Fisher 1-0 Bearsted - Fisher were just better than us all over the park, admits frustrated Bearsted manager Kevin Stevens

Saturday 09th December 2023
Fisher 1 – 0 Bearsted
Location St Paul's Stadium, Salter Road, Rotherhithe, London SE16 6NT
Kickoff 09/12/2023 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 9 December 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from St Paul’s Stadium

BEARSTED manager Kevin Stevens says he will bring in new players at both ends of the pitch after his players put in a horrible performance at Fisher.

Fisher climbed up a couple of places into eighth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 29 points (nine wins, two draws and six defeats) from their 17 games, while Bearsted slipped down a place into tenth with 28 points (eight wins, four draws and five defeats).

Faversham Town lead the way with 41 points from 19 games, while the four play-off places are currently held by Whitstable Town (38 points from 19 games), Glebe (37 points form 18 games), Erith Town (36 points from 18 games) and Corinthian (33 points from 17 games).

Deal Town (32 points from 15 games) and Snodland Town (29 points from 16 games) follow, before Fisher, Punjab United (29 points from 18 games) and Bearsted complete the top 10.

A crowd of 209 were at St Paul’s Stadium in Rotherhithe and they witnessed a rather poor encounter.

However, Fisher deserved the victory, a lovely cushioned volley from attacking midfielder Nathan Tshola with 17 minutes remaining, to beat a lacklustre Bearsted side, who came away from Lydd Town with a 2-1 victory last weekend.

“Naivety from us.  I think Fisher done the basic stuff much better than us today.  They held the ball well, protected it well, passed it better than us, first time crosses were better than us, just better than us all over the park, all over the park,” admitted a frustrated Stevens.

“It’s something that we’ve been working on again and again in training.  We’re the fourth lowest goalscorers in the league.  I think that tells you all the answers you need to know.

“We’re not creating enough. We’ve worked on it and we’ve worked on it, it’s still not happening. I’ve just spoken to the players’ in there about it.”

Fisher manager Ajay Ashanike last saw his side seal a 1-0 win away to Camberley Town in The FA Vase First Qualifying Round on 26 August.

“I thought it was a good game. I thought we was really disciplined, after a few games that we’ve had and I’m really proud of the boys with the way that they carried out the game plan really well,” said Ashanike, who operates without a playing budget.

“Today we played like real men. We were playing like a semi-professional team and we have done really well today. It was a really good performance from the boys.

“I don’t remember the last time we won 1-0. We don’t win 1-0. We don’t win ugly but for the first time (since Camberley), we actually won ugly today.

“That’s what I want to see from these boys week-in-week-out. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. You’ve got to dig deep and that’s what we’ve done today with a clean-sheet, buzzing, I love 1-0 wins!”

The Bears were without their 10-goal talisman striker Ollie Freeman (back injury) and centre-half Colby Waite is awaiting an Anterior Cruciate Ligament operation, which will keep him out for at least a year. 

Stevens partnered Phillip Headley and Alfie Saunders at the heart of his defence today, but Headley pulled up with a torn hamstring today to join Daniel Melvin, Ryan Blake, Dennis Agbudume and Callum McCarthy on the treatment table.

Midfielder Joshua Froggatt (a recent arrival from Snodland Town) limped to the dug-out before the game after pulling his calf in the warm-up and didn’t feature.

“We came here with no centre-backs today, which is why you saw Phil Headley and Alfie Saunders, one of our midfielders, in there today, who done well, playing in there,” said Stevens.

“Hopefully, we’re getting two back next week.  Hopefully we’re getting two full-backs back next week so fingers crossed, it’s looking a little bit better defensively – Dan Melvin, Ryan Blake, Dennis Agbudume and Callum McCarthy - hopefully we get them all back.

“Ollie Freeman’s missing. He’s got a little back injury, which has been hurting him on and off so he’s a massive miss today, massive. 

“Josh Frogatt pulled something in the warm-up, something to do with his calf.  The physio is looking at it now, so I’m not 100% sure of that. He was going to come on for his debut today and it didn’t quite happen. I’m sure it’s going to be soon.

“Colby Waite, one of our centre-halves, whose literally just found out that he’s got to have an op on his ACL, so he’s out a year after the operation. He’s got to wait for the operation. That’s a big miss. He’s massive for us, so we’re looking to bring in a centre-half for certain.”

Stevens, meanwhile, has appointed Danny Wakeling, who has been out of management since leaving Welling Town on 9 May 2020.

Stevens said: “I met Danny a couple of weeks ago. One of the other coaches knows him really well. He’s been around football for a long time, obviously managed at this level, managed at other levels, knows a lot of players, so he’s coming in as first-team advisor and a bit of player recruitment.

“I’ve been talking to Danny a few times now and I think he’ll add something to us to hopefully get us to where we want to be.”

Stevens was asked whether he is looking to bring in new players to Honey Lane.

“Yes, if the right player coming along, we’ll definitely add the right player to the squad, if he comes along.  Our problem is scoring goals.” 

Bearsted started the game on the front foot, creating their first two goalscoring chances after only 128 and 157 seconds into the game.

Saunders played a forward pass into left-winger Alfie Eldridge who played a low pass inside to right-winger Nathan Palmer, who dropped into the middle of the park and found space to take a touch before drilling a right-footed drive sailing over the crossbar from 35-yards.

Seven-goal striker William Johnson-Cole was released down the right channel and he played in a low cross for attacking midfielder Eniola Hassan and his low left-footed drive from 25-yards forced Fisher’s seventeen-year-old goalkeeper Samuel Nwabuko to dive to his right to parry the ball.

“When it falls to Eniola, you expect him to do better than that but I wouldn’t say it was an easy chance early doors.  Eniola’s got a bit of quality, so I expect him to work the keeper a bit harder,” said Stevens.

Ashanike revealed his goalkeeper has been plucked from Harry Hudson’s highly-acclaimed Kinetic Academy.

“It will be our mistake that they score from and they should’ve scored from that,” admitted the Fisher boss, who is acclaimed of giving young London based raw talent a chance.

“Sam’s a 17-year-old goalkeeper that we’ve put trust in and that is what Fisher’s about. This is something that the club don’t get enough credit for what the club does, to give the youngsters chances.  No one else gives someone like Sam a chance to go in goal for them at this level but we did and credit to the boys.

“He made a massive save there, with some of the injuries (we’ve had to our goalkeeper’s) he’s come in and he’s put his head down and worked really hard for the last few weeks.

“Samuel was playing for Kinetic where we’ve got good contacts and they believe in what we do here with the youngsters and they’ve given us Sam and he’s doing really well for us.

“If you look at what we’ve done here in the past at this club, not a lot of clubs would do this because everything is about winning but since I’ve come in here no one has ever put pressure on us to go and win football matches. It’s all about developing players and I’m really enjoying my four years so far that we’ve spent here. 

“I’ve just got to give massive credit to the club, to the fans and the players. We’ve come together as a team and it’s made it into a beautiful club.”

Stansfeld have scored the fewest league goals (19), followed by Kennington (20), Hollands & Blair (22) and Bearsted (23).

Bearsted played crab football (backwards and sideways), passing it around the back before losing the ball just before the half-way line with Adam Turton and Joel Wakefield often gifting possession away.

“I think our patterns of play that we like to do from the backline, they played into midfield, especially first-half really well, split open the opposition, 40-50 yard passes along the floor.  Unfortunately, you have to make those passes stick and we didn’t make them stick which is naïve, just so naïve,” admitted Stevens.

“I think first half we just gave the ball away. We worked some good patterns early, very early patterns and just didn’t look after the ball. It was either a bad set, a bad pass, players not checking their shoulders, players not protecting the ball. Just horrible, horrible from us.”

Bearsted did play a sweeping, well-worked move in the 20th minute, when left-back Conrad Lee advanced further up field, played the ball into Hassan, who played the ball across for Turton to hit a first time right-footed drive from 25-yards, which sailed high over the Fisher crossbar.

Fisher swiftly went up the other end of the pitch and wasted a decent chance to smash the deadlock.

Seven-goal Left-winger Emmanuel Shoderu moved into the middle of the pitch before rolling the ball out to advanced left-back Callum Flynn, who whipped in a great cross towards the near post where big targetman, the six-goal Eniyelayefa Amgbaduba got in front of Saunders to steer his downward header well wide of the goal from eight-yards out.

“Again, that’s a big chance for us,” admitted Ashanike.

“I was fuming on the touchline. I was screaming at them. That’s something that we’ve been working on.  Someone should be on the back post to go and score that.  Just the desire that we’re missing and we need to start having that desire really quick if we want to go to the next level as a team, as a collective, but I believe in the boys, they’ll do really well.”

Fisher right-winger Flavio Jumo whipped in a deflected cross towards the penalty spot where Shoderu was put under pressure by Bearsted’s right-back Jordan Tingley as he hooked his volley over the crossbar.

Ashanike added: “Another chance there.  I can’t count how many chances we’ve created but we’ve just got to put them away or hit the target.  If we don’t, it will come back and bite us on the backside but today we got lucky, we got three points from it.”

Referee Piotr Zachwieja showed six yellow cards to Fisher players, while Bearsted’s players picked up three.

Fisher’s holding midfielder Julio Da Mata (wearing the number two shirt) fouled Bearsted’s captain Turton, but the referee showed Salim Nassor (Fisher’s number 16, s fellow central midfielder) a yellow card instead.

Ashainke pointed out the mistake of mistaken identity to the referee, who swiftly cautioned Da Mata.  The referee didn’t signal (like they do in the Premier League after rescinding a yellow card following a VAR check).

The club have received the paperwork from the referee and Nassor's booking has been officially rescinded.

Fisher would have been fined £150 fine from The Football Association had they picked up six bookings.  Each yellow card also comes with a £12 fine.

When asked about the card count, the Fisher boss replied: “We’re not a dirty team.  You’ve watched the game, we’re a really good bunch of lads in there. They’re not dirty but I believe when the other team gets leeway than more than we do, we do something and we get a card quicky, which I don’t fully understand why but the boys just have to use their head really wisely because we can’t be getting booked a much as that in one game.”

Ashanike felt Amgbaduba should have done better with a chance he had, 34 seconds into stoppage time.

Wakefield gave the ball away inside his own half and close to the halfway line to a pressing Nassor, who fed Amgbaduba, who took a touch and lost composure 25-yards from goal, dragging a low right-footed shot across goalkeeper Frankie Leonard and past far post.

He said: “As a striker who plays for Fisher he should be putting that away or either hitting the target.   There’s no one in front of him. I don’t know why he’s panicked there but those kind of chances that’s what I’m talking about – that’s what sets this club away from being in the play-offs or even challenging at the top level, is because of mistakes like that.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts as the first half stalemate came to an end.

Ashanike said: “Just more of the same really, just more of the same. We have to take it up a bit and people have to put their body on the line for the team and for the cause.

“If the ball flashed across the goal, any other team, I don’t care what team it is, any other team in this league, will score, apart from us, but second half they’ve took it and we’ve got a goal from it.”

Stevens added: “To improve! Just to look after the ball better, get first time crosses into the box. If we get a chance, instead of passing it backwards and backwards again and go back to the start again, just be a bit more direct from the sides and hopefully as we saw, Will got one in the second half from it, which was deemed offside.”

Stevens hooked an ineffective Eldridge at the half-time interval and his replacement Marvin Okundalaiye was even worse.  He picked up a booking within a minute of coming off the bench and offered very little down the left flank, while Nathan Palmer on the other side of the pitch looked a shadow of his former self while playing for Holmesdale and Erith & Belvedere, before he was hooked in the 71st minute for Robbie Roberts, who also offered nothing in attack too.

“We’re just not creating chances,” admitted Stevens, who demands more from his attacking players. 

“Our defensive record is decent (20 league goals conceded), we’re not giving many chances away.  We’re not actually a team that are all about defending and nothing else.  We want to get forward and score goals and it isn’t happening and we’re working at it.

“I actually think we’ve got good players out wide but we’re just not creating chances at the moment.

“Nathan Palmer’s come in and scored three goals. He was dangerous against Lydd last week playing out wide. We played him out there again today but I’m not picking out Nathan at all.

“I don’t think you can knock the back four much today. I think they defended well and I think they passed the ball well but it goes into midfield and out wide and comes back to you and you’re not going to create chances.”

Fisher upped their tempo at the start of the second half and appeared to be the only side on the pitch that wanted to win the game, by moving the ball forward and creating chances to score.

Right-back Tyron Mbuenimo looped a throw in to the box and the ball dropped to Jumo, who drove his shot into the base of the side netting in the 12th minute, before Bearsted did have the ball in the back of the net but the header was ruled out for offside.

Turton floated the ball into the box from the right (13:25) and Johnson-Cole’s downward header nestled into the bottom far corner, only for assistant referee Thomas Amber to raise his flag.

“I thought he came back from an offside position and then go back in so I thought he was onside personally but I can see why in the moment the linesman might think it was offside, so I’m a little bit disappointed with that,” added Stevens.

The introduction of pacey Fisher right-winger Billy Brown in the 65th minute pumped some life into this dreadful ninth-tier stalemate.

Fisher produced a well-worked move when substitute holding midfielder Ezekiel Miller played the ball out to Brown, who drove down the wing before putting it on the plate for substitute striker Thomas Ngegba, whose poked shot deflected past the foot of the near post from the corner of the six-yard box.

“Billy called me this morning saying he wants to be on the bench and I think that’s a good decision because his fitness has not been the best because he’s been ill for a few weeks,” revealed Ashanike.

“Billy’s come on and just done what Billy does, really get at them and push their full-backs back a bit more because his pace is really frightening.”

The only piece of quality in the whole game came from Fisher’s deserved winning goal, which arrived with 27 minutes and 49 seconds on the second half clock.

Javo cut the ball back to Flynn, who whipped in a high-quality first-time cross from the left into the Bearsted box for Tshola to use his right-foot to cushion his volley across goalkeeper Leonard to bounce into the bottom far corner of the net.

“That was from the training ground. That’s massive credit to my coaching staff, absolutely immense,” said Ashanike.

“They’ve been trying this for the last five, six or seven weeks now and the boys carried out the game plan really well.  We went to Flav, went outside, crossed it and Nathan’s in there and that is exactly what we saw on Thursday.  They can do it every week, they’ve just got to believe in it.

“That’s what we’ve been working on and it’s worked and I’m really proud of the team and the coaching staff.  I’m really proud what they’ve put together and when you see it work, I’m buzzing!”

Stevens revealed Wakeling called the outcome of this game just before Tshola scored his first goal for Fisher.

“It was one of those games, weren’t it?  Literally 30 seconds before the goal went in, one of my coaches said ‘this is one of those 1-0 games today,’ and it went in as he was talking to me still,” said the Bearsted boss.

“I thought it was a nothing game, probably quite boring to watch, neither side created an awful lot and it was going to be the odd goal, probably.

“Do you know what, it was one of the things we said at half-time. If we keep letting them cross the ball, then the chances are something will happen for them.  We let them put too many crosses in, especially late on as well.”

There was to be no reaction from Bearsted’s players, who played too much negative football, it looked like they came here for a goal-less draw.

Bearsted had a free-kick in the first half, with about 18 players positioned in and around the Fisher box and it was no surprise when Turton played the ball backwards instead of putting the ball into the penalty area some 35-yards from goal.

Okundalaiye had a chance to make an impact on the game after Fisher centre-half Prince Imoru picked up a booking for a trip on Roberts just outside the corner of the box but Okundalaiye’s woeful low free-kick failed to beat the first defender.

Bearsted’s players just lacked desire and got exactly what they deserved.

Fisher is renowned to being a tough place to go to and Stevens explained why his side failed to turn up.

“I think the travelling can make a difference, if you let it, as a player. I don’t think you’ve ever been here when the wind has never been blowing a gale and Fisher play that better than us. It’s an old 3G pitch, which I don’t think bounces right, again, they play that better than us but it’s the same for both teams.

“It’s a tough place to come.  I always say that whether they are top, bottom, midtable, this is always a very tough place to come.”

The lively Brown pounced on a loose ball in the middle of the park – an area of the field that Bearsted desperately lost – and struck a right-footed drive flashing past the foot of the right-hand post from 35-yards with five minutes left.

Tshola fed the ball into Ngegba, who cut the ball onto his right-boot and stroked a 30-yarder towards goal, which was comfortably gathered in his midriff by Leonard (44:53).

Okundalayie lost the ball to Miller, who smacked a speculative right-footed 45-yarder, which only just cleared the top of the left-hand post (46:12), as Fisher picked up a deserved three points once the referee brought this awful game to a close (52:18).

Both of these sides face promotion chasing sides next.

Fisher travel to Chislehurst to play Glebe on Tuesday night (19:45), while Stevens will be looking for a more positive performance from his troops when they welcome Erith Town next Saturday.

Both Fisher and Bearsted can join the play-off picture, if they believe in themselves more.

Ashanike said: “Glebe’s management were here today to watch the game and have seen what we do.  The boys just have to go there and believe in themselves.  I believe in them and I believe they can go out there and get three points in those kind of games.

“We’ve got to attack them and don’t show them respect. If you don’t show them respect, we can get at anyone.

“It’s an open league. This is the best Step Five league I’ve seen. It’s very competitive with the money, the players, absolutely superb.

“The boys just have to keep chipping away, keep chipping away and see where it takes them to in this league.”

When asked whether Fisher can reach the dizzy heights of the top five, Ashanike replied: “You never rule nothing out. Anybody can beat anybody on their day.  I believe more people will drop points up there but for the boys they’ve just got to keep picking up the points where they can really.”

Reflecting on today’s attendance, Ashanike added: “That’s massive, that’s massive. It’s the massive work the club’s doing off-the-pitch.  Jim Maycock, Simon Shipperlee and Ian Murphy have done incredible for this club and the work they put in to get people in, it’s amazing. I just can’t thank them enough,. They’ve done really well from when I came in the club, it’s growing and it’s absolutely superb.”

Stevens added: “It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got Erith next and then Deal away.   Two good sides, two good managers who will have them set-up right but we’ve got a good side. We have got a good side. It’s just getting that last third tight, which at the moment we haven’t but I’m hoping it all comes through with the coaching that we’re doing. We’re working hard at it. We have got good players.

“I think all of the time where we’re near touching distance, then obviously you have that dream of hopefully getting in the play-offs. I think we’ve got a squad good enough but you have to score goals to win games of football.

“I think play-offs are still achievable but we’ve never finished in the top 10, so top 10 is a bare minimum, bare minimum top 10 but I think we’ve got a squad better than that.”

Stevens – who also has groundsman duties on the club’s grass pitch – revealed Bearsted won’t be laying an artificial pitch at Honey Lane next season as the stadium lease was not extended in time to get funding from the Football Foundation. The lease has been extended so the club will have to wait another year to receive the funding.

“The wheels have been started to start the 3G pitch in July 2025, so hopefully we’ll have a new 3G pitch and a new clubhouse as well, which I think would be massive for the club. I think it will be huge, taking the club forward for obvious financial reasons.

“We’ve got a very old clubhouse with the portacabins, which do a job but a new clubhouse would be fantastic, so we can hold events there, which bring in money for the club, so it’s exciting times, hopefully.”

Fisher: Samuel Nwabuko, Tyron Mbuenimo, Callum Flynn, Julio Da Mata (Ezekiel Miller 61), Prince Imoru, Joseph Adewunmi, Emmanuel Shoderu (Billy Brown 65), Salim Nassor, Eniyelayefa Amgbaduba (Thomas Ngegba 63), Nathan Tshola, Flavio Jumo.
Subs: Kaylam Burgess, Patrick Hoy

Goal: Nathan Tshola 73

Booked: Nathan Tshola 41, Salim Nassor 44  (rescinded), Julio Da Mata 45, Billy Brown 75, Prince Imoru 77, Thomas Ngegba 90

Bearsted: Frankie Leonard, Jordan Tingley, Conrad Lee, Adam Turton, Phillip Headley (Marvin Okundalaiye 84), Alfie Saunders, Alfie Eldridge (Omotunmise Akanni 46), Joel Wakefield (Elyon Marshall-Katung 81), William Johnson-Cole, Eniola Hassan, Nathan Palmer (Robbie Roberts 71).

Booked: Eniola Hassan 21, Phillip Headley 34, Omotunmise Akanni 46

Attendance: 209
Referee: Mr Piotr Zachwieja
Assistants: Mr Stuart Jones & Mr Thomas Amber