Hythe Town 1-2 Chorley - They went out there and gave me everything that they've got and in the end if that's not enough, we've got to accept it's not enough, says proud Hythe Town boss Steven Watt

Saturday 13th January 2024
Hythe Town 1 – 2 Chorley
Location Reachfields Stadium, off Fort Road, Hythe, Kent CT21 6JS
Kickoff 13/01/2024 15:00

The Isuzu FA Trophy Fourth Round
Saturday 13 January 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Reachfields Stadium

PROUD Hythe Town boss Steven Watt says his players’ gave him everything as their longest run in The FA Trophy came to an end in the last 32 against Chorley.

Hythe Town chairman Gary Johnson issued a rallying cry for local residents to come to Reachfields Stadium in the build-up to the club’s biggest game of the season so far - and the club were rewarded with their largest crowd of the season.

The home fans in the crowd of 730 were dreaming off yet another cup upset when attacker Jake Embery, 24, stabbed in his eighth-goal of the season to give the Cannons a deserved lead.

But Chorley fought back and drew level on the stroke of half-time, through a quality low finish from attacking midfielder Jack Hazlehurst, 24, who notched his seven goal of the season.

Chorley’s towering striker Jack Sampson, 30, headed in a deflected winner off Jack Steventon with 17 minutes of the game remaining to break Hythe Town’s hearts as their Lancashire opponents – beaten semi-finalists back in 1996 – progressed through to the last sixteen.

“Well proud, well proud of the boys,” said Watt.

“I thought we more than matched a team two levels above us.  I just think the essential moment of the game wasn’t the second goal, I think the essential moment of the game was their goal before half-time.  I think that changed the feeling in their dressing room, their mood and it gave them a bit of impetus in the second half.

“I still felt second half we were really, really comfortable. I didn’t feel under a great deal of threat at all today. It was always that feeling, I knew a set-piece would decide it.”

The Cannons went into this game sitting in eleventh-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table, having picked up 27 points (eight wins, three draws and four defeats) from their 15 league outings, the least number of games played in the entire 20 team division.

This historic FA Trophy run has seen them knock out Burgess Hill Town (3-1), Chertsey Town (4-2), Concord Rangers (3-2), Ramsgate (3-1), Tonbridge Angels (3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw) and Whitehawk (3-2).

Andy Preece’s men, meanwhile, arrived on the Kent coast in fourth-place in the Vanarama National League North table, having picked up 43 points (12 wins, seven draws and six defeats) from their 25 games.

There are 52 teams separating these two sides and Chorley’s FA Trophy campaign has seen them beat Scarborough Athletic (1-0) and Blyth Spartans (2-0) – both at home.

Since losing 3-0 away to now second-placed Scunthorpe United in the League on 16 December, Chorley have beaten Banbury United (4-1), Curzon Ashton (4-0) and Spennymoor Town (2-0) but their winning streak was ended at Alfreton Town last weekend, losing 2-0 and Preece made three changes to his side today.

Watt’s men, meanwhile, lost their 12-month unbeaten home league record on 16 December, when Chichester City won here 2-0 – before they bounced back with a 1-0 win at Ashford United on Boxing Day and were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Sheppey United in their last outing on the first day of 2024.

It was Chorley that created the first opening of the game after only 188 seconds.

Dutch born left-winger Justin Johnson – who has played in the Scottish Premiership for Dundee United earlier in his career - cut the ball onto his right foot and floated in a cross from within the left channel towards the back post where fellow winger Carton Ubaezuonu steered his bouncing header past the right-hand post.

Hazlehurst then whipped in a right-footed free-kick from within the right-channel, which was headed away to Johnson, who smacked a right-footed volley high and wide to the delight of the home fans.

Hythe Town then started to grow in belief and confidence and were to be denied by a fine save from Chorley goalkeeper Matt Urwin in the ninth minute.

After a spell of head tennis in the around the half-way line, Marcus Goldsmith released Ethan Smith (later to be withdrawn with a hamstring injury) down the right and he put in a low cross towards the near-post where hardworking striker Johan Caney-Bryan’s first time shot from inside the six-yard box was blocked by the keeper’s legs.

“I thought we were unlucky not to come in at least a couple of goals.  I think the  keeper’s made a great save from Johan with an outstretched leg,” said Watt.

“We had opportunities in the first half.  I think if we take our chances, we probably win the game.”

Hythe Town’s players were full of desire and central midfielder Bradley Schafer was outstanding during the first half, winning his midfield battles.

“That’s all I ask for every game, go out there and just give me everything you’ve got and in the end if that’s not enough, we’ve got to accept it’s not enough,” said Watt.

“That’s what the players did and in the end it wasn’t good enough, simple as that.  It wasn’t good enough in terms of the performance wasn’t good enough, we’ve been out done by a good outfit, a strong outfit in their league by a set-piece.”

Chorley called goalkeeper Steven Phillips into making a comfortable save in the 18th minute.

Centre-half Mark Ellis was not pressed so had time and space to launch a right-footed long ball upfield, the ball was flicked on by Sampson and good movement from Ubaezuonu saw him get in behind but his right-footed angled shot was comfortably smothered at the second attempt by Phillips, low to his right.

“I just feel throughout the whole game, if you’re looking at the team, the likes of Chorley and the goals that they’ve scored this season, they are very good going forward and I just felt for 90 minutes we completely dealt with the threats they had,” added Watt.

Hythe Town then sensed blood.  Holding midfielder Frannie Collin (who was latter withdrawn with a niggle), floated a free-kick towards a crowd of players on the 18-yard line and centre-half Liam Smith found a pocket of space and flicked his header across goal and flashing just past the foot of the far post.

Hythe Town deserved their lead when it arrived with 30 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a mistake from the Chorley keeper.

Chorley centre-half Ellis was penalised by referee Sam Mulhall for a soft foul on Ethan Smith and Collin lined up a free-kick on the left.

Instead of crossing the ball, Collin played a short 10-yard reverse pass to Aaron Barnes, who easily cut to the by-line on the left and his low cross was spilt by Urwin at his near post and gifted Embery the simple task of sweeping his left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from two-yards.

“I thought we deserved to be in front. It was a good finish from Jake,” said Watt.

“That is why we brought Jake in, to score these types of goals, be in these right areas to pick up any mistakes and it’s great to see him finish.”

Barnes cut inside past Chorley right-back Billy Whitehouse again and this time his cut-back was dealt with by Urwin at his near-post, although he parried the shot before the ball was cleared.

“Again, a great effort from Barnsey cutting in and I don’t know the angle but maybe he could’ve gone the other side, I don’t know but I thought he was a threat all day down that side,” said Watt.

“We made a little tactical change and moved him out from the centre of the park to that area to give us that attacking threat wide and certainly I thought it worked.”

However, Embery’s strike, gave Chorley a kick up the backside and they controlled and dominated the rest of the first half.

Chorley left-back Scott Wilson floated in a free-kick into the Hythe Town penalty area, Hythe’s centre-half Lex Allan headed the ball away to Oliver Shenton, who chested the ball before cracking a dipping volley just over the crossbar from 18-yards.

A more urgent Chorley floated in their first corner of the game from the left by Hazlehurst towards the back post where Ellis’ towering header from six-yards forced Phillips to dive to his left to make a save.

“That was a good header from Ellis and it was a good save from Steve,” added the Hythe Town boss.

“You expect to be under pressure from these types of teams but over the course of the 90 minutes, I don’t think we really were but they certainly had their little spell, five or 10 minutes before half-time and obviously they got the goal, which was the pivotal moment of the game.”

Chorley’s pressure paid off as they deservedly levelled with 43 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

The diminutive Hazlehurst played the ball out to Ubaezuonu down the right and he put in a low cross into the Cannons box.  A deft lay-off from Sampson teed up Hazlehurst, who placed a first time right-footed shot around the diving Phillips to find the bottom far corner from 16-yards.

“There’s moments in games and that’s where the quality shines through,” admitted Watt.

“They got luck with both goals.  They got big deflections that played a big part of their goals. The delivery with the first one takes a deflection and it takes it away from about three of my players and then it’s a great finish.

“If the cross goes the way it’s initially meant to go, it gets cleared quite easily but the deflection takes it away from our covering defenders and then it’s a great set from Sampson and look it’s a great finish.

“At our level, they may not take that, they might not score but it’s a fantastic finish. 

“Look, we switched off a little bit beforehand to allow them to get into that area but it we’re looking at it, I think we were slightly unlucky with both goals really.”

Dominant Chorley almost scored a second (44:49) when the impressive Hazlehurst played the ball out to right-back Whitehouse, who was left in space and he put in a hanging cross from within the channel for Sampson to drill a left-footed volley across Phillips and flashing past the far post.

When asked about his thought’s at the break, Watt replied: “As much as the same really.  I talked a little bit tactically how we could capitalise on things.  I felt Barnsey was in a lot of space, trying to get Barnsey on the ball a little bit more, trying to get in behind them a little bit more. They clearly didn’t like it when we did.

“I emphasised, emphasised, emphasised set-pieces.  We spoke about and we worked a lot on it on Thursday night and I thought for the majority of it, yes, we did alright.”

Hythe Town almost grabbed the lead for a second time just 21 seconds into the second half.

The Chorley defence cleared their lines only as far as right-wing-back Marcus Goldsmith, who brought the ball under control with his chest before hooking the ball into the box where Caney-Bryan’s header from 10-yards was comfortably gathered by Urwin.

“It was a great start, positive, a great start again in the second half,” added the Aberdeen-born Watt.

“You always want to start fast with the first shot, the first effort on goal because it lifts the crowd, it lifts the players, so I thought it was a great start to the second half.”

Most of the second half turned out to be a stalemate on a sticky pitch but Chorley gave Hythe Town a big scare on the hour-mark.

Whitehouse’s quickly-taken-free-kick from right-back was pinged on a 60-yard diagonal and a good first touch from 10-goal Johnson saw him get in behind Goldsmith but his third touch was poor, lashing a left-footed drive high over the crossbar when he only had Phillips to beat.

Watt said: “Just switched off as a team. It’s something that we spoke about. Any dead-ball situations, get back in the shape as quickly as you possibly can, because you can’t give them that space to counter in.

“It was something that we spoke about. We just switched off and it was a great pass and luckily for us we were able to force him on his weaker side because he’s a right-footed left-sider, which we knew about and luckily enough for us he hit it over the bar.”

Urwin made a comfortable save to thwart Caney-Bryan in the 67th minute.

Left-wing-back Barnes linked up well with Schafer, who cut the ball onto his right-foot from within the channel and put over a cross, where Caney-Bryan rose above Chorley centre-half Harvey Smith but his looping header was comfortably plucked out of the air by the Chorley keeper, to prevent the ball hitting the top left-hand corner.

Watt compared their National League North opponents to that of National League South side Tonbridge Angels.

“Chorley were at the same level as Tonbridge and you compare the two games and Tonbridge was probably much, much more, a more difficult game than what today was.  We were under a lot more pressure in terms of Tonbridge keeping us locked in.”

Chorley grabbed the winning goal with 27 minutes and 46 seconds on the clock when Goldsmith’s costly foul on Johnson close to the by-line proved to be the defining moment.

Hazlehurst hung up the resulting free-kick from the left and Sampson buried his header, which took a deflection off Steventon within a crowd of players and found the right-hand corner.

“The winner is a free header but it gets deflected off one of my players and goes in, so a bit unlucky in that aspect but look, good quality deliveries and good finishes,” said Watt.

“If there’s no deflection, I just think Steve (Phillips) catches the ball.  It’s one of them, silly free-kick, we’ve spoken about it.  I think Johnson done well to buy it but I was too far away from it. I think it was a bit soft but it’s a massive deflection that’s won them the game really.”

Chorley controlled the remainder of the game, with Watt throwing extra bodies forward late on, including Allan and substitute (centre-half) Ollie Gray, but Hythe Town couldn’t find a late leveller to take it to penalties.

Despite huffing and puffing, Hythe Town’s only chance while 2-1 down came with 44:45 on the clock.

Liam Smith switched the ball to Steventon on the right and he put in a cross towards the edge of the Chorley penalty area, which was met by Schafer’s looping free-header, which sailed into Urwin’s gloves for a comfortable catch.

“We just couldn’t get into the areas that we needed to get into to get us that decisive moment,” admitted Watt.

“Chorley are a team that defend the box really well, they do as we do.

“I just think, as I said to them on Thursday, the team that can defend their box the best will probably win the game.

“It isn’t we didn’t defend our box well at all today. I thought we did but in that vital moment we weren’t there – or the bounce went against us.  It happens in football, particularly against teams from higher divisions.”

Hythe Town can be proud of their FA Trophy exploits this season.  The club have banked £18,950 in total prize money from their seven match campaign, while a further £2,194 was banked from their two FA Cup ties earlier on in the season.

It's now back to the bread and butter of Isthmian League South East Division football.

Watt takes his side to fourth-placed Lancing (11 wins, two draws and six defeats) on Tuesday and calls upon fans to return here next Saturday, when second-from-bottom side Erith & Belvedere visit.

Matt Longhurst resigned following their 2-0 defeat at Merstham on Tuesday night and former Stansfeld joint-managers Billy Hamlin and Jamie Phipps were appointed yesterday – and Lancing visit Park View Road on Sunday.

“I’m really proud of the players, the players should be confident of what they’ve done,” said Watt, who’s men lost 1-0 at Whitehawk in the Isthmian League South East Division Play-Off Final as last season reached a heartbreaking climax.

“They beat Tonbridge here.  They more than matched Chorley here.  Really unlucky so we’ve got to take confidence into the league now and go and build and fully focus on this league and try to go one better than what we did last year.

“Lancing are a team that’s taken everyone by surprise at the minute. They beat Ramsgate and they drew at Cray Valley, so I’m expecting a really tough game.

“We’ll patch everyone up, asses how the squad is tomorrow and Monday and go down there and try to come back with three points, like we always do.  Every team we play we try to win every single game of football we play.”

Watt wants the people who attended this game to return next Saturday against a team fighting relegation.

“Hopefully today will be something to be proud of and something to enjoy.  I think getting a goal as well.  There’s a good feeling about the place and it will be great to see them back.

“Something that we wanted to do here is give the town and people something to be proud off and shout about.

“I think days like today hopefully showed them that, even though we’ve lost. It’s a day that they can look at their team and be proud off and hopefully come back and watch us again.

“Promotion is our aspiration.  We’ve improved from last year but the season’s not even half done yet for us, so we’ve got a lot to do in a short space of time, but we’ll give it our best though and hopefully come the end of the season we’re in and around it.

“Improvement is what we want. We finished with 67 points last year, so can we finish with more points this year.  I think if we get around that mark or definitely more, we should be in and around it.”

When asked how his players’ have taken their FA Trophy exit, Watt revealed: “Disappointed like you would expect to go out but also proud.  You can hear their proud and you can see how proud they are.  There’s always that element of frustration where you almost want to lose today like convincingly – it’s one of those days, two deflections didn’t go our way.”

Ramsgate remain at the summit with 52 points from their 20 league games.

The four play-off places are held by Cray Valley (41 points from 17 games), Sittingbourne (39 points from 20 games), Lancing (35 points from 19 games) and Three Bridges (34 points from 19 games).

Sheppey United (33 points from 22 games), Herne Bay (31 points from 20 games), Chichester City (30 points from 19 games), Sevenoaks Town (29 points from 21 games), Ashford United (29 points from 20 games) and Hythe Town (27 points from 15 games) are still within a shout during the last four months of the season.

Hythe Town: Steven Phillips, Marcus Goldsmith, Aaron Barnes (Ollie Gray 90), Jack Steventon, Liam Smith, Lex Allan, Jake Embery, Frannie Collin (Kane Phillip 85), Johan Caney-Bryan, Bradley Schafer, Ethan Smith (Jarred Trespaderne 58).
Subs: Josh Stirman, Oscar Webb, Sam Flisher, Kai Garande

Goal: Jake Embery 31

Booked: Bradley Schafer 84, Aaron Barnes 90

Chorley: Matt Urwin, Billy Whitehouse, Scott Wilson, Mike Calveley (Joe Nolan 80), Harvey Smith, Mark Ellis, Justin Johnson (Adam Blakeman 85), Oliver Shenton (Adam Henley 76), Jack Sampson, Jack Hazlehurst, Carton Ubaezuonu.
Subs: David Moyo, Steven Drench, Amadou Doumya

 Goals: Jack Hazlehurst 44, Jack Steventon 73 (own goal)

Booked: Jack Hazlehurst 69, Mike Calveley 75

Attendance: 730
Referee: Mr Sam Mulhall
Assistants: Mr Michael Hayden & Mr Valentine Anekwe
Fourth Official: Mr Joseph Dann-Pye
Observer: Mr Michael Bull
Coach: Mr Christopher Kiwomya