Guru Nanak 0-1 Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club - Football's a cruel game but congratulations to Stansfeld, they had that little bit of quality that they needed, admits hurting Guru Nanak boss Daniel Gibbs

Saturday 18th May 2024
Guru Nanak 0 – 1 Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club
Location The Community Stadium, 251a New Hythe Lane, Larkfield, Maidstone, Kent ME20 6PU
Kickoff 18/05/2024 15:00

Bill Manklow Inter-Regional Challenge Cup Final
Saturday 18 May 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from New Hythe Lane

GURU NANAK manager Daniel Gibbs says losing their first Kent County League Inter-Regional Challenge Cup Final will give his players that fire in the belly to win their next piece of silverware.

Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club lifted the silverware for a record sixth time, courtesy of winger Jay Baker settling a poor Final, slotting home his fifth goal of the season in the 86th minute.

Gravesend-based Guru Nanak reached their first Final by beating Rochester City (5-3), Bexley (1-0), Crayford Arrows (3-2), Long Lane (3-2) and Fleetdown United (1-0).

Guru Nanak finished in third-place in the NRG Gyms Kent County League Division One East table, picking up 45 points from their 24 games.  Gibbs’ side finished beneath Deal Town Reserves (59 points) and Snodland Town Reserves (52).

Stansfeld arrived in Larkfield unbeaten in five previous Inter-Regional Challenge Cup Finals having beaten VCD Athletic (1-0, in 1990), Oakwood (4-2, in 1992), Bearsted (5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, in 2002), Sheerness East (5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw, in 2003) and Farnborough Old Boys Guild (2-0, in 2015).

Stansfeld beat Falconwood (2-1), Welling Park (3-1), Tenterden Town (1-0) and Snodland Town Reserves (3-2) to reach this year’s Final, despite finishing in the bottom three in the Premier Division, having picked up 29 points from their 30 league outings.

They must wait until 15 June to see if they will receive a reprieve after Chipstead and Welling Park both withdrew from the eleventh-tier during the course of the season.

Victorious Stansfeld manager Richard Gurney admitted: “Not the best game.  Normal final, it's a bit scrappy, everyone’s a little bit nervous.  We didn’t really get on the ball first half but when we did in phases, we was alright but it was a proper final.

“We’ve nicked it with a good finish from Jay. He does it all the time, cut in and finished.  The keeper didn’t really get anywhere near it.

“We defended well. It was one of the first games this year we haven’t made any mistakes but great credit to the boys.  There’s been a lot of changes.  I’m just really pleased for the boys, you can hear them (celebrating) in there at the moment, it’s unreal!

“They gave me everything.  Just every single one of them done exactly what we asked of them.  We had an in-house game on Tuesday and worked on a few bits and everything we worked on, we done today, which we can’t ask for any more of them.”

Gibbs added: “Not a lot of quality in the game. A cagey start. No one really settled in.  A lot of long balls were getting played, just to try to beat the defenders and trying not to lose it.

“In the end it was a good strike, worthy of winning a cup final. It’s bitter today, don’t get me wrong, it hurts but take nothing away from a good season for us and look, congratulations to Stansfeld.  On the day they had that bit of quality they needed to get over the line with four minutes to go, congratulations!”

Stansfeld made seven changes to the side that came away from Peckham Town in their last league outing on Saturday 4 May.

Gurney said: “We had a few holidays. We made a few changes from that last game of the season but we wanted to reward the boys that got us to the final.

“We’ve had so many changes this year, we’ve played 62 players, just constantly changing between first team (in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division), second (this team) and third team).  All of these boys got us here. It wouldn’t have mattered what the result is. It wouldn’t be right if they didn’t play, so we had to have them in.”

Stansfeld missed a glorious chance to open the scoring after only 100 seconds when a big kick from goalkeeper Tommy Kemp went over Guru Nanak centre-half Gavindeep Basra (who twice suffered with cramp during the second half) and this let in Joseph Stowell.

However, the striker lacked composure inside the box and his weak right-footed shot was comfortably held by goalkeeper Jack Ringrow, diving low to his right to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom left-hand corner.

“It just didn’t fall for him today, btu he’s been brilliant up there. He’s worked hard, held the ball up and done what we asked him to do,” added Gurney.

Gibbs added: “Jack’s been excellent all season to be fair to him. He’s come in back from an ACL injury and came back halfway through and since coming back in he’s been a great part of the team.

“We’ve got a lot of points in the league and in the semi-final he gets a clean sheet against (Premier Division side) Fleetdown. He’s been an important part of our season.”

Both managers believed Stansfeld’s offside goal in the sixth minute was the correct decision.

Right-back Joe Borland drove at the Guru Nanak defence before shooting across the face of goal before a poor touch from Alfie Moynes set up attacking midfielder Jack Sycamore, who was flagged by Harrison Clark by the time he slammed his right-footed shot into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box.

Guru Nanak offered very little in attack, as Stansfeld were the better side of the two during a cagey opening half-an-hour.

“We wanted to try to get it down and play.  The pitch was a bit bobbly.  You could tell some of the boys were nervous,” admitted Gurney.

“They didn’t really threaten us that much in clear-cut opportunities.  The game plan was just keep it tight and just build our way into the game.

“We done it for a little bit until about half-an-hour and then it sort of died off a little bit but it was a game of ups and downs. We was good for 10 minutes and bad for 10 minutes.”

Gibbs added: “First half we were trying to get a foothold on the ball early and try to play our game but I think Stanseld were much the better side in the first 20 minutes and probably should’ve been a goal up.

“I think we settled into the game well and I think we stifled them, where they kind of didn’t have an answer for that. 

“They had a bit of a second wind after that but I think last 25 of the first half I think we were very good but we just couldn’t find that extra bit of quality in the final third to actually carve that chance out.”

Lewis Brown launched a throw in from the right towards the near-post for fellow midfielder Michael Arthey to flick his header harmlessly wide.

Guru Nanak started to claw themselves back into the game during the final 15 minutes of the first half.

A strong challenge from Stansfeld’s central midfielder William Ridley took out Guru Nanak’s ineffective striker Luke Pollard in the 40th minute.

Arthey floated a deep free-kick towards the back-post which saw left-back Maxwell Sanni ghost in to steer his header from a tight angle which was comfortably held at the near-post by Stansfeld keeper Kemp.

Stansfeld centre-half Ibrahim Barrie was penalised by referee Grant Steele for a foul on Pollard and faced with a three-man wall, Will Halliday’s right-footed free-kick from 20-yards was comfortably saved in Kemp’s midriff.

Gibbs said: “Will was brought in five games ago. We’ve got a routine we usually try and play from that kind of angle but we knew Will’s got the kind of quality we need from the dead ball, so we thought we give him the opportunity to put his name in Guru’s history books and have a crack at it.”

Gurney added: “Tom’s been brilliant all year, some of the saves he’s made.  In the quarter-finals against Tenterden, it was unbelievable. He shouldn’t have saved it but he throws his body on the line, he got the ball in his face.  He was brilliant today. He came out and got everything, kicking was really good, so everything that we wanted him to do.

“He’s been at a charity do all morning. I think he’s run a 5k as well, so he might have to do that every Saturday.”

The crowd of 245 hoped for better quality for the second half.

Gurney said: “We just told them to keep going. We knew it would come eventually. We swapped the wingers over. We knew how Jay is coming in on his right-foot. Alfie Moynes was threatening down the left constantly, but we thought we would bring on young Charlie Gray.  He’s done well.

“We just told them to keep going. We knew we’d get chances. We just didn’t test the keeper enough in the first half.”

Gibbs added: “It was just about trying to find that extra five to 10 percent and settling down, I think, not playing the occasion, just playing a game of football.  At the end of the day, it’s hard, as an ex-player. It’s hard.  You want to say to them not play the occasion but there’s 245 people there watching and there’s a cup on the side they knew they win if they play well enough.

“It’s very cliché.  How do you tell them enough to calm down and settle into it and not worry about the occasion and play a 90 minute game of football like always, when ultimately, it isn’t that.

“It’s not a case of a point, no points, three points at the end of it. It’s a case of you lifting the trophy, so I understood the nerves. I understood the cagey start but just trying to get them settled, try to get our game plan implemented and try to restart really and get into the second half and try and create some chances for us to win the game.”

Stansfeld started the second half on the front foot, going close to smashing the stalemate after 90 seconds.

Left-back Archie Valler threw the ball to Stowell, who smacked a right-footed volley over the crossbar from 30-yards.

Stansfeld then produced a well-worked counter-attacking move when holding midfielder Harrison English hit a long ball, the ball bounced off Stowell’s chest on the half-way line before Ridley released Moynes in behind but Ringrow came off his line and smothered the ball at the striker’s feet.

Valler played the ball into the left-channel for Stowell, who laid the ball off to Sycamore, who cut onto his right-foot and his 25-yard drive took a deflection and was comfortably gathered by Ringrow in the 52nd minute.

“Your Sycamore’s and your Harrison’s (English) don’t get a lot of goals.  Normally you’d expect more chances. If this is a normal league game, they’d be a lot more chances, a lot more goals but where it’s a cup final, everyone seemed to be on edge,” admitted Gurney.

Gibbs added: “We knew they’ll come out well. We knew it would be very similar to the first half where they try to get an early goal.  They tried to get in our face and try to put a load of pressure on us, but we were confident we could deal with that for the majority and I think we did.  In the end, it didn’t go that way.”

There was a momentum shift towards Guru Nanak just 16 seconds later when Brown pounced on a loose ball inside the Stansfeld half before drilling a right-footed shot just over the crossbar from 30-yards.

Guru Nanak should have grabbed the lead (09:34) with the best chance of the game when Stansfeld centre-half Tom Varrow opened the gate and got away with it.

Arthey played a fine diagonal pass 40-yards from goal which split open Varrow and put Halliday through on goal but the ball bobbled just before he struck it right-footed 20-yards from goal and the ball ballooned over the crossbar.

Gibbs said: “I’m sure he’ll mention the bobble. He’s got four in five previous to today.  I know he’ll take that any day of the week. Whether it bobbled or not, it is what it is. It’s football. It’s part of those boys as a striker. They’re not going to score every goal. It’s fine. If they enjoy themselves, if they express themselves, I’m happy for them.

“They’re going to score goals. Look, today it didn’t happen for him.  When he went through, yes, he takes that every other day of the week. Today, it’s not that day, unfortunately. It’s one of those things.”

Gurney added: “They had a few good chances.  I think the seven (Brown) was playing wing-back, he was a good player and kept cutting in, causing a bit of an issue but it was just nullifying, stopping each other trying to do what we were trying to do.  The tactics we both played and the shape we played was just nullifying everything.

“It was a game of chess where you just stop each other but we got there in the end.”

Stansfeld goalkeeper Kemp jumped up and caught the ball in his midriff as Brown drilled a 25-yard free-kick towards goal just before the hour-mark.

“It’s just one of them.  You ask him to hit the target. There was just not enough quality on it in the end, straight down the middle for the keeper,” added Gibbs.

Stansfeld weathered the storm and this game looked destined to be heading to extra-time, which both sets of players didn’t want, with this being the last game of a very long and wet football season.

Gurney said: “To be fair, I was stood in the sun and I can’t stand here for another half-an-hour but we knew if we had a chance and it fell to Jay Baker, he can finish.   We knew if we had a chance and it fell to Jay or Jack Keen, there’s a high chance we were going to score but it was a bit of squeaky bum time, thinking I’m here for another half-an-hour.”

But Stansfeld grabbed the victory by finishing off a well-worked move with 40 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock, with two impact substitutes playing their part.

Charlie Gray played the ball down the line to fellow sub Jack Keen, who cut the ball onto his right-foot and crossing into the Guru Nanak box.

Right-back Abiola Ameen headed the ball out of his box, Baker controlled the ball and produced the only bit of quality of the game, stroking his right-footed shot across the diving keeper to find the bottom left-hand corner from 22-yards.

“One clear opportunity that we had, it wasn’t even a full chance, but we’ve taken it well,” said Gurney.

“Jay’s come in since Christmas and that’s what he does. Jay is one of the most quietest kids there’s ever been. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t want to celebrate but he’s one of the nicest kids going and his quality on the ball is different class.

“He’s probably too good for us. We knew if we gave him a chance like that on the edge of the box, he’s going to score.”

Gibbs added: “Abiola done well, won the initial header and I think it’s about as a collective, as a group. What can we do to get around him there? Take a bit of pressure off him, get out to the winger and close the shot down. I don’t think we done that quickly enough and I think that’s the difference there.

“I think if you put that up the other end of the pitch and it falls to one of our wingers, I feel that how Stansfeld defended, they would’ve had two or three bodies around it and we wouldn’t have even got the shot to their keeper.

“Ultimately, we went a bit leggy and the right-wingback didn’t get out quickly enough, didn’t close the shot down and ended up in the back of the net.”

Guru Nanak missed a glorious chance to force extra-time (48:20) when 29-goal striker Luke Pollard missed his big moment, which probably explains why he’s playing in the 12th tier of English football and not higher as he failed to impress on the big stage in what was an awful game of football as both sides put in lacklustre performances.

Ringrow launched the ball straight down the middle with his left-foot, the ball was flicked on by substitute Vahron Chambers which played in Pollard, who lacked composure and hit his right-footed volley over the crossbar when he only had the keeper to beat.

Gibbs said: “You put your money or your mortgage on him scoring that but look, what Pollard’s given me throughout this season, he’s got 29 goals but he spent three months in Bali travelling (between October and December) and that’s what no one’s realised. He’s missed three months of the season.

“I know what I’m going to get with Luke. He gives me 100% and he wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a good striker.

“I can’t expect him to score. He’s barely touched the ball in their box. He’s run himself into the ground for 90 minutes and ultimately he’s done all he could. Just too much on it and he’s put it over the bar.”

Gurney added: “I know all about him. One of my mates played a friendly for Guru Nanak and he went ‘the centre-half heads everything, the striker’s a bagsman and scores goals’.

“We knew about him but we didn’t give him a sniff today. Most other games he’d most probably score it but the pitch is a little bit bobbly in places. All I’ve heard about him is that he scores goals.”

Gibbs believes watching Stansfeld lift this trophy for the sixth time – three more times than Bearsted – will give his players the motivation they need to go one better then next time they contest a Final.

“I’m massively proud of the boys.  They’ve all given me more than I could ever dreamt off and today hurts them.  I am proud of them. They’ve given me everything,” said Gibbs.

“Look, they’ll be back a lot of these boys. It won’t be their last cup final. That won’t be their last top-three league position. It’s just about getting them up and taking the right positives out of today so next time, as a group when it goes the distance in a cup final, they’re the ones with that bit of quality.

“The boys have given me everything. I can’t fault them, even today. Football’s a cruel game. Congratulations to Stansfeld. They had that little bit of quality that they needed, that’s all there is to it.

“It’s hard watching them lift it but I think all of my boys done the right thing. They were all at the forefront clapping Stansfeld when they lifted it and that’s what it’s about.

“It gives you that fire in the belly and that’s one of the main reasons I demand my players’ stood there and take in the moment with the other team. Even if you are on the wrong end of it because ultimately there’s a lesson to be learnt and it’s not always about winning or losing but what I always tell the boys is you win or learn.  You never lose. Don’t ever look at it as a loss. You just learn and that’s their learning curve now.

“They’ve watched Stansfeld lift the trophy. They’ve clapped them, paid their respects but it can hopefully give them something inside that gives them that burning fire for next time that we’re better equipped to lift that trophy next time.”

Both managers reflected on their league campaign, with Stansfeld hopeful they can retain their Premier Division status despite finishing in the relegation zone, along with Bexley (30 points), Bermondsey Town (21) and Welling Park (12).

Gurney said: “We’ve been trying to re-enforce the team spirit and the boys have been together all year.  It’s been a horrible season for us.

“I’ve only come in (from the third team) since Christmas and there’s been a lot of change and a lot of players going up to the first team and coming down. It’s been a hard season for us but the way they all stuck together. We’re going to have a good night tonight, that’s all I can say.

“I’ve been here for about 10 years now, probably. It’s a great club, winning stuff and then we celebrate together. We’re just like one big family, it’s really good for everyone.  We had loads of supporters’ down here today, we’re just one big club.

“We’ve got so many youngsters that are going up and getting an opportunity (in the first team) and that’s what the club is about.  Everyone says it, it’s like a brotherhood because everyone sticks together and works together.

“We know as a second team we’re going to lose players. The third team are going to lose players to us but we all stuck in it together.  If we stay up, the third team can go up, which is what I want.  I want the boys in the second team and the third team, the whole club, everyone is just a unit. We want the third team to do well, we want us to do well.

“We’ve not heard anything (about a reprieve). It’s just wait and see now.”

With Isthmian League South East Division bound Deal Town withdrawing their title-winning reserve team from Guru Nanak’s division – Gibbs hopes Guru Nanak are promoted into the Premier Division.

“There is a possibility we’ll get shunted up because Deal Town Reserves have folded and have gone SCEFL Development League so realistically I need to make sure that we’ve got a squad that can compete and be stable in the Kent Prem next year,” said Gibbs, who has been in charge for one season.

“If we’re in Division One, push on and try to improve on third-place and if we do improve on third-place, we’re playing Kent Prem the year after next.

“We’ve got good aspirations but we’re just trying to reset the foundations and put things in place and make it more stable and push on really, get us back into the Prem but stable up there and really push on and see what we can do, that’s the aim.”

When asked whether the Gravesend based outfit harbours ambitions for the Southern Counties East Football League First Division in the near future, Gibbs replied: “Nothing I can comment on.  As the manager, it’s my job to go out there and win a game of football.

“Whether the board have plans to go SCEFL, once we get to the Prem and once they push on, then maybe.  Some club’s like enjoy playing in the Kent County Football League and I wouldn’t mind if Guru was to be that and I wouldn’t also mind if they wanted to push on and have bigger aspirations to go up and go SCEFL and try to put their foot in there and see how they would go.”

Guru Nanak: Jack Ringrow, Abiola Ameen (Vahron Chambers 90), Maxwell Sanni (Ben Maynard 90), Harry Akers (Harnak Cheema 90), Gavindeep Basra, Harry Mcivor, Michael Arthey, George Mcivor, Luke Pollard, Will Halliday, Lewis Brown.
Sub: George Martin

Booked: Will Halliday 51, Jack Arnold 69

Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club: Tommy Kemp, Joe Borland, Archie Valler, Harrison English, Tom Varrow (Oscar Chapman 88), Ibrahim Barrie, Alfie Moynes (Charlie Gray 68), William Ridley, Joseph Stowell (Jack Keen 82), Jack Sycamore (Jack Goyns 61), Jay Baker.
Sub: Joe Jamal

Goal: Jay Baker 86

Booked: William Ridley 39, Harrison English 82

Attendance: 245
Referee: Mr Grant Steele
Assistants: Mr Harrison Clark & Mr Guy Armand Mougoue
Fourth Official: Mr Gareth Devey