Faversham Town 2-1 Leatherhead - I put that up there as one of my best wins as a manager, says Faversham Town boss James Collins

Saturday 30th October 2021
Faversham Town 2 – 1 Leatherhead
Location Salters Lane, Faversham, Kent ME13 8ND
Kickoff 30/10/2021 15:00

The Buildbase FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round
Saturday 30 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Salters Lane

FAVERSHAM TOWN manager James Collins says his walking wounded makeshift team put in a monumental performance to reach the FA Trophy First Round for the first time in the clubs history.

Already without Lewis Chambers (ankle) and leading goalscorer Harry Harding (knee ligaments), Faversham’s players were dropping like flies during this hard-fought encounter against a struggling Leatherhead outfit.

The Lilywhites lost right-back Donvieve Jones (hamstring), centre-half Matthew Bourne (ankle) and left-back Abdul Saccoh (hamstring) during the course of the first-half and goalkeeper Luke Watkins (headache), centre-half Joe Denny (broken finger) and winger D’Jean Spencer (hamstring) bravely battled on.

Faversham Town overcame Tilbury (3-2) in the last round and went into this game sitting in 12th place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 11 points from nine games.

Leatherhead are struggling at the foot of the Isthmian League Premier Division table having picked up five points from their 13 league outings and extended their winless run to 12 games after losing at Salters Lane.

Recently-appointed managers Adam Simpson and Mustafa Bashkal made five changes to the Leatherhead side that lost 3-2 at home to Merstham seven days ago and will have to improve their fortunes on the pitch to ensure this isn’t a league fixture next season.

Leatherhead were the better side for most of the game but failed to take their chances but Faversham Town grabbed the lead just 10 minutes into the second half through Sam Bewick’s fine finish.

Leatherhead restored parity with 19 minutes remaining through a free-header from right-wing-back Isaac Ogundere after Faversham Town switched off from a three-man set-piece routine.

However, with the stalemate likely to be heading towards a penalty shoot-out, Faversham Town snatched the victory with only three minutes remaining through striker Emmanuel Oluwasemo’s half-volley at a corner to join Harding on three goals for the season.

“I just said to the boys afterwards, I put that up there as one of my best wins as a manager just because we’ve had three injuries in the first half, we were without Harry Harding and Lewis Chambers, who are massive players for us,” said Collins.

“We don’t operate with a massive squad so three of our back four have got injured and I’ve got no subs left.  D’Jean Spencer tweaked his hamstring right at the beginning of the first half so we’ve literally been playing with 10 men and Mobalaji Dawodu played out of position and Kelvin Ogboe’s played left-back, the first game that he’s played there for us.

“It’s a monumental performance from the players, just absolutely over the moon.  It was an unbelievable performance, I’m so proud of the players and I’m so happy for the club as well – they gave me absolutely everything!”

When asked about this being the first time that his club has reached the First Round, Collins replied: “I know this is the furthest that I’ve ever gone in The FA Trophy, I did not know that and I’m glad.  I felt that since I’ve come in every club I’ve been at you always try and beat records and stuff.  I think that will probably be the first one we’ve ever broken so that’s a fantastic achievement and all credit to the players.”

Faversham Town created the first goalscoring chance after only 160 seconds following a set-piece.

Attacking midfielder Eddie Allsopp swung in a powerfully struck free-kick from the right-wing for Bourne to get across his marker to glance his header towards the far post, which was held low to his right by Leatherhead goalkeeper Myles Bowman.

“I thought Bourney could’ve got a bit more on it but I thought set-pieces have been good for us this year but it wasn’t to be on that occasion,” said Collins.

Faversham Town turned defence into a swift attack when Leatherhead’s left-wing-back Tommy Cooney swung the ball into the six-yard box, which contained 14 players.

Watkins caught Joe Denny’s sliced clearance as it dropped down from the sky before Watkins launched a big kick upfield to release Oluwasemo charging down the right channel before drilling his right-footed angled drive towards goal, forcing Bowman to use both of his outstretched hands to push the ball towards safety as he dived to his right.

“Great save, wasn’t it? I thought it was in all of the way and he managed to get his hand out,” said Collins.

“Manny’s been doing a bit of a shift out wide so we put him up top today and I had to sacrifice Dean Grant, which is unlucky because he’s done well for us.  Manny did well against Lancing in the last half-an-hour (of our 1-1 draw there on Tuesday night), so I just fancied him today. It was a good strike and I was willing him to score.”

Leatherhead rode the 10-minute storm and started to dominate proceedings and Bourne had to run out to block Alexander Sami’s shot on the turn from 25-yards, which went behind for a corner, after Darnell Goather-Braithwaite created the opening.

However, Watkins pulled off a brave save to prevent Leatherhead taking a deserved 15th minute lead, suffering a bang to his head in the process.

Goather-Braithwaite split open Joe Denny with a superb 20-yard pass along the deck to put seven-goal attacking midfielder Sami through on goal but Watkins rushed off his line and smothered the shot, the ball trickling past the foot of the far post and behind for the Tanners third of eight corners.

“It was a great save.  Alexander Sami’s a good player, one of the best players that we’ve come up against this year,” added Collins, who saw his goalkeeper go down a couple of times during the game seeking treatment.

“We were mindful of what he had, when he went through you were worried but I thought it was a great one-on-one save. It was a great save. I say to you I expect him to save it but maybe he shouldn’t have saved that.  Luke got hit, he struggled to see out of his eyes.”

Faversham Town lacked width despite playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, most probably down to left-winger D’Jean Spencer playing on with a hamstring issue.

Allsopp cut in from the left before drilling his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 30-yards, but Faversham Town created very little in an attacking sense.

When Jones was withdrawn in the 14th minute, replaced by Onoriode Ogboe, Bennedict Bioletti was deployed as an emergency right-back. While Jono Richardson was a like-for-like swap for Bourne at the end of the first-half, while half-time brought the end for Saccoh, so Ogboe slotted in as an emergency left-back for the second-half.

Saccoh was the weak link in the Faversham back four and allowed Cooney’s deep cross sail over his head to leave Sami in space at the far post and his right-footed hooked shot was comfortably saved low down by Watkins, to his left.

Collins said: “I think the injuries rocked us. I thought we were all over the place.  We weren’t getting any distances on our clearances and I think we were inviting our own pressure on. 

“I don’t think we were particularly great first-half. I can give them excuses but I said at half-time what a great feeling to go on and win this game. We rode our luck and now we’ve got to be better and see if we can win it and I thought that was the start, that one-on-one save was the start of us riding our luck and they had control of the game.”

Leatherhead kept pressing for the lead and went close to getting it in the 37th minute.

Striker Chidubem Onokwai played the ball out to Ogundere, who drilled in a first-time cross from the right and a stretching Omokwai poked his shot towards the bottom near corner, only for Faversham centre-half Joe Denny to put his body on the line to make a vital block, the ball going behind for a corner.

“Joe was brilliant for us last season.  He’s finished the game with a broken finger as well so he’s gone through barriers for us again today,” praised Collins.

“I let him out, he had a couple of games when he wasn’t great and I brought a couple of players in but fair play to him because it’s so easy when you get left out.  He’s sat on the bench for a while but he’s come in and he’s been an absolute colossus at the back and he was again today.”

Leatherhead’s seventh corner of the game came in from Cooney’s left boot and the ball came out to Sami, who smashed his right-footed hooked volley over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Ugonna Emenike – who plays on the left of their three man defence – brought the ball down under control within the final third before Goather-Braithwaite drilled his left-footed angled drive whistling past the foot of the near post as Faversham Town did well to go into the break on level terms.

“Look, if you want anything out of life sometimes it ain’t easy and it ain’t going to be easy. We rode our luck in the first half and I said now it’s up to us,” Collins said when asked about his half-time thoughts.

“They had control the game. I needed to do something at half-time so I said to them ‘first and foremost well done for getting in at half-time.’

“I thought we fell sorry for ourselves and I said ‘how good will it be in here with three players coming off at half-time, Harry Harding and Lewis Chambers missing, who are massive players for us, against a team in the league above?’  How brilliant is it going to feel to come in here if we can win that game and they took it on board and that’s exactly what everybody’s done.”

Leatherhead started the second half on the front foot, creating their first opening after only 104 seconds.

Central midfielder Rigers Kabasi played a clever pass in behind emergency right-back Bioletti to feed Cooney to the by-line and his deep cross was shinned by Onokwai’s outstretched leg and teed up Goather-Braithwaite who hooked his shot screaming past the right-hand post.

Faversham Town received a huge slice of luck as Leatherhead struck the crossbar in the 49th minute.

Kwaku Frimpong played the ball into Onokwai, who skipped past Richardson before whipping a deep cross towards the far post.  Bioletti switched off and allowed Ogundere to flick his shot against the crossbar, aiming for the top near corner from six-yards out, with Watkins attempting to tip the ball over his crossbar.

“Benny’s come across, I thought Ben done well. He tried to clear it and it’s gone onto him – look, you need to ride your luck,” admitted Collins.

“We pride ourselves being defensively strong and against Lancing the other night we sort of went for it a little bit and we teased it and that’s what I said at half-time.

“I felt today with the amount of injuries we were carrying defensively, attack was the best form of defence for us today, which is not like us and we probably just got a bit caught out and we’ve earned that little bit of luck.”

Faversham Town started to move the ball quickly for the first time on a poor playing surface, which was played on last night as Canterbury City lost 4-0 to Tunbridge Wells in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

The pitch, which is used by five teams, has another game on it on Sunday, before Faversham’s two home games on Tuesday and next Saturday.

Allsopp, Bewick and Bioletti all linked up well with the ball moving quickly inside the Leatherhead half before the move broke down.

However, Allsopp played the ball inside to Bewick, who took a touch with his right-foot, chopped the ball back onto his left-foot before placing his shot into the bottom right-hand corner from a central position from 22-yards.

Collins said: “We always say about earning the right. As you can see it’s very hard to play on this pitch. It had a game on it last night, it’s very boggy, there’s a game on it tomorrow, we’ve got to play on it against Hythe then we’re back here on Saturday. It’s sometimes not the easiest. 

“You need to earn the right to play football and we have to get into that battle and then we come stronger a little bit as it goes on but we encourage the players to get on the ball and a little bit of football and it opened up and it was a good goal.”

Leatherhead produced a good move on the hour-mark as Cooney’s first-time cross from the left found Ogundere inside the box and he twisted and turned but Faversham Town had many bodies back within their penalty area.

Ogundere had no option but to play the ball back to substitute central midfielder Craig McGee, who fired his right-footed drive just over the crossbar from 22-yards.

“I’m happy with them being restricted to shots from outside the box.  Our shape was good enough and we’ve got a make-shift back four our there so I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them.

“I thought Jono Richardson done well. I thought he managed on the pitch.  We had a conversation last week and I said ‘be patient because things are going to change, we’ve got a lot of games coming up, a lot of Tuesday night games, and we had a conversation on the phone for 45 minutes yesterday and I’m pleased that he’s got a game.

“I thought he did really well. I thought he was excellent. He won his headers and organised the back four. I’m pleased for him because it was an incredible performance from him, really good, especially after not playing for a while.”

However, Leatherhead deservedly restored parity in the 71st minute, following a set-piece.

Emenike threw the ball short to Ryan Huckle (the man at the heart of their three man defence) and he swept in a deep cross from the left touchline towards an unmarked Ogundere, who buried his header across Watkins and down into the far corner.

“Look, a great header from him but Kelvin is not a left-back so you probably hard pushed to have a go at him for his positioning being wrong,” said Collins.

“Luke, I’d like to have a look at it again. I thought maybe he could’ve got it with two hands but he can barely see so it’s hard to have a go at him.

“The ball’s come in, the guys made a great run. Could we have pressed the throw a little bit? We were dead on our feet at that stage so it was just one of them where you would’ve liked to have done a little bit better but you’re struggling a little bit if you’re having a go at players about that.

“I just felt we were so makeshift, they had some good players going forward and I felt and with the amount of injuries that we had, the pitch being boggy and D’Jean Spencer playing with one leg, I wasn’t expecting to win the game at that stage.”

Leatherhead threw bodies forward in search for a late winner but Richardson and his defensive buddies held firm and Faversham Town snatched the victory following their second and last corner with 41 minutes and 8 seconds on the clock.

Striker Dean Grant, who came on at half-time, cracked a long-range shot that deflected behind via Huckle.

Allsopp swung in the corner from the left, which was flicked on by Grant at the near post and Oluwasemo sprung into life by hitting his half-volley past the keeper and into the back of the net from six-yards before running over to the vocal supporters standing in front of the clubhouse by the corner flag.

“You dig in and you find a way and these boys over the course of the last two years have found a way to get results,” said Collins.

“We work on our set-pieces. We spend a lot of time on our set-pieces and we get joy from them.

“Manny’s work-rate the other night and today, he deserved a goal. I challenged him the other day and I said to him ‘as hard as you work, you need to start scoring more goals’ and he’s gone and got the winner and I’m just so pleased for the players and the club and I’m buzzing myself.

“They just put in a great shift and a lot of the players have had to take some criticism from me over the last couple of weeks. It’s easy to walk away and some people have but the boys that are still here have put in a massive shift.”

Faversham Town have banked £4,700 in prize money after winning two FA Trophy ties so far this season and the First Round takes place on 13 November.

Collins said: “When I came into the club, they won’t mind me saying that it was maybe struggling a little bit off-the-pitch and Ray Leader did an amazing job to get the ground back up and running and the chairman has come in and there’s people behind the scenes that work tirelessly and I think the club’s in a better place than it’s been in a while.

“The money is massive to us because I want to get away from this little old Faversham but £4,700 is massive to a club like this.”

Steven Watt brings his Hythe Town side to Salters Lane on Tuesday night on the back of six games without a win and being in fourteenth-place in the table, a place lower than Faversham Town, also with 11 points from nine games.

“I want to enjoy this one first because I think it’s never easy to win a game of football, especially under the circumstances,” said Collins.

“I think I need to make a few phone calls and ask a couple of managers if they want to do me a couple of favours.

“You’ve got to deal with (the injury crisis), everyone deals with it and I’m sure teams have been in this situation and it’s exciting, it’s a challenge and we’ll go again on Tuesday and I fully expect us to put in another performance.

“We’ve potentially got a couple coming in, there’s a couple of irons in the fire for Tuesday night but the boys who have come off will probably be a struggle for Tuesday but you never know, miracles happen. Let’s see, let’s just enjoy this one first.”

Faversham Town: Luke Watkins, Donvieve Jones (Onoriode Ogboe 14), Abdul Saccoh (Dean Grant 46), Mobalaji Dawodu, Matthew Bourne (Jono Richardson 45), Joe Denny, D’Jean Spencer, Sam Bewick, Emmanuel Oluwasemo, Eddie Allsopp, Bennedict Bioletti.
Subs: Clark Woodcock, James Geddes, Beckham Hulks

Goals: Sam Bewick 55, Emmanuel Oluwasemo 87

Booked: Bennedict Bioletti 24, Emmanuel Oluwasemo 54, Eddie Allsopp 89, Mobalaji Dawodu 90

Leatherhead: Myles Bowman, Isaac Ogundere, Tommy Cooney, Ryan Huckle, Henry Mabassa, Ugonna Emenike, Kwaku Frimpong (Darnell Kithambo 82), Rigers Kabasi (Craig McGee 59), Chidubem Onokwai, Alexander Sami, Darnell Goather-Braithwaite (Oluwatamilore Ogunnowo 82).
Subs: Melvin Adesida, Harry Cawdron

Goal: Isaac Ogundere 71

Booked: Isaac Ogundere 81, Henry Mabassa 90, Ryan Huckle 90

Attendance: 203
Referee:  Mr Michael Scott
Assistants: Mr Paul Taylor & Mr Fabio Roque