Fisher 2-2 Crawley Down Gatwick - We had the rub of the green, admits Simon Halsey

Sunday 02nd November 2014

(after extra time)
The FA Vase First Round
Sunday 2nd November 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Champion Hill Stadium

FISHER joint-manager Simon Halsey admits his side received the rub of the green to twice come back from the dead to avoid a FA Vase exit to struggling Crawley Down Gatwick.

Fisher were poor for large chunks of this FA Vase First Round tie against a Crawley Down Gatwick side that arrived at Champion Hill sitting second-from-bottom in the Sussex County League top-flight with 4 points from thirteen games and on the back of seven defeats on the bounce.

Tim Penlington’s side broke the stalemate at the end of an uninspiring first half through a headed goal from midfielder Mo Shuga’a.

Fisher appeared destined to be crashing out of the competition when referee Jason Down pointed to the spot in the 88
th minute.

But Halsey and Billy Walton pulled off a tactical masterstroke to delay the taking of the resulting penalty, by making a substitution and put doubt in Josh Alcock’s mind, striking the left-hand post from the resulting penalty.

Fisher grabbed a last-gasp equaliser when Jamie Taylor held his nerve from the penalty spot to force extra-time.

Crawley Down Gatwick scored their second headed goal towards the end of the first period of extra-time through substitute Andy Goodwin, before Fisher substitute Kareem Boyle capped off an impressive display by rifling home a last-gasp equaliser at the death to force a replay at Hophurst Lane on Wednesday night.

Halsey said: “That’s what The FA Vase is all about!  As everyone was going on to me about they haven’t won in the last seven and they haven’t scored this and scored that. When you come into The Vase you can’t look at things like that! It’s a one-off game.  As you’ve seen over the periods of times that you’ve interviewed me any team can win that game on that day with a little bit of the rub of the green so I was under no illusions today that we were going to steam roller it.

“No it wasn’t (very good), that’s where we are at the moment. Anyone who knows me or reads my interviews in the last few weeks that’s where we are. We’re consistently inconsistent at the moment, especially at home so we’re quite happy we’re going away now to have another crack at it on Wednesday night but we’re not very good at home.”

Fisher created their opening chance inside 121 seconds when Nathaniel Bell threw the ball to Shane Uings, who played the ball to Alfie Roche, whose right-footed drive sailed harmlessly over the bar from 25-yards.

But Crawley Down Gatwick pressed forward but their shooting proved to be poor.

Sam Cane played the ball inside to Clive Zammit, who swept the ball out to Steve Major on the right and his cross found Zammit in space just inside the penalty area but his first time left-footed volley sailed over.

Shuga’a hooked a pass into Major, who swept the ball into Zammit, who curled his left-footed shot just around the far post from 22-yards.

The Sussex side should have done much better in the 12
th minute when George Wallis and Cane linked up before left-back Jacob Wright whipped in a cross towards the near post but Major’s free header was caught by an untroubled Adam Highsted in the Fisher goal.

Fisher created a couple of long-range opportunities as the game edged towards the fifteenth-minute mark.

Taylor played the ball into Uings, who stroked his right-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, which bounced once and Seb Boss made a comfortable save.

Fisher striker Junior James then played the ball into Taylor, who stroked his 30-yard drive flashing past the left-hand post.

Fisher took a corner quickly, which caught their opponents off guard and Mark Chiverton played the ball short to James, who clipped the ball into the penalty area but Cedric Abraham powered his bullet header past the near post from sixteen-yards.

Fisher keeper Highsted made a comfortable save low to his left to prevent Alcock scoring with a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which skidded of the turf into the keeper’s gloves.

Wright’s pacy run took the left-back to the by-line before he whipped in a cross into the Fisher penalty area. The ball was half cleared up by Bell and Cane skied his right-footed volley over the bar from 20-yards.

Fisher’s best chance of an uninspiring first half finally arrived six minutes before half-time.

James stroked his right-footed free-kick towards goal from 35-yards, which was parried by Boss before the keeper gathered the ball at the second attempt.

Halsey summed up the mood within Champion Hill at the time by saying, “That was about how exciting that it got – we move on?”

Zammit once again blasted his shot over the bar from 22-yards, before Crawley Down Gatwick edged in front inside stoppage time.

Major played a one-two with Scott Johnston – the central defender who found himself on the right hand side of the penalty area – before whipping in a cross towards the far post and Shuga’a planted his header across Highsted to score from inside the six-yard box.

Halsey said: “We gave away possession and they broke. What their five was doing there? I’m not quite sure.  I think he was coming back from a set-piece but he broke, they passed it and we didn’t mark very well at the back. We didn’t get ourselves around the ball in the right areas and we were ball watching. It’s gone over Cedric (Abraham) and the fellas there to nod it in.

“Did they deserve it? No! I would have thought 0-0 would have been a fair result on the whole of the first half to be fair.

“We didn’t create enough really. They were half chances so that exactly shows what the first half was about. We set ourselves up in a way that was a bit new to us but we didn’t adapt to that quickly enough but technically and possession wise, we dominated that.”

When asked what he told his troops during the interval, Halsey replied: “Just told them they’ve got to try to keep believing in themselves and get that consistency. We’re just not consistent.

“We play well two games, play not so well one game and that’s where we are so we have to give them that belief.  Technically they are good footballers but we’re just not getting it together consistently at the moment.”

Crawley Down Gatwick created the first chance of the second half when Wallis rolled the ball over to Major out on the right, who cut inside and drilled a left-footed angled drive which stung Highsted’s fingers after 54 minutes.

Fisher’s fans gave their side good vocal support throughout but they wanted their players to play with heart and desire which was clearly lacking for large chunks.

Fisher woke up the home fans when they created the next chance of the game in the 66th minute.

Taylor played the ball to striker Chiverton, who cracked a right-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which forced Boss to dive to his right to beat away.

Crawley Down Gatwick skipper Johnston got another nosebleed when his run took him into Fisher’s half of the field before he played the ball to Alcock before substitute Goodwin dragged his right-footed drive wide from 30-yards.

But Fisher were staring down the barrel when the referee pointed to the spot and booked keeper Highsted after he impeded Alcock inside the corner of the penalty area.

Halsey added: “It’s going into the net as far as I’m concerned. I bank him to score, 2-0 and go through to the next round but that’s football! He didn’t put it away!”

However, there was a delay in Alcock taking the penalty as the Fisher management team decided to bring on substitute Jay Garrick for left-back Bell.

It proved to be a tactical masterstroke as Alcock stroked his right-footed penalty against the left-hand post and Fisher had five minutes to save their bacon.

Halsey added: “It was the right time. They set themselves out for the penalty so I thought let’s bring Jay on and kill a little bit more time.  The referee was going to blow his whistle so I alerted the linesman to kill a bit more time. Perhaps it unsettled him a little bit. Perhaps made him think where he was going to put it. That’s part of the job that I have to do.”

Fisher received another huge slice of luck when substitute Mark Barnard was given time and space to drill his right-footed shot from 35-yards, which screamed over Highsted and clipped the top of the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick.

Fisher pressed forward with pace one last time and the impressive Boyle cut into the penalty area and was brought down by Johnston and referee Jason Down pointed to the spot for a second time.

Fisher’s FA Vase run went down to one kick of a football – but Taylor held his nerve and sent Boss the wrong way with a cheeky dinked right-footed finish to force extra time with 46:17 on the clock.

It was an impressive home debut for Boyle, Fisher’s man-of-the-match.

Halsey said: “He’s just new to us this week. We left him out because we didn’t have what I class as a natural winger the other side so we changed our shape a little bit but I think it proves on his day, he’s young, quick and he’s great with the ball. He puts balls into areas where it hurts.

“We played until the last five minutes and it was a clear penalty, no question about it. I don’t know what the drams was all about. It was a clear penalty I’ve seen. 

“I think that’s his fourth penalty this year. He just steps up. He’s a very cool customer, Jamie. I had no fear that he would miss the target, so we set ourselves up for extra-time.

“We’ve saved it until the last five minutes and Jamie’s kept his cool and slotted it away.”

Both teams created chances to win the game in extra-time, but Crawley Down Gatwick will rue their missed chances to kill the game off.

Fisher substitute Piers Hanifan cut in from the left and drilled a right-footed shot towards the top near corner from 25-yards, which was brilliantly tipped around the post by Boss, diving high to his right after only 20 seconds.

Halsey said: “Great save.  A lot of people applauded our move because the build-up to it was a good passage of play to get Piers in the box. He had quick feet, struck it going into the top corner and everyone applauded us but I applauded the goalie. I thought it was a great save especially so early in the extra-time, so it was a great save from him.

“Most of the game it was just in the final third that we didn’t do the right things or make the right decisions at the right time.”

Roche swung in the resulting corner but a towering Garrick planted his header over.

Crawley Down Gatwick grabbed a 103rd minute lead with their first opportunity in the first period.

Substitute Barnard rolled the ball down the line for Wallis, who powered his cross in from the right by-line and Goodwin rose with Highsted to power his header into the roof of the net.

Halsey said: “If we take it back, we lost possession just over the halfway line which was the wrong decision again and they clear their lines.  We lose possession, they switch it to the other side and he delivers it in.

“It’s a goal at our level and the experienced players that we’re involved in that, it should not be happening! 

“I’ve just said to them well done for continuing for the extra-time and everything but we wouldn’t have got in that position if we don’t play behind our eighteen-yard line. They know that’s one of my specifications in football. If we’re going to play short it’s in front of the eighteen-yard line!”

When asked whether Goodwin might have fouled the goalkeeper, Halsey replied: “No! Not a chance in hell! It’s a fair header. No complaints about that at all.  A few people around me (thought it was a foul).  The bloke’s got up well, it’s one of them, if Adam had it in his hands, but the referee didn’t see it. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it to be fair.”

Crawley Down Gatwick were denied a chance to kill the game off after only 25 seconds into the second period.

Goodwin swept the ball out wide to Alcock in acres of space down the left and he cut the ball back for substitute Grant Rigler to tuck the ball home, but Highsted made a smart low block from close range.

Halsey said: “He should have tucked it away, but Adam’s good at that. He’s a good shot-stopper and that’s what he does very well at.  That is one of his strengths being a shot-stopper at close range.  He’s done it there today, which isn’t the first time for us.”

Fisher received another slice of luck when Sonny Barton’s diagonal pass found Alcock – thanks to Hanifan slipping over in the rain – and the winger cut in from the left and curled his right-footed shot around the keeper and against the top of the far post from 25-yards.

“It’s hit the post. A great strike, body shape was good. He curled it around but it’s hit the post but again that’s the little bits of luck that you need!

“They’ve had a few efforts towards the end but we’ve changed our shape to go and win the game – 3-4-1-2. We’re going to win the game. We’re not going out of the competition I should say.

“We just stripped the defence back and pushed players forward into holes where we would try and hurt them. 

“We haven’t been overrun by playing a boring 4-4-2 or a five at a back. We’ve gone behind them. We’ve gone for it and that’s all credit to my players for listening to us and having a go at them.”

But Fisher lived to fight another day and they threw bodies forward in a desperate effort.

Taylor played the ball into Calum McGeehan (who came up from the heart of defence to be deployed as an emergency target man) who swept the ball out wide to Roche.

Roche reached the by-line and whipped in a poor low cross, which was destined to be cut out by Boss, but Cooney had a rush of blood and decided to pass the ball back to his keeper.

The outcome saved Fisher’s bacon – in the 120th minute.

With a sea of red shirts standing on the goal-line, Chiverton touched the free-kick from the corner of the six-yard box short to McGeehan, who drilled his shot across the face of the penalty area and Boyle steered the ball into the roof of the net from within a crowded goal-mouth.

Halsey said: “A lot of people like those situations but it’s a very hard place to score a goal when it’s like that because you’ve got their players backed up to the goal-line. The goalie’s there, especially at that angle.

“It’s a very hard place to try to find an opening. My thoughts were Mark Chiverton was going to pass it to Calum and Calum would step over it because Jamie Taylor was on the edge of the box to get a strike from that sort of areas but Calum’s swung at it and I think it was going down towards the corner flag and Kareem’s stuck his foot out and put it in to the top of the net, right up in the top.”

This game proves just why supporters shouldn’t head for the exits before the final whistle is blown.

“We’re in the hat and that’s where you want to be on Monday,” said Halsey.

“When Marc Seager and I travelled around a lot of England watching games of football when we were at Whitstable, it didn’t matter how far away from home we was I never left the game before the referee blew the whistle because you never know what’s going to happen in the last couple of minutes.

“They had six changes in their team since we went to watch them so that’s why I hate watching football at this level.  Players at this level can be good one week and awful the next.”

But Fisher found something from within to earn a second bite of the cherry – but they will have to play much better on Wednesday night to progress.

Halsey said: “That’s The FA Vase for you – two-all and we have to go back down there on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to it because we’re playing well away from home. We’ve got through a not a very good day and we’ve got to go down there and battle it out there.

“These are the little bits of luck that you need on the way. You don’t have to be the best team to go far in this.  You just have to have a bit of the rub of the green on the way and we had that.”

Fisher: Adam Highsted, Cedric Abraham (Piers Hanifan 63), Nathaniel Bell (Jay Garrick 85), Calum McGeehan, Billy Walton, Al-Hassan Oshilaja, Alfie Roche, Shane Uings, Junior James (Kareem Boyle 46), Mark Chiverton, Jamie Taylor.
Sub: Justin Lee

Goals: Jamie Taylor 90 (penalty), Kareem Boyle 120

Booked: Shane Uings 57, Mark Chiverton 62, Adam Highsted 83, Al-Hassan Oshilaja 105, Jamie Taylor 111

Crawley Down Gatwick: Seb Boss, Sonny Barton, Jacob Wright, George Wallis, Scott Johnston, Blair Cooney, Mo Shuga’a (Grant Rigler 68), Sam Cane, Steve Major (Mark Barnard 79), Clive Zammit (Andy Goodwin 73), Josh Alcock.
Subs: Joe Ford, Sam Jackson

Goals: Mo Shuga’a 45, Andy Goodwin 103

Booked: Blair Cooney 90

Attendance: 104
Referee: Mr Jason Down (Sittingbourne)
Assistants: Mr Brian Woodhouse (Sittingbourne) & Mr Darren Wilson (Rochester)