Merstham 1-3 Margate - I've set a target to be up and around the play-offs and we just want to stay amongst that pack and that's why it was important to bounce back tonight, says Margate boss Jay Saunders

Tuesday 12th October 2021
Merstham 1 – 3 Margate
Location Moatside Stadium, Weldon Way, Merstham, Surrey RH1 3QB
Kickoff 12/10/2021 19:45

Isthmian League Premier Division
Tuesday 12 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Weldon Way

MARGATE manager Jay Saunders says it was important to bounce back from a heavy home defeat at the weekend by beating an impressive Merstham side.

Margate suffered a 6-2 home defeat to Tony Russell’s Lewes at Hartsdown Park despite being 2-1 up at the break and they were also knocked out of The FA Cup by Merstham, losing 4-1 here in the Second Qualifying Round on 18 September.

Frank Wilson’s attack-minded side were the better team here tonight but Margate were clinical in front of goal when it mattered.

Margate grabbed the lead on the stroke of half-time when striker Vance Bola’s drive took a wicked deflection off Merstham left-back Jude Mason and deceived the goalkeeper for an own-goal.

However, there was to be no denying the recalled Bola to have his name on the scoresheet, doubling Margate’s lead with a sublime 35-yard strike into the top left-hand corner.

Merstham threw caution to the wind and pulled a deserved goal back through Dylan Adjei-Hersey, 19, before Margate midfielder Sam Blackman finished off a well-worked three-man set-piece inside the final 10 minutes to seal the victory.

“I thought we made really hard work of it,” said Saunders after his side’s fifth league win of the season puts them in seventh-place in the Isthmian League Premier Division table with 17 points from nine games, a point adrift of the play-off zone.

“Listen, after Saturday’s defeat today was about getting a result.  Obviously for 45 minutes on Saturday we were ok and then we fell apart second half, so you always go into a game like this and we’ve already been here and have been knocked out of The FA Cup, so for me the performance can be a lot better but we’ve got the three points and we move on.

“The first 15-20 minutes we kind of looked a bit nervy from Saturday and I said that to the boys at half-time.  I thought for the final 15-20 minutes of the first half we started to move the ball a lot better and that’s my big gripe tonight.  I don’t think we did that enough tonight, when we could’ve kept the ball and took the sting out of it. We rushed it and went too long.

“When we use the ball well and get into Vance Bola and Daniel Thompson’s feet, you saw a couple of moves for the goals and some good link-up and we looked a threat but we didn’t do it enough.

“But like I say, the result was what mattered tonight, more than the performance.”

Merstham created the first goalscoring chance inside the opening seven minutes after a cagey start to proceedings at Weldon Way.

Margate left-back Joe Anderson gave the ball away in the build-up and diminutive attacking midfielder Chase Jacquart unleashed a right-footed drive towards the bottom far corner, which took a deflection before visiting goalkeeper Pat Ohman made a comfortable save, low to his right.

“It goes back to not being good enough in possession, so it’s a save I expect Pat to make but we probably turned it over a little bit easily,” said Saunders.

Margate took 13 minutes to create their first chance, coming from their first of three corners.

Ben Greenhalgh swung in a quality delivery with his left-boot from the right towards a crowd of players close to the by-line and Margate centre-back Ben Swift tried to score with an acrobatic overhead kick which cleared the crossbar from six-yards at the back post.

Merstham were to be denied a deserved lead within three minutes but were to be denied by Ohman’s legs.

Stand-in right-back Ryan Palmer tried to shield the ball from Merstham winger John Ufuah beside the corner flag (something that you usually see towards the dying embers of a game) before prodding the ball out for a throw.

Mason threw the ball to physically strong striker Korrey Henry, who cut into the box before pulling the ball back for Jacquart, who drilled a low shot towards goal, only for the Margate keeper to use his legs to make a vital block.

“Listen, I thought they started brightly and also you’ve got to take into consideration we lost 4-1 here in the Cup, so you’re coming here and you’re a bit weary so I just felt we sat too deep to start off with,” said Saunders.

“Once we got a little bit higher up the pitch we stopped those sort of chances coming and then on the flip side it made us more dangerous.  It was a good save from Pat again, but again one I expect of his quality to save.”

Halfway through the first-half, Greenhalgh’s second corner was flicked away by the stretching Merstham keeper Toby Bull but Swift steered his header wide of the near post whilst being under pressure at the back stick.

Henry was a threat during the game and Jacquart floated a free-kick towards the edge of the box and the Merstham strike flicked his header just past the foot of the right-hand post after 25 minutes of dominance from the Surrey outfit.

However, Margate forced a goalscoring chance shortly afterwards when Swift played the ball straight down the middle of the pitch to release Bola, who screamed out in despair after his weak right-footed shot from 30-yards was comfortably picked up by the Merstham keeper.

Saunders, who has just appointed former Whitstable Town manager Lloyd Blackman as his new assistant manager, revealed: “Vance has got loads of quality. I’ve been on him a little bit when he plays in the 10 that he’s had a bigger impact coming off the bench.  I don’t want him on the bench, I want him starting games because he’s a threat and you can see what he can do tonight.

“I’ve just been on him a little bit. I need it when he starts games and tonight he was a threat all night and I thought he used his body well when the ball came to him, he protected it well, turned well and he was unlucky with the strike. On another day that flies in.  He’s scored a few from distance for us, as you saw second half.”

Merstham played the ball out from the back and mainly kept the ball on the deck and centre-half Reuben Collins played a long ball out of defence to send Adjei-Hersey cutting easily inside Anderson to find space in the middle before stroking a right-footed shot from 30-yards, which was comfortably gathered by Ohman.

Merstham went close when keeper Bull (who can ping precise long kicks upfield) found Adjei-Hersey over on the left-wing and he cut inside before curling his 35-yarder just around the far post.

Clinical Margate grabbed the lead, however, one minute and 19 seconds into stoppage time.

Joe Anderson clipped a cross in from the left channel, striker Daniel Thompson flicked the ball into Bola’s path and from a central position the striker drilled a low right-footed shot from 25-yards.

Mason slid in and lost his footing in an attempt to block the shot, which could have been gathered by Bull close to his left-hand post but the ball took a big deflection and changed direction and nestled inside the opposite bottom corner of the goal.

Because of the big change in direction of the ball, the goal has gone down as an own-goal.

“It’s Bola’s goal, it’s going in anyway,” insisted Saunders.

“Listen, he deserves it. I thought it was a great bit of play. We had a spell at that point when we started to move the ball quite well. It was a great little bit of link-up play with Joe Anderson and Daniel Thompson. A great set from Tommo and Bola’s in a good area and he struck it well. Alright, it’s got a little bit of a deflection but I think the defender will be happy with Bola claiming that as well.”

Reflecting on his half-time prep talk, Saunders replied: “Merstham changed it, when we came down here a few weeks back they played 4-2-4 in The FA Cup and went quite direct into the front men and they’ve got some boys that are a handful and we kind of spoke about making sure we didn’t go too deep to allow them to do that and unfortunately when we came out we did.”

Merstham should have scored more than one goal with headed chances during the second half, their first arriving inside the opening seven minutes.

Adjei-Hersey had a second bite of the cherry to deliver a cross in from the right and Henry rose at the near post but the ball bounced off Montel Agyemang inside the six-yard box and Ohman grabbed hold of the ball.

Merstham’s right-back Troy Williams released the impressive Henry down the right channel and his left-footed angled drive was comfortably saved by Ohman, who dropped down to his knees to gather within his midriff.

Margate grabbed a second goal, however, in the 56th minute and this one was definitely Bola’s goal!

Merstham keeper Bull launched a goal-kick over to the right towards a team-mate but Bola intercepted the ball, cut inside past a couple of Merstham players from the left-wing and cut into a central position before stroking a sublime right-footed drive sailing over the stranded goalkeeper and into the top left-hand corner from 35-yards.

Saunders said: “I think that one was definitely Bola’s wasn’t it?

“It was a great strike. You can stand here and go he’s put it top corner but to actually execute that against a good keeper, he’s sort of taken it on the half-turn, he’s spun and as soon as it left his foot you could see it was in and I’m delighted for him.

“Listen, he’s capable of that. I’ve been on at him because I left him out on Saturday and I actually messaged him after the game and said “I actually think I got it wrong today.’

“But he proved a point today. I thought he was very good. I think the two stand-out players for me were Ben Swift and Vance Bola, although everyone put in a shift for me without being our best. We’ve played a lot better this season.”

Wilson’s men still played out from the back despite facing a mountain to climb but they went close to pulling a goal back when Williams whipped in a cross from the right-wing towards the near post and Henry’s lay-off was struck by John Ufuah, whose left-footed angled drive flashed across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post from 25-yards.

Saunders said: “All of a sudden the likes of John Ufuah and a few of their players started coming into it and causing a few problems.

“I had John with me at Margate last season and he’s down here now, he’s had a couple of clubs since and he can be a threat on his day.  I know that because I’ve worked with him but I thought Ben Swift dealt quite well with Korrey Henry and Lewis Knight, I thought the pair of them stood up well, especially Swifty, I thought he was outstanding tonight and Knighty did well to get through the game because his calf was gone at half-time and he’s carried on for us.”

Merstham’s attack-minded play was rewarded with a goal with 68 minutes gone and for the first time in the game, emergency stand-in right-back Palmer was at fault for switching off at a key moment.

Ufuah whipped in a delicious cross from the right and Palmer allowed Adjei-Hersey to nip in front of him after Ohman failed to come from the cross to allow the winger to stretch out his left-boot and stab across the goalkeeper and into the net from six-yards.

Saunders said: “I just spoke to Pat about it because I felt that bounced in the six-yard box and for me a cross coming into the six-yard box I expect the keeper to deal with it. He held his hand up and said “he should’ve done better.’

“I thought Ryan Palmer was excellent as well at right-back today. Obviously, it’s not his natural position. I'd rather have George Lamb, who had to play in The FA Youth Cup for Dover last night so we lost him today.

“We’ve been trying to get another right-back in to give us a bit of competition and one fell through today.

“Ryan was happy to step in there and I thought he was excellent. Maybe at that one point maybe he thought Pat was going to come. Pat thought Palms was going to deal with it and that comes when somebody has slotted in for you but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Merstham were the more likely team to go on and score the next goal at this point as Saunders’ men were hanging on to their lead.

Saunders said: “I think at that point they deserved to get back into it.  From my point, it was disappointing because we were under it a little bit and not playing our best at the time.

“Listen, you’re 2-0, they’re at home, they’re going to throw everything at you, which is what they did. At that point, I was hoping for a clean-sheet and we could ride that little spell out but on the flip side when they started committing bodies forward we always felt we could hit them on the break.

“We were 2-1 up on Saturday and we went on to lose the game 6-2, so at that point you kind of hoping we get the third and it kills it a little bit because all of a sudden you could see we got nervous and that’s a natural reaction and also we’ve lost here before.

“We dug deep at that point and they were throwing everything forward at that time and they had two at the back and everyone else was bombing forward.”

However, Margate sealed the victory with 10 minutes remaining, following a well-worked free-kick.

Palmer floated a deep free-kick some 35-yards out from the right and Swift’s first-time ball was clipped over the Merstham defence to find an unmarked Blackman, who buried his shot past Bull from 12-yards.

Saunders said: “It’s actually a great little set from Swifty because we were right behind it. He’s seen Sam and picked him out.  Blacky has been making the box a lot lately. He had a goal disallowed on Saturday, which I didn’t think was offside but he does make late runs into the box. I think people think because of his size maybe when he goes up for set-pieces maybe he isn’t going to be a threat but his movement is good. 

“It seemed ages to get his shot off but he’s slotted it away and that kind of killed it for them a little bit. They had a couple of half-chances but it allowed us to make a few changes and give people a rest.”

Winger Ufuah burst into life during the second half and cut in past four Margate players in the centre of the pitch before drilling his left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the right-upright from outside the box.

Another headed chance went begging for the home side inside the final seven minutes.

Ufuah had a second bite of the cherry to put over a cross towards the back post where Mason knocked the ball across the face of goal for Adjei-Hersey to head the ball straight at Ohman from inside the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy.

Margate’s substitute holding midfielder Bivesh Gurung released Bola down the left and the striker went close to scoring when his long-range shot flashed across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post.

Saunders added: “He was desperate to get his hat-trick.  I think Montel Agyemang was in there saying maybe he could’ve squared it for him and he would’ve scored but when you’ve got a chance of a hat-trick I don’t think Bola was going to be passing that. It would’ve been nice for him to get that.”

Profligate Merstham missed another chance inside the final three minutes when the impressive Adjei-Hersey drilled in a cross form the left and the ball was knocked down by substitute striker Tahjae Anderson but substitute attacker Reyon Dillon headed the ball straight at the Margate keeper from six-yards to give Margate a morale-boosting victory.

“What I said at the end was performances goes out of the window, for me it’s about bouncing back and getting three points,” said Saunders, who takes his side to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday.

The hosts will be in eleventh-place in the table with three wins and three draws from their opening nine games and were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Haringey Borough tonight.

“They’re a side a lot really fancied this year to do well and they’ve not had the start they would’ve liked but it’s a strange old league this year,” said Saunders.

“I’ve set a target to be up and around the play-offs and we just want to stay amongst that pack and that’s why it was important to bounce back tonight so we don’t lose touch on them.

“We go to another away game, another tough game but I’m just pleased we got the three points tonight and we go there with a bit of confidence rather than going there on the back of another defeat.”

Saunders wants to strengthen his squad as quickly as possible with a right-back high on the agenda.

“We’re working desperately to get some in. We haven’t got the budget as some of the other clubs have got but what we have got is a good group and we need to add two or three to it and we’re working hard to do that.

“If we do that I don’t see why we can’t stay amongst it. I’m not saying we’re going to make play-offs and we’re going to do this and that. If we can add to it then we’ve got half-a-chance of getting in and around it but it’s a long season, we’re only nine games in and we’re still working hard to get us right and keep improving.”

Merstham: Toby Bull, Troy Williams, Jude Mason, Ayman Gharbaoui, James Richmond, Reuben Collins, John Ufuah, Charlie Greenwood (Reyon Dillon 59), Korrey Henry (Tahjae Anderson 85), Chase Jacquart, Dylan Adjei-Hersey (Serge Makofo 89).
Subs: Kyrell Palmer, Bertie Lloyd

Goal: Dylan Adjei-Hersey 68

Margate: Pat Ohman, Ryan Palmer, Joe Anderson, Montel Agyemang, Lewis Knight, Ben Swift, James Bessey-Saldanha (Martial Godo 85), Sam Blackman, Daniel Thompson (Jake Embery 83), Vance Bola, Ben Greenhalgh (Bivesh Gurung 77).
Subs: George Lamb, Reece Prestedge

Goals: Jude Mason 45 (own goal), Vance Bola 57, Sam Blackman 80

Booked: Ryan Palmer 90

Attendance: 160
Referee: Mr Shelby Elson
Assistants: Mr David Payne & Mr Michael Taylor