Holmesdale 4-0 Welling Town - The honeymoon period is over and I've just told the players to expect some changes because it's not acceptable, insists Welling Town boss Darren Manning

Wednesday 13th October 2021
Holmesdale 4 – 0 Welling Town
Location 68 Oakley Road, Bromley, Kent BR2 8HQ
Kickoff 13/10/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 13 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakley Road

WELLING TOWN manager Darren Manning insists the honeymoon period is over and he will move on players as he aims to climb away from relegation trouble in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

The former Hullbridge Sports manager was appointed on 4 October and The Boots have suffered three successive defeats on his watch, losing to Erith Town (2-0), Erith & Belvedere (3-2) and 4-0 in Bromley to a very impressive Holmesdale side.

Welling Town remain in the bottom three and are one of six poor sides all battling out to avoid finishing inside the bottom two.

Tower Hamlets (four points from 12 games), Lordswood (five points from 11), Welling Town (five points from 10), Crowborough Athletic (six points from 10), Rusthall (seven points from 12) and Punjab United (eight points from 12) are all involved in the relegation dog fight.

For newly-promoted side Holmesdale, however, Lee Roots has guided his side into seventh-place with 22 points from 14 games, although they have played the most games in the division.

Nathan Palmer’s seventh goal of the season sent them on their way with an early goal and further chances were created during a dominant first-half showing.

Striker Owen Punselie also notched his seventh goal of the season to double their lead and it was 3-0 inside 50 minutes when towering central midfielder William Polius headed in their third.

Kameiko Pope-Campbell came off the bench to smash in a late fourth goal, thus ending a long-term spell out of the game with a troublesome thigh injury.

When asked to sum up his side’s performance, Manning replied: “Terrible! In one word. You’ll get to know me mate, I’m very, very honest in interviews. I won’t sugarcoat it.  That was a bad, bad performance, a bad performance. We neglected the real basics and we got punished. They took their chances but we gave them enough of them tonight. We need to fix up sharp.

“People who know me know that I don’t let that wash but like I said when I came in everyone will get a chance that’s here at the football club already but the honeymoon period is over and I’ve just told them to expect some changes because it’s not acceptable. The way we defended was not acceptable.

“What was missing? How long have you got? A lot of things, heart, desire, hunger, the will to win, basics of defending, winning your individual battles.

“We need to see what’s available and do what we do.  The thing is I’ve been in this situation before. I’ve done exactly the same thing that I’m going to do here. I’ve done it before, I know what to expect and we’ll get there.

“I’ve said to the boys if they want to be a part of something special, show me and if you don’t, I’ll help you find another club, no worries at all.”

Roots is doing an excellent job in turning Holmesdale into a top seven outfit with many players who impressed here tonight.

“Really happy overall. I thought we started the game pretty well,” said Roots.

“We took a slightly different approach to our identity and how we wanted to set-up against Welling specifically. I made four changes to the team, gave a couple of debuts and scored some really, really good goals and I think probably could’ve scored a couple more.  It was a really, really good night at the office.

“Any time a club brings in a new manager, especially a manager like Darren who has been around the levels in a different county, they’re always going to be more organised.

“From their interviews online, I think they were targeting this game as their start-up game for the season so I think in that regard, yes, we’re happy.  We needed to approach the game correctly.  With a new manager coming in, it’s even sweeter they don’t get their first win over you.”

Welling Town started the game on the front foot, creating a couple of half-chances as Holmesdale took time to settle into their stride.

Wideman Mehmet Piro played the ball in from the left and often isolated lone striker Taylor Robinson steered his shot well past the left-upright after 54 seconds.

A big kick from Welling Town goalkeeper Ryan Coltress was allowed to bounce in the box by Holmesdale centre-back James Shield but Robinson’s speculative overhead kick a couple of yards inside the penalty area failed to trouble goalkeeper Nathan Edwards.

“We started well but as soon as their heads go down, it’s game over for them and it’s the mentality,” said Manning.

“They don’t become bad players from Saturday because Saturday we were good and deserved a point at Erith & Belvedere.  You don’t become bad players from a Saturday to a Wednesday.

“If we want to achieve what we want to achieve and how ambitious we are, me as a manager and my staff and what the club is, then that mentality has to improve to achieve that.”

However, poor defending from Welling Town ensured Palmer opened the scoring with 10 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock.

The winger was released down the left and his dinked cross was badly cleared by Welling Town centre-half Alex Costa, whose poor clearance gave Palmer a second bite of the cherry and he placed his right-footed shot through an eye of a needle to nestle inside the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Roots said: “You can’t give Nathan Palmer two opportunities in the 18-yard box! He’s put a nice cross for someone else, the ball’s come back and I think it was a really, really intelligent finish from a player whose high in form.

“Nath’s a fantastic player, maturing every time. It’s his third or fourth consecutive season here and there’s not many clubs that he’s done that.  We absolutely adore him here and he has the knack of popping up and getting the first goal or a big goal.”

Manning admitted: “There were two or three chances for us to clear the ball. The ball shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It was a poor decision that led to that so there were lots and lots that could’ve been better but I’ not one to dwell on the past. For me now it’s all about looking forward to Saturday and to how we improve what needs to improve.”

Welling Town missed a glorious opportunity to grab an equaliser in the 16th minute.

Rob Brown, who plays behind Robinson, played a sublime through ball some 35-yards from goal to split open centre-half James Shield to put Robinson through on goal.

Robinson skipped past the goalkeeper and had the whole goal to aim at but was forced wide and his shot was destined to nestle inside the bottom near corner.  However, right-sided centre-back John Foster bravely slid in to make a goal-saving block at the near post.

“It should’ve been a goal but you also have to give their centre-half some credit for getting back, so credit where credit’s due. He deserves some credit,” said Manning.

“But you’re right, it should’ve been one-all and it’s a different game but ifs and buts, you can’t live off ifs and buts. You have to deal with the facts and the facts are we were comfortably beaten tonight.”

Roots added: “Fantastic! Just in the defensive aspect alone, unbelievable. It’s just important as scoring a goal.

“It was a good move, they got in behind. I thought the lad done well to round the goalkeeper. I think all of us in the crowd thought that would be a goal but John Foster is such a die-hard traditional defender.

“He’ll be over the barbed wire for everyone to climb over and I think no one else on the pitch gives that half-a-chance. It was a fantastic clearance and it should’ve been a goal but John can take full credit for that.”

Holmesdale went close when Shield played a back-pass back to Edwards, who launched a big kick down the right channel for winger Victor Aiyelabola, who easily sped past left-back Dennis Agbudume before cutting the ball back for Rory Ward to cut onto his right-foot and flash his angled drive just past the foot of the far post from outside the box.

“Wardy has scored a couple of really nice long-range goals in his time here and we’ve asked him to be a bit more selfish in the final third so feel free to have a few more opportunities.  I think it was a really good drive,” said Roots.

Dominant Holmesdale were to be denied a second goal just on the half-hour mark.

Polius played a 20-yard pass inside on the deck to Ward, who was in acres of space and was allowed to unleash a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which kissed off the outside of the left-hand post.

Roots said: “I think Rory is an absolutely fantastic player. He’s able to do things with both feet and play a number of positions through a game and then be able to pop up with goals.”

Manning added: “Good strike from what I can remember, good strike but again from our own downfall, we’ve not gone out to press him. We’ve given him all the time in the world and if you give a player with a bit of ability all the time in the world on the edge of the box he’s going to get a good strike off and that’s what’s happened.”

Holmesdale kept knocking on the door and good link-up play inside the final third involving Punselie and Ward resulted in the ball being worked over to Aiyelabola on the right-hand side and he twisted and turned his marker before flashing his right-footed angled drive just past the foot of the far post.

Referee Piotr Zachwieja then took centre stage by failing to book a clearly frustrated Robinson for making a poor foul on Holmesdale’s debutant left-back, Cian McCarthy, 18, snapped up from neighbouring National League side Bromley.

Holmesdale should have been reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time when their holding midfielder Callum O’Shea committed a poor late challenge on Brown inside the centre-circle and escaped with just a yellow card.

“It’s the most clear red card I have ever seen,” insisted Manning, who claimed: “He was late, he was high, he was reckless, he was dangerous. He slid in from well back.

“He ticked every box for a red-card and the ref listened to them. If I start on a referee I will get myself in a lot of trouble because there was a lot to be left desired for the referee in my eyes tonight.”

Manning added: “Whatever I said (at half-time), didn’t really work did it because we’ve come out and we conceded straight away.

“I just asked them to have a bit about them and they didn’t. I sort of questioned them and they’ve given me lots of answers, not the answers I wanted, bearing in mind they’ve given me answers and now it’s up to evaluate those answers and come to a conclusion on it.

“I’ve stuck to my word and given them all a chance that were here but now it’s time to fix up and move on.

“We just need to improve all over the pitch. Not one part of our game tonight was good enough!”

When asked about O’Shea’s tackle, Roots replied: “I thought it was a bad foul, ill-timed. I think the player who got fouled was Rob Brown, who is a very good player and when I spoke to Callum he has just done him on the tun. 

“I know they probably felt there was a bit of malice to it but I think the referee got it right. I don’t think there were many other people calling for a red-card.  I think certainly other referees could maybe deem it differently but in this case, I think he got it about right.”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Roots said: “We felt we’ve been good in the game apart from maybe the first 5-10 minutes but we felt we’ve been really good, really dominant.

“Tactically we saw a little area that we could focus on and you wanted to come out of the traps as quickly as we could.

“We were relatively happy, just frustrated that we didn’t get the second goal but we tried in vain.”

Holmesdale set the tone for the second half and almost scored straight from kick-off as Punselie’s visionary shot sailed over the goalkeeper and just past the right-hand post after only five seconds.

“It’s not worked on, he’s obviously seen the goalie off his line. It wasn’t that far away in the end. He’ll get a fine from (captain) James Shield, no doubt, but the fact that you don’t have to pass the ball back for a kick-off changes that dynamic when you can shoot the ball straight forward,” said the Holmesdale boss.

Holmesdale’s second goal finally arrived with 103 seconds on the clock.

A long throw from right-back Rolex Buiti was flicked on by Palmer and Punselie ghosted in to flick his header into the top near corner, the ball being helped in by visiting goalkeeper Ryan Coltress at his near post.

“We wanted to come out of the traps flying. We felt they went into half-time a bit cold and we went in quite energetic,” said Roots.

“The goalie kind of taps it in. I think if you put the ball in the mix like we’ve done and it’s gone from side-to-side, there’s always going to be that disruption and we were quite happy with that.”

Manning added: “Ryan knows he should do better there, but a goal so soon after half-time really deflates you doesn’t it and really takes the sting out of everything that we’ve just spoken about.

“Ryan’s a good goalkeeper and he proved that later on in the game so he knows he should do better there.”

Manning admitted he wanted to go home as soon as Holmesdale rattled in their third goal to kill the game off with only four minutes and 35 seconds into the half.

Costa’s poor challenge on Polius escaped a yellow card and Palmer floated in a free-kick into the penalty area, Ward flicked the ball on, Punselie headed the ball back across goal and Polius rose to guide his header into the top-left-hand corner from three-yards to give the scoreline a fairer reflection on the home side’s dominance.

“That one, I’m really, really pleased for Yaya,” said Roots, who likens Polius to Yaya Toure, the former Manchester City midfielder, now 38 and coaching in Russia.

“He’s been super patient. He got a batch of covid a couple of months ago and he’s had to be really patient with his return. He’s had a couple of injuries. He’s a tower of a player, he’s able to travel, that’s why he gets the Yaya shout.  He’s able to do things. I thought in that instance it was a really intelligent header back across, it was a carbon copy really and he came through like a tank and buried that one.”

Manning said: “Again, it was just poor defending, not winning your aerial duals, not being strong enough, not going with you men, lots and lots of things that you can pick holes in.  Like I said, all in all, just not good enough!

“Is the Dartford crossing charge free before 10 o’clock or do I still have to pay if I go now?

“You’re 3-0 down, you’re not playing well. It’s different if you’re 3-0 down and you’re creating chances and you’re playing well and the team have got a bit of fight but we left a lot to be desired tonight, a lot to be desired.”

Coltress made a smart save following Holmesdale’s first corner of the night.

Palmer swung the ball in from the right, Shield helped the ball on and Polius was denied by the Welling Town goalkeeper, smothering the ball to his right as it went through a crowd of players.

Welling Town winger Richard Jimoh sprung into life for the first time shortly afterwards by hitting a deep cross from right to left to pick out an unmarked Brown at the back stick and in the second phase of the attack Jimoh’s deflected drive from 25-yards was comfortably gathered by Edwards.

“We created half-chances. We know where we need to improve, we’re not naive to it. We know there’s a lot that needs to change and it’s just all about the hard work now to do it,” said Manning.

Roots added: “I felt we limited their chances tonight really, chances from outside the box, shots that we’ve blocked our end that fell to Nathan that took the sting out of the shots.”

Aiyelabola cut in from the left before unleashing a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was blocked well by Coltress’ legs after going to ground.

Welling Town fashioned an opening in the 18th minute of the half, courtesy of a big kick from their goalkeeper.

A clearly frustrated Nathan Scarborough – who replaced the injured left-back Agbudume (ankle) – flicked the ball on down the middle and Brown’s lay-off set up Robinson but his 20-yard shot was comfortably saved by Edwards.

Welling Town were temporarily reduced to 10 men when Scarborough was placed in the sin-bin for showing dissent towards the referee in the 70th minute.

Holmesdale created one chance during this period when Palmer’s free-kick from the left was sliced towards his own goal by Costa, the ball tricking towards the bottom left-hand corner, only for Coltress to smother to his right.

However, at the other end, Edwards was caught out by left-back Piro’s cross from the left but Scarborough could only steer his back-stick header past the near post.

Roots said: “There was one opportunity in the second half where Nathan’s lost his feet a little bit when the cross came in but I felt his hands were good. Nathan’s a good goalkeeper. He had a fantastic game at Sheppey last week (in our 1-0 defeat) and he got applauded off by their fans, which is quite unusual at Sheppey. He was very busy and tonight he wasn’t as busy.”

Welling Town’s talisman, Ryan Golding came off the bench and he beat two men down the left but his ambitious left-footed angled drive was comfortably dealt with by Edwards.

Visiting goalkeeper Coltress may be saved from the cull after pulling off a world-class save in the 86th minute.

Buiti threw the ball into the box and Palmer struck a right-footed volley screaming towards the top left-hand corner, only for Coltress to dive high to his right to palm the ball over his crossbar.

Roots said: “That’s probably the save of the game. He’s made a couple of saves in the second half, really, really good.  Nathan has hit if fantastically, from our angle it looked like it was going into the top comer. He’s even gone with his weaker hand. It was a really good save by the lad, a Hollywood save but how he’s made that, I’ve no idea!”

“That’s what I mean, he knows he should’ve done better for the goal and then he just proved what a good goalkeeper he is,” added Manning.

Golding flicked a sublime pass over to Robinson out on the left-flank and he put the ball back in for Golding, who drilled his right-footed shot just past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Holmesdale wrapped up their comfortable victory by scoring a fourth goal with 48 minutes and 21 seconds on the clock.

Edwards’ big kick released Aiyelabola down the right channel and he whipped in a deep cross.  Substitute striker Andy Constable cushioned his header back across goal for Pope-Campbell to emphatically smash past Coltress from six-yards to leave Manning making several phone calls to players over the next few days.

Roots said: “I’m really pleased for the lads involved. We only signed Victor a couple of weeks ago from K Sports. He’s a fantastic talent. He’s come in and added a lot of energy and dynamic in the front line that we haven’t had.  I thought he kept ticking over trying to create a chance and he actually put a lot of sauce on the cross but Andy Constable let that cushion back off him and a really, really nice finish from Kameiko.

“For Kameiko it’s a 14-15 month journey coming back from an injury. We were in a position where we could introduce him into the game. To get that goal for him is really pleasing. It was a nice celebration. It was probably the icing that we deserved on the performance. I think three or four would’ve been a fairer reflection and it’s really pleasing for Kam and Victor to be involved in.”

It was the ninth goal that Welling Town have conceded in Manning’s three games at the helm.

Manning said: “Again, the same thing as the other goals, just sloppy defending. I can’t think of a goal that we’ve conceded since I’ve been here that’s been a good goal.  I can’t think of one where we’ve been sliced open with a great bit of football that you want to stand here and applaud, it’s been sloppy, it’s been sloppy.”

Both of these clubs play First Division opposition in the Kent Senior Trophy First Round on Saturday.

Holmesdale welcome Faversham Strike Force to Oakley Road, while Sutton Athletic will be favourites to beat Welling Town at Lower Road in Hextable, on tonight’s showing.

Newly-promoted Faversham Strike Force are in eleventh-place in the table with 16 points from 13 games while Daniel Kelly’s side are in sixth with 19 points from nine games but with games in hand on all of the sides above them.

“It’s going to be a busy 10 days, put it that way mate, so you might have a lot of news to report on in the next 10 days from us,” revealed Manning.

“It’s going to be another tough game. They’re doing well, they’re a good footballing side. I’ve got a lot of respect for them for what they’re trying to do there and how they want to play. I always applaud people that have a real method in what they want to do and how they want to play, so we’ll go there fresh and after we’ve pressed the reset button and see what we can achieve.”

Manning added: “I have no doubt we’ll stay in the Premier Division, not one single doubt.  It’s not like I’ve not been in this situation before. In my previous job they were worse off than Welling, they were rock bottom at Christmas and we stayed up and then went on to win the Essex League (in 2019), so I know exactly what it takes.

“I have to think this is my pre-season, at Christmas time if we’re still doing the same things then you can start coming for me and telling me ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’, but until then, I hate this word with a passion ‘about the process’ but there is a small process that has to take place. I hate the word, I think it’s very overused in football but there’s a transition that’s happening and we need to try to accelerate it a bit because I thought we had a bit more about us than we did tonight.”

Roots is delighted with life back in the top-flight and chairman Keith Bird’s input has turned around fortunes.

“We’ve played more games, just by chance, the last couple of seasons we were always behind. We’re relatively happy. We know we’re trying to compete as a club with the resources we’ve got and we’re probably over-achieving.

“There were a lot of polls that came out that put us in the relegation spots and that is certainly not going to be the case.

“We felt like we’re competing and growing and we want to focus on the Cups coming up, especially with the Vase as well but I think the main thing for clubs like us with small resources, can we establish ourselves in the league? Can you beat teams that are in the middle grade and I feel that we’re doing that quite well.

“I feel with the squad, the quality we’ve got and the little bit of budget we’ve got, success for me would be a top 10 finish and go as far as we can in the Vase and Kent Senior Trophy.

“I’m looking forward to a break in the league. The Kent Senior Trophy is something we didn’t get to compete in last year because of Covid.

“Faversham are a new club, they’ll be hungry to come here and you’re always a scalp when you’re playing a team in the league below.

“We’ll put out our strongest squad we can but of course we’ll look to rotate a couple but we’re not going to underestimate it. We’ve done our homework on the opposition as much as we can but we do feel that if we approach it correctly, we should be fine.”

Holmesdale: Nathan Edwards, Rolex Buiti, Cian McCarthy, Callum O’Shea (Callum Edwards 64), John Foster, James Shield, Nathan Palmer, Rory Ward, Owen Punselie (Andy Constable 83), William Polius (Kameiko Pope-Campbell 76), Victor Aiyelabola.
Subs: Nad Nwitua, Charlie Hackshall

Goals: Nathan Palmer 11, Owen Punselie 47, William Polius 50, Kameiko Pope-Campbell 90

Booked: Callum O’Shea 45, Cian McCarthy 56

Welling Town: Ryan Coltress, Dylan Cave, Dennis Agbudume (Nathan Scarborough 27), Damilola Oni, Luke Coleman, Alex Costa, Mehmet Piro, James Miles, Taylor Robinson, Rob Brown, Richard Jimoh.
Subs: Jhoan Tabima, Trey Small

Temporary Dismissal: Nathan Scarborough 70

Attendance: 73
Referee: Mr Piotr Zachwieja
Assistants: Mr Adam Beck & Mr Kieran Parrott