Erith & Belvedere 0-3 Sheppey United - Winning the league wasn't a part of the equation this season but hang on a minute we're in with a shout, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Sunday 11th December 2016
Erith & Belvedere 0 – 3 Sheppey United
Location Park View Road, Welling, Kent DA16 1SY
Kickoff 11/12/2016 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Sunday 11th December 2016
Stephen McCartney reports  from Park View Road

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says his club are the outsiders to win the Southern Counties East Football League title at the first attempt.


The Ites leapfrogged over Hollands & Blair, Sevenoaks Town and Crowborough Athletic into second-place in the table on 42 points from 20 games, one point adrift of Ashford United, who have two games in hand.

This was a boring game that was watched by 83 spectators at Park View Road and Sheppey United sealed a flattering 3-0 win courtesy of goals inside the final 19 minutes.

Timmy Babbington broke the deadlock and it seemed that Sheppey United were going to claim a deserved single goal victory.

The only two busy people for the home club were goalkeeper Sam I’Anson who made a string of fine saves and physio Courtney Dobson, who treated central defender Aaron Fray (hamstring), central midfielder Paul Springett (ankle ligaments) and lone striker Sebastian Schoburg (hamstring).

Having used all of their subs, Schoburg’s withdrawal with 10 minutes remaining, let in Sheppey, who added two goals inside injury time.  Winger Babbington scored his ninth goal of the season, before striker Dan Bradshaw slotted in his eighth of the season.

Sheppey United got out of the traps quickly, playing against an Erith & Belvedere side that have suffered three defeats on the spin.

“Very pleased today, I thought it was a professional performance,” said Batten during the post-match press conference.

“It’s always going to be difficult on this ground with the slope as it is. The home teams normally know how to play that and I thought first half we came in 0-0 but we had a couple of clear cut chances that we didn’t convert and generally thought that we were solid and that we played some good football.”

For Erith & Belvedere, John Wilfort has a young side and is working with a low playing budget and they remain in fourteenth-place in the table with 17 points from 19 games following their 10th league defeat of the season.

“Don’t think it was a 3-0 game up until we had the injuries and we had to make changes,” came Wilfort’s truthful assessment.

“I thought we was quite comfortable. They had a few chances but I thought we were keeping them at bay and moving the ball around well but it all changed when I had the injuries.

“I lost our skipper with his hamstring and then literally after that Geordie (Springett) done all his ligaments on his ankle so he’s had to come off and then with 10 minutes to play we’re playing with 10 men because Seb’s done his hamstring as well.

“Listen, it weren’t a 3-0 game! I think that’s flattered them a little bit, but a bit disappointing for us.  Listen, when you’re down there you have to make your own luck. We’ve got no luck at the moment.  Those situations, we’ve made the changes and it’s killed us.”

Bradshaw played the ball into Remel Davis, who played Bradshaw in behind the Deres defence and his right-footed drive from 15-yards was palmed away by busy goalkeeper Sam I’Anson, who had a great game, after only 79 seconds.

“Sam’s been really good for me. He’s made some great saves in every game he’s played in so I haven’t really got a bad word to say about Sam,” said Wilfort.

“He’s grown and grown. He’s been training with (Ryman One South side) Greenwich Borough to help him out with his goalkeeping stuff.”

“Dan’s come out of the league below, he’s scored a few goals already for us. I think he’s scored seven, scored his eighth today and he’s hungry and he’s got a point to prove,” added Batten.

Joseph Fornah’s long throw from the right was flicked on by Davis and Babbington poked the ball straight at I’Anson, who then saw Babbington drag his right-footed shot just past the foot of the near post after good link-up play from Richard Atkins and Davis in the build-up.

Sheppey United left-back Karn Miller-Neave took a touch before whipping in a cross and a couple of knock downs by Atkins and Bradshaw set up Ian Batten, who hooked a looping volley into I’Anson’s hands from 16-yards.

Erith & Belvedere rode the 12 minute storm but with only Schoburg up front on his own, and two wingers who failed to provide him any surface, the home side were a poor attacking outfit.

Good play from Miller-Neave and Bradshaw sent Babbington through on goal but once inside the box the winger lacked composure and drilled his shot harmlessly wide when he only had the keeper to beat.

Davis scuffed a poor left-footed shot from 30-yards into I’Anson’s hands for a comfortable save in the 25th minute.

The best it got for Erith & Belvedere was a 0.10% chance in the 31st minute of the game – yes they were that woeful!

Josh Fernandes, one of three central midfielders, clipped the ball over Rob Saunders’ head to put Schoburg through but Dean Warford came off his line to bravely smother at the strikers’ feet.

I’Anson can be the only Erith & Belvedere player that can come out of this game with any credit and he kept his side in the game in the 38th minute.

Miller-Neave whipped in a cross from the left, which came out to Ian Batten, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot towards the top right-hand  corner from 20-yards, only for I’Anson to claw the ball away high to his left.

I’Anson stuck out his left leg to prevent Atkins’ low shot nestling into the bottom far corner of the net after the Sheppey United striker was played in behind by Babbington’s pass.

“We were pressing, had chances come and go and it’s like at any level, you have to take your chances,” said Batten.

“We’re a little disappointed that we haven’t taken one by half-time. I said to the lads we’re going down the slope this half and we have to keep composed, be patient and try to get the first goal.”

Wilfort added: “That’s what Sam does though! When people go through he’s normally good with that sort of stuff.  That’s why I say he’s been really good for us, some games he’s played in, it could’ve been more!”

Erith & Belvedere received a big slice of luck on the stroke of half-time when skipper Fray, who was holding his side together at the back during a one-sided  first half, sliced his clearance just over his own crossbar after another excellent delivery in from Miller-Neave.

When asked about restricting Erith & Belvedere, Batten said: “Very pleased. I’ve said to you in previous conversations we’re a team evolving. We’re trying different players, trying to find that set side and it’s difficult getting the last few pieces of the jigsaw.

“I’ve brought in a couple of young Ebbsfleet players on loan, our back four today, the left-back was 18, the centre halves were 18 and 19 and the right-back was 20.  They were solid today and I was very pleased to see that.”

When asked about creating nothing in Sheppey’s penalty area, Wilfort explained: “It was hard. Over the last month or so I’ve lost a lot of players, gone to clubs at a higher level and I’m happy with that. I’m doing something right there that they’re going to clubs at a higher level, but they’re hard to replace so it’s a matter of getting a couple of youngsters in. 

“I’ve got some on loan from the Bromley Academy, Dulwich Hamlet, so it’s bad because of results.  I’m getting players and producing them and letting them go to a higher level. 

“I’m not going to use money (as an excuse) because too many managers are quick to go ‘we ain’t got no money!’  It is what it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Wilfort said: “I just said to them ‘just keep trying to play, don’t panic, don’t try to force things.’

“I think we forced things sometimes when we didn’t need to and because of the shape we played with one up top, we had to take our time getting the ball forward, moving the ball around the park and I actually thought we moved it around quite well.  We just never had that killer pass going forward. Everything was to the side, to the side, too much today.”

Batten said: “It’s one of them. Sometimes you come in and you think we should be a couple up here, but we’re not, so we’ve got to play for the next chance and if we keep the same composure and keep playing well, then chances will come.”

There was uncertainty whether Sheppey United’s first attempt on goal during the second half would have counted because Howard Collins rose his flag while Atkins slid his shot past the foot of the near post after being played in by Davis after 108 seconds.

Erith & Belvedere created their first opening in the 51st minute when Fernandes played the ball to Springett, who stretched to send his right-footed shot from 30-yards over the crossbar.

Wilfort said: “He tried to hit it with the outside of his foot. He done that the other night against Sevenoaks and put it in the top corner but I mean two games in a row….

“Geordie’s been good for us. I’m asking him to play centre half, centre midfield and he does it. He’s my number two, we talk all the time, he’s been good for me.”

I’Anson produced another great save to deny Sheppey United breaking the deadlock in the 66th minute.

Miller-Neave delivered a free-kick into the penalty area from 35-yards and Saunders came up from the back to direct his back-header towards the top left-hand corner from 16-yards, forcing I’Anson to move across his goal quickly to catch the ball.

Wilfort said: “I think it was one for the cameras to be honest but again he’s still there to save it.”

“I think their keeper was excellent today and pulled off a series of very good saves,” added Batten.

“In football, this happens doesn’t it? We’ve all been to games and you have chances come and go and you start to think ‘shall I change it or shall we stay as we are?

“Football comes down to taking your opportunities at most levels and that did creep in. We did change the formation during the last 25 minutes. We went back to 4-4-2, got Timmy Babbington out on the right-hand side and he unlocked them in the end.”

Atkins cut the ball onto his left foot but his shot from 25-yards lacked power and I’Anson was able to make a comfortable save.

Babbington smacked a volley high over the bar, high over the fence and into Park View Road after Bradshaw’s cut back from the right by-line after the striker chased the ball down the channel after Fornah’s long ball.

Babbington smashed the stalemate by bringing the game back from the dead with the game’s opening goal, timed at 25 minutes and 35 seconds.

George Batten’s sublime pass found Babbington in a pocket of space and the winger flicked his shot past I’Anson with the outside of his right boot from 16-yards to the delight of the travelling fans and his manager.

“Very pleased with that,” said manager Batten. 

“Five minutes prior to that we just changed our formation and decided to go back to 4-4-2, which we have done mainly during the season but we’ve got a wealth of talent up front. Sometimes we’ll play the three. It was a well-worked goal, a great ball from George and a good finish from Timmy.”

When asked about Babbington’s road shot, Batten joked: “Yes, I think they’re still looking for that one! It’s definitely come down with snow on it, that’s for sure!”

Wilfort blamed the goal on Jeff Allen’s poor defending in the left-back position.

“Very disappointed because we’ve had a problem conceding goals down that side for the last three or four games for some reason, I don’t know why,” he said.

“The lad’s been playing there have been quite good. It seems to be that side at the moment, where we’re conceding.

“I still think we was in the game at 1-0 down. I know they’ve scored from a run of play and the lad’s got in which I think is poor from our part but I still thought we had some chances.

“I didn’t think they were great at the back but I thought our wingers struggled a little bit today. I thought their left-back (Miller-Neave) was brilliant for me. I think he’s one of the best left-backs I’ve seen in this league. He’s only young. I think they’ve got him on loan from Ebbsfleet but the kid was brilliant but we just could’ve find that killer pass.”

Although Erith & Belvedere offered nothing up front, it was only until Schoburg’s withdrawal – the striker was guilty of letting the ball bounce off him often – that Sheppey United pounced.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t think they even realised we were down to ten and that’s the truth,” claimed Wilfort.

“I thought they moved the ball well when we did go down to ten but again poor from us where the goals came from.  They’re easy goals.  We’re giving teams easy chances. 

“Listen, I’m not taking it away from them. We’ve played them twice now. I think they’re a good side, fair play to Ernie. He’s got a good side there.”

Babbington played a one-two with substitute Matthew Getting but Bradshaw clipped his shot straight into I’Anson’s hands when he only had the keeper to beat some six-yards from goal.

“That was another one that got away,” admitted Batten.

“As a striker myself I know chances come and go and that was a manager I’m never concerned when chances are missed. As a fact you have to be in there to miss them. All good forwards will miss chances, it’s a percentage game.”

Wilfort added: “Sam’s come out well really and smothered himself. Again, Sam’s good at that, one-on-ones. He makes himself big and he comes out. I thought they had a chance but I was quite comfortable with Sam in there."

Miller-Neave whipped in a deep cross from the left which flashed across the face of the box and was controlled by Babbington, who was given space to sweep his shot across I’Anson and nestling into the bottom far corner with 44:50 on the clock.

“I was pleased with the patience we showed in the second half,” said Batten.

“It was a deep cross over to the right hand side of the box and Timmy came onto it and I thought that fooled the keeper. I thought it was a cross-come-shot and that nestled into the bottom left-hand corner.

“You miss a few chances frustration can creep in, but I thought that we kept going and our level of performance was the same right through.”

Wilfort added: “I think he was crossing it to be honest, I really do!  I believe that was a cross. I don’t think that was a shot. It was a cross but it’s gone in.

“Again, we haven’t dealt with him.  I said to the boys at half-time he’s not playing as a winger, he’s playing off the shape and playing in between the lines and we just kept giving him space all the time.”

Erith & Belvedere’s only shot on target finally arrived with 50:12 on the clock.

Substitute Grant Brown’s right-footed free-kick from 28-yards bounced into the hands of Sheppey keeper Warford, who was a spectator for the rest of the game.

Wilfort said: “Well, would you call that a free-kick? It wasn’t good enough today. He’s got to try to work the keeper but listen the game was gone by then. The game was finished, the game was over by them. We were down to ten men and trying to chase the game. It was never going to happen.”

“We work hard in training and we play a passing game and we work on closing down and today all round the park we did that and restricted them to that one effort on goal,” added Batten.

Sheppey United scored a flattering third goal with 52:21 on the clock – referee Alexis Stacchini blew for full-time at 53:18.

Fornah drove a long ball forward from right-back to put Bradshaw through on goal straight though the middle of the pitch and he placed his right-footed shot past I’Anson into the bottom right-hand corner.

Wilfort claimed: “It was five yards offside! It’s laughable! It’s five yards offside but the kids still got to finish it off and he finished it fair play to him.

“I’m not one to hate on officials because too many do. Some of the decisions are laughable. It’s every week. If you blame them, you get in trouble.”

Batten replied: “I didn’t see whether it was or wasn’t offside but I think that was reward for Dan. He absolutely worked incessantly in that game and he deserved that goal.”

There are five clubs that have a major say in whom will go on to win the league title at the end of the season.

Ashford United (43 points from 18 games); Sheppey United (42 points from 20 games); Crowborough Athletic (41 points from 17 games); Sevenoaks Town (39 points from 17 games) and Hollands & Blair (39 points from 18 games) are making it an exciting title race going into the festive period.

Batten, who takes his side to seventh-placed Cray Valley next Saturday, said: “It’s a very strange one because I feel that we’re building a squad, we’re building a team. Winning the league wasn’t a part of that equation this season but when you’re second in the league you have to start to think ‘well hang on a minute’, we’re in with a shout!

“We have to keep working hard. There’s a long, long way to go. It’s just basically half the season gone at the moment so we just have to keep doing what we do and see where it takes us.  We’re a little bit of the outsiders this season. We’ve just come up.”

Erith & Belvedere remain 10 points clear of basement side Fisher going into their next game at Canterbury City next Saturday.

Wilfort said: “We’ve had a run of games where we’ve played all the top sides and I said to the boys ‘it’s going to be a struggle against the sides at the top’.

“They’ve (Sheppey) got good players, again I’m not using money as a thing as there’s no need to do it.  They’re paying ok money and they’re getting good players. That’s fine. That’s their business but I just want us to be in the game against those teams, worry about ourselves and try to do our thing.

“We’re struggling in parts of the game and it’s costing us. We’re in the game but it’s the concentration levels. I’ve got some good players here but at the lower levels the concentration spans are really poor and once they switch off we’re getting punished for it and that’s the story at the moment.”

Erith & Belvedere: Sam I’Anson, Nad Nwitua, Jeff Allen, Paul Springett (Grant Brown 65), Aaron Fray (Athanasios Kartsampas 56), Yinka Salami, Anthony Adesite, George Reed (Trey Small 76), Sebastian Schoburg, Josh Fernandes, Sherrif Babatunde.
Subs: Jeff Noubissie, Michael Fahm

Sheppey United: Dean Warford, Joseph Fornah, Karn Miller-Neave, George Batten, Rob Saunders, Joseph Denny, Timmy Babbington, Remel Davis (Carl Harrold 76), Richard Atkins (Matthew Getting 69), Dan Bradshaw, Ian Batten (James Huggins 90).
Sub: Marvin Okundalaiya

Goals: Timmy Babbington 71, 90, Dan Bradshaw 90

Attendance: 83
Referee: Mr Alexis Stacchini (Orpington)
Assistants: Mr Shane Brown (West Kingsdown) & Mr Howard Collins (Horton Kirby)

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