ones going to mention it to us anymore, so we’ll get on and hopefully we can get back to winning ways.

“I’d like to think there’s not a manager who doesn’t want to get promoted so that’s our aim, to try to get promotion. Again, we’re going into the unknown a little bit but by the sounds of it there’s six or seven teams who are probably thinking the same sort of thing, so it should be a challenging league. I really enjoyed today and hopefully, there’s more days like it.”

Half of the 20 Combined Counties League Premier Division South sides were in action today, with no away sides celebrating victory.

Badshot Lea are top of the pile after their 6-1 home win over Horley Town, while Colliers Wood and Walton & Hersham celebrated 3-1 home victories over Knaphill and Balham respectively.

Beckenham Town are in fourth-place, while Jersey Bulls are in the bottom four.

AFC Croydon Athletic were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Cobham upon their return to this division, with Kevin Rayner’s side in fifth-place in the table with their point.

Beckenham Town welcome Colliers Wood United to Eden Park Avenue in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round next Saturday, 7 August (15:00).

Beckenham Town: Nick Blue, Jamie Brown (Damien Ramsamy 60), Archie Johnson, Junior Kaffo, Callum Henry (Dennis Ochi 75), Mudiagha Wanogho, Steve Townsend, Danny Waldren, Tunde Aderonmu (Tyrone Pink 71), Tom O’Connor (Rob Carter 46), Stefan Cox.
Sub: Nick Curran

Goal: Steve Townsend 54 (penalty)

Booked: Stefan Cox 32, Steve Townsend 89, Damien Ramsamy 90

Sent Off: Stefan Cox 32

Jersey Bulls: Euan Van Der Vliet, Jonny Le Quesne, Jay Giles, Kamen Nafkha, Luke Campbell, James Queree, Sol Solomon, Adam Trotter, Lorne Bickley (Kieran Lester 87), Ruben Mendes Pestana (Luca Margaroli 69), Fraser Barlow (Jake Prince 70).
Subs: Jack Griffin, Joe Kilshaw

Booked: Ruben Mendes Pestana 45

Attendance: 325
Referee: Mr Dele Sotimirin
Assistants: Mr Gareth Mays & Mr Max Edwards