Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3-0 Bearsted - The players are doing a lot of things we’re not asking them to do! They’re not doing the right things and we need to go out and show the desire and the commitment, says Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens

Wednesday 27th March 2019
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 3 – 0 Bearsted
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 27/03/2019 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 27 March 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) manager Kevin Watson says his side will have to win all of their last eight league games to have any chance of winning the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title.

The Millers leapfrogged over Chatham Town – who were held to a shock 1-1 draw by bottom side Croydon – into third-place in the table as the exciting four-horse title race heads into the final month of the season.

Corinthian – who suffered a 1-0 defeat at Lordswood last night- remain at the summit with 72 points with seven games remaining, followed by Fisher on 71 points with six games remaining; Cray Valley are in third-place on 70 points, while Chatham Town are now in fourth-place on 69 points with seven games left.

The Millers, who booked their place at Wembley Stadium in The Buildbase FA Vase Final by beating Canterbury City 2-1 on aggregate, extended their unbeaten run to nine games after comfortably beating a Bearsted side in fourteenth-place in the table with 40 points with 31 games played and have extended their run to seven games without a win.

The damage was done inside the opening 35 minutes as Gavin Tomlin tapped in his 11th goal for the Eltham-based club, before his strike partner Francis Babalola took his tally to 21 goals for the season with a brace.

“I thought we were really good tonight,” said Watson, who admits getting to Wembley still hasn’t sunk in.

“I thought the tempo, obviously there’s that concern, people say about a hangover after a big game or result but like I said going into this game I’d just like to think I’ve got the characters that don’t take things for granted and there’s no egos or anything like that but I thought it was a very professional job and I thought the work-ethic and attitude was superb.

“We’ve got eight league games left so I think to have any chance of winning the league we’ll probably have to win eight, which is a really tough task.  I know it’s a cliché but we have to take each game as it comes but we truly have to do that.  We’ll just concentrate on what we can do, not be too concerned on other teams results that we can’t really effect.”

Bearsted manager Kevin Stevens, meanwhile, questioned his players desire and commitment during the post-match press conference, after an inquest out on the pitch after the final whistle.

“Very disappointed! I thought our first half performance, we were two or three yards off the pace. We didn’t show the right desire, the right attitude,” said Stevens.

“They’re organised, a good side as we know. We were hoping to burst their bubble a little bit but when you’re a yard or two yards off the pace all the time, it’s really disappointing.

“We turned up thinking Cray Valley are going to have a hangover.  At our place when we lost 1-0 not so long ago, we probably deserved to get something out of the game.

“Desire and commitment is the biggest thing and we’ve just had a word with the players for 10 minutes out there. If you don’t show desire and commitment in this league, you’re going to lose games of football!”

Bearsted centre-half Andy Foster drilled a clearance over his own crossbar after Chris Edwards whipped in a great low cross from the right after he ran into the bottom right-hand channel after the ball was played into him by Babalola.

Ryan Flack drove in the resulting corner from the right and Ashley Sains came up from the back to glance his header across goal and past the left-hand post after only 126 seconds.

Right wing-back Edwards linked up well with Tomlin and Tomlin floated in a cross which was smacked on the half-volley by left wing-back Danny Smith, which just cleared the crossbar from 20-yards.

Double-chasing Cray Valley deservedly opened the scoring with only nine minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Smith fed the ball to Liam Hickey, the centre-half who was returning from injury, and he found a pocket of space down the left and he floated in a deep cross which found an unmarked Babalola at the far post.  His header crashed against the right-hand post from a couple of yards out and Tomlin reacted by tapping the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from similar distance.

“Unbelievable ball, the ball in was incredible, it was a great ball in,” said Watson.

“I’m pleased for Liam because he’s been out for a long time, he comes to every game, he has a great attitude. He played for the reserves last week and got 60 minutes and we decided to start him today.  Brad Potter’s had a great run (in the side) and done extremely well.

“But we need to utilise the squad we’ve got. It doesn’t weaken us. 

“Francis Babalola has headed it against the post and I thought he was our best player on the pitch if I’m completely honest.

“He’s 25 but he’s still learning as a player and we’re pleased he’s taking things on board and Gavin Tomlin, again, right place at the right time.”

Stevens added: “Again, it’s poor. It’s poor marking, it’s poor closing down from us out wide. We’re staying off them too much. We’re not going with runners and he’s standing there in the box free.  He reacts first but he doesn’t have to react much because he had no-one on him!  I thought it was very poor from us again.”

The Millers stormed into a 2-0 lead, with 17 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Josh James fed Smith down the left and he produced a quality delivery, which picked out Babalola unmarked at the far post and he guided his looping header across the keeper and into the far corner from 10-yards out.

“Danny has got that quality. It was a great ball, a great header, a difficult header. He’s had to go back across the face of the goal and over the goalkeeper. He’s good in the air for someone his size so I’m really pleased for him,” said Watson.

Stevens added: “Yes, what can I say? Just the whole performance, the marking was shocking, yes, disappointing, very disappointing.

“The game plan is out of the window.  We said keep them quiet, not only have they had success in the Vase, which has been brilliant for them, they’ve got to win, I don’t know, they can probably afford to lose one game?

“We wanted to keep them quiet for the first half-hour and they will hopefully start to panic a little bit because they know they’ve got to win the game.  We have let them have two goals that quickly!”

Cray Valley’s holding midfielder Paul Semakula released Babalola down the right channel and good link up play followed with Tomlin and Edwards, who crossed to Tomlin, who failed to keep his shot on target from 20-yards.

Bearsted took 26 minutes to create their first opening when central midfielder Jonathon Rogers released Reece Collins through the heart of the pitch but the right-winger pulled his left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the right-hand post from 25-yards.

“That sums it up! Exactly what I’ve been saying. We were just so far off it tonight in the first half. It’s so, so disappointing,” came Stevens’ honest judgement of his side’s performance.

Clinical Cray Valley had the game sown up when they notched their third goal, which was timed at 34 minutes and 7 seconds.

Smith put a low cross in from the left and Tomlin’s shot was blocked at the near post.  Tomlin picked up the loose ball inside the penalty area and laid the ball back to Flack, who scuffed his left-footed shot across the face of the penalty area, which found Babalola at the far post and the striker nipped in front of the keeper to slot the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

Watson said:  “Not often we’re like that (clinical) to be honest with you. We usually wear teams down and maybe win games slightly later on.  I wouldn’t say we’re a team that necessarily wins it at the death but I just felt the defensive shape was incredible and the work-rate.

“It was very difficult for them. I thought the first half we were really clinical, more so the easier chances we’ve had in the second half, which we missed, so I’ve got be critical that we’ve missed some chances this season but in the first half it was good.”

Stevens added: “Again, it’s a shame really. Ethan came in for his first game tonight with us and has been on the bench a few times. He’s a young keeper and I think the players out there in front of him have let him down/”

Bearsted were poor on the night and failed to call Deren Ibrahim into making a single save during the game.

David Baranowski floated in their second of three corners towards the near post and holding midfielder Ryan Croucher flicked his shot over the crossbar.

“Deren’s distribution is incredible isn’t it, his kicking and he’s very local but we signed him at the right time,” added Watson.

“He’s done us a favour tonight but he’s enjoying it. He doesn’t need to turn up and play.  In his mind he’s retired but he can play some local football and enjoy it whilst Andy Walker is out (with a hamstring) so it’s great for all parties.”

Both managers’ were asked their thoughts at the break.

Watson said: “I wanted to keep a clean-sheet.  I made a mistake that I would prefer to win 3-0 and keep a clean-sheet than go on and score goals but concede goals.  I just wanted them to recognise it was a good half and the mentality for the second half was to not take the foot of the gas.”

Stevens added: “I don’t know if I can tell you that what I said really. We just went through our game plan with them again.  How they’re playing three at the back with their wing-backs. We have our wide players, they were on top of our full-backs.  No one took any instructions on board, that’s the polite way of saying it!”

Bearsted manager Stevens made a double substitution at the break as Gillingham pair Ben Allen and Charles Noyelle offered very little during the first half and made way.

James Bessey slotted in wide on the right and had something about him but not many players in white shirts seemed bothered to impress.

Cray Valley should have rattled in a fourth goal inside the opening five minutes.

Smith stole the ball off Bessey on the halfway line and played a crossfield pass to put Tomlin through on goal.  Goalkeeper Ethan Collen rushed off his line and had to back peddle to pluck Tomlin’s right-footed chip from 18-yards out of the air.

Watson said: “He’s good at them Gavin. He’s not put enough on it. The keeper’s done quite well. He’s made a great save late on as well but he didn’t quite haver the weight on it.

“They’re tough conditions out there, the pitch is tough. I’m not going to moan about the pitches because two teams were playing on the same pitch but that’s something that I thought we’ve had to learn this season.”

Stevens said: “I thought Ethan came out a little bit too far actually but he done well to back off a little bit and take it.  He done alright for his first start for us.”

Babalola was released down the right channel and he crossed to Tomlin, who lashed over his right-footed shot on the turn from 14-yards.

Collen produced a brilliant save to prevent Cray Valley scoring again in the 62nd minute.

Smith threaded a lovely short pass to put Babalola through on goal and his shot across the keeper bounced off the foot of the far post from 10-yards.  Tomlin retrieved the ball close to the left by-line and cut the ball back to Flack, who drilled a first-time right-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner from 16-yards, only for Collen to palm the rasping drive over his crossbar, high to his right.

Stevens said: “A great save by him, a brilliant save.  He’s been like that in training. Scott Andrews was missing tonight, his wife is having a baby.  Ethan’s come in and done really well for a young lad for his first game.  I think he’s been let down by the players in front of him tonight.”

Watson added: “Really good save by the goalkeeper. He looked like quite a young lad so it’s difficult for a young goalkeeper but he’s done really well.”

Hickey hit a long ball forward from the halfway line and Edwards nipped in to hook his shot past the near post from six-yards.

Collen came to Bearsted’s rescue again in the final 20 minutes when he rushed out and made a vital block to prevent Flack sweeping the ball past him as Foster offered very little protection in front of him.

Poor Bearsted created a chance inside the final 15 minutes when a pass from left-winger Baranowski played in Collins but all he could do was lash his shot wide of the top of the left-hand post from 12-yards.

Flack whipped in a free-kick from the right, which was cleared out to substitute Lea Dawson, whose right-footed half-volley from 25-yards bounced comfortably into Collen’s gloves.

James played the ball into substitute striker Callum Willock, who was tackled inside the Bearsted box and the ball came out to Dawson, who drove a first time shot sailing wide from 25-yards.

Collen’s heroics ensured Bearsted escaped from Eltham with a respectable three-goal defeat.

Dawson played a sublime through ball that put Flack through on goal inside stoppage time but Collen beat the drilled shot away as his defensive support system went missing.

“A really good ball from Daws. I thought his distribution when he came on was really, really positive. He kept the ball probably most of the time but a really clever ball, a good run, another chance missed really there,” added Watson.

Cray Valley travel to Hollands & Blair on Saturday.  The Gillingham based side have clawed their way out of relegation trouble and are now fourth-from-bottom with 22 points from 30 games and are three points clear of the drop zone, which is occupied by Rusthall (19 points) and Croydon (8 points).

“That will be tough, in tough conditions, it’s always a tough place to go,” said Watson.

“Paul Piggott is back in charge. I’ve got a lot of time for him, a really nice bloke.  They’ve got some good players, they’re building down there. Historically they’ve done quite well so that will be really tough but we need to make sure our mentality is right. 

“We mustn’t give other teams a chance.  We try to win every game, I’ve said that all along, it’s far tougher than people think.  People will look and think we’ve won 3-0 and that’s a given. It’s not a given. We’ve worked incredibly hard for that.”

When asked how he will cope with playing eight league games in a calendar month, Watson replied: “Well, we will have a little bit of – I don’t like the term rotation – but we need to utilise people and asses fitness levels and injuries and suspensions and bits and pieces like that.”

Bearsted’s players, meanwhile, must do some soul searching before struggling Punjab United come to Honey Lane on Saturday.

Stevens and his players had an inquest out on the pitch after the final whistle and Stevens must pick up morale going into the game against a club fighting relegation.

“Do you know what, we’ve just said to them out there, it’s fantastic that Cray Valley have got to the Final of the Vase and how good Canterbury have done but we got to the last 32, which was great for us.  I was disappointed to lose to Abbey Rangers.  Since we’ve been knocked out of that (in January) we have been average at best and then we’ve put a couple of these performances in,” admitted Stevens.

“When the Vase was going on, players were playing for their shirt because the Vase comes quick and fast, game after game.  We were working hard, turning up thinking you’re going to win games of football.

“Since that Vase defeat we’ve just dropped off and dropped off and that is disappointing.  The Vase is a bonus, it’s about our league.

“We haven’t got a budget and nothing at all. Everyone knows that or should do, so we have to put a lot of hard work in, a lot of hard work in. We have to have desire and commitment.  We have to be organised and carry out a game plan and we can beat teams, we can beat Cray Valley’s but if you’re not going to do that and we haven’t done that since the Vase and that’s been disappointing.2

On Saturday’s game against a Punjab United side that are only a couple of points above the relegation zone, Stevens said: “Punjab beat us in the second game of the season so we won’t take them lightly but we’ll turn up before the Vase games and we’ll be confident of winning and putting three or four goals in.

“We need a reaction! The players are doing a lot of things we’re not asking them to do!  They’re not doing the right things and we need to go out and show the desire and the commitment and do the right things.

“We really wanted to finish inside the top ten, which I think our highest place has been 12th.

“We want to beat our points target, which since we’ve been in this league is 47.  We thought we were going to smash that at one stage. We’ve only got 40 but we need to win games of football to do that!”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Deren Ibrahim, Chris Edwards (Tyler Myers 75), Danny Smith, Ashley Sains, Liam Hickey, Cem Tumkaya, Josh James, Paul Semakula (Lea Dawson 57), Gavin Tomlin (Callum Willock 66), Francis Babalola, Ryan Flack.
Subs: Denzel Gayle, Anthony Edgar

Goals: Gavin Tomlin 10, Francis Babalola 18, 35

Booked: Lea Dawson 85

Bearsted: Ethan Collen, Matthew Weller, Cameron Croucher, Ryan Croucher, Nicolae Popescu (George Sheminant 75), Andy Foster, Reece Collins, Charles Noyelle, Ben Allen (James Bassey 46), Jonathon Rogers (Matthew Garner 46), David Baranowski.
Subs: Sam Flisher, Perry Cray

Attendance: 65
Referee: Mr Wally James (Sidcup)
Assistants: Mr Chandon Chapman (Rochester) & Mr David Hooker (Bromley)