Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 4-0 Hythe Town - Maybe a few players have got one eye elsewhere because the future is uncertain, says Hythe Town boss Steven Watt

Tuesday 26th October 2021
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 4 – 0 Hythe Town
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 26/10/2021 19:45

Isthmian League South East Division
Tuesday 26 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

HYTHE TOWN manager Steven Watt insists he is trying to turn things around after their winless run stretched to six games after this awful performance at Cray Valley (Paper Mills).

Kevin Watson’s side romped to the summit of the Isthmian League South East Division table with a convincing 4-0 victory, extending their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions.

Right-wing-back Denzel Gayle scored the only goal of the first half before a three-goal blitz in 12 second-half minutes saw the hosts leapfrog over Haywards Heath Town to move a point clear at the top after 11 games.

Attacking midfielder Jack Sammoutis produced a quality finish to double Cray Valley’s lead just four minutes into the second half before left-wing-back Nathan Green slotted home a penalty before physically strong striker Marcel Barrington’s solo run notched his tenth goal of the season.

“A game of two halves really, I thought we started really well,” said Watt, currently on crutches after a sore crucial ligament operation on his right knee.

“A sloppy goal from our perspective, another mistake that we keep making and it was a very good finish from their player and then that gave them confidence and they grew into the game.

“We came out (after half-time) and Cray punished us.  They’re a very good side. They’re one of the best sides that I’ve played at this level. You can’t give them space, you can’t make mistakes in your own half, they will punish you and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Watson added: “Listen, Hythe are a good team so it’s pleasing to beat good teams. Sittingbourne were a good team Saturday, Ashford will be a good team on Saturday, so it’s important to get points on the board really.”

Watson’s side have thrashed Sittingbourne 6-0 last time out and have now scored the most goals (31) of all the 20 teams in this Step Four division.

“I don’t think league positions are the be-all-and-end-all at this point of the season. It’s not really worth it looking at tables. We’ve just got to concentrate on each game, I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s important that we keep the wheels in motion really.”

Cray Valley created their first opening after only 163 seconds following their first of five corners.

Sammoutis floated a deep corner in from the right and holding midfielder Connor Dymond steered his free header back to where he came from and past the far post from 15-yards.

Hythe Town right-back Charlie Webster got forward on several occasions during a good early spell from Watt’s men, easily speeding past Green to feed ineffective striker Kane Phillip, who slid his shot past the near post from 10-yards.

“I didn’t think we started well to be honest,” said Watson.

“For 20 minutes I thought they had more of a foothold in the game. I think their four and eight (Rogers and Oldaker) were quite dominant in getting on the ball and making things happen. I thought we got to grips with it after 20 minutes or so.”

Dymond hit a long ball from inside the Cray Valley half to release Gayle down the left and he easily cut along the by-line and past centre-halves Tom Wynter and Liam Smith to cut the ball back for Barrington, but Hythe Town’s holding midfielder James Rogers made a vital block to ensure the rasping drive from 15-yards was deflected over the crossbar.

Cray Valley deservedly opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.

Matthew Attenborough-Warren’s fine through ball on the deck fed the impressive Barrington, who showed strength to shield the ball from last-defender Smith, before cutting inside and then playing the ball over to the unmarked Gayle, who cut inside to stroke his left-footed drive into the bottom near corner from 16-yards.

“He done well Denzel. He didn’t start on Saturday and we’re starting to show our strength-in-depth of our squad this season,” said Watson.

“We’re still got some missing, Hassan Ibrahiym will be back soon, Ade Adeyemo is coming back from injury and Joe N’Guessan got some minutes today and he’s coming back from a real long-term injury but I thought Denzel was one of two players in the first half that performed very well.”

Watt added: “Liam’s made a mistake.  Liam’s gone to head the ball and he’s missed the ball. He’s headed it, I don’t know what, he’s headed it off his knee I think and it’s gone to Barrington, who then switched it across and it’s a good finish.

“Again, it’s come from nothing. It’s come from absolutely nothing and came from our own silly mistake and it’s led to another goal, which seems to be the pattern this season for us.”

Referee Maros Valko took his time to pull out a yellow card from his right pocket after Green got away with a poor challenge on Rogers, which left Watt clearly angry.

“Nathan Green’s challenge was horrendous.  How that’s not a red card, I’ll never know!  I don’t think you’ll see a challenge all season that will warrant a red card and he knows, their bench knew it should’ve been a red.  It’s high, it’s knee high, it’s from behind and that could change the game.”

Hythe Town goalkeeper Will Godmon was called into making a low save in the 37th minute.

Green cut inside Webster before unleashing a powerfully hit left-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which was too hot for Godmon to handle, scooping the ball away low to his left and Wynter was on hand to clear the danger.

“Green put in a lot of good balls in the first half and our anticipation on them wasn’t what it needed to be and we made that point at half-time,” revealed Watson.

Watt added: “Saves I expect Will to make, saves from distance and from angles, I expect my keeper to save. Those are the areas when you do get broken against and you get exposed, you look at allowing players, not allowing players, but making sure if they’re getting shots, they’re getting shots from the angles, which we were disappointed with the first goal because we let him come inside when he should’ve come out.”

Then, a couple of minutes before half-time, Sammoutis released Barrington, who cut inside Smith before drilling a left-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner from 15-yards, which Godmon stuck up his right arm to push the ball over his crossbar.

Hythe Town offered very little in attack during the entire game and Smith fed the ball to Frannie Collin, who dropped deep, who played a reverse pass to release the ineffective Alex Brown, who dragged his shot past the near post.

“Just half-chances really. We huffed and puffed at times but Lewington didn’t have a have to make the whole game,” admitted Watt.

“I think that summed it up for us. We had good spells of possession particularly in the first half but didn’t do enough with it. It was a mistake that ended us being down at half-time.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Watson said: “We spoke about a few pointers of improvement. I thought we got better throughout the half. It was important in the second half that we didn’t get deep and invite pressure on and we still passed the ball and got us up the pitch, which we did and as a result, we created quite a few chances.”

Watt added: “Just frustrated, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot again by another mistake. We should’ve gone in at nil-nil. It should’ve been nil-nil at half-time and then be able to build from there but that wasn’t the case. We came in at 1-0 down in a half of football. I thought nil-nil was a fair reflection of the first half but we can’t make silly mistakes in your own half against quality teams like Cray or you’re going to get punished and that’s exactly what happened.”

Some poor defending from Brown gifted Cray Valley possession of the ball, which lead to Watson’s men doubling their lead just 187 seconds in.

Brown should have planted his header into touch but Dymond intercepted the ball and charged down the left and cut into the penalty area before cutting the ball back to Sammoutis, lurking unmarked on the edge of the penalty area.

With little back-lift, the midfielder flicked his right-footed shot across the flat-footed Godmon and found the far corner to score his third goal of the season.

Watson said: “Very good composure from Connor when he got into the area, he doesn’t get into those areas often. Good composure and good vision by Jack.  Look, that’s just great individual technique and finish isn’t it?  There’s not many players at this level or levels above that can finish like that, so exceptional technique.”

Watt added: “It was another silly mistake in our own half again and they’ve got quality and they’ll punish you.  The ball should’ve been cleared, it isn’t cleared and it’s a great finish.”

Referee Valko booked Watt following the aftermath of the third goal, which killed the game off with 10 minutes and 20 seconds into the half.

Green released Attenborough-Warren down he left and his cross was cut out by Rogers by the use of the hand and a penalty was awarded.

Green sent Godmon the wrong way with a clinically taken left-footed penalty, which nestled into the back of the net, just left of centre.

Watson said:  “I thought there was some good play that led to that opportunity. The penalty was well struck. We haven’t been good with penalties this season. Greenie strikes a good ball and it was a good penalty.”

Watt revealed he was planning to bring on striker Noel Leighton and left-winger Jordan Sarfo but had to wait to bring them on after the penalty was taken and after the manager was booked for making his feelings known towards the referee.

“I told the linesman (Ronald Albert) next time it’s out ‘can we make the substitution?’  The linesman buzzes him (the referee), he flags for it, our players stop, the ref says ‘play-on’, it’s a throw-in and they cut through the middle and it leads to the penalty.  I’ve never been involved in a decision like that in my career!

“It’s laughable, it’s laughable so that’s two, if you like, massive key decisions in the game, that change the game in terms of they should be down to 10 men and they’re not and then they go 3-0 up.

“Would we have gone on and won the game? Probably not! I still believe at 2-0 Cray would probably have gone on and won it.  We didn’t look like we had the cutting edge going forward.  I’m not taking anything away from Cray but those two moments in that game were massive, massive moments. I’m not even going to speak to the referee because it’s absolutely pointless because it is shocking, shocking decisions that leads to a goal.”

Hythe Town’s central midfielder Darren Oldaker responded by hitting a left-footed deflected drive from 25-yards which went behind for a corner but this was a poor night for the Kent coast outfit.

Cray Valley sealed the deal by scoring a fourth goal in the 61st minute when no one in a Hythe Town shirt made a challenge on Barrington, who collected the ball on the halfway line and ran in a straight line into the penalty area and kept his composure to slot his left-footed shot underneath the keeper from 15-yards.

“I’m pleased for Marcel because he’s getting goals and the job that we ask him to do for the team, I think earlier on in the season or pre-season it takes a little bit to understand that position that we’re asking of a player but he understands it now and he’s getting his rewards with goals because all forwards want to score goals don’t they?

“He scored a hat-trick on Saturday and he’s scored again tonight and probably could’ve had another one.”

Watt said: “The game’s done by then, the games finished. It was whatever they wanted it to be after that really.

“I wanted a bit of fight, a bit of desire, but we never got that. By then I sat back and had a look across the pitch and saw what was happening.  You’ve got to give Cray credit, even at 3-0, 4-0 up they were running more than us, they were more intense than we were, they had more desire to score and not concede. It’s unacceptable, it’s just unacceptable!”

“It was schoolboy football from us. It’s the best way I can describe that. How can a player pick the ball up and let him run 50-yards is beyond me. It’s not as if he’s done anything brilliant or bit of skill with it. We just let him run in a straight line. It’s schoolboy football. The game’s done and over at that point.”

Sarfo cut the ball back to Rogers, who whipped in a deep cross into the Millers’ box where a poor defensive header from substitute David Omperon fell to Phillip, who leaned back and rifled his shot high over the crossbar in the 70th minute.

Godmon pulled off a smart diving save to prevent Cray Valley scoring a fifth goal just 112 seconds later following the home side’s final corner of the night.

Sammoutis played it short to winger Ompreon who whipped in a cross from the left and Rory Hill’s shot on the turn was trickling across Godmon and towards the bottom far corner, only for the keeper to stretch low to his left to smother the ball before it rolled over the line.

“We could’ve had a couple more this evening when the game opened out,” said Watson.

“I would like us to be more clinical. I think we started to be a little bit complacent with that final bit of our play.  I think if you get that opportunity to kill teams off towards the end then you need to take those chances to do it, a bit like we did at Sittingbourne on Saturday.”

Watt added: “It was damage limitation after that really, just try to keep the score at four. That’s all we tried to do. Will’s made a good save. It’s a disappointing evening.”

Gayle and substitute holding midfielder Paul Semakula linked up inside the Millers' half before releasing Barrington straight through the middle and this time he teed up Sammoutis, whose right-footed shot was headed off the line by Oldaker.

Neither side could create another chance during the final 17 minutes, although the Cannons did enjoy plenty of possession but ever-present goalkeeper Chris Lewington didn’t have a save to make all game, protected well by his back-three of Alex Brefo (a recent signing from Phoenix Sports), Nathaniel Blanks and Cem Tumkaya.

“We defended quite well and it’s pleasing to get another clean-sheet.  I think we pride ourselves on that and that’s an all-round performance.  Everyone contributes towards clean sheet and the lack of opportunities for the opposition,” added Watson.

Watson is delighted with Brefo, who is handling the high expectations of playing for a club with a seemingly high playing budget.

“We knew he was a good player when we signed him.  We’re not an easy team for people to come in and acclimatise and he played very well on his debut on Saturday. He’s only a young lad and we ask a lot of players and the expectations and performances are high so all credit to him. He’s done well again tonight.”

Cray Valley sit proudly at the top of the table with 26 points from 11 games, while the play-off places are occupied by Haywards Heath (25 points from 10); Ashford United (23 points from 10), Herne Bay (20 points from nine) and VCD Athletic (18 points from 11).

Cray Valley’s next three games are at home to Ashford United on Saturday, followed by a trip to sixth-placed Hastings United (13 November) and at home to Haywards Heath seven days later.

Tommy Warrilow’s side came away from Hastings United with a 3-1 win tonight and are also challenging for promotion.

“You think it’s a big one because you look at the league table, don’t you. We’ve also got Hastings and Haywards Heath coming up,” added Watson.

“It will be interesting (against Ashford).  They’ll come here full of confidence. We need to re-assess things at training on Thursday and then we’ll go into the game and we just need to perform well.

“The last two games we’ve won 6-0 and 4-0.  You’ve got to look at performances as well and I say this all the time, the result is a by-product of the performance and the performances recently have been good.  I think we are getting continuity in what we’re doing.

“Do I look at league tables? Yes, of course, I do. Do I look at forthcoming fixtures? Absolutely, because they’re the two things that you can impact.

“Will that be the league table at the end of the season in that order like that? Who knows? There’s a lot to play for. We just have to concentrate on what we can impact and that’s just the games that are ahead of us now.”

Hythe Town, meanwhile, are languishing in 13th place in the pecking order with 11 points from nine games.

The Cannons are without a game on Saturday but travel to 12th-placed Faversham Town next Tuesday night, before a trip to Ashford United four days later.

“Another tough game, tough game, good side, physical side and they make it difficult,” Watt said of James Collins’ Faversham side.

“It’s going to be a tough evening, so we have to regroup and look to try to turn things around because at the moment it’s not good enough.

“Is it down to personnel? I don’t know what it’s down to. Myself? I have no idea. It needs to change!

“I’ll need to have a little think over the next couple of days about everything and take it from there,” added Watt, when asked whether he can bring new players’ in to Reachfields Stadium.

The club issued a statement on 19 October searching for fresh investment and revealing that “without that funding, we have to face the fact that our present playing budget is unsustainable.”

When asked about the financial situation at the club, Watt revealed: “Maybe a few players have got one eye elsewhere because the future is uncertain but I don’t take that as an excuse. You put on a Hythe jersey and you play for me, you go out and give your all for that team so I don’t see that as an excuse.

“It’s a hard one. As a manager, I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never been so long without a win, never been in a situation where we’re losing games in the manner we’re losing them in terms of mistakes and individual errors, not just tonight but from experienced players as well.

“It’s something that I’ve got to learn from, reflect on and make changes accordingly as I see fit.

“There was no fight, not enough fight about, no bite. It was strange.  You know what my teams are like, you know what we bring.  We didn’t have it tonight and that’s disappointing.

“When you look at the players we have on the pitch, it’s not as though we’ve got the whole team that are technical players or players that don’t have that fight. We have that aggression in that eleven. For whatever reason, we were short tonight.  Maybe it’s one of those nights? I don’t know but for me that performance over the course of the season is popping up too often.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Chris Lewington, Denzel Gayle, Nathan Green (David Ompreon 68), Alex Brefo, Nathaniel Blanks, Cem Tumkaya, Jack Sammoutis, Connor Dymond (Paul Semakula 66), Marcel Barrington, Rory Hill (Joe N’Guessan 80), Matthew Attenborough-Warren.
Subs: Francis Babalola, Jude Salmon

Goals: Denzel Gayle 22, Jack Sammoutis 49, Nathan Green 56 (penalty), Marcel Barrington 61

Booked: Nathan Green 26

Hythe Town: Will Godmon, Charlie Webster, Nathan Gordon, James Rogers, Tom Wynter, Liam Smith, Alex Brown (Noel Leighton 57), Darren Oldaker, Kane Phillip, Frannie Collin (Jarred Trespaderne 78), Jacob Gilbert (Jordan Sarfo 57).
Subs: Tom Walmsley, Connor Cheek

Booked: Steven Watt 56 (manager), Liam Smith 90

Attendance: 98
Referee: Mr Maros Valko
Assistants: Mr Ronald Albert & Mr Adam Miller