Rusthall 0-1 Lordswood - The Cup is always a nice distraction when you’re having a bit of a tough time in the league, says Lordswood assistant Dan Morrin

Saturday 26th November 2016
Rusthall 0 – 1 Lordswood
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 26/11/2016 15:00

Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Second Round
Saturday 26th November 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm

LORDSWOOD assistant manager Dan Morrin says reaching the Quarter-Finals of the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy is bringing light relief from their league struggles.

Richard Styles’ side failed to impress against a Rusthall side that went into the game unbeaten at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League First Division with 39 points from 17 games.

Lordswood arrived at Jockey Farm on a miserable five-game losing streak and in the bottom four of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division with 13 points from 18 games, one point clear of the relegation zone, which contains Beckenham Town and Fisher.

Right-winger Sam Hallett scored the only goal of the game and Lordswood were thankful to former Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper Ryan Chandler for making a string of great saves during the second half to keep their first clean sheet of the season, having leaked an embarrassing 62 goals in the league so far.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew we were going to be in for a bit of a battle,” said Morrin during the post-match press conference.

“They haven’t lost in a while, had to beat, but we stuck to a game plan. We’ve come up against it really. We’ve got one sub, a 16-year-old, we played two 17-year-olds. Another lad’s car broke down halfway so he hasn’t been able to get here.  We had a game plan and we stuck to it and I think we executed it quite well.

“I think it was light relief really to play a Cup game to get ourselves away from the league.  It hasn’t been a great run but we have played well at times.   We played Crowborough and their manager said we ‘were one of the best teams they’ve played against this season,’ and we were unlucky not to get something from that game.

“I don’t think we’ve been dead and buried in many games. We’ve had a couple of hidings but on the whole we’ve stayed in games but it’s nice to not be in the league and have a week out and play a cup game.  Hopefully now that will give us a bit of belief going into next week’s huge home game against Tunbridge Wells.”

This was only Rusthall’s third defeat in 21 games in all competitions and joint-manager Steven Ashmore admitted to be feeling disappointed by losing to a struggling team in the league above.

“When the tie came up, we thought it was quite good for us.  Lordswood would be beatable from our point of view looking at their current league results.  I thought we could compete, challenge and hopefully come away with a win and go through to the next round, unfortunately that’s not to be,” said Ashmore, who runs the side alongside Steve Sands.

“First half we were far too slow all around the pitch. We looked very lethargic and very lackadaisical, which is very unlike us, especially after last week’s display (a 2-2 draw down at Lydd Town) when everything was a lot quicker.

“Whether or not because it was a Cup game they didn’t quite respond as well as if it was a league game, I’m not too sure about it.

“They were just far too slow. At half-time we asked them to quicken everything up, play a bit more direct, play quicker, play one-two touch and keep it moving, which they did.  Unfortunately, we still didn’t create anything meaningful that really deserved us to get anything back into it.”

Lordswood central defender Jamie Blunden almost made it a dream start after only 32 seconds into his debut following his arrival from Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Division One West side Otford United.

Josh Wooley swung in a corner from the right for Blunden to plant his free header straight into the grateful hands of Rusthall keeper Sean Ingleson.

Morrin said: “It’s a good start. I said to the boys we knew they were going to get at us. We knew we had to be in the game at half-time, especially up the hill second half. I just said to the boys we’ve got to go out and start well.  We’ve got to get it in the right areas and try to cause some pressure.

“James has come in, it’s his debut today and I think he’s done well.  He knows he’s got to get some match fitness. He’s been plunged in at the deep end but I think on the whole he’s come in and done well. He’s won some good headers and that would’ve been a great start but that set the tone really, the fact that we wasn’t going to sit back and invite pressure.  We were going out and create our own bits and bobs to try to cause them trouble.”

Ashmore added: “Straight from the kick-off, we’ve misjudged just a long hopeful ball and all off a sudden we’ve on the back foot in the first couple of minutes. Maybe that set the tone for the first half?

“That whole attitude of ‘that will be ok, we’ll just turn around;’, as a whole team point of view, we just weren’t on it first half.”

Rusthall immediately went up the other end and with only 54 seconds on the clock, John Phillips’ dinked pass played in striker Dan Mitchell, who drove his shot into the side netting.

Rusthall, who played with three central defenders, four in midfield and three up front, called Chandler into making a comfortable save from Joe Fuller’s poor shot from 25-yards.

“We had a few passages of play when it was quite neat and tidy through the middle of the pitch but as we went into the final third the quality wasn’t really there today,” admitted Ashmore.

Despite carrying too much timber, Blunden was a threat in the Rusthall box and he sent his towering header past the far post after Wooley swung in a free-kick.

Rusthall too created a headed chance from a set-piece during a first half that lacked quality in the final third.

Richard Cole, who took all of Rusthall’s seven corners, swung in a corner from the left but Stewart Gostlow (who played at the heart of their back three) guided his free header past the far post from 12-yards.

Rusthall winger Chris Stoate hung over a free-kick from the right towards the far post but Chandler parried Mitchell’s free header from six-yards before the keeper pounced on the loose ball in the 19th minute.

Lordswood left-back Adam Hooper swung in a free-kick with his left foot and Blunden glanced his header wide despite having his back to goal.

Rusthall were denied a 34th minute lead by an offside flag which was raised by Joshua Smith.

Phillips played the ball into Fuller, who slipped the ball through to Mitchell. The flag went up before he set-up George Rogers, who drove his shot across the keeper into the far corner of the net.

Ashmore questioned the decision, by saying: “Surprising that because they spotted the offside from the middle of the goal, which makes you wonder who they were giving offside to? The flag went up after Mitchell on the far side. He’s pretty adamant that he wasn’t offside, like every striker says!”

Morrin said: “That was a bit of a heart in mouth kind of moment.  That could’ve turned the game. They could’ve gone on and turned the screw a little bit but sometimes you get this luck.  I’ll be honest, there’s a run of games where we’ve not won, we’ve not had that luck at all. We’ve ridden our luck a little bit today at times but we’ve had luck go against us at times, today, it’s gone with us. Another day it would’ve gone against us.”

Lordswood handed a debut to Hicham Akhazzan, who has joined on a short-term loan from Ryman League Division One South side Sittingbourne to gain match fitness but he lashed his shot high and wide after Hooper played the ball down the left channel.

Chandler made a brave save at Rogers’ feet on the very edge of his penalty area after Stoate played a low cross in from the right.

But Lordswood eased the pressure on their manager Richard Styles (who was in Madrid) by scoring the winning goal with 37 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Central midfielder Grant McIlheron played the ball through the heart of the pitch into Hallett’s feet.  The winger was allowed to cut into the middle of the pitch as he was not tracked by Calum Gallie and charged through the heart of the pitch and kept his composure to dink his right-footed shot across Ingleson, the ball nestling into the back of the net after kissing the foot of the far post.

“It was a good finish. Sam’s come in and he’s worked well for us. His debut was at home to Cray Valley and we got done 7-0 but he didn’t stop running for 90 minutes,” said Morrin.

“Sam’s been at the club before, he knows what it takes to be at the club so he knows what Lordswood are all about and he’s come in and he’s worked hard and I can’t fault Sam. He’s been unlucky recently. He’s probably should’ve scored more in the last few weeks but he’s got two in two now.  Last week he should’ve scored a hat-trick, he’s hit the post, hit the bar and hopefully he will go on.”

Ashmore added: “Disappointing! We were up in their half, we lost the ball on the edge of their 18-yard line and we’ve not dealt with it. It’s come all the way from there and their guy’s just kind of wondered through. It’s a very, very disappointing goal from my point of view and poor all round the pitch from us defensively there.

“I didn’t really think they created much. It looked the only way they could get at us was with set-pieces and long balls and we switched off for two minutes and their guy’s just wondered through us and put it into the bottom corner.”

When asked what he told his players during the break, Ashmore said: “We just asked them to play quicker! Everything was far too lax, we were far too slow. We were having three or four touches when one or two was good enough. We weren’t using the boys out wide quick enough. Our first touch needed to improve. We needed to create a lot more in front of goal.  We just asked them to pick everything up. It wasn’t like us in recent weeks.

“They packed the midfield area and they were quite strong defensively but we still found pockets to play in but we played up to a certain point and it almost looked like we didn’t have an idea what we were going to do in their final third, which was disappointing.”

Morrin said: “Ironed out a few little issues that we weren’t quite happy with and we just adjusted.

“We knew we was going to be in for a battle. We know they would come down the hill, they do like to hit you.  Richard (Styles) spoke to a few managers that have played them recently here and we knew what we were in for second half.

“I just said we’ve got to be solid and tight for the first 10-15 minutes and earn our way into the second half – and I think we did. 

“We held our own for the first 10-15 minutes and we were able to get into the game a little bit, kind of turn the screw ourselves.”

Rusthall improved as they kicked down the slope and created their first opening two and a half minutes into the half.

Cole swung in a corner from the left and Mitchell’s free header sailed across the goal and past the far post.

It seemed that most chances arrived from set-pieces and Blunden got underneath the ball to send his header over the bar from six-yards after meeting Wooley’s corner from the left at the other end.

But Lordswood got lucky in the 56th minute when Phillips stroked a left-footed drive underneath the keeper’s body from 25-yards, only for the ball to bounce off the foot of the near post and keeper Chandler kicked the ball into touch.

“Sometimes you think it’s not going to be your day,” admitted Ashmore.

“In fairness it was probably our first test of their goalie. Maybe if we had a few of them at him more, he could’ve spilt one or one would’ve gone in. It was pretty much down to us not testing him enough.”

“That’s a heart in mouth moment,” admitted Lordswood’s assistant Morrin.

“I can’t moan about Ryan because he’s come in and he’s done superbly for us.  His kicking gets us out of trouble, he’s got a good kick  and he’s pulled off a few fantastic saves in the second half.”

Jon Sebbar was released down the left and he whipped in a cross which was headed wide by Cole.

Chandler then bounced back and produced a display that thwarted Rusthall time after time.

Captain Cole’s hooked pass put Mitchell in down the left and he drilled his left-footed shot towards the top near corner from a tight angle, but the former Tunbridge Wells stopper palmed the shot behind for a corner.

Ashmore said: “Again, second half we started to create a bit more. We looked much the better team in the second half. They probably sat deep because they were defending their 1-0. It was a good passage of play and it was the only time we went through one-v-one and their keeper’s made a good save.”

“Another great save.  Ryan’s been doing that, that’s not new to Ryan but when called upon he’s rescued us and got us out of jail a little bit,” said Morrin.

Chandler then made a comfortable save to deny Cole from scoring with a first time drive from 25-yards after the ball was cut back to him by Stoate following Adam Davies’ cross.

Lordswood weathered the storm and almost snatched a match clinching second goal in the 74th minute.

Hallett floated in a cross from the right towards the edge of the Rusthall box but Akhazzan nipped in to plant his header past the far post.

“Hicham’s come in from Sittingbourne, a short term plan, no time line has been agreed yet,” Morrin said of Sittingbourne’s longest serving player.

“Sittingbourne wanted him to get some game time, he’s getting a bit frustrated over there. He just wants to play football. He’s 29-years-of-age now, he wants to play a little bit. He knows myself and Richard, he’s come in and I think in a couple of weeks that goes in. He’s been struggling with an injury all week and we kind of patched him up a little bit to play today. He only took part in a little bit of the warm-up and he’s come out and I think he’s done really well.”

Chandler made another great save to deny Rusthall scoring an equaliser in the final 10 minutes.

Davies’ right-footed free-kick from 20-yards was heading into the top right-hand corner, but Chandler got across to palm the ball around the post.

Striker Akhazaan then hit an angled drive from the left which was saved comfortably by Ingleson, before Lordswood keeper Chandler got his body behind Phillips’ shot, this time.

Central midfielder Ciro Donadio swept the ball out wide to winger Tom Carter, who cut inside and his speculative drive was saved comfortably by the Rusthall keeper.

But Chandler prevented extra-time with another brilliant save in the final couple of minutes.

Phillips sent Sebbar charging down the left wing and he whipped in an inch-perfect cross which was hit first time by Fuller, screaming towards the top right-hand corner, which was brilliantly tipped over the bar by the diving Chandler, frustrating Ashmore.

He said: “The one from Joe Fuller towards the end there, a great strike, just close enough to him that he can pull off that save. Either side and it probably goes in but sometimes they go in and sometimes it’s not your day and the keeper pulls off the saves.”

Morrin added: “He knows a couple of their boys, he was at Tunbridge Wells earlier on in the season so he’s a lad from the area and I think he’s had a bit of a point to prove today. He’s pulled off a couple of great saves for us.”

Rusthall had one final chance, but you don’t want it to fall to a defender.

Substitute Luke Stratford ran down the right and whipped in a cross, which was knocked down by striker Mitchell for Gallie to lash his right-footed shot over the bar from six-yards.

“When he got the ball and you’re just willing it not to go in,” said Morrin.

“A few weeks’ ago that’s rustling into the back of the net and it’s extra-time and their tails are up and they’d have gone on to win it, but that’s a little bit of luck that we’ve kind of ridden today and that’s a little bit of luck that we needed to change our fate a little bit and hopefully now we can have another performance and turn the screw a little bit.

“I said to the boys today it’s important that we put our league form to bed today, concentrate on the Cup. It is a light relief and you’re right, it could take this game to turn our season and get us back on track. We know where we want to be and where we should be and that’s not where we are in the league at the minute.”

Ashmore added: “In fairness to him, he’s made one hell of a run from left-back to get in that position and if he does get in that position we’d like it to fall to his left foot. Unfortunately, that fell to his right foot, which is not the strongest. You can’t fault his desire to get in the box, he’s probably not a natural in there and that was his best effort really.”

Lordswood must improve if they are to beat Tunbridge Wells at Martyn Grove next Saturday but Morrin hopes their run in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy will keep their season alive.

“It’s just a nice game to look forward to really, keeps our season alive a little bit. I don’t know when the draw is or who we’ve got but it would be nice to have a week off in the league and give the boys something to concentrate on. The Cup is always a nice distraction when you’re having a bit of a tough time in the league.”

Kent Football United bottled the chance to claim top spot in SCEFL1 when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Crockenhill today, so Rusthall’s lead at the top has been cut to a couple of points, although the Dartford based side have a game in hand over Rustics.

Glebe remain in third-place on 35 points from 14 games and cost Gary Abbott his job after beating Fisher 4-2 in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy.

“You always take a positive from it, maybe it will, as a squad, do us a favour to not being in any more cup competitions. It just gives us the league to focus on, which is our main priority,” said Ashmore, who’s side host Eltham Palace next Saturday.

“We’ve given ourselves a really good start in it. We’ve worked very hard for that start, now we’ve got to kick on and keep improving and if we want to stay there and we really want to push for promotion.”

Rusthall: Sean Ingleson, Calum Gallie, John Phillips, Jon Sebbar, Stewart Gostlow, Adam Davies, Chris Stoate, Richard Cole, Dan Mitchell, Joe Fuller, George Rogers (Luke Stratford 70).
Subs: John Sinclair, Steven Ashmore

Booked: Stewart Gostlow 12

Lordswood: Ryan Chandler, Stephen Mills, Adam Hooper, Ciro Donadio, Jamie Blunden, Bode Olajide, Sam Hallett, Grant McIlheron, Hicham Akhazzan, Josh Wooley, Tom Carter.
Subs: Shane Uings, Martin Wangulu

Goal: Sam Hallett 38

Booked: Adam Hooper 24, Sam Hallett 48, Bode Olajide 79

Attendance: 71
Referee: Mr Christopher Price (Bromley)
Assistants: Mr Brian Woodhouse (Borden) & Mr Joshua Smith (Tunbridge Wells)

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