Faversham Town 1-1 Merstham - I can see us getting better and stronger, says Ray Turner

Saturday 13th December 2014

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 13th December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Salters Lane

FAVERSHAM TOWN manager Ray Turner says his side will get stronger and better during the second half of the season after claiming a deserved point in this entertaining game against league leaders Merstham.

The Lilywhites remain in third-place in the Ryman League Division One South table after collecting their fifth league draw of the campaign.

Merstham were by far the better side in open play during the first half-an-hour and deserved their lead through Omar Folkes’ eighth goal of the season.

But Jamie Maxted came up from left-back to head home an equaliser for Faversham Town to score his fourth goal of the season.

Merstham remain top with 51 points from 26 games, followed by unbeaten Burgess Hill Town, who have 50 points from 20 games. The Sussex side created a FA Trophy First Round giant-killing with a 1-0 win at Vanarama Conference side Aldershot Town today.  Faversham Town also have 50 points but from 24 games.

“It’s always difficult to enjoy a game on the touchline but I thought it was a high quality game,” said Turner afterwards.

“I thought it was above this level. I thought both teams put on a good display and what pleased me is the way this side’s maturing. We didn’t have a player over 30 out on that pitch and I thought they’ve started to mature together.

“I thought we were turning the screw on them. If anyone was going to win it second half it was going to be us. We didn’t get the breaks. They were very much playing on the breakaway and take away the first 20 minutes when I thought they were strong, I thought we negated a lot of things they were going to do.

“The only disappointment was we didn’t finish with a winning goal but I saw a team that’s grown up and that’s what’s pleasing me.”

Merstham manager Hayden Bird said: “I thought it was probably fair. I thought a draw was probably fair.

“I think first 30 minutes we were in control. We conceded a really bad goal, something that Faversham are very strong at. We knew that we had to come here and defend situations like that. We switched off so it goes to one-all.

“After half an hour it could already been 3-0. They probably had the better of the rest of the half.

“The second half, we didn’t get the ball down and control it as we would have but I never felt threatened.

“I felt it was going to be a game of moments and we would win. If anybody was going to win that moment came when Aaron Rhule went through and the guy made an unbelievable save to keep it out for 2-1. That was the moment that we win the game. After that it was probably always going to be one-all.”

Merstham played with confidence for a side that arrived at Salters Lane fourteen league games unbeaten and played an eye-catching brand of attacking football, which had Faversham Town struggling to cope.

But Faversham Town were always a threat from Wayne Wilson’s quality from set-pieces.

The Australian midfielder shielded his eyes from the sun before floating in a right-footed free-kick into the penalty area for David Botterill to head down and into Brannon Daly’s hands for a comfortable save inside the opening five minutes.

Merstham called Faversham keeper Simon Overland into making a fine save within three minutes.

Fabio Saraiva played a short free-kick to winger Taurean Roberts, who played the ball back inside to Saraiva, who unleashed a right-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, which Overland jumped up to push over the bar.

“I don’t remember him doing that much,” said Turner.

“He tipped one over, which was hit straight at him.  I don’t know. I think they had a bit more dominance over the possession. They looked lively. I think they had some good runs from their wide players, who were causing us problems from deep, but we had to be alive to that.”

Maxted issued Merstham a warning as Faversham went close after seventeen minutes.

Wilson floated in a free-kick into the box and an unmarked Maxted sent his header across goal and narrowly past the far post.

Overland made his second smart save of the game when he swiftly got down low to his right to parry Folkes’ powerfully struck right-footed angled drive from 20-yards, which was heading towards the bottom near corner.

A good run by Folkes saw him play the ball inside to Rhule, who cut into the penalty area but his angled drive screamed across goal and past the far post.

Faversham Town received a slice of luck when they somehow escaped a goal-line scramble after Tommy Hutchings steered the ball towards goal following Roberts’ corner from the left.

Merstham dominance and fine football was rewarded when they scored in the 26th minute.

Roberts picked the ball up and played the ball out to Simon Cooper and the right-back whipped in a cross into the middle where Folkes slid in to poke his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from 12-yards.

“I thought the move was very good actually,” admitted Turner.

“It started from the back. We got caught a little bit flat-footed when their wide player came in and their full-back got around the back and around the side.  He took it actually right in his stride and played a great ball across.

“Sometimes you have to put your hands up, I thought it was a good goal from their point of view.”

Bird added: “The first 30 minutes was very good because we controlled the game. We were fully aware of what they were going to do and how they play and we nullified that and imposed our style on to the game.

“I think you really have to see not only it could have been two or three nil come 30 minutes.”

However, Merstham’s 64th league goal of the season seemed to give Faversham Town a kick up the backside and they were on level terms just six minutes later.

Inevitably, it came from Wilson, who swung in a corner from the left towards the far post and Maxted planted his header in off the near post.

“It’s something that we’re very good at because Wayne’s delivery is first class so it’s important that we do make the most of those situations,” said Turner.

“After 20-25 minutes, we probably needed a goal to get back in it but we were just starting to get a few situations around the mid-point of the first half, a few set-pieces.

“It became evident very early on that they weren’t happy defending our set-pieces at all and they were all over the place. It was a weakness that we’re trying to look to exploit and on another day we could’ve probably scored two or three goals from just those set-piece deliveries.

“We’ve got good players that really attack the ball. I felt as though I don’t know how many they scrambled off the line today but they’ve done a great job in doing that, but in the first phase we looked very dangerous from those deliveries.

“I think after that we got a bit tighter to certain situations and started to stop them doing that in part of the game.”

Bird added: “The goal that we conceded was a really bad goal because it was a result of someone switching off and a completely free header at the far post.

“If you’re going to come to places like this and switch off that badly, you get punished so that was the story of the day really.”

The equaliser completely changed the game and Faversham Town finished the game on the front foot.

Turner added: “After we scored we rattled them a little bit and we started getting on top and we didn’t need half-time at the time it came.  I felt we were quite dominant in that area of time.”

Wilson swung in another corner from the left towards the far post and this time it was Botterill who was denied by a brilliant one-handed save by Daly, who stuck out his right arm to prevent the ball sailing into the top far corner.

Impressive Merstham were also a threat down the flanks and Roberts produced a mazy run down the left, skipping past three defenders, before cutting the ball back for Rhule to slide his shot past the foot of the left-hand post.

Faversham Town threw everything at the Merstham defence inside the final four minutes of the first half, courtesy of dead-ball deliveries from Wilson.

Matthew Bourne held his head in his hands after his shot was deflected over the crossbar for a corner, before Dean Grant’s shot was cleared off the line and Bourne came up from the heart of defence again to rise to plant his header over the crossbar.

Turner said: “I thought the game was starting to open up as well.  We were just starting to look more threatening.  I just felt we got on top of the game at that point and I think we were causing them a lot of problems not only from dead ball but we started to cause a few more problems from open play as well.

“We finished the half really strongly so half-time probably came at a wrong time for us and enabled them to regroup but in saying that I felt we put in a very solid second half performance as well.”

Faversham Town were much more defensively tighter during the second half and Merstham were not given the freedom to attack like they did earlier in the game.

“We just got a little bit closer to them, I think, higher up the pitch,” said Turner.

“We got tighter to them and one of the things that you’ve got to do is stop them playing a little bit and I think we did that and we played some good stuff ourselves and I think we were probably unlucky not to win the game.”

The crowd of 236 had to wait for nearly 12 minutes for the first chance when 16-goal Saraiva’s left-footed free-kick from 30-yards deflected narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

Faversham Town’s first chance of the second half came within a couple of minutes when Charley Robertson cut into the box from the right but shot straight at Daly.

Roberts hit a speculative right-footed drive from 30-yards, which flashed just wide of the Faversham goal.

But Faversham Town were to be twice denied the winner, which would have put them back at the summit tonight.

Jack Harris found himself down the right channel and he held the ball up before cutting the ball back to right-back Aidan Sherlock, who whipped in a cross into the penalty area for Grant to clip the ball back to Wilson, whose left-footed volley from 20-yards was comfortably saved low down by Daly.

“It was a really good move,” said Turner, who added, “I think here was a couple of first time passes and back to Wayne on the volley and he’s hit the ball left-footed as sweetly as he does but it’s straight down the keeper’s throat.”

But Turner felt striker Harris should have won it for Faversham with fourteen minutes remaining.

Wilson swung in his sixth (of seven) corners from the right and Harris agonisingly directed his header across goal and against the left-hand post.

“I think on this occasion, he probably should’ve scored it,” said Turner.

“I think he wasn’t far out, he didn’t really need to direct it down. He just needed to basically meet it and he just had a little bit of an angle.  It just came off the side of his head a little bit and came off the post.

“That was probably our big chance of the half and that was the point where we was on top and I think we could’ve potentially won the game from that moment.”

Former Bromley winger Rhule went close to grabbing Merstham a winner, but he picked up a second yellow card with five minutes to go for a challenge on Sherlock.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the incident.

Bird said: “I thought his first booking was harsh.  I thought his second booking was disgraceful.  How the (Faversham player) stayed on the pitch, there was a ball there to be won, he made no attempt to win the ball.”

Turner added: “He’s (Rhule) probably a bit unlucky. I don’t know whether he’s seen Aidan come across. It’s a clear foul but he’s probably a bit unlucky in terms of Aidan coming across his blind side.

“There were a couple that walked a bit of a tightrope I think from their point of view. Maybe it was a totting up process or whatever that the ref’s gone to his back pocket.

“The player’s potentially a bit unlucky but I think there was a few out there. It was that sort of game. It was a bit niggly at times.”

It was too late for Faversham Town to make their man advantage count.

Turner agreed, saying, “It’s tight from that point. You don’t want to gamble that result away because it’s still a point against one of your rivals and they’ve played a couple more games so it’s a fine balancing act from my point of view, but overall it must have been a very good game.”

Daly made a comfortable low save to his left to prevent substitute Kieran Oliver winning it for Faversham with a low drive from 30-yards, seconds before referee Nick Dunn blew his whistle to end this entertaining clash.

“I’m happy because of the way we went about our business,” said Turner.

“I’m not necessarily happy that we didn’t win the game because I felt we could’ve won it second half.  I felt we were the better side.

“What I am pleased about is the way the team’s maturing for a side against a very good side, a very seasoned side at our level and that’s what I’m pleased about today.  We looked a good side and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season because I can only see us getting better and stronger.

“I’ve said to the players, we’ve played Folkestone twice now, we’ve played Merstham twice now. We’ve played Burgess Hill and Whyteleafe away so we’ve played all the top sides away.  We’ve finished with Merstham, we’ve finished with Folkestone. It’s a case of we’ve got to knuckle down, work hard in the winter months and get some wins on the board and keep playing like that.

“It’s great to be involved with a club that’s continuing to improve things on and off the pitch. The crowd was great today, the attendances are really improving. 

“As a club it’s a fantastic place to be. We’ve just moved into the second half of the season and I expect the side to get better.”

Bird says he has experience players to cope with being in a title race.

“When you come to places like this, the trick to winning the league is to make sure primarily you don’t lose because they are a very effective team in the way that they play but it’s good to be leading.

“But we’re not the leaders really. Burgess Hill are the true leaders at the moment. We have work to do in the second half of the season to catch them.

“There’s a long way to go.  Burgess Hill will drop points.  They’ve had a great start to the season but you know I’ve been in this situation before with Carshalton. We’ve got experience in the dressing room dealing with this situation.

“We will hold our nerve. We’ll just keep doing as we do and as the fixtures pile up for Burgess Hill we’ll continue to develop as we are.

“I think they’ll come under a lot of pressure and we just have to see how they react to it.”

Faversham Town: Simon Overland, Aidan Sherlock, Jamie Maxted, George Monger, Matthew Bourne, Ashley Brown, Wayne Wilson, David Botterill, Jack Harris, Dean Grant, Charley Robertson (Kieran Oliver 88).
Subs: John Scarborough, Daniel King, Sam Bewick, Robert French

Goal: Jamie Maxted 32

Booked: George Monger 60

Merstham: Brannon Daly, Simon Cooper, Antone Douglas (Dean Gunner 82), Kalvin Morath-Gibbs, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Peter Adeniyi, Taurean Roberts, Tommy Hutchings, Omar Folkes (Stefan Cox 63), Fabio Saraiva, Aaron Rhule.
Subs: Emmanuel Steven, Tutu Henriques, Yannick Makiese

Goal: Omar Folkes 26

Booked: Fabio Saraiva 38, Aaron Rhule 75, Antone Douglas 80

Sent Off: Aaron Rhule 85

Attendance: 236
Referee: Mr Nick Dunn (Deal)
Assistants: Mr Thomas Marshall (Eltham, London SE9) & Mr Orville Bentley (Lewisham, London SE13)