Erith & Belvedere 2-3 Chatham Town - We showed a litlte bit of resilience, says Kevin Watson

Friday 04th July 2014

Pre-Season Friendly
Friday 4th July 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from London Soccer Dome

CHATHAM TOWN manager Kevin Watson says he was happy with his side’s character after they fought back from being 2-0 down to win their opening pre-season game.


After a feisty first half ended goal-less, Erith & Belvedere raced into a 2-0 lead through two goals from impressive left-winger Chris Hubbard.

The Deres – who finished bottom in their only Ryman League Division One North campaign – were to be punished as soon as substitute goalkeeper Charlie Penfold, 16, came off the bench, as Chatham Town striker Ade Yusseff bagged himself a hat-trick to win the game.

“Like I said, it’s a training game. It’s about getting fitness. It’s so early on with regards to pre-season. It’s not much more than that really,” said Watson, 33.

“We lost games last pre-season and you can play well. It’s a good habit to get into more than anything else.

“I thought they were a good outfit, compliments to them. They’ll do well.  Matt gets them so organised.  He’s obviously got a lot of players to choose from and he’ll narrow that down quite a bit I’m sure.  The Kent League will be tough this year and I’m sure they’ll do well in it.”

Matt Longhurst took charge of his first game in charge of Erith & Belvedere after guiding Corinthian to a top-five finish in the Southern Counties East Football League last season.

“Yes, good in spells, in other spells, not as good, but that’s the first game,” said Longhurst, 33.

“We’ve just put the team together so it’s going to take a little bit of time to gel.

“I thought first half we probably shaded it. It was quite a competitive first half, which is good, which is what we wanted. We’ve picked loads of competitive games during pre-season for that reason so really pleased with the first half.

“Second half, we came out the blocks, done brilliant, got ourselves in a 2-0 lead, which means nothing.  We want to win games and defensively I thought one or two players that were on trial tonight disappointed really.

“Perhaps our more senior players in the second half perhaps could have helped the younger ones out a little bit.”

The game was played indoors on a 3G playing surface at the London Soccer Dome, close to the Millennium Dome in Greenwich.

The first half had a League clash mentality to the game as the tackles were flying in.  Referee Wally James went on to book three Chatham Town players during the 90 minutes.

“Yes, it did have that feel about it,” admitted Watson, who himself was booked towards the end of the game.

“I don’t think either manager, me or Matt, had that intension about it.  I suppose it’s just local players, they know each other. The game’s going to be like that. It didn’t spoil too often, anything more than that.”

When asked about his side picking up three yellow cards, Watson replied: “I think he (referee) only done that with the intension like just to show that he had control of the game, if anything.”

Longhurst added: “For a pre-season game it was exactly what we wanted.  I think we’ve tried to choose games wisely.  We’ve chosen the games to be competitive and I think the first half both teams, at times, there were a few miss-timed tackles going in but again we put that down to being pre-season, first game back but I thought the first half was really good.”

Chatham Town – who finished slap bang in the middle (12th) in the Ryman League Division One North table – created the first chance inside the opening 124 seconds but Lee Hales’ right-footed drive looped over the crossbar.

Erith & Belvedere’s first chance, however, followed 67 seconds later when George Humber’s lay-off fashioned a chance for striker Ryan Palmer, but his right-footed drive was beaten away by Jack Bradshaw at his near post.

Alfie May’s shot, which was destined to flash past the near post, was helped behind by former Beckenham Town goalkeeper Rilwan Anibaba,

Hales’ resulting corner was played short to Matt Solly, whose cross from the right was cleared out to Lewis Knight, whose 25-yard drive was tipped over by the Erith & Belvedere goalkeeper.

Hales - who like hat-trick hero Yusseff were the only two players from both sides that played the entire game – played a quickly taken free-kick to play in Alfie May, but he scuffed his shot and Anibaba went to ground early to make a comfortable save low to his right beside his near post.

Erith & Belvedere went close in the fourteenth minute when Charley Hearn whipped in a quality free-kick, but striker Adam Marsh couldn’t apply the finish with his head as he ghosted in.

Despite a frenetic opening 15 minutes, the game started to die down.

Hearn whipped in another free-kick from the left wing, which was punched away by Bradshaw.  The ball was looped back into the box by Colin Richmond and Palmer looped a header harmlessly into Bradshaw’s gloves.

The Deres squandered an excellent chance to take the lead in the 28th minute.

Right-back Allan Matthews ventured forward before playing a low centre towards the near post and Palmer nipped in front of Knight at the near post to stab his right-footed shot agonisingly past the foot of the near post from six-yards.

Palmer, who was signed by the club after the game, but Longhurst admitted he was disappointed in the striker’s club debut.

He said: “I’ll be honest, I spoke to him at half-time when we took him off. I was a little bit disappointed with him really. He should have had a little bit more end product. It’s something that we’re speaking to him about at the moment.

“He’s lively, there’s plenty to work with.  We’ve got some young players and we’ve got three or four experienced players in there who will hopefully help those players as well so it’s pleasing.”

Chatham Town winger Francis Babalola went on a 30-yard run down the left before cutting into the penalty area and his left-footed drive brought a comfortable low save to the keeper’s left beside the near post.

Chatham Town called Anibaba into making a comfortable save to prevent Alfie May scoring with a right-footed free-kick from 35-yards, which bounced into the gloves of the highly-rated stopper.

Longhurst hailed the brilliant save from Bradshaw that denied his side their opening goal of the new season three minutes before the break.

Palmer stole the ball off left-back Lawrence Collins and whipped in a cross which was cleared out to Hearn, who cracked a right-footed curling volley, which was destined to scream into the corner, but Bradshaw dived to his left to produce brilliance.

Longhurst said: “Jack Bradshaw is a decent goalkeeper. I don’t think we’ll probably see many saves better than that all season if I’m honest. It’s a good strike, good save. 

“We fashioned quite a few half chances. We never quite finished them off in the first half but again that’s pre-season. That’s what it’s for so if we’re still doing that after the tenth game of the season then I’ll be getting frustrated but right now that’s what we wanted to see.”

Watson added: “Good save to be fair. A very good save. That was pleasing for Jack.”

The Deres defence gifted Knight a headed chance following Hales’ in-swinging corner from the left, but he glanced his free header wide of the far post.

Former Millwall midfielder Hearn gifted the ball to Alfie May, who drilled his right-footed shot straight at Anibaba.

Longhurst made ten changes at the break, thus giving his entire 22-man squad a run-out, whilst Watson (who played in the heart of defence after the break) utilised all of his sixteen players.

Watson said: “Like I’ve said publicly, we’re not going to have a massive squad. I don’t feel the purpose.  I’ve been in the situation where I have fielded two teams over pre-season and Matt’s doing that because he’s re-building the team.  Obviously it serves that purpose but it’s not something that we need to do.

“I’ll still bring in some players into that squad because today’s included me and Peter (Hawkins, assistant manager), which isn’t Plan A as such.  That was fine because players got minutes.”

Erith & Belvedere changed strip from blue and white quarters into their away strip of red and white quarters, forcing Chatham Town to change into their numberless navy blue training shirts for the second half.

Erith & Belvedere squandered an excellent chance to take an early second half lead but substitute striker Romone McCrae caressed a hooked volley over the bar at the near post after Hubbard whipped in an excellent cross from the left.

Chatham Town almost punished their opponents on the break when Yuseff was released through on goal but he dragged his right-footed angled shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Hales issued the Deres a warning when he whipped in an excellent free-kick from the right but Yuseff headed over when well placed.

But Erith & Belvedere scored the first goal in the 56th minute.

A long ball out of defence from Greg Barton released McCrae through on goal and with only substitute goalkeeper Lee Kidman to beat, he maintained his composure to cut the ball across goal for Hubbard to sweep his shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

Longhurst was full of praise for Hubbard.

He said: “Chris has done really well. He’s been really good pre-season. He’s probably been missing on the Kent League scene for about a year but he’s a player I’ve always liked so we spoke to him about coming pre-season and he’s really enjoyed it. He’s done brilliant.

“It was a good gaol.  Very unselfish from a centre forward seven to nine yards out and he’s side-footed it across the goal.

“Last year we probably had those opportunities to do that and we didn’t have the players capable of making those decisions. Hopefully this year we’re going to have players in the final third that are going to add to our goal tally, which is something that we’ve looked at.”

Watson added: “Offside? No?  I don’t know.  I thought it was offside but some you get, some you don’t. 

“We don’t aim to play offside. If there’s obvious runs you try to do so but the lad’s finished it.  He (McCrae) showed a little bit of composure there (to square it to Hubbard) and that was good.”

Things improved for Erith & Belvedere as they doubled their lead within four minutes.

Luke May played a sublime pass to release Hubbard through on goal, who stroked his right-footed drive past the diving Kidman for the ball to nestle into the bottom near corner from 25-yards.

Longhurst said: “Great pass and he’s still 25-yards out and still had a little bit to do and he beat the keeper at the near post. Good finish.  We said to the front players particularly, we’ve asked them to come off the pitch and look at their performance and say how much of an affect they’ve actually had.

“Chris has come on in the second half and decisions will be made on certain players and he’s certainly not done any harm for himself.

“He’s a player that we’ve watched play for Greenwich Borough, VCD and Beckenham Town so he’s been a player that has been around for a while. He’s a footballer. He’s a kind of player that we like. He’s exciting to watch. He gets at people and I thought he done really well.

“It’s really early in pre-season but we’re looking for people to make an impression on the team and on the squad. Every manager will say he’s got an idea what the team will be but that will change over the course of the next two or three weeks, towards the start of the season.”

Watson felt Kidman should have done better with the goal.

“He’s shot from there and it sort of trickled in at the front post. I don’t think he hit it cleanly as probably he would have liked but it’s gone in and it counts as a goal.”

Chatham Town could have so easily crumbled and Watson was pleased with the positive response from his team.

“There’s a danger that heads go down but we started to get to grips,” he said.

“We struggled at the start of the first half. We changed formation a little bit, which players aren’t really used to and with new players coming in etc, but then it started to settle down a bit and we looked a threat.”

But the introduction of substitute goalkeeper Penfold gave Chatham Town a way back into the game.

Watson’s side pulled a goal back in the 65th minute when Erith & Belvedere switched off at a left-wing corner.

Hales cut the ball back to Yuseff, who curled his right-footed shot around the goalkeeper to find the far corner of the net from just outside the corner of the penalty box.

Watson said: “Good finish to be fair from Ade.  It was a composed finish. He’s curled it in at the back stick.

“It’s nice for him to score goals like that because I wouldn’t say their generally the sort of goals that he scores, so it’s pleasing.”

Longhurst added: “Poor defending. We were not on our toes there.  They had a throw-in just before that and we gave the ball away cheap.

“Lee Hales’ has a decent delivery, he’s played it short and we haven’t switched on. I don’t think we were switched on enough all night from re-starts and that’s something that we need to talk about on Tuesday in training.

“It was a half decent finish but the keeper can do better to be honest.”

Erith & Belvedere squandered an excellent chance to go on and win the game when Paul Springett broke forward, laid the ball off to striker Ross Bassan, but Hubbard drilled his left-footed shot high over the bar.

Penfold made amends when he made a comfortable near post save to thwart Yuseff after the striker caused havoc on the right-hand side of the penalty area.

But Penfold suffered a rush of blood to his head when he sprinted off his line to upend Yuseff, who stepped up and sent the teenager the wrong way with the resulting right-footed penalty, which nestled into the back of the net with eight minutes remaining.

Watson said: “Good penalty as well.  Good composed finish. It’s nice for him. He’s a goalscorer, he thrives on getting goals so I’m pleased for him. That will give him a bit of confidence.”

Longhurst admitted his former Corinthian goalkeeper has to learn from tonight’s game.

“Poor defending! Keeper could probably stay where he is. He’s had a nightmare really.  He’s only sixteen. He’s a fantastic prospect. I’ve given him another opportunity to come and play.

“Maybe a slight mistake from him but we’re not going to blame kids for making mistakes. They’ve got to be given an opportunity to make mistakes.  I’m not going to fault any youngsters.

“I’m a little more disappointed in one or two of the senior players second half because the youngsters have got to learn from their poor decisions and start making better ones so we’ve got no problem with that.”

Yuseff clearly clinched the man-of-the-match award and his powerful running gave the Erith & Belvedere defence problems.

Lee Craig came up from the back to whip in an excellent cross from the right which was stabbed agonisingly wide of the near post by the Chatham Town striker.

Yuseff then turned provider after cutting in from the right to lay the ball off to Matt Solly, who was denied by a morale-boosting save from Penfold, who dived to his right to palm the ball away.

But Chatham Town grabbed the victory in the last minute through Yuseff’s deserved hat-trick.

Benbow played a sublime defence splitting pass to put through Yuseff, who slotted home his match-winning right-footed strike past the keeper.

Watson said: “Again, a nice bit of play.  The second one from the penalty is a good ball from Matt Solly down the side for Ade to get in there and then the last one’s a different type of finish but it was a good team effort.”

Longhurst added: “Luke May’s given the ball away cheaply. All he’s got to do is move the ball along to the right-back and he probably plays it down the side of the other end of the pitch. That’s just a little bit sloppy from Luke.  Luke’s played plenty of games at this level and above so he knows better than that but it’s a little bit of rustiness.

“If they really broken us down and caused us loads of problems then I’ll be a little bit more disappointed but we’ve given them three goals.” 

Hubbard squandered any chance of a hat-trick when he steered his first time shot harmlessly wide after the ball was cleared to him following Minter’s corner.

When asked about playing indoors on a 3G Pitch, Watson said: “It was played at quite a good tempo.  We caught them on the break a few times but it is difficult that surface out there so I think when it comes to things like that it takes the players a while to acclimatise.

“From playing myself, you notice it a bit more as well. While it’s flat out there, the roll of the ball is slightly different. The pace and things like that but it definitely served a purpose.”

Both managers took plenty of positives from their opening warm-up.

Longhurst said: “They were certainly in the game. I’m not saying we were all over them by any shape of imagination, not at all. We’ve given them three cheap goals but probably three pretty much individual mistakes so those mistakes can be cut out.

“I don’t think we’re that far away. I think we’re a little bit off it in terms of fitness levels.  We’ve only just been back but first half I thought it was really good.

“Second half we were good in spells but we lacked a little bit of cohesion.

“I was over the moon with what we’ve produced tonight, looking at the players in terms of the level of performance individually and certainly collectively.

“I thought it was a good game first half. If you paid to watch that you’d be happy to watch a reasonable game of football.”

Reflecting on his trialists, Longhurst added: “We had two seventeen-year-olds at right-back and left-back.

“Joe Brown was with me at Corinthian last year and done fantastic in the second half and the other young boy, Jonathan Tadafe, has literally been a find pretty much out of the trial that we had. He’s never played left-back in his life. I watched him in a trial game. He’s done well.

“They’ll play majority of the year in the under 21s but it’s certainly something that we want to work with.”

Watson said: “I thought we showed a little bit of resilience. The game did get heated and I think both teams stood up to it.  It didn’t over boil which was fine and they looked after each other out there.

“I thought (former Corinthian midfielder) Jamie Taylor done very well, as did a lot of the boys. It takes time for the new boys to get used to each other.

“A few people were playing out of position a few times but it was more of a fitness exercise to get the game tempo.”

Erith & Belvedere: Rilwan Anibaba (Charlie Penfold 63), Allan Matthews (Joe Brown 46), Ben Wilson (Jonathan Tadafe 46, Ben Wilson 86), Ryan Johnson (Luke May 46), Simon Dahl (Greg Barton 46, Billy Parkinson 86), Billy Parkinson (Jordan Clark 46), Colin Richmond (Joe Minter 46), Charley Hearn (Paul Springett 46), Ryan Palmer (Ross Bassan 46), Adam Marsh (Romone McCrae 46), George Humber (Chris Hubbard 46).

Goals:  Chris Hubbard 56, 60

Chatham Town:  Jack Bradshaw (Lee Kidman 46), Jamie Lawrence (Matt Solly 61), Lawrence Collins (Greg Benbow 46), Matt Solly (Lee Craig 46), Peter Hawkins (Kevin Watson 46), Lewis Knight (Lawrence Collins 72), Lee Hales, Jamie Taylor (Jamie Lawrence 86), Alfie May (Francis Babalola 69), Ade Yuseff, Francis Babalola (Ola Odebunmi 46).

Goals:  Ade Yuseff 65, 82 (penalty), 89

Booked:  Matt Solly 20, Alfie May 51, Kevin Watson 90

Attendance: 35
Referee: Mr Wally James (Welling)
Assistants: Mr Hugh Gilroy (Chiswick, London W4) & Mr Marlon Williams (Brixton, London SW9)