Fisher 0-4 Erith & Belvedere - Everything Alfie May touches seems to goes in, says Matt Longhurst

Monday 15th September 2014

Southern Counties East Football League
Monday 15th September 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Champion Hill Stadium

ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Matt Longhurst says he will listen to offers for non-league football’s hottest striker Alfie May.

The 21-year-old scored a brace to take his impressive goalscoring tally to NINETEEN goals from eleven games as Erith & Belvedere moved six points clear at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League table with 24 points from nine games.

The Deres romped to a comfortably victory at fourth-from-bottom Fisher, with two further goals from left-back Ben Wilson and pacy substitute striker Denzel Gayle, who was part of Leatherhead’s sixteen-man squad that were knocked out of The FA Cup by Faversham Town at the weekend.

“I thought we were professional without being over spectacular if I’m honest,” said Longhurst, 33, after his side’s eighth league win of the season.

“I thought we deserved to win the game. I don’t think they really troubled us.  Our keeper’s made two saves, one he’s tipped it over the bar and he’s made a block but other than that I don’t think they’ve really troubled us.

“I’m pleased with the boys, they’ve played Saturday, then came back out and we’ve used the same team baring the goalkeeper tonight so they’ve come through two games in three days, which is outstanding. Four-nil, away from home, a clean sheet, we’ll take that.”

When asked about his side’s six point lead at the summit, the former Corinthian manager replied: “The league table doesn’t mean nothing! It’s not even the end of September, yet there’s 29 games left so we’re not going to run away with ourselves.”

Fisher joint-manager Simon Halsey, 49, was disappointed that his side’s three match unbeaten run in the league was ended tonight.

“They’re a good side, strong, good at what they do, very pacy, very good on the counter attack but on saying that we conceded two spawny goals to them really.

“We’re 2-0 down and we have to start chasing the game. We’re just not doing the basics.  I’m not too worried about Erith & Belvedere to be honest. We’re just not doing the basics again and we’ve gone backwards a little bit.

“We’ve gone three unbeaten in the league up until tonight, not won them all, but unbeaten and we’ve just taken a backwards step over the last couple of games.

“I don’t know why? I can’t put a finger on it! Don’t get me wrong we’ve got no Jamie Taylor tonight, we’ve got no Danny Maguire. No Shane Uings so we’re a few players light.  That’s the heartbeat of our midfield.  On saying that Max (Rothwell) has come in and done well. He’s been waiting for his chance.

“We’re a bit down but they’re 20 points clear of Greenwich Borough, who were expecting to win it.

“That tonight is why they’ve won eight out of nine. They’re very direct and good at what they do.”

Fisher created their first chance of the game after only 100 seconds but striker Alfie Roach floated his free-kick harmlessly wide of the far post from 30-yards.

But Erith & Belvedere swiftly stamped their authority on the game in front of a Monday night crowd of 122 at Champion Hill.

Wilson played the ball back to central defender Lee Craig, who clipped the ball over the top of the Fisher defence to release Richmond Kissi down the left and he floated over a cross towards the far post which former Fisher winger Chris Hubbard planted his header against the top of the near post from six-yards.

Longhurst said: “A good little bit of combination play, a good move. It’s unfortunate. He’s hit the post twice in the last two games. He sort of went off the boil a little bit and hasn’t been in the side. The last couple of games he’s come back in and done really well. He works ever so hard for the team off the ball as well with the way that we play.”

Halsey added: “Another great long diagonal ball over into that area. They’re effective and good at what they do.”

Ryan Johnson threaded a fine through ball to release May, who steered his shot wide while under pressure.

Wilson clipped a ball up to Kissi, who played a reverse pass to release May through, but Adam Highsted dived low to his right to make a smart save.

But Fisher gifted Erith & Belvedere a deserved fifteenth minute lead.

Fisher midfielder Jack Robbins escaped a card after clattering into Jake Britnell and Scottish referee Gerry Heron awarded the Deres a free-kick just 20-yards from goal.

However, the Fisher wall was clearly at fault for moving out of the way to allow May’s drilled right-footed free-kick flash past them, the ball nestling into the bottom left-hand corner.

Halsey said: “The first one is a silly free-kick to give away. A great strike. Our wall’s split and it’s gone into the bottom corner. If our wall stays together, it don’t go in!”

Longhurst added: “He scored a free-kick on Saturday as well from similar range. He put it in the other side of the goal.

“The kid’s on fire. Everything he touches seems to go in but it was a good free-kick. 

“It’s something he practices after training. We came in Thursday night and he stayed behind and done a little bit.”

Fisher defender Calum McGeehan went into the referee’s notebook as Britnell was brought down, this time 25-yards from goal.

Wilson stepped up and stroked a left-footed free-kick which Highsted made a comfortable low save.

Longhurst said: “These boys (May and Wilson) have come through over the last couple of years playing with me (at Corinthian) and have spent hours on the training ground, not just on free-kicks but in general and they deserve a little bit of success that they’re getting at the moment because it’s not a case of just turning up.

“They’ve both been loyal to me and hopefully they’re getting repaid by being on the pitch with us at the moment.”

Fisher went close in the 32nd minute when Al-Hassan Oshilaja’s free-kick was played into Billy Walton, who released Eku Deen down the right and the winger cut the ball back towards the edge of the box where striker Jay Garrick slid his shot on the turn wide of the far post.

Winger Deen then escaped down the right again and floated over a cross towards the far post but Roach produced an air-shot to completely miss his volley, to sum up Fisher’s woeful night.

Craig clipped a free-kick towards the edge of the Fisher penalty area and Britnell curled his left-footed drive across the keeper and past the far post from 22-yards.

Fisher’s best chance of the first half, however, arrived in the 41st minute.

Roach unleashed a dipping volley on the turn, which had Erith & Belvedere’s debutant goalkeeper George Kamurasi scrambling across his goal, relieved to see the ball curl just around the post.

Halsey said: “A half-volley that’s just scraped the post, but it was a bit of a lucky rebound that came to him but he took his strike well but other than that we got in a couple of good areas in the first half.

“We put a couple of good balls over and Troy got in a couple of good areas but we’re just not doing the basics at the moment so that’s the disappointing thing for myself.”
But Longhurst admitted his side should have doubled their lead just before half-time.

Colin Richmond swept the ball out wide and right-back Bill Parkinson was given time and space to float over a cross towards the far post which was headed back across goal by Johnson and May teed the ball up for Kissi to blast his right-footed shot over the bar.

“He’s lacking match fitness at the moment,” Longhurst said of Kissi.

“He’s not played, he’s missed the whole of pre-season and I think he missed a large chunk towards the end of last year and he was banned at the start of the season.

“It’s taking a little bit of time for him to get right. We’ve tried to give him some game time to get him there but he’s not quite right there.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time and Longhurst was the happier.

He said: “I said to them at half-time we lost control of the game a little bit. The game went a little end-to-end in the middle period of the first half and I said to them at half-time we have to be better and control the football match.

“I thought second half Billy Manners and Lee Craig were excellent tonight and Ryan Johnson and some of the experienced boys. Adam Marsh came on and done well and I thought second half we were pretty much in control.”

Halsey admitted: “Individually, a very talented bunch of lads I’ve got here but collectively we’re just not doing it at the moment.

“Why? Through a lack of being together for not a long time really. A lack of being able to train during the week for a long time. We get an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Thursday. That’s nowhere near enough time to be challenging up the top half of the table.

“We’ve got what we’ve got and it’s a long-term thing that the chairman spoke to us about so we have to keep going.

“I’m quite a modern coach. I like to believe and we asked the questions and let them answer them. They answered all of the questions right. Did they put it into actions second half? No! Because after the game I asked them again after what we spoke about at half-time.  Did we then put that into actions in the second half and they answered no so the question is why?  No-one can answer me so we’ll discuss that at training.”

Erith & Belvedere created their first second half chance nine minutes in.

Johnson swept the ball out to Wilson, who played the ball into substitute striker Adam Marsh, who laid the ball off to Johnson, who flashed his right-footed drive wide of the far post.

Parkinson then played the ball into Britnell, who feed Marsh, who drilled a right-footed drive across Highsted, who did well to dive to his right to push the ball around the post with an outstretched right-hand.

But Erith & Belvedere doubled their lead from the resulting 56th minute corner.

Hubbard swung in the ball from the left which was cleared away by Fisher and Britnell drilled a low shot towards the bottom corner and looked on disgusted as May got a toe to the ball to guide it into the bottom left-hand corner.

The goal will go down as May’s nineteenth of the season and Britnell appeared to be disgusted that his team-mate poached his goal.

“They’re laughing and joking about it in there now,” revealed their manager.

“They don’t care who scores and that goes for Alfie as well. He couldn’t care less if that was Britnell’s goal or if it was Alfie’s - it was Alfie’s goal!

“I said to them on Thursday night, they’ve been an outstanding group of players to work with.  It is little bit of a training ground routine but once Britnell’s had a shot, yes it was a little bit slice of luck but I think it was probably going in anyway.”

Longhurst was full of praise for the goal-machine, who played for Chatham Town, Bromley and VCD Athletic last season.

“It’s phenomenal! I think he’s the highest goalscorer in non-league football at the moment!

“He’s had a few offers already. A few people have come in for him already. He’s just got to keep his head level and just keep doing what he’s doing.

“He done quite well tonight but he hasn’t actually played as well as he can yet, which is pleasing because he’s scored in a few of the bigger games, which was something that we spoke to him about when he came back in (from Chatham Town) in pre-season.

“When you’ve got someone who puts the ball in the goal that much then you’ve got a chance.”

Longhurst will not release the striker to a rival club and believes he can cut it in the Ryman Premier League.

“I’d like to think he won’t go anywhere in our league. I’m hoping, maybe, not even the league above. He’s just got to wait now. He’s just got to be patient and go to the right football club that’s going to look after him properly and he’s going to play.

“I’m hoping he gets his rewards, which I think he will. He just need to be patient at the moment. If you speak to him he’s not interested in going anywhere at the moment. He’s got his head on and you can see that by his performances on the pitch.”

Halsey admitted May should be playing his trade in a higher level of football.

“Why is he playing in the Kent League? I don’t know. That’s why I’m saying, why is he playing in the Kent League? He should be playing a lot higher as with the other fella Britnell.  Why are they wasting their time in the Kent League? It’s a poor league. They should be playing at a higher level at their age with that amount of talent that they’ve got.

“A great goal ratio from Alfie, without a doubt!”

Fisher almost found themselves back into the game just 118 seconds after the second goal when Garrick’s angled drive was helped on by Troy Abbey and Kamurasi produced an instinctive low save to his right.

Former Bromley and Beckenham Town midfielder Britnell was replaced by Gayle, who danced his way past the Fisher defence before curling a shot towards the far post which was flicked in by May, but from an offside position and the flag was raised.

Longhurst said: “Alfie’s got a touch. Alfie said it was going wide, but I’m not too sure about that!”

Halsey added: “The linesman saw it for that one! He didn’t see it for the other one but thankfully it didn’t take Alfie to twenty goals!”

But May turned provider for Erith & Belvedere’s third goal in the 68th minute when former Corinthian left-back Wilson, 21, scored his first goal for his new club.

May played a diagonal pass to the advanced left-footed Wilson, who cut the ball onto his right-foot before curling a beautiful shot into the bottom far corner from sixteen-yards.

Longhurst said: “Again, he’s another one.  People sort of overlook him a little bit. He’s done brilliant at left-back. I’ll probably say he’s probably the best left-back in the league and great finish on his right foot, which he’s not renowned for but decent finish.”

Halsey added: “Great finish! Again, a little bit of naivety from us. Should we showed him inside? Not really. There you go we were chasing the game.”

Things started to go downhill for a Fisher side that were clearly missing midfielders Jamie Taylor and Danny Maguire.

McGeehan gave the ball away in defence and May slipped the ball to Marsh, whose right-footed drive sailed over.

Former Fisher Athletic midfielder Charlie Hearn came off the bench and played a sublime through ball to release Gayle through on goal, who raced 40-yards to stroke a shot across Highstead, which bounced off the foot of the far post.

“Denzel done brilliant last year (at Corinthian) and I was hoping to keep him this year but he decided to go to Bishop’s Stortford (Vanarama Conference South) pre-season and he’s been at Leatherhead (Ryman Premier League). He’s not had too much success in terms of playing and I spoke to him in the week and (manager) Richard Brady said he needs game time. You can see already, he came on and he made a difference and he’s a good addition to the group.”

Halsey added: “The fella Denzel, who came off the bench, my God! They’re just quick in all areas. They press and counter attack very, very well and we’re not at that level yet.”

An impressive run from Oshilaja saw the Fisher midfielder reach the edge of the penalty area before his back-heal set up substitute Kieron Campbell, whose left-footed drive was expertly pushed over by Kamurasi’s strong right-hand.

Halsey explained why he and Billy Walton started highly-rated Campbell on the bench.

“We rested him tonight. He’s an exceptional talent, but he’s only eighteen and everyone just thinks that 18-year-olds can play Saturday, Monday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, whatever.  They can’t! We just decided to give him a rest to recharge him ready for going back to normality.

“There’s not a lot of recovery time for anyone, not just us. They played Saturday as well.”

Longhurst was full of praise for his new 24-year-old goalkeeper, who relegated former Beckenham Town keeper Rilwan Anibaba out of the squad for this game.

“We’ve brought him in. He was with Grays when they won the Ryman North a couple of years ago. We felt Rilwan probably needed a little bit of a rest because he hasn’t been well so we left him out completely out of the squad and brought George in and he’s had two saves to make and made them both so pleasing performance from him as well.”

But Erith & Belvedere wrapped up the victory with a fourth goal inside injury time.

Gayle escaped the Fisher defence to dance into the penalty area again and his initial shot was blocked. The ball fell to May, whose rebound brought a smart diving save from Highsted and Gayle smashed home a deserved goal into the far corner.

Longhurst added: “He’s hit the post and then he’s got his goal so from a substitutes point of view we’ve put someone on whose made an impact on the game and from a personal point of view for him he’s been out in the wilderness a little bit from the start of the season and he’s come in and he’s buzzing now.”

Halsey added: “We’ve pushed bodies forward. They’ve counter-attacked which they’re very good at and that’s the end story.

“Let’s not take anything away from them, they’re a strong, resilient, good side and they are where they are for a reason because they’re consistent and good at doing what they’re strengths are.”

Fisher remain fourth-from-bottom in the table with five points from seven games and face another bleak winter ahead.

“We’re not going to get downbeat,” insisted Halsey. “We are what we are and we haven’t got any money or anything. We get 27 players at training. Individually a talented bunch of lads but collectively it’s not happening at the moment but we’re not going to give in. We’ll work harder and we’ll push on.  We knew this was going to be a tough game for us.

“We could do better and got to do better. There’s a lot to work on so we’re not going to get down hearted. We are where we are.”

Former Herne Bay and Lordswood manager Halsey had this message to the club’s fan-base.

“Don’t be disappointed. It was a disappointing result but don’t give up on us. We’re going to work hard and see if we can get any players out here that we can grab in to strengthen us.  It’s a long season, yet you only need an eight or nine game unbeaten run to get us right in that midtable areas so it’s not all doom and gloom.”

When asked whether Erith & Belvedere are seeking to return to the Ryman League after relegation after just one season, Longhurst replied: “When I came here the remit was to build a football club and to build some foundations that can be here for a little bit of a longer period of time. That’s what we’re aiming to do.

“We certainly won’t be talking about promotion, certainly not after nine games. No way we’re even dreaming about talking about that!”

Fisher:  Adam Highsted, Kyle Demetrious, Nathaniel Bell, Calum McGeehan, Billy Walton, Al-Hassan Oshilaja, Eku Deen, Jack Robbins (Max Rothwell 54), Alfie Roach (Kieron Campbell 75), Jay Garrick (Mark Chiverton 61), Troy Abbey.
Subs: Zach Beeden, Ehis Izokun

Booked:  Calum McGeehan 18, Jack Robbins 30, Al-Hassan Oshilaja 83

Erith & Belvedere: George Kamurasi, Bill Parkinson, Ben Wilson, Colin Richmond, Billy Manners, Lee Craig, Jake Britnell (Denzel Gayle 61), Ryan Johnson, Alfie May, Richmond Kissi (Adam Marsh 46), Chris Hubbard (Charlie Hearn 81).
Subs: Joe Minter, Joe Jackson

Goals:  Alfie May 15, 57, Ben Wilson 68, Denzel Gayle 90

Attendance: 122
Referee: Mr Gerry Heron (Beckenham)
Assistants: Mr Anthony Andrews (Erith) & Mr Daniel Doyle (Walderslade)