Herne Bay 2-3 London Corinthians - We've tried so hard over the last few years and this year we've made it, says delighted London Corinthians manager Bill Shaw

Friday 01st April 2016
Herne Bay 2 – 3 London Corinthians
Location Gallagher Stadium, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ
Kickoff 01/04/2016 19:30

Kent Reliance Women’s Cup Final
Friday 1st April 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Gallagher Stadium

LONDON CORINTHIANS’ co-manager Bill Shaw says he’s feeling delighted after his side claimed the Kent Reliance Women’s Cup for the first time.

This year’s prestigious Final was contested between two sides from the London & South East Regional League, with second-placed London Corinthians deservedly beating fourth-placed Herne Bay to be crowned winners in front of a crowd of 339 at Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium.

LONDON CALLING: London Corinthians celebrate winning the Kent Reliance Women's Cup for the first time after beating their league rivals Herne Bay 3-2 in Maidstone
Photo courtesy of: Kent Football Association

Gillingham had claimed their fourth title on the bounce (and their sixth overall) with a 5-3 win over London Corinthians last march, but Shaw’s side ensured Herne Bay’s first Final appearance in this competition ended in disappointment.

London Corinthians had defeated Crockenhill (6-1), Gillingham (1-0) and Parkwood Rangers (6-2) to make it through to their second Final.

Herne Bay knocked out Long Lane (3-0) and Meridian (2-0, after extra time) to reach the Final, having reached the Semi-Finals last season and prior to that defeated both Parkwood Rangers and Bromley in back-to-back Kent Women’s Plate Finals.

London Corinthians – now based at Blackheath Rugby Club, Kidbrooke after vacating Cray Valley’s Badgers Sports Ground - led an uninspiring first half through Colombian Laura Susarta’s half-volley.

But the game exploded into life when former Gillingham midfielder Danni Farmer produced a high-quality strike into the top corner to bring Herne Bay back on level terms only 73 seconds into the second-half.

Shaw pulled off a tactical masterstoke when he brought on substitute goalkeeper Jade Charlton and keeper Katherine Long took off her gloves, grabbed the number 12 shirt from the dug-out and played up front and flicked in her thirteenth-goal of the season to give her side the lead.

Versatile Emily Hart slotted home her 18th goal of the season to put London Corinthians in the driving seat, before Farmer poked in her sixth-goal of the season at the death.

“Absolutely delighted, we’ve tried to hard over the last few years, runners-up last year, a huge effort in all of the other cups but just couldn’t make the final push, this year we’ve made it, great for everybody,” said Shaw afterwards.

“Well I’m just delighted. I’ve been doing it for years, tried hard and we’ve made it!”

Herne Bay manager Anthony Deer, who has guided the four-year-old Ladies side to six trophies, said: “We started off slowly. I think nerves were kicking in a little bit. We pulled ourselves into the game.

“We knew what London Corinthians were about and we coped well with it. They scored the goal and we fell asleep for the goal a little bit and it’s disappointing to lose a Cup Final but we’ve said all along, in four seasons of the club to get into the Women’s Kent Cup is an achievement in itself.”

London Corinthians went into the game with four wins on the bounce and eight points adrift of champions AFC Wimbledon, who head an eleven team division.

They were to be denied by a fine save from Herne Bay goalkeeper Sarah Cooper inside the opening eight minutes.

Hart played the ball into Holly Ryde down the left and the winger played Hart on the overlap to whip in a low cross.  Striker Danielle Harrison turned inside the box and stroked her right-footed shot on the turn towards the far corner from 10-yards, which Cooper saved to her left.

“Actually she lives in Sheffield but we’ve nabbed her when she came down to London. Terrific player, bundles of pace, pity she got injured, but there you go,” Shaw said of Harrison.

Deer added: “Sarah has been outstanding all season, she keeps us in games, got us a lot of points. She was outstanding again tonight in both halves, not a lot she can do about the goals.”

London Corinthian’s created their next chance through Kristi Nunnick, who played a low pass inside from the right wing to Harrison, who slipped a lovely pass to put Ryde through on goal but she blasted her shot over the bar from six-yards out whilst under pressure from Bay’s right-back Kate Foster.

Shaw added: “Pleased with the start because Herne Bay tend to play a lot of balls over the top and we wanted to play a little bit deeper just to keep the ball longer.

“When we played them in the league they played a hell of a lot of balls over the top and we normally play high.

“She’d probably scored as well,” Shaw said of Ryde’s chance.

“One player in the team who had to score. It would’ve been her on her left-foot!”

Deer points to his opponents went into the game scoring 61 goals from their 19 league games, conceding 20, while Herne Bay have scored only 26 goals, conceding 23 from their 16 league outings.

“As a defensive unit apart from the last couple of games when we haven’t had our full strength squad, our defence record has been quite good,” said Deer.

“I know they’ve scored a lot of goals but we haven’t conceded many goals so it was always going to be who was going to come on top? They worked hard in defence tonight and I’m a bit gutted for them (my players’).”

Herne Bay managed to get themselves back into the game creating a couple of chances from outside the box.

Farmer stroked her right-footed free-kick from 30-yards towards the bottom near corner, the ball bouncing once into Long’s hands for a comfortable save in the 16th minute.

Hannah Gardner then put in a cross from the right which found Nicola Morris, but the central midfielder clipped her shot into Long’s hands from 20-yards.

“We knew it would be difficult. We tried as much as we can, they sat deeper and deeper and deeper,” said Deer.

“Patience is everything and rather be a little bit patient we panicked a little bit at times and our passing let us down but we came out second half fighting and they know what they had to do.”

Shaw said: “That’s why we were playing a little bit deeper because if we’d cleared the ball we’d knew they’d likely shoot because they were unable really to go around people, so we thought if we hit it out and they get it, they’re going to shoot and our goalkeepers good enough to save that.”

London Corinthians took the lead with 21:16 on the clock when Herne Bay failed to clear a free-kick.

Adele Keech clipped the ball into the penalty area and the ball was cleared out to Megan Mansfield, who from the right flank floated in a cross, which was allowed to bounce inside the Herne Bay box.

Susarta swept her right-footed half-volley across keeper Cooper to find the far corner from 15-yards.

Shaw said: “Colombian girl, going back to Colombia this year but hopefully should be back playing for us at the start of next season but a nice player.”

Deer added: “It’s a disappointing goal.  We talked about it briefly at half-time. Apart from that one defensive error we gave away a needless free-kick. We were overstretching, the player’s tripped over.  They get a free-kick, we dealt with the first part of it but just a little bit of a lack of communication for the players round the outside.

“We switched off for a second and at this level if you switch off for a second then you’re going to get punished.”

Herne Bay’s response was almost immediate but right-winger Carly Farrow cut inside and toe-poked her shot just past the foot of the right-hand post from 16-yards.

The rest of the first half was a cagey affair with goalscoring opportunities and entertainment at a premium.

London Corinthians created the last chance of the sterile first half in the 39th minute.

Skipper Keech played the ball out to Hart, who unleashed her right-footed angled drive from 25-yards on the right-hand side of the penalty area which screamed into Cooper’s hands at her near post.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

Shaw who runs the team alongside Conner Dymond, said: “Not a lot really, just keep focused on what you were doing, do the same in the second half. Try to get the two midfield players Jane (Simpson) and Adele (Keech) to push up a little bit more but Jane has only had a baby seven or eight weeks ago so she was struggling in the end to get up, that’s why we took her off!

Deer added: “I think it was always going to be one of those games, once we settled down and got our passing game we created sort of half chances.  Our final third decision making let us down in the first half and it was difficult to get back from that.

“I said to them we’re still in this game. Cliches always come out at half-time. We’ve got to start strong, we’ve got to start quick. I didn’t say they were 1-0 better than us but they just took their chance. We fell asleep, I didn’t think there was much in it in the first half and it could’ve gone either way.”

Farmer lit up the game with a stunning strike to bring Herne Bay level out of the blue.

Farmer picked up a loose ball inside London Corinthian’s half, pulled off a couple of drag-backs to beat a couple of defenders and cracked her right-footed drive into the top left-hand corner from 25-yards.

Deer said: “I said to the girls’ we need to shoot a little bit more. It set up the game quite nicely for the second half, get an early goal, got plenty of time.  If anything we stepped back a little bit. We settled down but we settled too much rather than try to go for the next goal.

“We just allowed them to play a little bit. We looked a bit panicky again but we still caused some problems at the back when we got the ball.”

Shaw simply added: “Unstoppable! What can I say? You just say good goal, get on with it and try and score another one!”

Keech played a sublime diagonal pass to Ryde, who took a touch to drill her left-footed shot past the near post from 15-yards.

London Corinthians were to be denied by the post in the 57th minute.

Ryde swung in a corner from the right towards the near post where Nunnick cushioned header down clipped the right-hand post and was cleared to safety.

Shaw said: “That’s our American girl, 46-years-of-age and she goes back to America this year – for ever! At 46, she’s an absolute star!”

Deer added: “You get that in football sometimes, they’re the moments that could change the game but you ride your luck now and again!”

The impressive Ryde then cut inside to drill a left-footed shot towards goal, which was pushed over the bar with both of her hands above her head by Herne Bay keeper Cooper.

“Best player tonight, Holly Ryde, had a good game. She was very consistent down one side and was trying to get past the defender and crossing it in,” said Shaw.

Deer added: “Sarah’s been a rock in our goal this year, she’s definitely saved us a lot of points.  You always start defending from your goalkeeper. Your goalkeeper can help you in games then you’ve got half a chance.”

Long was now up front and she issued Herne Bay a warning when her header flashed past the near post as the second half reached the halfway point.

London Corinthians were to be denied by Cooper and crossbar inside the final 10 minutes.

Keech played a lovely ball through the heart of defence to put Mansfield through on goal but Cooper got down low to her left to make the save and Beth Nugent made a last-ditch tackle to ensure Hart’s follow-up shot looped up and bounced off the crossbar.

Shaw said: “Megan was playing centre-back, sweeper and she ran the length of the field to get on the end of that ball and we thought she’d finish but she didn’t – but that’s the first time we’ve seen her do that all the time we’ve played her at centre back so we were all pleased with that!”

Deer added: “I think one of our defenders got in the way, Bethany got in the way and these girls will die to not lose games, put their body on the line, which is what they did all night.

“They’re all aching, all hurting emotionally and physically but you can’t ask any more from them.”

But London Corinthians didn’t have to wait long to take the lead with 38:07 on the second half clock.

Ryde raced down the left and sped past two Herne Bay played and swept in a low cross towards the near post, which was flicked in by Long, the ball rolling into the bottom near corner from six-yards out.

It didn’t look like a finish from a goalkeeper but Shaw explained the versatile strength of Long.

“Basically Danielle (Harrison) got injured, she’s quick up front. Katherine plays a different way, playing into Katherine’s feet, stay where you are, Katherine will get into important areas in the box, which she did and she’s second the second goal.

“Well, I thought we’d get one more chance at least before the end, which we did didn’t we?

“She’s made a good dash to the near post and just got a foot onto it and that’s what she’s good at. That’s why she is really a striker, she is really our striker.”

When asked about the tactical masterstoke to put a goalkeeper in as striker, Deer replied: “They played her in goal in the league, they did the same thing.  They played her in goal to start off work and they’ve switched her at half-time, put Jade in goal and she causes problems, they’re dangerous, they’ve scored a lot of goals.

“We knew they were going to be a threat so I didn’t expect that to happen in the Final. I wasn’t expecting that one!  I certainly wouldn’t want to be taken over on goal to play up front, as much as I wanted to in the first place. It’s one of those things.”

Herne Bay were killed off with a third goal scored only 151 seconds later.

Substitute goalkeeper Jade Charlton launched a big kick down the pitch, the ball was flicked on to put Hart through on goal and she maintained composure to slot her shot into the bottom right-hand corner after a long run.

Deer admitted: “That was a killer goal. I think in the grand scheme of things the third goal killed the game.  We deserved it. We were leggy at the back, struggling a little bit. One ball, one little flick on, changed the game.

“It’s such a shame we conceded the third goal straight after the second one and from there it was difficult!”

Shaw added: “She’s out-paced the full-back, carried on, calm finish as the goalkeeper came out.  You couldn’t ask for anything more. That’s what we were hoping Emily would do all through the game. She’s such a consistent player and she’s been in our side since she was 12-years-old, she’s now 27 so she’s spent a long time with us.”

Ryde and Susarta linked up well inside injury-time to set up a chance for substitute Rebecca Gregory, her first shot was blocked, her second bounced into the hands of the Herne Bay keeper.

Herne Bay’s second goal came too late, timed at 49:31 and Charlton was at fault.

Herne Bay substitute Harriet Woolston delivered a tricky high hanging cross up into the dark sky from the right wing and Charlton struggled to deal with the ball and was seen flapping for the ball as it bounced down into Farmer’s feet, who swept the ball into the back of the net from inside the six-yard box.

Deer said: “Danni’s outstanding tonight. She’s not fully fit, she struggled for 90 minutes. That’s a bit of quality.  It’s a shame it wasn’t five minutes before hand. It would’ve been a different story, we would’ve pressed on for the last five minutes and put them under pressure but fair play to London Corinthians, they’re a good team, they ran the clock down, like most teams would and got the deserved victory.”

Shaw added: “Jade likes to catch balls, she doesn’t like to punch them and she’s quite tall and maybe it needed a punch! She said to me it was going over the bar, it wasn’t, it was, it wasn’t. By the time she went to catch it, she dropped it but there you go.   It was a minute to go, we weren’t affected by that.”

When asked about the possible end of Gillingham’s dominance in this competition, Deer replied: “I think teams are getting close to Gillingham. Gillingham are the dominant force.  We know London Corinthians beat them 1-0 so we knew we were going into a tough game.   The two league games were pretty even, we beat them 2-1, they beat us 2-1, so we knew it was going to be a tough game and a close game as well.”

Deer added: “At the beginning of the season if you’d had said to me Kent Cup Final and fourth in the league, I would’ve taken it!

“Some clubs (used) to play in this competition. Charlton weren’t in it this year but Gillingham obviously got knocked out by London Corinthians.  This is a pinnacle really. I wouldn’t say London didn’t deserve it, they worked hard, they took their chances. We matched them tonight, they just had that little bit of pace and quality that we lacked at the back tonight.”

Reflecting on his club’s first success in this competition, Shaw replied: “It’s just a reprieved from last year, losing to Gillingham last year, we’re not expected to beat National League sides but that makes up for most of the teams.  We have beaten Gillingham this year in the FA Cup and we beat Gillingham to reach here, to get here, so we deserve it really for knocking out a National League side and get two grass-roots teams playing in the Final?”

Shaw added: “We’d love to come back to the Final next year but the draw means so much because of so many players leaving our team and going abroad.

“We’ll give it our best shot to anyway, get back if we can definitely.”

Herne Bay: Sarah Cooper, Kate Foster, Debbie Blackmore, Nicola Morris, Rachel Tracy, Beth Nugent, Carly Farrow, Danni Farmer, Harriet Chapman (Amber Guyett 67), Hannah Gardner (Harriet Woolston 81), Gemma Sullivan.
Subs: Alex Roy, Mollie Proctor, Rebecca Longley

Goals: Danni Farmer 47, 90

London Corinthians: Katherine Long, Isabelle Michalaski, Danielle Brown (Alex Fagan 86), Jane Simpson (Rebecca Gregory 86), Megan Mansfield, Kristi Nunnick, Adele Keech, Laura Susarta, Danielle Harrison (Jade Charlton 62), Emily Hart, Holly Ryde.
Subs: Hayley Mansfield, Hannah Riddoch

Goals: Laura Susarta 22, Katherine Long 84, Emily Hart 86

Attendance: 339
Referee: Mr Joe McKay (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Dave Olsen (Ashford) & Mr John Quirke (Maidstone)
Fourth Official: Mr Chris Spalding (Chatham)