Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 2-0 Sevenoaks Town - I think having one eye on the cup final is the problem, admits Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins

Tuesday 11th April 2017
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 2 – 0 Sevenoaks Town
Location DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 11/04/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 11th April 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium

SEVENOAKS TOWN boss Micky Collins admitted that his players had one eye on their Cup Final tonight.

Cray Valley leapfrogged over Sheppey United to return to the top-four in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table on 66 points – six points behind third-placed Sevenoaks Town – courtesy of two second-half goals from central midfielder Tom Fitzgerald, 25.

Cray Valley manager James Collins, who is not related to the Sevenoaks Town manager, made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to league leaders Ashford United in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final in Maidstone on Sunday afternoon.

“I thought we were absolutely outstanding tonight,” said Millers manager James Collins.

“I was so pleased.  I said after the game on Sunday we gave a good account of ourselves. I just thought we were different on Sunday.  I thought we had come on.  We lost but I had so many positives from Sunday and I just said today can we just compete and dig in and can you show me that same fight that you showed me on Sunday?

“Man to a man I thought we were absolutely outstanding (tonight). I was so pleased with them.  I’ve given them a hard time this year but what a performance, they were brilliant.

“We made a few changes but in the main it was the same kind of squad.  On paper it’s a tough game, Ashford and Sevenoaks within two days of each other but sometimes it’s just best to get going again. 

“They got their group chat and they were talking to put it right and stuff and I think they sensed that we were a different side on Sunday.

“We’ve shown in our last two games that we can compete against the top teams in the league, which is what I wanted all season. It maybe be a little bit too late for this year but at least it shows we’ve come a long way.”

For Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins, their eighth league defeat of the season proved to be a hard one to take.

He said: “Disappointed with that. First half we were ok, I thought we played well, played some good stuff.  We didn’t take our chances. 

“Second half, we’ve come out, the ref’s made a poor decision in giving a corner but irrespective of that we haven’t defended it, we’ve switched off and they’ve scored a good goal.

“You still need to be professional. You need to go out there and get results irrespective of where you are in the league. That’s it.

“For me they showed a lot more passion than us in the second half and got their just rewards and their three points and they deserved it pretty much so.”

Billy Bennett returned to the Sevenoaks Town midfield after injury and he rolled the ball into winger Kieron McCann, who lashed his left-footed drive over the crossbar from 15-yards after only 31 seconds.

Micky Collins said: “He’s got to hit the target! He’s got to hit the net.  He’s gone for power. I don’t think there’s teams to think he’s got time to chop it on to his right-foot but that’s just how it is for us at the moment in front of goal. We’re not that prolific and it’s shown in the results.”

James Collins added: “He should score, shouldn’t he?  When the game’s 1-0 it could be a different game.

“We said the first 20 minutes is going to be hard.  We said can you get through the first 20 minutes? If you can get through the first 20 minutes, Sunday will gradually leave your body and it will become a little bit easier.  The last 20 minutes will be difficult but can you ride whatever they throw at us in the first 20 minutes.

“I think that was a little bit of a let-off and maybe we deserved that.”

Cray Valley’s first opening arrived swiftly, timed at 198 seconds, when holding midfielder Joe Matthews split open the Sevenoaks box to play winger Aaron Rhule down the left but goalkeeper Rob French came out towards the corner of the box to stick out his right leg to make a vital block.

James Collins said: “It was a chance wasn’t it? It’s something that we’ve been working on in training with the two wide boys getting in behind the full-backs. Aaron’s a real danger when he gets in behind.  I thought the keeper came a long way to be honest but look he’s done well. If he wins the ball you say it’s a good decision, so it was good goalkeeping.”

Micky Collins said: “Frenchie has done well there. He’s read it and he’s come out and he’s made the challenge and it’s just got cleared away.”

Jason Thompson’s left-footed free-kick was headed away and Ashley Sains found himself in space to clip the ball back into the box which was met by Matthews’ header from 12-yards, which was comfortably caught by French.

Sevenoaks Town then created a flurry of chances within a six minute period.

Winger Harrison Carnegie played a one-two with Bennett down the right and his shot was pushed onto the crossbar by Jordan Carey’s outstretched left-hand at his near post.

McCann then cut inside to unleash a right-footed shot from 35-yards, which was pushed behind by Carey, diving high to his left in the 14th minute.

Chris Edwards’ corner from the right was cleared out to Carnegie, who took a touch and his 35-yard drive slightly deflected off Thompson and sailed just over the crossbar.

Edwards’ fourth corner of the night was met by a free header by Oaks’ central defender Tom Ripley, which sailed over from eight-yards out.

And dominant Sevenoaks last chance during this spell saw Joe Bingham cross from the right and McCann rose to send his downward header bouncing into Carey’s hands from 10-yards.

Reflecting on those chances, the Sevenoaks boss Micky said: “That’s us at the moment – we’re huff and puff.

“We played some good stuff and we were in the right areas. We put the balls in the box but we’re not putting them away and that’s probably cost us all season and that’s what it is.

“We put balls in the box but we’re not putting them away and that’s probably cost us all season and that’s what it is.

“When we manage to get an early goal, we seemed to go on and get quite a few but all the time is tougher and we did tonight.”

James Collins added: “We’re very good defending the box, we’ve been good at doing it all year. We’ve got some big boys in there.  We know we had to weather a little bit of a storm and we’ll have to find our feet a little bit so to get through those first 20 minutes was really key and I think we defended well apart from that chance in the first minute. I thought we limited them.”

The game then turned into a dull encounter for an hour from the 20th minute as goalscoring chances were at a premium.

Cray Valley went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 32nd minute after Rhule’s run was ended by Carnegie’s challenge.

Thompson composed himself by standing 30-yards from goal with both of his hands on his hips before running up to strike a left-footed shot towards the bottom left-hand corner. French scrambled across his goal and was relieved to see the ball bounce just past the foot of the post.

James Collins admitted: “I thought if we were going to score we’d might have to rely on a set-piece.”

Micky Collins added: “Decent effort, decent effort. Frenchie’s scrambled across but luckily it wasn’t on target.”

Thompson’s next set-piece attempt, 30-yards out on the right-hand side, drifted past the top of the near post and behind for a goal-kick.

Carey will need to work on coming off his line to attempt to punch – Ashford’s Cup winning goal came from failing to collect George Savage’s deep cross and allowing Shaun Welford to get to the ball first by scoring with a trademark header with 10 minutes left.

Carey came out to punch Edwards’ in-swinging free-kick from the left, the ball was cleared out to Carnegie, but his left-footed shot from 25-yards sailed into Carey’s hands to make a comfortable catch in the end.

When asked whether tiredness was creeping into his players’ bodies and minds, the Cray Valley boss replied: “I don’t know. I thought they would be tired.  I said to them you’ve got all the excuses in the world today but we can have an excuse and you cannot get anything or we can turn it into a win.  We didn’t get anything on Sunday and I think we deserved something going on the first half performance. I thought we deserved something.  I said just see it through, just keep competing and just dig-in and the harder it gets the harder we work!”

Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins added: “I was quite pleased with the way we played in the first half.  I thought we were dynamic and I thought we had a go.  Just wanted them doing what we’re doing, just be a bit more clinical in front of goal and I thought second half we never came out and we were just very, very poor second half.”

A crowd of 62 endured a pretty boring second half – but Cray Valley broke the stalemate with three minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Sevenoaks won six of their nine corners in the first half and created little, while the Millers scored from their second of four corners.

Thompson swung in another quality delivery from the left and Fitzgerald rose to plant his header into the top left-hand corner from 10-yards.

“It’s a great header from Tom and I’m pleased for Tom because he didn’t get on, on Sunday and he could’ve sulked but what a response from him.

“JT puts balls into good areas. We work on it a lot and we’ve had a bit of joy recently. Maybe it’s not too late because it’s our first year together but it’s something we didn’t score enough goals from. We now seem to be scoring a few more goals from his deliveries.

“I thought that gave us something to hang onto. If I’m honest, I never really say it, I would’ve taken a draw tonight.  I just wanted a performance and I thought if we put on a performance are we are good enough to grind out a point?

“I thought it gave us a bit of a lift and the tiredness becomes a little bit easier because you’ve got something to hold on to.” 

Micky Collins added: “Unmarked, that’s the difference!  The ref has made a poor decision but they’ve given a corner. We’ve got to switch on and be professional and we haven’t. We haven’t picked up, Chris Edwards was marking him, he hasn’t picked up and the guy’s got a free header.

“As I’ve said to them in there, we’ve have nine corners and how many free headers did we get? None!”

And nothing much happened apart from five substitutions and bookings until the game came back to life for the final 10 minutes.

Substitute Denzel Gayle came on and livened things up and played a one-two with Fitzgerald, who played the ball out to right-back Alastair Gordon, who cut the ball back to Gayle, who whipped in a first time cross into the box from the right, which was met on a volley by Fitzgerald from 12-yards, which went straight at French, who held on to the ball.

James Collins said: “That was a good chance! Denzel’s (Gayle) a threat. He was carrying a knock, he wasn’t fit to start but Aaron Rhule worked his socks off.  I just thought if we could get a little bit more pace, it would’ve taken a little bit of the pressure off.

“I don’t suppose it was massively enjoyable second half from the neutral but listen I’m happy with that because we weren’t able to come out and play free-flowing football after Sunday.”

Five minutes later, Fitzgerald played in a low cross from the right but McDonagh scuffed his first time shot straight at the Sevenoaks keeper.

“You’re hoping that doesn’t come back to bite you,” admitted Cray Valley boss James Collins.

“You played so well and you’re thinking have we missed a chance to seal it but Taylor was outstanding. He played 90 minutes in that heat the other day and he’s played centre back today and then he’s played centre midfield.  He’s made the box, it was a good run. It was a good move. On another day maybe he scores.”

Micky Collins said: “I didn’t think they felt sorry for themselves at all. The deserved the three points tonight and they defended well and played to their strengths and they got two goals.”

Gayle drove a shot over the crossbar from 25-yards, as Sevenoaks Town offered very little during a poor second half performance at the other end.

Cray Valley grabbed a second goal, which was timed at three minutes and 35 seconds into injury time, hitting their opponents on the break.

Fitzgerald played a low pass up to Adjei, who played a reverse pass in behind for Fitzgerald to run onto.  The ball bounced up off the dusty but green pitch and the midfielder nodded the ball past the advancing keeper and kept his composure to slot his right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner of an empty net.

The Millers manager said: “I’m pleased for him because he didn’t get on in the cup final and his attitude is spot on.  He always comes in and does well. He was brilliant today and I’m pleased for him.  The boys were on top of him afterwards and that’s nice for him but he worked so hard and he got what he deserved.”

Micky Collins added: “The second one is a bit fortuitous but fair play, the guy’s run it down and got his toe it in and finished it off.

“For me, second half we just didn’t turn up!”

Sevenoaks Town’s only chance of the second half came in the 51st minute when substitute Francisco Mbela forced Carey into making a fine double save to his left.

Micky Collins said: “He possibly could’ve scored the first one if he was further away from the keeper.   The second one, the keeper’s stood big and made a good save. They deserved their clean sheet, they defended well.  You can’t take nothing away from that. It was 90 minutes of decent, not so much second half, they’ve got a clean sheet and three points, fair play.”

“He’s been outstanding for the last couple of games,” said Cray Valley’s manager.

“I’m pleased for him because when you’re making loads of saves people expect it but what’s his concentration like when he hasn’t got a lot to do? He was pretty quiet second half. I thought we defended well but he’s made big saves when he’s had to and that’s what top goalkeeper’s do.  He’s come on a million miles from when we first got him.”

James Collins, meanwhile, faces a fight to keep the 18-year-old Carey.

“I’d love to keep him but I want him to kick on as well,” said James Collins.

“He’s such a god goalkeeper. How far do you think he can play? I’ve watched the Ryman League and I think he’s capable of doing it.  I don’t think it’ll be the hardest thing in the world if he stays for another year. If people are going to come in for him and ask him to be number two and sit on the bench I don’t think that will do him any favours.  I don’t think he can do it but if he comes to say to me and someone’s offered him x amount of money and he’s going to play every week in the Ryman League that’s probably the next step for him.

“He’s 18. You watch that level of football. For me he’s got all the attributes. It’s just in between his ears. If he can sort that out….”

Sevenoaks Town welcome Canterbury City to Greatness Park on Saturday, before traveling to plummeting Erith Town on Bank Holiday Monday.  They then welcome relegation threatened Fisher (22 April), before hosting Croydon on the last day of the season.

Micky Collins said: “I want them to be passionate. I want them to forget third, fourth, fifth, it’s an irrelevance. If you’re not going to win it, it doesn’t matter but what I do want us to do is I want us to be in the right frame of mind for a final where we’re playing good stuff and we’re all positive and for me first half, yes bang on the money, second half, not good enough.

“We have a big say in who could go down so we have to be honourable to the other teams who are down there. 

“It’s going to be a tough game on Saturday because Canterbury are a good side, so we need to pick ourselves up, bounce back. We want to win our last four games, there’s no doubt about that.”

Sevenoaks Town then lock horns with Sheppey United in the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final at Tonbridge Angels’ Longmead Stadium on Saturday 6 May, looking to win their first piece of silverware.

“For me, they showed a lot more desire than us in the second half and got their just rewards and got their three points and they deserved it.

“Once you concede you’ve got to step it up and we didn’t and we’ve been guilty of that recently and that’s why we’re not up the top and that’s why we’re not challenging enough for the league title.  But we have got our hearts on it and we need to calm down a little bit, think about where we are, pull ourselves together and make sure that we make a good first of it for the last few games and we go into that last game of the season in fighting spirit and at the moment I’m not getting that.

“I think having one eye on the Cup Final is the problem, that’s the bit.  It’s the last game of the season, we’ve only got so many players who can play in it and when we’ve got an on it and the boys who know they’re going to be in that squad I think are playing within themselves and I’ve just told them in there.”

Cray Valley, meanwhile, complete their campaign against Rochester United (away, Saturday); AFC Croydon Athletic (home, 17 April); Dulwich Hamlet (home, 20 April, London Senior Cup Semi-Final (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding)), (home, 20 July);  Whitstable Town (away, 22 April) and Sheppey United (away, 26 April).

Now in the top-four, James Collins added: “I’ve said you’ve worked so hard, it’s the final straight now. It’s going to be hard but let’s really, really dig as deep as we can and try to finish on a high.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Jordan Carey, Alastair Gordon, Danny Smith, Joe Matthews, Ashley Sains, Taylor McDonagh, Aaron Rhule (Denzel Gayle 72), Jamie Miller, Jason Thompson (Jamie Wood 68), Tom Fitzgerald, Enoch Adjei.
Subs: Steve Springett, Laurence Collins, Tom Youngs

Goals: Tom Fitzgerald 49, 90

Booked: Enoch Adjei 75, Danny Smith 88, Tom Fitzgerald 90

Sevenoaks Town: Rob French, Marvin Okundalaiye, Sherif Babatunde, Chris Edwards, Tom Ripley, Jack Miles, Harrison Carnegie, Billy Bennett (Francisco Mbela 68), Byron Walker (Brett Ince 68), Joe Bingham, Kieron McCann (Greg Benbow 68).
Subs: Toby Lansdale, Jimmy Rogers

Booked: Byron Walker 51, Chris Edwards 55, Jack Miles 66

Attendance: 62
Referee: Mr Tom Nicholls (Hither Green, London SE13)
Assistants: Mr Joseph Dann-Pye (Maidstone) & Mr Sam Jackson (Hempstead)

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