Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1-1 K Sports - We don't want anyone to enjoy playing against us, insists K Sports coach Michael Dodsworth

Wednesday 24th October 2018
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1 – 1 K Sports
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 24/10/2018 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 24 October 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

COACH Michael Dodsworth says he doesn’t want anyone to enjoy playing against K Sports this season after frustrating title-chasing Cray Valley.

Manager Kris Browning set his side up to grab a point and that was exactly what they got during a defensive minded display that saw them reach the Millers penalty area on three key occasions.

Cray Valley took the lead through striker Francis Babalola’s tenth-goal of the season after he broke through on goal but the Paperboys delivered an equaliser through James Jeffrey’s deflected strike just 11 minutes later, to score his third goal of the season.

Cray Valley pressed for a winner but K Sports held firm and parked the bus the longer the game went on, which proved to be a frustrating night for the home side and the 70 people that were in attendance.

“A great point away from home,” said Dodsworth, whose side remain in fourteenth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division having collected 12 points from as many games, extending their unbeaten run to four games.

“No-one’s giving us a hope in hell’s chance.  I think we were looking at the stats on social media and I think it was 4% that gave us a chance of getting anything here so a point away against a side with the amount of quality that they’ve got is unbelievable really.

“We haven’t come up here for a draw, that’s one thing we won’t do. We won’t go somewhere to play for a draw, we’ll go everywhere to try to win but I think today our game plan was to try to nullify them, make them go a bit longer trying to get their dangerous players on the ball and don’t get me wrong, they’ve had chances and they had spells when we’ve been under a bit of pressure.

“But I thought our work-rate today and our commitment to keeping the ball out of the back of the net has been second to none to be fair.”

Cray Valley manager Kevin Watson saw his side miss the chance to close the gap on leaders Beckenham Town and remain in the top eight on 20 points from nine games, seven points adrift of the leaders but with three games in hand.

Watson admitted:  “Frustrating is probably the right word. We created a lot of  chances, had lots of possession, some poor decisions at times probably meant we didn’t won the game so they’ve got a result that they’re happy with – we’re not happy with it!

“I’m sure when you spoke to their manager he’s happy with a draw and they’ve got it so fair play to them, they’ve got the result they wanted.”

Cray Valley played out from the back and many passes went sideways or backwards as the Paperboys were well-organised with Liam Dawson and Ashley Cooper solid as a rock.

Cray Valley opened the scoring with 16 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Danny Smith played a sublime through ball along the deck to put Babalola through on goal – splitting Dawson and Cooper – and the striker held his composure while running down the slope to slot the ball underneath keeper Adam Highstead to score from 12-yards.

Watson said: “He had another one in the second half, didn’t he? It’s not a bad finish.

“They were quite high (defensive line) at times in the first half. We were offside a little bit too much. Whether that’s because the runs aren’t timed properly or the balls through not timed properly but we broke the offside trap that time and it was a good finish. He had a bit to do still.”

Dodsworth said: “I think someone on our bench actually said when he goes through he doesn’t miss so I think we were all just waiting for the net to bulge to be fair but then second half if you think about it, I think he’s had a couple of chances and Adam, our keeper, made two top drawer saves from him.”

All of Cray Valley’s five corners came in the first 38 minutes, and Anthony Edgar floated in the first which was hooked towards goal with his back towards goal by centre-half Ashley Sains, which bounced into Highstead’s hands for a comfortable collection.

Halfway through the half, Joe N’Guessan rolled the ball out to Edgar on the right and he floated over a deep cross which was hooked towards the bottom near corner by Babalola, the ball deflecting behind for another corner.

Cray Valley missed a glorious chance to double their lead in the 26th minute.

Edgar swung in an inch-perfect corner from the right, putting it on a plate for Sains, who rose to plant his free-header agonisingly past the near post from six-yards.

“He got a good connection on it, probably tried to put too much power on it,” admitted Watson.

“It was a good opportunity, good delivery. I thought there were a couple of good deliveries in the first half from corners and I thought we looked a threat from set-pieces.”

Dodsworth said: “We spoke about that at half-time.  We realised that we may be needed to not necessarily worry too much about our men to cover that space if it meant taking someone of the post. 

“I can’t actually remember a corner that they had in the second half to be fair.  We would’ve had that covered, that would’ve been something that we noticed straight away because they had a couple of corners in that area.”

It proved to be a glaring miss as K Sports ventured into the Millers penalty area to grab an equaliser – totally against the run of play – with 27 minutes and 6 seconds on the clock.

Sam Butterworth (wide-man) and Connor Morgan (right-back) linked up well down the right and Butterworth played the ball low into the penalty area.  Jeffrey’s driven shot was blocked by Andy Walker’s legs and the Millers failed to clear their lines and Jeffrey drove in a second shot, which deflected off Smith and nestled into the bottom left-hand corner.

Dodsworth said: “He’s come in and scored for us at the weekend, he got the winner at the weekend. He’s a young boy, 17 years’ old and he’s come in and thrown in at the deep end tonight and not only he’s got us a point with that, I thought it was a really good composed finish.

“He’s worked his socks off for us up there and he’s definitely put a statement in to keep that shirt on Saturday.”

Watson said: “I felt that it was probably their first meaningful attack and they’re going to have one aren’t they against-the-run-of-play. I don’t think any games go a full half without the other team having a spell or moment.

“We didn’t defend it very well from our left and as the guy travelled through the middle to have the initial shot and then we had two chances to clear the ball and slashed at it a little bit and it fell to the lad and he’s finished it.  At that stage there’s long enough to go on and win the game.”

Edgar floated in a deep free-kick from the right which was met by Kevin Lisbie’s looping header, which he steered over from a tight angle from the by-line.

Edgar swung in his final corner of the night which was flicked on by Cem Tumkaya at the near post but the right-back’s attempt failed to trouble Highstead, who grabbed hold of the ball.

Lisbie played the ball inside to Edgar, who drove his right-footed angled drive bouncing past the far post from 35-yards.

Reflecting on his thoughts during the half-time break, Watson said: “We were slightly frustrated but we’ve got the ability. Whilst I was disappointed with certain aspects of the performance which I related to them, there was enough time, I felt, to create enough opportunities to go and win the game.  Did we create enough opportunities? Yes.  Did we finish them off? No!”

Dodsworth revealed his players were congratulated going into the break all square.

“We congratulated them and we said to them if we can defend the slope and go in at half-time even one down, I still fancied that we would’ve got something in the second half, so to come in one-all we congratulated the boys,” he said.

“We pointed out a couple of tiny things like the corner and like the fact that we needed to try to get out to the wide players a bit quicker.  In all honesty, the second half performance was even better than the first half performance.”

Cray Valley should have won this encounter and Highstead made a great save to prevent the inevitable winner just 190 seconds in.

K Sports were playing a high defensive line and Cray Valley were caught offside on nine occasions during the game, with the Millers attacking threat of Edgar, Lisbie and Babalola being caught in the trap on three occasions each.

Watson said: “You’ll be inclined to blame the forwards right, for offsides.  It’s not always about that sometimes. The timing of the pass, maybe they played the offside trap well but yes, they played quite high at times. I think they were a bit concerned about our pace.”

Dodsworth said: “It was an organised back four. It was a tiring, aging back four shall we say. Our two centre halves tonight Cooper and Dawson have been superb, they were for us last year and I think their performances tonight, what they lacked maybe in that bit of pace, they used their brains so well tonight and let them walk through into offside positions so that’s testament to them two.

“But in all honesty we spoke about it with our full-backs and we wanted our full-backs to be checking that line and I think they’ve done that fantastically tonight as well.”

Smith, once again, played a sublime ball over the top, which one again split open Cooper and Dawson, to put Babalola through on goal but Highstead rushed off his line and smothered the ball low down to his left.

Watson added: “Good run, good ball, done the right thing. He’s opened up his body. I think he’s shown too much of it to the goalkeeper to be honest but he’s finished one not too dissimilar in the first half which he scored from.

“We need to be more clinical. I go back to Saturday against Greenways when we’ve won 4-2 (in the Kent Senior Trophy) but the amount of chances that we’ve created, we should’ve scored more goals.”

Dodsworth was full of praise for keeper Highstead.

“I would say his shot-stopping has got to be the best that I’ve seen in the league,” he said.

“He’s a bit of a character Adam but the one thing that he’s brought to us, there’s been many, many games that he’s kept us in it this year and I think certainly on one-on-one situations I don’t think there’s many better keepers than him in this league at the moment.”

N’Guessan, who plays behind the front two of Babalola and Lisbie, cut in from the right to curl his left-footed shot towards goal from 25-yards but the ball was caught at head height by the untroubled Highstead.

N’Guessan had a second attempt just 143 seconds later when his pacey run took him into the box but Highstead stood tall for as long as he could before getting down low to parry the shot at his near post.

K Sports ventured forward and missed a glorious chance to steal the lead in the 58th minute.

James Alderman swung in a free-kick from the right touchline close to the corner flag and the ball skimmed off Dawson’s head and sailed across the keeper and past the far post from six-yards out.

Dodsworth said: “I think that’s the difference between a side that we are and a side that’s challenging at the top.  Those chances get stuck in the back of the net but I can’t fault Dawson today.  For a lad that’s come in and in and out and started the season and left to go to Lordswood and he’s come in and been an absolute rock again tonight and he’s run himself into the ground so we can forgive him for a missed header.”

Denzel Gayle had a quiet game for the home side but he linked up well with Babalola down the right and played the ball inside to Lisbie at the near post. The former Charlton Athletic star striker couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet so set up Babalola, who lashed his shot over the crossbar when well-placed.

“Denzel’s doing a different role for the team to what you may have seen him doing so there were spells in the game that passed him by.  I think if you’re playing in a wide position sometimes it can be like that,” explained Watson, who then reflected on Lisbie’s chance.

“Again, it’s good composure in the box. If he doesn’t feel like he can shoot, he’s going to look to pass to someone else.  Maybe it was a slightly over-weighted pass.”

It was obvious during the final 20 minutes that K Sports were playing to hang on to gain a point as they put men behind the ball and Jeffrey was a lone wolf up front on his own when he did break from their defensive shape off-the-ball.

Dodsworth said: “I think the thing that we had to realise was we knew they were going to have massive spells of possession.  You don’t have the players that they’ve got and the personalities that they got not to expect to have lots of play, so we knew we had to bank up.  We had to defend a lot of the game and I think we did.  We nullified them quite a bit in the first half and we made them go a lot longer than what they’re probably used to I would imagine and that was our game plan from the start so over the moon.”

Gayle cut inside K Sport’s left-back Robert Town but dragged his left-footed shot past the right-hand post.

K Sports almost committed a night-time robbery in Eltham when they finally broke forward and almost scored in the final 13 minutes.

Substitute midfielder Alex Arif broke down the heart of the pitch and overhit a low pass, which was cleared out to James Shield, who bent a low right-footed curler towards the bottom right-hand corner from 22-yards, which forced Walker to hold onto the ball, low to his left.

“A bit of a tired shot I think,” admitted Dodsworth.

“He picks up those lovely little pockets like that all the time. We’re desperately trying to get him to shoot more so the fact that he’s actually got his shot away is progress for us I think.

“It’s a tired shot and very surprised if someone of Walker’s quality would let that in from there. It’s another chance, it’s another tick in the shots column for us.”

Watson added: “He didn’t have loads to do Walks but it’s important as a goalkeeper like that when the games shifted more towards the opposition’s territory that you stay on your toes.”

Steve Rothery slotted in at left-back, while Town moved over to right-back, while Morgan slotted in beside Jason Perry – and then Edas Valionis, when he came on for Cooper, who followed Dawson as being subbed after a great night’s work at the back.

Cray Valley created – and missed – a couple of late chances.

Gayle played the ball inside to Edgar, who turned Arif and swept his left-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 22-yards, which was comfortably saved by Highstead.

Edgar released Lisbie through on goal but he played the wrong ball, trying to put through Babalola through the middle, rather than shooting and Highstead smothered the ball at the strikers feet again.

K Sports travel to second-from-bottom side Rusthall on Saturday, a side that have collected only four points from their 11 league outings.

Dodsworth defended his side’s negative tactics against a side challenging for the league title.

“We don’t want anyone to enjoy playing against us, that’s the point me, Brownie and Graham (Martin) said at the start of the season. We’ve got a way that we play, there’s a K Sports way.  There’s the old APM way that I used to be the captain off and had so many years with and we’ve got a way that we do things.  We know what we are and tonight we thoroughly deserved that point 100%.”

Cray Valley, who host a surprise package in second-placed Fisher on Saturday, just couldn’t break down K Sports defence and Watson criticised their negative tactics.

“Once they got the equaliser they were happy with a draw.  I’ve got a different job to their manager, haven’t I? I’ve got to win games.  Having said that I have the philosophy it may sound naïve but any game I go into I will set out to win, albeit Oxford City in The FA Cup or whereever we’re playing, we will go out to win.

“Some people will be happy with a draw but I want to win games. I won’t want to settle for a draw but there are managers who are happy with other types of results.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Cem Tumkaya, Danny Smith, Paul Semakula, Ashley Sains, Tyler Myers (Liam Hickey 75), Denzel Gayle, Anthony Edgar, Francis Babalola, Kevin Lisbie, Joe N’Guessan.
Subs: Josh James, Ryan Flack, Jack White, Nathan Palmer

Goal: Francis Babalola 17

K Sports: Adam Highstead, Connor Morgan, Robert Town, Jason Perry, Ashley Cooper (Edas Valionis 84), Liam Dawson (Steve Rothery 81), James Alderman, Jack West (Alex Arif 70), James Jeffrey, James Shield, Sam Butterworth.
Subs: Matthew Gething, Charlie Himbury

Goal: James Jeffrey 28

Attendance: 70
Referee: Mr Alvaras Lukauskis (Deptford, London SE8)
Assistants: Mr Silvester Aina (Belvedere) & Mr Ashley Rodi (Tunbridge Wells)