Rusthall 1-2 Fisher - As far as I'm concerned the boys haven't thrown the towel in and I do feel like we'll turn the corner soon and that's how we'll stay in this league, says under pressure Rusthall boss Jimmy Anderson

Tuesday 30th January 2024
Rusthall 1 – 2 Fisher
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 30/01/2024 20:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 30 January 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

RUSTHALL manager Jimmy Anderson insists his side haven’t thrown the towel in and he feels like they will turn the corner soon as they bid to retain their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division status after extending their winless run to nine games.

The Rustics remain second-from-bottom in the table with 17 points (four wins, five draws and 17 defeats) from their 26 of 40 league outings, a point clear of the sole relegation berth, although Welling Town do have a couple of games in hand.

Rusthall last claimed a league victory on 28 November by winning 2-1 at fellow strugglers Stansfeld and they took an early lead here tonight when winger Jesse Hammond clinically slotted his fifth goal of the season.

However, a controversial sending-off for Rusthall centre-half Ryan Styles in the 50th minute – for what referee Stephen Hughes verbally confirmed post-match was for “denying a goalscoring opportunity,” gave Fisher a chance to claim their first win in eight completed games (in all competitions) under manager Michael Williams.

Fisher – who climbed up a place into eleventh-spot in the table with 34 points (10 wins, four draws and 10 defeats) from 24 games - equalised through holding midfielder Tyron Mbuenimo’s clinical finish, before they produced a well-worked move to seal the victory with 15 minutes remaining, swept home by winger Teddy Jones, who scored his third goal of the season.

“Extremely disappointing, it’s another loss, it sums up our season. Another game that individually my players have made mistakes," said Anderson.

"I would say it’s a tough job that referee’s have to do but yes on reflection, I feel like he hasn’t made the right decisions today.

“Lenny (Ryan Styles) attempted to play the ball. It’s not like he’s cleaned him out. He’s attempted to play the ball, so for that reason I do not understand why he’s sent off.  He’s not last man, like I said.  It will be clear on the Veo.  We have no luck at the minute.”

Fisher manager Williams, a 34-year-old school teacher, said: “Another really tough game to be honest.  I thought the boys played really well.

“Another silly mistake leading to the first goal but really resilient, persevered, kept going, kept going throughout and making me proud again.

“It is really pleasing (to win my first game in charge).  The second game in charge against Lydd got abandoned, so it didn’t feel like we had a proper win under our belts but we got one today on a Tuesday night away down in Tunbridge Wells.

“It was really hard getting all the players together but we got a good squad together, they followed the instructions, they worked hard and they got the rewards.

“We’ve been trying to work on improving individuals as well as the team, so we’ve got certain messages that we’ve been trying to get across to the players. It feels like they’re taking it on board.  They’re not fully there yet but they’re very, very close to getting there.  If they continue to improve, then we’ll have a lot more joy.”

The kick-off was delayed until eight o’clock as both club’s experienced traffic delays in getting to Jockey Farm Stadium, not helped by yet another train strike, which also affected the attendance (91).

Anderson said: “We had four drop out today due to travel, the boys based in London.

“It was stressful, it was hard. We brought up young Luke Salmons, who came on for his debut from the 23’s. He only got a call up at like four, something like that, at half-past four.”

Anderson revealed that Louis Anderson, Jack Smith and Yassin Fares have all been ruled out for the rest of the season with knee injuries, while centre-half Callum Adonis-Taylor has been ruled out for another two or three weeks with an ankle injury.

Holding midfielder Martin Youngah (ankle) and Hammond (hamstring) were taken off during the second half tonight.

Williams added:  “It was really difficult. We got stuck at Greenwich, we weren’t moving at Greenwich. We managed to get here, the kick-off was delayed fortunately. If not the players would have had to jump out of the car and just go straight onto the pitch but it was tough to go out there and we did it and we got the result.”

Fisher created the first opening of the game following the second of their seven corners, taken down the left by attacking midfielder Nathan Tshola.  His delivery was cleared by the first defender and came out to central midfielder Ben Sangare, whose right-footed drive from a central position on the edge of the penalty area deflected past the left-hand post.

“We were trying to get bodies forward and make sure we can sustain attack from set-pieces and that’s how we got that chance,” added Williams.

Rusthall grabbed the lead, following a couple of Fisher mistakes, with 11 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock.

Fisher played the ball backwards and centre-half Prince Imoru was pressed by Hammond, who picked his pocket in the defensive third, before former Crowborough Athletic striker Danny Powell played in Hammond, who clinically placed his left-footed shot past the keeper in an one-v-one.

Anderson said: “It was a good press.  I thought we were good value to take the lead. We wanted to start well. We felt like if we started well and got an early goal, we could manage the game and I would probably say first half we did that quite well.”

Despite throwing away a lead and being involved in a relegation dog-fight, Anderson insists he will not change the way his side play.

“We’ve got a philosophy down here, what we don’t want to change and when you’re in a dog-fight, it’s very hard to keep that philosophy.  I change that, then I’m changing myself and I’m not being me, so I wouldn’t be true to myself.

“If we started to go long, I’ll be honest with you, a lot of players come down to play for Rusthall because of the style we play, so if I stop trying to play that style of play, then the boys that I have and the boys I want to bring down, they wouldn’t be here.”

Williams added: “It was a good finish. The keeper had no chance. Again, it was those mistakes I’m talking about where the back-pass was a little bit short. Prince could’ve gone into that tackle and really gone into it but its those mistakes that we make, we’re being punished by them in a few games.  Luckily the boys managed to turn it around today.”

Former Fisher goalkeeper Tommy Taylor made a fine save to deny his former club just 179 seconds later.

Sangare floated a deep free-kick into the box from the right, the ball was knocked back across goal from within a crowd of players and fell to striker Billy Brown, whose shot from inside the six-yard box was kept out by Taylor, who made himself big at his near-post.

Williams added: “We know Tommy, we’ve had Tommy at Fisher, a great keeper.  We were creating chances, trying to get bodies in the box and tried to finish it but we just couldn’t.”

Anderson admitted: “I think they probably should’ve scored from a free-kick, which was delivered to the back post, they headed it across goal but I felt like that was a good opportunity for them but they didn’t take it.”

Fisher bossed the possession during the first half – Rusthall didn’t look like adding to their lead – but the away side lacked composure in and around the Rusthall penalty area on more than one occasion.

Fisher right-back Ibrahim Kamara threw the ball in from the right and the ball found its way to Jones, who caressed a left-footed volley from inside the D, which was comfortably caught by Taylor at head height.

“I think it was like a knee, shin, toe effort from him. It was lacking power. It was a good effort. It was on target.  Tommy didn’t really have to do too much to save it,” added Anderson.

Styles lost the ball to a pressing Billy Brown, who played the ball into Jones, who lacked composure again and lashed his right-footed drive from 25-yards heading towards the corner flag rather than the back of the net in the 43rd minute.

Imoru found himself in space within the left channel and he whipped in a cross towards Jones, who hit his volley sailing over the crossbar as another chance went begging for Fisher on the stroke of half-time.

“We managed to have quite a lot of possession. If we got wide, we used the ball well.  I feel like we could’ve done a little bit better and that’s what I told them at half-time, is use that ball better, especially when you do get the ball wide because I feel like we got a lot of joy doing that in the first half,” said Williams.

“The first half performance was actually really good and that’s the funny thing.  I spoke to them at half-time and said they performed well but it’s another one of those mistakes that made us go a goal behind, but they did well.  We just had to cut out individual errors.

“I just tried to encourage them and also highlighting those errors and then giving them words of wisdom for the second half and making sure that I reminded them, I’ve got to keep reminding them of the basics of not what to do and what they can do in certain areas too.”

Anderson said: “I thought we were good value to be 1-0 up and at half-time the team-talk was to come out – we haven’t won the game yet – and there’s a big half to play. They still feel like they’re in it because we’re only 1-0 up.  Do your jobs, do better than your opponent, get on the ball when we can and take your chances when they come.”

Rusthall were reduced to 10 men (4:24) when Styles’ strong tackle sent Jones crashing to the ground around 25-yards from goal, as Fisher counter-attacked.

Referee Stephen Hughes consulted assistant referee Graham Smart before pulling out a straight red card.

Jones received treatment and the free-kick came to nothing.

Anderson said: “I feel like (the referee) didn’t actually make the decision, so that’s the clear and obvious error there because he’s had to go and speak to the lino, so if he does think it was a clear and obvious foul, goalscoring opportunity, whatever you want to call it, he can make the decision straight away.

“Dan Blunn, my other centre-back, clears the ball. He’s literally there. They’re not in the box, it’s further out than where the free-kick’s taken because they’ve gained yards.

“The referee has got to go and speak to the lino regarding it to then confirm what they think it is.  Last man? No where near last man and it’s changed the game completely.

“We’ve had to change shape. We had to bring personnel off to adapt and I thought after it happened we adapted quite well.

“The boys dug in but then when you’re down to 10 men the other team smells blood and they went for it.”

Williams said: “I think Teddy Jones did really well, he’s really tenacious, got in behind. There was a tackle. I’m not sure if he was last man but obviously the ref deemed it to be, sent him off. I thought Teddy did well to get into that position.”

Anderson changed to a three-man defence with Jeff Nhuguna (right), Daniel Blunn (centre) and Daniel Watson (left) and Rusthall should have done better with a decent opening with 6:31 on the clock.

Hammond was released down the left channel and he put in a cross towards the near post but a poor first touch from Powell inside the box ensured the ball trickled past the near-post.

“Obviously, it’s hard, we’re down to 10 men. We tried to hit them on the break. Jesse’s beat his man, delivered it, the ball goes wide,” added Anderson.

Williams admitted: “Heart in mouth moments there. They did keep knocking, Rusthall, even with 10 men, they kept going, they kept going.  They were threatening on different occasions.  I think they maybe have gone in and not been too disappointed, especially with 10 men for a long period of the game.”

Anderson swiftly hooked ineffective attacking midfielder Ezekiel Ebooa and brought on centre-half Samuel Aziaya, who almost scored an own-goal.

Fisher winger Sineen Sineen put in a left-footed cross from the right, Aziaya sliced his clearance towards the top corner of his own goal before Taylor reacted to push the ball over the upright, high to his left.

Fisher deservedly restored parity with 13 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock, following a set-piece.

Left-back Kaylam Burgess whipped in a deep free-kick with his left-foot from the left, a Rusthall head got to the ball first, the ball was then knocked back and laid into the path of Mbuenimo, who clinically drilled his left-footed drive from 12-yards over a crowd of players and into the top left-hand corner, leaving Taylor rooted to the spot.

“It was a great finish from Tyron. It’s nice to have him back in and around the squad. He’s a quality player, great composure in the box when it fell to him and when he took it, really happy when it did fall to him,” said the Fisher manager.

The Rusthall boss added: “It’s a sloppy goal.  They don’t really work it. It’s a sloppy goal, finishes it well and then I felt like heads didn’t drop.  We carried on going, being down to 10 men for such a long period of time as well.

“We got blocks in there and it falls to him and he swings and it goes in. it’s nothing magical, it was just a good goal for them.”

Williams brought on Jehovany Kinzonzi and he was a threat down the right wing and he latched onto Jones' ball down the line before cutting inside and onto his left-foot before drilling his shot over the top of the far post from 25-yards.

“JoJo is lively, he’s got great energy and that’s what we wanted to bring on for the second half, especially when they had 10 men, get some energy, get some more width and he provided us with that,” added Williams.

Fisher produced a well-worked counter-attacking goal to seal the deserved victory with 29 minutes and 1 second on the clock.

Thomas Ngegba, a substitute with six goals to his name this season, was in a central position inside the Rusthall half and he released Kinzonzi down the right and the winger reached the by-line before cutting the ball back for Jones to nip in between two defenders to sweep his first time shot into the net from three-yards out.

“Really well-worked move. I feel like the boys are growing in confidence. Sometimes when (you’re playing against 10 men) you can try to get the ball forward really quickly but they realised that the best option was to move that ball, move it side-to-side, find those gaps and try to get it through and we managed to get a goal today,” added Williams, who made five changes to his side that lost 4-1 at home to Faversham Town at the weekend.

Anderson, who made two changes from the side that came away from Sutton Athletic with a 1-1 draw at the weekend, added: “It’s a good break by them, it’s a good counter-attack but both goals can be avoided. Both goals probably are avoided if we have 11 men on the pitch.

“I don’t want to go on but like anything, if you go down to 10 men, it changes the game.”

Fisher substitute right-back Jamie Brown released Kinzonzi, who cut inside before drilling his left-footed drive across the keeper and past the far post, before Rusthall (who kept plugging away) had three late chances to snatch a point.

Lyons whipped a left-footed 30-yard free-kick dipping just over, aiming for the top far corner, before Lyons’ angled drive from similar distance was parried by Fisher keeper Samuel Nwabuko at his near-post, before the keeper went down for some timewasting treatment.

Anderson said: “Jack Lyons played really well today, for such a young age. He was a real threat constantly for us and he was unlucky, he’s got a wand of a left-foot.”

Williams added: “Another worrying moment for us and Samuel did well. He’s doing lots of training, he’s working hard, he’s reflecting on things.  I’m happy that he managed to get that save.”

With time running out, winger Lyons floated a left-footed free-kick onto the top of the roof of the net, as Rusthall had eight men inside the Fisher penalty area as Fisher ran out deserved winners.

“They got a few free-kicks. I did try to tell my players to cut out giving away those free-kicks because they were threatening from them and they did have a couple of scary moments for us.  We tried our best to defend them well and luckily that one went over the bar,” added Williams.

“It’s a really, really important one. One that’s really important for the morale for us management team, for the players because they have played well. We’ve had some really, really, really tough games. We’ve been up against some really strong teams.

“We’re a team definitely in transition, some new faces, some really young faces, so the win is really important for them, just to remind them that they are doing the right things because they have been.  They’ve just been punished by individual mistakes but they are doing the right things and it’s great for them to get the reward.”

Ashford-based outfit Kennington are the visitors to St Paul’s Stadium on Saturday.

Dan Scorer’s side beat Sutton Athletic 2-0 at Homelands Stadium tonight to ease their relegation fears.

Sixteenth-placed Tunbridge Wells – who were held to a 2-2 draw by nine-man Lydd Town at Culverden Stadium tonight – have picked up 24 points from 22 games.

Kennington follow next on 20 points from 25 games, then it’s Stansfeld (19 points from 26 games), Sutton Athletic (18 points from 25 games), Rusthall (17 points from 26 games), while Welling Town occupy the only relegation berth (16 points from 24 games).

Williams said: “It’s going to be a tough game, all the games are tough.  I feel like the league is a really, really good league. I think the standard’s really high. It’s going to be a tough game.  Every game I’ve been involved in, it’s been a tough game for both teams so yes, looking forward to it and see how it goes on Saturday.

“My aims will remain the same, just to give people a chance, to improve players and just try to pick up as many points as we possibly can, that’s the aim.

“I love helping people. I love giving people a chance. As a club that’s what the club believe in, so as long as we can do that, we can pick up some points along the way, we’ll be rally happy.”

When asked about Fisher’s injury situation going into their next game, Williams said: “A couple of injuries but in football players are always carrying knocks so it’s about trying to manage that squad but also the youth and the experience and making sure you’ve got the right people for the right occasion.

“As you know, Step Five is quite challenging because people have got to go to work, so it’s also managing who can actually make certain games and days so it’s tough trying to manage the whole squad, injuries, jobs, everything, traffic today.”

For Rusthall, league leaders Glebe visit Jockey Farm Stadium on Saturday, before ninth-placed side Lydd Town visit the following weekend.

Glebe (55 points from 27 games) are four points clear of Faversham Town, while Deal Town are third with 49 points from 22 games, followed by Corinthian (47 points from 23 games) and Bearsted (46 points from 24 games).

Glebe were held to a 1-1 draw at Erith Town tonight, while Deal Town were held to a 2-2 home draw by Faversham Town.

“Very tough, very tough.  They will be expecting to get three points, 100%, when they come here,” admitted Anderson.

“We have two very hard fixtures coming up now.  Glebe are obviously in fine form.  They are two strong sides.  Glebe will be a different animal to come up against at the weekend.”

When asked about Rusthall’s current league position, Anderson admitted: “We’re struggling at the minute. We’re in a dog-fight. We’re down there. We haven’t been good enough this season.  We have been in spells but you have to be on it, like, all the time, like we were last season.

“We’ve got to take it game-by-game.  When we stayed up last time, it’s a completely different squad I have. They’re a lot younger. There’s a lot of football still to be played this season but it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be hard!

“I would probably say there’s three or four teams fighting to stay up.  How do we stay up?  By putting some points on the board. It’s easier said than done, honestly.

“As far as I’m concerned the boys haven’t thrown the towel in. We haven’t done as a club or as a management team, so we’ll take game-by-game and I do feel like we’ll turn the corner soon and that’s how we’ll say in this league.

“I feel like we carried on playing for the whole 90 minutes.  I suppose when you’re down there and you’re up against it, you want your boys to show fight and a bit of heart and desire and it’s not like teams are rolling us over.”

When asked how he deals with the pressure of a relegation battle, Anderson, who revealed he will be making a couple of seven day approaches to non-contracted players to bolster his squad, admitted: “I don’t, that’s why I’m grey. I don’t deal with it very well.  It’s stressful mate.

“Like every manager says, it’s like a full-time job on top of your job. I’m a floor fitter so I have a flooring company, so on top of that, being a manager, it’s different from being a player as well and a supporter.

“A supporter will come and support the team. If we lose it’s like ‘it’s not good enough,’.  If we win ‘yes, we’re brilliant.’

“As a player, some of them care, some of them don’t. Some will be with me next season, some of them won’t.  Some will get wonderful offers, some of them won’t, so you’ve got to keep motivating, you’ve got to keep working. 

“As a management team, we take all the brunt of it, fair enough, that’s fine, I’m the manager. I should take the brunt of it but it’s hard.”

When asked whether he is under pressure (close to getting the sack), Anderson replied: “There’s pressure from everyone. You’re putting pressure on me interviewing me, so yes, what do you mean pressure?  Do I feel like I’m under (pressure)?  I don’t know. That’s something you’ll have to ask the club. Is that a good enough answer?”

Rusthall: Tommy Taylor, Jeffrey Njuguna, Daniel Watson, Ben Branch, Ryan Styles, Daniel Blunn, Jesse Hammond (Armondo Luis Myro Pires Costa 71), Martin Youngah (Luke Salmons 67), Danny Powell, Ezekiel Ebooa (Sam Aziaya 56), Jack Lyons.
Sub: Matthew Blendell

Goal: Jesse Hammond 12

Sent Off:  Ryan Styles 50

Fisher: Samuel Nwabuko, Ibrahim Kamara (Jamie Brown 76), Kaylam Burgess, Tyrone Mbuenimo, Mark Chidi, Prince Imoru, Teddy Jones, Ben Sangare (Thomas Ngegba 56), Billy Brown (Selo Embalo 90), Nathan Tshola, Sineen Sineen (Jehovany Kinzonzi 66).

Goals: Tyron Mbuenimo 59, Teddy Jones 75

Booked: Teddy Jones 54, Billy Brown 80

Attendance: 91
Referee: Mr Stephen Hughes
Assistants: Mr William Rough & Mr Graham Smart