Littlehampton Town 0-4 Tunbridge Wells - It was a potential banana skin but the scoreline speaks for itself and I feel we were good value for it, says Tunbridge Wells boss Richard Styles

Sunday 01st September 2019
Littlehampton Town 0 – 4 Tunbridge Wells
Location The Sportsfield, St Flora's Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex BN17 6BD
Kickoff 01/09/2019 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase First Qualifying Round
Sunday 1 September 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from The Sportsfield

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Richard Styles says not many people can believe his side’s start to the new season.

The Wells sit proudly at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table after winning their first four league games of the season.

Tunbridge Wells also booked their place in The Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round after inflicting Littlehampton Town’s first defeat of the season with a comfortable 4-0 win down on the Sussex coast.

Mark Bennett’s side are top of the Southern Combination First Division table having beaten Hailsham Town (3-0); Southwick (1-0); Midhurst & Easebourne (6-0) and Worthing United (2-1) but Tunbridge Wells were too strong for them.

It took Tunbridge Wells 25 minutes to get into their stride as striker Danny Powell rifled home the opening goal.

Right-back Jack Hope slid in a second after getting in behind the Littlehampton Town defence before left-winger Euan Sahadow slotted in a penalty as clinical Tunbridge Wells scored three goals in 11 minutes.

Tunbridge Wells wrapped up their victory when the impressive winger Josh Froggatt capped off his fine performance by slotting in a fourth goal at the death.

“It’s great to get the win to get into the next round. The whole point of today was to come and win the game and get us through and we’ve achieved that,” said a delighted Styles, who has won six of his first eight games in charge of the club.

“It was a good one today because it was a tough game. It was a potential banana skin coming here. They’ve only conceded one goal in the league and they’re flying high themselves.

“We’ve started well so it was a potential banana skin but the scoreline speaks for itself and I feel we were good value for it.”

Littlehampton Town started the game on the front foot for a good 20 minutes, bossing midfield but rarely troubled visiting goalkeeper Tommy Taylor.

Littlehampton Town central striker George Gaskin often dropped deep to pull the strings in midfield and he hit a long ball over the top for Dion Jarvis, who was gifted an opening when Taylor failed to come off his line quickly enough and a poor touch just inside the corner of the box allowed Taylor to smother the ball at the striker’s feet with inches spare after only 38 seconds.

“We said inside, they had a lot of the ball but they weren’t really doing a lot with it and then they gave it away and we’d try to play ourselves,” Styles said on his side’s slow start.

“When you’re coming away from home like that, it’s always tough because you’ve got to earn the right a little bit.  A team from the league below are flying high at home and are always going to come out at you a little bit so we had to withstand that and the game sort of unfolded from there.”

Tunbridge Wells’ central defender Chris Lawal had a good game and liked walking out of defence with the ball with confidence of a higher league footballer.

He linked up well with George Blake down the right and Lawal whipped in a great low cross, which flashed across the face of goal and Powell slid in with his marker to glance the ball just past the post from close range after nine minutes.

Littlehampton Town often played out from the back and centre-half Sam Pidgeon was commanding in the air during the opening 20 minutes but they failed to create any clear cut chances at the other end of the pitch.

Styles told his troops from within his technical area to ‘stop giving the ball away in midfield and move the ball quicker’ and his players’ responded.

Jordan Wells fed the ball into Froggatt in a central position and he skipped past Mitchell Hand and Jarvis and strode forward before unleashing a right-footed drive sailing just over the crossbar from 20-yards.

It would be fair to say that Tunbridge Wells weren’t impressing by the time that they grabbed the lead with 24 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

Lawal collected a loose ball inside his own half and strode forward before releasing Sahadow down the left.  He was given space by poor defending from Littlehampton’s right-back Shay Wiggans and was given oceans of space to play a low 25-yard pass inside.  Powell took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot into the right-hand corner from 16-yards to score his third goal of the campaign.

Styles said: “A great ball into Euan, a good cut back from Euan, a good touch from Danny and he’s taken the chance really well.”

Tunbridge Wells doubled their lead with 33 minutes and 51 seconds on the clock.

Central midfielder Jake Beecroft played in a low cross from the right to pick out Sahadow – who was positioned in the middle on the edge of the Littlehampton box – and he slipped in a lovely short pass to put Hope in behind Pidgeon and he kept his composure to slide the ball past James Binfield from three-yards out.

Styles said: “The movement on the right-side was very lively at that point. We were getting a lot of joy with Jack Hope and Josh Froggatt both getting on and they were able to create a few passes and make movement to get Hopey in and he took the goal really well.”

Clinical Tunbridge Wells raced into a three-nil lead with 35 minutes and 36 seconds on the clock, after the home side gave the ball away as they played out from the back.

Sahadow cut into the box from the left and stayed on his feet when centre-half Ashley Jones came across and clipped hin and referee James Kertan pointed to the spot.

Styles revealed the reason why he turned around and looked up over the main stand in another direction but turned round as soon as he heard the roar after Sahadow slotted his left-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, sending the keeper the wrong way.

He said: “The first two league games we missed two (penalties) so we missed one in each game and then when we got the third, when we got another penalty after that, I turned round and I stopped looking and we’ve scored it, so from now on I just don’t look and I just wait for the net to hopefully bulge.

“It was a penalty! To be fair to him, he was too honest because he got tackled, stayed on his feet and then the chance broke down and I actually thought it was good referring because the ref brought it back on the initial foul, which was the right thing to do because he tried to do him in the penalty box.

“Euan stepped up, he wanted it and he scored so happy days, even though I didn’t see it!”

There were penalty claims at the other end when Jarvis ran into the box and ran into Hope before crashing to the ground inside the box but the referee ignored the appeals.

Littlehampton’s right-back Wiggans was positioned on the half-way line and voiced his dissent at the referee, who showed him a yellow card to send him to the Sin-Bin with 37 minutes and 16 seconds on the clock before he reappeared  three and a half minutes into the second half.

“It’s the first Sin-Bin I’ve been involved in as well as a manager in any of the games that we’ve had,” revealed the former Lordswood boss.

“Nowhere near a penalty from where I saw.  I spoke to the linesman (Rado Iliev) in front of me. He (Jarvis) was looking for it and he went over very easily. The ref’s made the right decision. They’ve shown a bit of dissent and been punished for it.”

Styles believes the threat of players’ being off the pitch for 10 minutes has curbed dissent towards officials.

“Well at the moment we haven’t really been involved in too many (Sin-Bins) but overall I’d say the respect towards the referee in all of the games we’ve had has been better, so if that’s happened, obviously it’s working.”

Littlehampton Town went three at the back during this time but neither side could create a goalscoring chance before the interval.

“We were in an ideal situation that we knew going into the second half that they’d throw everything at us trying to have a little go because they’ve got nothing to lose, so it was a case of starting the second half well, making sure we were solid and making sure we managed the game right,” said Styles.

Tunbridge Wells created the first opening of the second half after only 73 seconds.

Nurden threw the ball into the box, it was cleared out to Beecroft who knocked the ball back in and Powell looped his header which was comfortably plucked out of the air by Binfield, grabbing the ball high to his right.

Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Freeman Rogers hit a long ball over the top to release Powell, who cut inside and teed up Jordan Wells, whose right-footed drive from inside the D took a deflection as the ball flashed wide.

Ten minutes in, Littlehampton’s keeper Binfield walked towards the half-way line to launch a long free-kick into the Tunbridge Wells box but the diminutive Jordan Layton jumped up to send his header bouncing into Taylor’s gloves for a comfortable save.

Littlehampton Town should have pulled a goal back just 39 seconds later.

Gaskin dropped deep again to hook his pass over to Jarvis – who by now was playing on the left-wing.  He cut into the box and played a low cross across the face of goal towards right-winger Ben Gray, who drove the ball towards goal from eight-yards, only for the ball to bounce off the back of grounded Harry Russell and the ball bounced just past the foot of the right-hand post.

Styles revealed why his centre-half Freeman Rogers was forced off through injury as he attempted a block inside his goal-mouth and later on Sahadow went off too.

“It was a bit untidy that whole bit of play. They probably should’ve scored but they didn’t and we were throwing bodies on the line left, right and centre,” said Styles.

“Freeman Rogers had an issue with his toe before today’s game and we managed to get him through as far as we could and then it was probably the right time for him to come off but he won’t be long-term.

“Euan Sahadow took a knock to the head but he’s ok. He’s fine. It was just a case of bringing fresh legs on to be honest with you.”

With both sides taking five corners each, Tunbridge Wells created an opening following their penultimate corner.

Sahadow cut a short corner back to Ryan Cheek (the centre-half replacement for Freeman Rogers) and he whipped in a cross from the right.  Powell flicked the ball on, Lawal’s driven shot was blocked and the ball fell at Powell, who cut the ball onto his right-foot and drove his angled shot across the keeper and past the far post.

“Danny Powell could’ve had a hat-trick today, the chances he had and on another day, he probably would. It was a case of chance after chance after chance and when that next goal would come really,” said Styles.

Gaskin worked the left-channel and cut the ball onto his right-foot and saw his right-footed curler scream past the far post.

This was a good little spell from Littlehampton. Hand swung in a corner from the right towards the far post for centre-half Ashley Jones to steer his header past the near post from a tight angle.

Littlehampton goalkeeper Binfield was called into action in the 64th minute.

Jordan Wells picked up a ball inside the home side’s half, skipped past Jones before unleashing a right-footed drive from 22-yards, which forced Binfield to palm the ball towards safety, with an outstretched hand, high to his right.

Tunbridge Wells were guilty of missing a glorious chance shortly afterwards, as their best two players’ on the day linked up well.

Sahadow easily skipped past right-back Wiggans to reach the by-line before whipping in a lovely cross towards the far post but the ball skimmed off Froggatt’s head and he failed to keep his header down from a couple of yards out.

Styles said: “He was probably a little bit underneath it to be honest. Euan’s done everything right. I thought Euan and Froggatt were constant threats for them today and I thought they struggled to deal with them two.”

Beecroft’s first time right-footed drive from 25-yards proved to be meat and drink for Binfield, who made a comfortable save as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

Tunbridge Wells linked up well down the left with full-back Nurden and Froggatt, who cut in and stroked a low right-footed angled drive from 22-yards, which rolled into Binfield’s hands for a comfortable save.

Littlehampton Town created a good opening when Hand launched a big kick up field, the ball was flicked on by substitute Dan Hegarty for an unmarked Russell, who guided his header straight at Taylor from 12-yards out.

“It wasn’t even a chance really, it was bread and butter to be fair,” added Styles.

Tunbridge Wells missed another glorious chance in the final six minutes.

Substitute Frank Griffin drove down the right before putting Powell through on goal straight down the heart of the pitch but he lacked the composure to tuck the shot past Binfield, taking a touch before slipping the ball straight into the keeper’s hands as he smothered the ball low to his right.

“He should’ve scored that, probably made it too easy for the keeper but he had so much time, he probably had more time than what he saw.  He could’ve gone around the keeper, he could’ve set himself up for the finish but he gave the keeper a let-off there,” added Styles.

Beecroft’s cross was chested back towards his own goal by Wiggans, forcing Binfield to punch the ball away and the ball came out to James Huggins, the substitute stroking his right-footed drive into Binfield’s midriff from 25-yards.

Binfield’s throw should have sent the home side on the counter-attack but a poor decision from Gray ensured he passed the ball straight back into Powell, who skipped past Jones before dragging his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Tunbridge Wells finally scored their deserved fourth goal, which was timed at 44 minutes and 55 seconds.

Powell rolled the ball inside to Froggatt, who easily skipped past Wiggans, cut inside the box and cut the ball onto his right-foot before slotting his shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 10-yards.

“Lovely! Always great to score those type of goals. I think Froggatt deserved his goal today. I thought he worked hard and was a constant threat and they couldn’t really deal with him or live with him. He deserved his goal so I’m pleased for him,” said Styles.

Powell’s diagonal from the centre of the pitch was played out to Griffin, who cut the ball back to Powell, who made an untracked run towards the near corner of the box, before sweeping a first time dipping drive towards the roof of the net from 18-yards, which was superbly tipped over by the busy Binfield.

Styles added:  “The keeper’s done alright there to be fair. It was probably Danny’s hardest chance that he’s had today and he took it really, really well and it was a good save from the goalkeeper.”

Tunbridge Wells make the trip to Woking-based Knaphill in the next round on Saturday 14 September.

Jason Bourne was in charge when Tunbridge Wells suffered a poor 3-0 defeat there in The FA Vase Second Round on 21 November 2015.

“Happy days! That’s what we wanted! We’ve got two weeks to get ourselves prepped and planned ready for Knaphill now,” said Styles.

“We have to make sure we do better than that this time, won’t we.  We’ll go and do everything we can to win the game.”

Before that though, Styles takes his side to Erith & Belvedere, who beat Fire United 3-0 in The FA Vase yesterday and are in tenth-place in the table with six points (a win and three draws) from their five league outings.

“At the moment, we’re doing well and it’s a credit to the boys.  They’re performing to our plan, the togetherness is there for all to see and what they give to each other. It’s a great start but it’s only the start,” said Styles.

“If I had been offered this start when I took the job, not many people would’ve believed it to be honest that we’d have this start but we’re good value for it and the way we’ve played and every game we’ve won, we’ve deserved to win the game.

“We were very unfortunate to get knocked out of The FA Cup against Haywards Heath but we’re on the right track.

“Erith & Belvedere is a tough one, it’s a tough place to go. It’s a lovely ground at Welling but it’s always a tough place to go but they’ll be up for it and they’re a new team that’s come up into the league and they’ll want to win their home games and get points on the board.

“They had a good result yesterday.  We want to go and do our thing and we’ll set up in a way that we think we can go and win the game.”

Littlehampton Town: James Binfield, Shay Wiggans, Mitchell Hand, Jordan Layton (Dan Hegarty 64), Sam Pidgeon, Ashley Jones, Harry Russell, Daniel Swain (Grant Thretford 73), George Gaskin, Dion Jarvis (Callum Litterick 80), Ben Gray.
Subs: Alex Duncan, Liam Humphreys

Booked: Jordan Layton 63, George Gaskin 68

Temporary Dismissal: Shay Wiggans 38

Tunbridge Wells: Tommy Taylor, Jack Hope, James Nurden, George Blake (James Huggins 80), Freeman Rogers (Ryan Cheek 57), Chris Lawal, Josh Froggatt, Jake Beecroft, Danny Powell, Jordan Wells, Euan Sahadow (Frank Griffin 75).
Subs: Josh Biddlecombe, Fjord Rogers

Goals: Danny Powell 25, Jack Hope 34, Euan Sahadow 36 (penalty), Josh Froggatt 90

Booked: Chris Lawal 52, Tommy Taylor 61

Attendance: 151
Referee: Mr James Kertan (Bognor Regis, West Sussex)
Assistants:  Mr Rado Iliev (Portsmouth, Hampshire) & Mr Robert Harrison (Eastleigh, Hampshire)