Kent Pro XI 3-5 George Howard Kent League XI - A fantastic day for George Howard, says Micky Collins

Sunday 08th June 2014

George Howard Benefit Match
Sunday 8 June 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Chapel Farm Road

ORGANISERS of George Howard’s Benefit Match hailed it a success as stars past and present produced a high-quality game of football on a scorching day at the Coldharbour Leisure Centre in Eltham.

The match was organised by Richmond Kissi, Darren Anslow and Micky Collins, who worked tirelessly to bring together professional footballers past and present as well as players who played for Anslow earlier in their career to raise funds for George Howard, 20.

The former Charlton Athletic, Cray Wanderers, Sevenoaks Town, Bromley and Gillingham goalkeeper was involved in a car crash in South Africa on Friday 23 May and friends Martin Di Fede and Aaron Burrett set up an internet fund raising scheme, which has raised £13,000 in 11 days.

The quiet crowd of 300 were treated to a brilliant game of football which Anslow’s George Howard Kent League XI prevailed by winning an eight-goal thriller.

Kissi, 23, who was rewarded with not only the captain’s armband, he was the only player in the Kent League XI side to complete the entire 90 minutes and the Redhill striker scored his side’s first two goals.

Headline act, Premier League footballer Jonjo Shelvey, 22, slotted home an equaliser and drew the plaudits for returning from his family summer holiday in Portugal to impress during his first half appearance before making a donation to Howard’s appeal fund, before dashing back to the airport during the second half.

Kissi’s second gave the Kent League XI the lead at half-time, before man-of-the-match Luke Rooney – who qualified for the side after playing for Haart of Kent County League Premier Division side Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club before switching to Maidstone United and then Luton Town last season – made it 3-1.

But two goals within three minutes from Gillingham first-teamer Bradley Dack, 20, clawed the professionals back on level terms before they wilted in the heat and the young guns wrapped up the victory through two quality finishes from substitute Billy Parkinson, 21.

Collins summed up the mood afterwards when he said: “Fantastic day for George and his parents.  To get the quality people that we’ve got around us this week has been phenomenal!

“The most important thing now is we get the money and George gets the speedy recovery and then we’re all winners.

“It was an absolutely fantastic day! To get everyone contribute £13,000 this week and to see the players that have turned up to play, you won’t see that again. It won’t happen. You will not get all those contracted players to turn up and give their time in their summer break.

“People were flying in this morning.  Jonjo Shelvey flew home last night from Portugal to play and he’s flown back. Jake Reeves’ flown in from Egypt this morning at four o’clock, to give up their time to play for such a fantastic cause.

“All the people behind the scenes, Kay Skelton, Beverley Porter, Darren Anslow and Richmond Kissi, have been fantastic. I’m really, really pleased with the way it’s gone.”

Although it wasn’t the type of game to run through all eight goals individually, Collins added: “There wasn’t a bad goal.  I know that’s mad because I scored most of mine (during my career) from two yards out and I never said mine was bad but there wasn’t a bad goal. They were all quality strikes. 

“If you gave a donation to come and see 40 blokes – some of them at the top of their game – perform like that today, that’s value for money.”

Anslow, 44, added: “Today was really about George Howard, getting as many people as we can down supporting him and raise as much money as we could really.

“To be honest in a week and a half the players that we managed to get, everybody’s done really well.

“The fact that Jonjo Shelvey flew in from his holiday and flown back, made a big donation, that’s brilliant, that’s fantastic.

“I think if you were watching that, whatever you paid, anything you’ve paid it would’ve been worth it. There were some good goals in there today, some very good goals and it was a good game.”

Kent League XI goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim, 23, frustrated the pros in the first half.

Dack played a one-two with Welsh striker Gareth Williams, and was to be denied by a fine double save from the Dartford keeper inside the opening five minutes.

“I thought Deren Ibrahim played well as well first half.  Even though it was a charity game he probably made two or three saves as well,” said Anslow.

Jonjo Shelvey tried to embarrass Ibrahim from 60-yards when he looked up and pinged a right-footed drive over the keepers’ head, which sailed wide of the right post.

The Professionals started well, with Tommy Warrilow marshalling the defence alongside Nicky Southall (who was the only player in a white shirt to play the entire game), with Simon Osborn protecting the back four whilst Jonjo Shelvey proved why he’s playing in the top-flight of English football.

The Swansea City midfielder won his side a free-kick and Ibrahim dived low to his left to push Shelvey’s right-footed free-kick from 35-yards around the post.

AFC Wimbledon midfielder Harry Pell played the ball into Jonjo Shelvey, whose right-footed drive screamed wide again, this time from 25-yards.

The Kent League XI weathered the early storm and Rooney started to get into the game, showing everybody his talent that earned him a move to Skrill Premier title winners Luton Town in March.

They grabbed a 19
minute lead, against the run of play.

Simon Austin – playing in the heart of midfield and playing as the newly-appointed manager of Erith Town – played a sublime pass to release Rooney who slipped the ball in behind Warrilow and Southall for Kissi to sweep his first time right-footed shot under keeper Lee Haywood to score from 12-yards.

Anslow was pleased his fellow organiser got his name on the scoresheet.

He said: “He got the opening goal, which was good.  The work that he’s put in the last week and a half, it was pretty fitting that he got the first goal.

“If he would’ve watched the offside line, he’d probably had got another five but he done well, very well Richmond.

“By getting two goals was brilliant but the fact that he just opened the scoring in the game he took a big part in setting up was sort of fitting really.”

Dack played the ball into Williams, who stroked his left-footed shot from 25-yards into Ibrahim’s gloves to make a comfortable save.

After a short drinks break, the Professionals were to be denied by another smart save from Ibrahim.

Jonjo shelvey cut in towards the edge of the penalty area to slip the ball through to Dack, whose right-footed dink was well held by the diving Ibrahim.

George Porter, 21 – a free-agent following his release from Rochdale at the end of last season – played for the Kent League XI because he played for Anslow in the Cray Wanderers Academy – dragged a good chance agonisingly wide of the foot of the far post.

Jonjo Shelvey unleashed another speculative right-footed drive from 45-yards, which sailed narrowly wide of the far post.

Kissi was to be denied a second goal on the half-hour mark when he latched onto Rooney’s fine low pass but was to be denied by Haywood’s legs.

But Collins’ Professional side levelled in the 34th minute when Jonjo Shelvey inevitably scored.

Dack played the former Charlton Athletic midfielder in behind the Kent League XI defence and Shelvey slotted his right-footed shot past Ibrahim.

A long ball over the top released striker George Shelvey through on goal but Ibrahim spread himself to make a fine block.

That was to be a timely save from the (now former) Leatherhead play-off winner as the Kent League XI grabbed the lead in the 37

Porter clipped the ball over the tiring Warrilow and Kissi nipped in front of Haywood to hook the ball across the former Greenwich Borough keeper into the bottom far corner of the goal.

Rooney, now pulling the strings, produced another one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Porter dinked his shot just wide.

Kent Pro’s left-back Peter Garland picked up the ball inside the Kent League XI half of the pitch, bulldozed his way past three players to drill his right-footed shot into Ibrahim’s gloves from 25-yards.

A fine move from the Kent League XI almost killed the game off five minutes before half-time.

Left-back Tyrone Sterling progressed down the touchline before playing the ball inside to Dean Carpenter, who whipped in a low delivery through the penalty area to Kissi, who laid the ball off to Rooney, who hit the top of the crossbar with a cross-come-shot.

Referee Alan Escuider called a halt to an entertaining first half and switched with assistant manager Daniel Proctor, who took over the whistle to gain some experience.

Kissi, Anslow and Collins posed for a photograph with Jonjo Shelvey, who was one of ten changes at the break for the Professional XI.

The Kent League XI made five changes at the break, before entertaining roll on-roll off subs during the second half.

The Kent Pro XI were agonisingly close to pulling a goal back only after three seconds when Dack drilled a right-footed shot straight from kick-off from the centre spot, only to see his shot dip just over the bar with Ibrahim struggling.

But the Kent League XI seemingly killed off their more illustrious opponents with a quality goal in the 53

Kissi released Tom Skelton hurtling down the right - his pace took Steve Gritt out of the game – before he whipped in a deep low cross towards the far post.

Rooney controlled the ball, raced towards the by-line, looked up to clip an excellent chip over sub keeper Craig Holloway’s head, the ball dropping down into the far corner.

Rooney, 23, said: “I’ve just been told he used to play in goal for Arsenal, so that’s made it a little bit better as well.

“It was good but that’s not what it’s all about.  We ended up winning but it wasn’t about winning.  It was about everyone enjoying themselves, no arguments and everyone showing their support to get behind somebody who has had a traumatic experience.”

Anslow added: “We all know how good Rooney is. We’ve known him since he was a kid. He scored a great goal as well to be fair.”

Gillingham assistant manager Andy Hessenthaler, 48, pinged a brilliant diagonal pass out wide to Jay Saunders, who cut inside and was given time and space to drill a right-footed shot towards goal from 25-yards, which was saved comfortably by Ibrahim.

Hessenthaler then played the ball inside to striker Jon Main, whose right-footed scuffed drive deflected into Ibrahim’s hands.

But Saunders played his part in the Kent Pro’s pulling a second goal back in the 58

The current Maidstone United boss played a low cross in from the right for Dack to sweep a first time left-footed shot across Ibrahim to find the bottom left-hand corner.

Southall was given time and space to clip a long ball into the Kent League XI penalty area but Ibrahim caught Main’s towering header, which was sailing towards the far corner.

But Main set up his side’s equaliser in the 61
minute when he whipped in a cross from the bottom left-hand channel and Dack drilled a stunning right-footed volley into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards.

“He’s a quality player, he plays for a living and he showed it today,” hailed Collins, who played for Millwall, Charlton Athletic and Gillingham earlier in his career.

“What you tend to find some of the boys that do it for a living have to be careful, the way they play and conduct themselves.

“Both teams, they want to win a game of football. You don’t play at the levels some of these have if you’re a loser and that proved today.  Everyone gave their all.  The conditions we’re hard, especially for us old boys.”

The Kent Pros were now turning on the class as the Kent League XI were struggling to cope.

“Listen, let’s be fair, if you look at a lot of their team, I mean they’re class players, they’re class acts,” admitted Anslow, who is full-time at Cray Wanderers Academy.

“You look at Hess (Hessenthaler), Ossie (Osborn), Tommy Warrilow, they didn’t give the ball away, none of them gave the ball away.

“When they brought it back to three-all, we hadn’t touched the ball and that’s the quality. You forget what level they’ve played at.  Ossie in the Prem, Hess has played at a decent level, Gritty, all of them.

“They won’t forgive me for saying they’re not spring chickens anymore but they’re still quality players. I think once you’ve got it, then you don’t lose it.”

Gillingham’s assistant manager, Hessenthaler, 48, admitted he was struggling.

“There were some tremendous goals in there wasn’t there? There was no chance of me scoring but there was some very good goals in the game and some good players on show.

“I think in the end the younger legs pretty much told in the end.  We’re a little bit too old in the second half and the young legs kicked in and we couldn’t live with them in the end.

“But it was great. There was still the competitive edge there as well. We wanted to win, they wanted to win.  All in all it’s all about the day itself for George.

“I hate losing so I’ll be sulking tonight. I’m sure I’ll get over this one quite quickly, but it’s all about George today and his family.”

Ibrahim made his last contribution to the game before being substituted when he used his right hand to push over Dack’s right-footed curler after a move involving Main and Gritt down the left and a lay-off from Jake Reeves.

Ibrahim’s replacement, Charlie Penfold made a morale-boosting save halfway through the second half when the Corinthian keeper dived to his right to prevent Main finding the bottom far corner.

An unmarked Kissi squandered his chance for a hat-trick when he received the ball from Kevin Lott’s knockdown but could only stroke his right-footed drive wide from 25-yards.

Gritt’s long ball was latched onto by Brentford’s Reeves, who drilled his shot just over the top of the near post.

Manager Collins gave himself a 20 minute cameo at the end of the game and the newly-appointed Sevenoaks Town manager admitted he was, “Awful! Absolutely awful! You can see just why I don’t play no more. I touched it three times and gave it away three times. At least I was consistent!

“I wanted to join in with the boys and have a bit of a run around but it’s lovely. They’re all my pals and for me to pick my phone up and make calls to them and they all came and got involved, it’s just amazing for me.

“We’re old school footballers. I had some of my great pals here today and it’s a good feeling.

“I tell you what, I wouldn’t mind having that in my Sevenoaks side every week! I’ve got to be honest the chairman would be cock-a-hoop if I put that together with the money that we want to pay!

“There was some good goals and people got the ball down and played and hopefully they entertained the people who paid their money, which is what it’s all about.”

The fitness of the Kent League XI players ensured it was the younger players in yellow shirts that went on to win this thrilling game.

Kissi picked the ball up on the halfway line and ran half the pitch before playing the ball inside to James Golding, who teed up Billy Parkinson, who rifled his right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 22-yards in the 74

Golding cut in from the left and was given oceans of space to curl his right-footed shot into Holloway’s gloves from outside the box.

Jack Parkinson over-hit a diagonal pass from inside the Kent League XI half and substitute Tom Skelton must get credit for chasing a lost cause to keep the ball in play by the corner flag.

Skelton wrapped his foot around the ball to whip in a deep cross and Kissi took a touch before hitting a right-footed shot which forced Holloway to dive to his right to hold onto the shot.

The Kent League XI wrapped up the scoring in the final seven minutes through Billy Parkinson’s second of the game – with all three Parkinson’s (Jack and Tom) on the same pitch at the same time.

A diagonal pass from Golding released the midfielder through on goal, who kept his composure to round the former Arsenal and Margate goalkeeper before lashing his right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner.

Kissi was wasteful when he dragged his right-footed shot agonisingly wide of the foot of the far post after Frazer Cronin’s cross.

The Kent League XI went on to create a couple more late chances.

Jack Parkinson, Kissi and Lott all combined and Jordan Clark was to be denied a goal by Holloway’s strong outstretched right hand, which pushed the ball over the bar.

Cronin was to be denied at the death when he looped a left-footed shot over Holloway’s head, only for the ball to crash against the crossbar after a move involving Clark and Kissi.

But Collins wants the 300 strong crowd who watched this entertainment to put their hands in their pockets and donate to Howard’s fund by clicking on

“The result’s irrelevant at the end of the day,” said Collins. 

“If it was 37-0 to either side it wasn’t about that. It was about getting people here, which we did. It was such short notice and making sure that not only are we getting finances in but people are aware of what’s going on and George’s plight.

“There’s nothing worse if you’re away and you’re child is ill.  I’ve got children and how nice for them thinking that we’re back home thinking of them.

“They’re (parents Mark and Marion) are doing the hard work keeping him going and make sure that George is going to get better but we’re back here supporting them as well and when they come back with him and he’s well, which he will be, we’ll all be here waiting for him.

“Financially, hopefully they’ll be in a slightly better position, which is the most important thing and we raise the money that we need to get home and get him comfortable and make sure him and his family haven’t got any worries.

“The fact that we have raised £13,000 already is a massive credit to the people that have got involved.

“If you raise another four thousand it all helps. 

“Hopefully today people will go away and will go on the gofundme website and they’ll still put money in, whether it’s a pound, a fiver, a tenner. It doesn’t matter.  It’s the fact that they turned up, yes to see the football that was played today, but ultimately for me they turned up for George Howard, which is a massive thing for him in his recovery.”

Anslow continued that theme by saying, “I think so far it’s been a successful day.  Hopefully there’s a lot more success to come (with the post-match auction).

“I just said to someone when I was walking off people are very quick to criticise footballers, especially professional footballers about their attitude and what they get up to in their private lives.

“You’ve got Bradley Dack, George Porter, Luke Rooney, Jonjo Shelvey, they’re all professional players and sometimes that’s a side of what they do and it sort of goes unnoticed doesn’t it? 

“We’re all quick to point when they’re all in a night club and when they do this and do that, so hopefully today goes some way to putting that record straight.”

Anslow thanked the volunteers that played their part in making sure today’s event was a success.

“Thank you to you (kentishfootball) for your help in promoting the game over the last couple of weeks. 

“A massive thank you to Kay Skelton, who has just been invaluable all week as usual. 

“Beverley Porter for her help as well.  You need people like that.  If you haven’t got people like that around you, good people that help out, this task of me has really been easy in terms of getting players, making sure everyone’s there, when you have people like that helping you, it’s a hell of a lot easier.”

There was some excellent news coming through after the game on Sunday night.

Di Fede posted a statement on his fund raising page.

He said: “I’ve had a very good call. Over the last day or so George’s condition has improved and progress has been made.

“George has started to show signs that he is wanting to come around and wake up.”

Kent Pro XI: Lee Haywood (Craig Holloway 46), Gareth Graham (John Humphrey 46), Tommy Warrilow (John Beales 46), Nicky Southall, Peter Garland (Steve Gritt 46), Harry Pell (Jay Saunders 46), Simon Osborn (Andy Hessenthaler 46), Bradley Dack (Micky Collins 70), Jonjo Shelvey (Rob Quinn 46), George Shelvey (Jake Reeves 46), Gareth Williams (Jon Main 46).

Goals: Jonjo Shelvey 34, Bradley Dack 58, 61

George Howard Kent League XI: Deren Ibrahim (Charlie Penfold 65), James Golding (Tom Skelton 46), Ronnie Vint (Tom Parkinson 46), Jack Parkinson (Jordan Clark 46), Tyrone Sterling (Joe Ranson 65), Luke Rooney (Frazer Cronin 65), Frazer Cronin (Billy Parkinson 46), Simon Austin (Kevin Lott 46), Dean Carpenter (James Golding 72), George Porter (Jack Parkinson 65), Richmond Kissi.

Goals: Richmond Kissi 19, 37, Luke Rooney 53, Billy Parkinson 74, 83

Attendance: 300
Referee: Mr Alan Escudier (Belvedere)
Assistants: Mr Adam Back (Sidcup) & Mr Daniel Proctor (Dartford)

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