Rusthall 2-4 Holmesdale - The performance in the last two games hasn't been acceptable, admits Rusthall boss Jimmy Anderson

Wednesday 04th August 2021
Rusthall 2 – 4 Holmesdale
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 04/08/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 4 August 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

HOLMESDALE manager Lee Roots says he hasn’t set any realistic targets upon their return to the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division but maintained his own personal unbeaten record at Jockey Farm Stadium as his side piled more opening week misery on Rusthall.

These two sides were promoted from the First Division despite the last two campaigns not finishing due to the coronavirus health pandemic but Holmesdale were miles better than their hosts tonight.

The Bromley based side went into the break a goal up courtesy of a first-time finish from central midfielder Rory Ward, before Holmesdale scored their second and third goals within the space of 92 seconds at the start of the second half through centre-half Jordan Eeles and an own-goal from Rusthall centre-half James White.

Holmesdale talisman Nathan Palmer opened his account for the season to send his side into a dominant four-goal lead after 65 minutes.

Holmesdale declared at four and Rusthall showed character to throw caution to the wind and striker Luke Adams endured a frustrating night as he wasn’t given any service in open play but he did convert his first goal of the season from the penalty spot, before substitute Ijah Currie-Wilson tapped in a second goal to give the scoreline a more respectable look.

“Really happy, really happy with the whole performance overall,” said Roots.

“I thought we were excellent from minute one, carried on really from the performance on Saturday. Obviously the result, I thought it was good, it was definitely the right result and I’m really, really happy overall.

“It’s always important every season, whatever level you’re in, to get those first three points on the board.  It’s what everyone is looking for. You don’t want to be chasing it.  We felt we would get that here tonight. We were looking to get three or four points from the opening two and that’s kind of what we’ve done.

“This is a good stomping ground for us as management, we’ve never lost a game here so we felt confident.”

Rusthall manager Jimmy Anderson said: “I am very disappointed. We were right off the pace today. The performance in the last two games hasn’t been acceptable and if I’m being truthfully honest we’ve gifted them that game tonight.

“Probably maybe 65-70 minutes into the game we then came alive when we were 4-0 down at the time. That might be the fact that we made the same mistakes against Fisher. Don’t get me wrong, Fisher were a very good side and they scored two wonderful goals but we gave them three of them as well, like we gave Holmesdale two or three tonight.

“I just think at the minute we’re going through a bad patch but we’ll stick together, we’ll work on it. The boys are making mistakes, they’re all young boys in the team and they’re entitled to make mistakes but they’re making them in the wrong areas at the wrong times.

“We conceded two goals, I believe, in five minutes straight after half-time and the first goal comes six minutes before half-time so when it’s like that it kills the game and you’re under pressure and you’re basically out of the game at that point.”

Holmesdale kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to K Sports and are in eighth-place going into Saturday’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round trip to Gillingham to play league rivals Hollands & Blair.

However, the alarm bells must be ringing for Rusthall as they are one of three sides without any points at the base of the table, having lost 5-0 at Fisher on the opening day and must bring in more players with Step Five experience if they are to avoid the drop at the end of the season.

Holmesdale started the game on the front foot, kicking down the slope and called Matthew Bailey into making his first save of the night inside eight minutes.

Holmesdale striker Owen Punselie ran down the right to cut the ball back to Palmer, who cracked a first-time shot straight at the Rusthall goalkeeper, who beat the ball away at head height.

“I thought we did start well. We implemented our model of play and got the ball down and dictated the tempo.  Nathan’s got that ability to have shots from anywhere and stung the hands, a good early chance,” said Roots.

A flying save from Bailey ensured Holmesdale were thwarted again in the 12th minute.

Palmer turned provider this time, playing the ball inside to Jamie Rawsthorne, who cracked a first-time right-footed drive towards the top right-hand corner from 35-yards, forcing the keeper to dive high to his left to push the ball over the crossbar.

“I thought Matt’s made some really good saves in the first half but that’s why he’s in the sticks for, so he’s done his job,” said Anderson.

“I wouldn’t say he kept us in the game but Lenny (Styles) makes a mistake and let’s their number nine (Punselie) in on a one-on-one and Matt pulls off another good save there.  I’m happy with Matt and I’m not blaming him for any of the goals today.”

Roots added: “It was a bit of a Hollywood save as well for the cameras. It was a fantastic save by the lad. He actually made some good stops for a big lad as well. We heard that could’ve been his weakness.”

Ward skipped past Jack Smith’s sliding tackle inside the Rusthall half to play Punselie in behind but his first time drive was drilled past the foot of the near post from 12-yards.

Rusthall took 15 minutes to create their first opening when right-back Louis Anderson played the ball out to wide striker Reuel Powell-Downey, who cut into the box before drilling his right-footed shot over the top of the near post but Rusthall lacked quality in the final third for the first 65 minutes, with wideman Stephen Ikpeme not providing any service.

Anderson said: “To be fair first half we were a bit, our shape weren’t quite working. The one holding was so deep compared to the rest of the team and when it did go forward we weren’t supporting Luke Adams up front and Charlie Clover and unfortunately we weren’t causing as much of a threat in the first half.”

Roots said: “Reuel’s a good player, he’s a really good player. We’re aware of Reuel, they love him down here, he’s a good talent. He was a threat that we were looking to nullify and he’s always going to get chances and I felt we limited him to limited chances today.”

Palmer went close with a right-footed free-kick from 25-yards, which only just cleared the Rusthall crossbar.

Rusthall left-back Rory Salter swung in a deep corner from the right which was met by centre-half Ryan Styles, who rose to steer his header over the crossbar in the 27th minute.

Holmesdale’s holding midfielder Nad Nwitua was in space and he played a pass along the deck into Rawsthorne, who turned to stab his low shot past the near post.

Rusthall’s defending was a major concern and this was evident in the 35th minute when Styles was robbed off the ball some 30-yards from his goal by Punselie, who raced through on goal but Bailey smothered the shot to his right to get his captain out of jail.

Roots said: “I think he should do better there. He kind of makes the chance for himself doesn’t he?  He picks the pocket of their defender, they over-played maybe, he’s got too long to think about it and it was a good save by the keeper as well. Owen’s gone to the other corner. I said to him maybe he could’ve gone around the keeper but we should’ve scored that but I’d give credit to the goalie.”

There was no surprise, however, when Holmesdale took a deserved lead just six minutes before the break.

Ward released Palmer down the left and he played the ball into Charlie Hackshall and he teed up Ward, who drilled a first-time right-footed drive screaming into the top left-hand corner from 18-yards.

Roots said: “Fantastic goal! A pattern of play that we’ve worked on as well, which was really, really pleasing, really pleasing for Rory as well playing in the higher pocket which was excellent.  It was a first-time finish which I think was the most impressive part of it, to place it where he did, superb.”

Anderson said: “I thought Rory Ward and Charlie Hackshall played really well tonight in midfield and they pulled us about, their movement off the ball was fantastic and it was a well-worked goal. It’s just disappointing from our point of view that the timing of it.”

Hackshall and Ward linked up to carve open a chance for Palmer, who unleashed a right-footed drive from 35-yards which had Bailey scrambling across his goal-line only to be relieved to see the ball flash past the far post.

Bailey thwarted Holmesdale just before the break when Nwitua and Punselie linked up before Ward’s clever 10-yard pass along the deck cut open the Rusthall defence to put James Shield through on goal but Bailey’s fingertips and the base of the side netting denied the Holmesdale centre-half from scoring.

Roots added: “It was another save by the keeper into the side net. Actually, I thought it was in from our end. I think their fans actually jeered us. It was a fantastic run from centre-back to create the chance, not bad from a centre-back.”

Anderson added: “James Shield, in fairness, he doesn’t normally play centre-back, most of the time he’s playing in midfield. When they break they go as a back three and it’s a clever thing that they’ll probably use it throughout the season.  Shield dribbles out from the back and he’s comfortable on the ball and he’s a good player.”

Anderson revealed he gave his players’ the hairdryer treatment during the interval and it had an instant reaction as they created an opening after only 22 seconds.

“You don’t want to know, I can’t tell you on this but it wasn’t good and they needed to be told but unfortunately the team haven’t let me down, they’ve let themselves down because we’ve conceded two goals straight after half-time.  In fairness we came out and we created two chances and we’re knocking and we came out pretty lively.”

Roots, meanwhile, wanted his players’ to go for the kill.

“We were relatively happy. We started well and we acquitted ourselves well. We nullified the areas that we wanted to nullify and we got on the ball really early and created good chances so we asked them to play a little bit more on the front foot. 

“We knew they had a moment last week in collapsing in games, conceding in games, so we looked for that, so we kind of asked them to wipe the goal off and go again.”

Just twenty-two seconds in and Charlie Clover was down the left channel and played the ball into Tommy Lawrence who fed Powell-Downey, who cut the ball onto his left-foot before stinging Nathan Edwards’ fingers from outside the Holmesdale box.

Anderson said:  “We basically said to them ‘they’re playing a bit scared’.  You asked me the question is the quality in the Prem showing? It is but likewise my players haven’t stepped up yet. They’re young, we believe in them, the club believes in them and our time will come.  Every team has a bad patch throughout the season, ours is just unfortunate that its right at the start.”

Roots added: “A bit disappointed with that because you don’t want them to start in that vein but we knew they would come out of the blocks. It was a good shot but a comfortable save for Nathan.”

Holmesdale doubled their lead, however, with only three minutes and 16 seconds on the clock.

Styles committed a foul and Hackshall floated a free-kick into the Rusthall box some 40-yards from goal and more poor Rusthall defending let in Eels at the far post and he had two bites of the cherry before rifling his right-footed shot into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box.

Roots said: “I think he gets lucky there because I think the defender should do better there on the first chance but Jordan is a big lad and uses his body and lets it come off his chest and I think it was a good connection for the goal into the top net.”

Anderson added: “The referee gives them a harsh free-kick on Lenny, I felt.  They put a ball in the box, we haven’t cleared it and their man taps it in. It’s just soft from us. We’ve given it to them!”

Fisher’s goals on Saturday came in the 32nd, 65th, 68th, 70th and 90th minutes on Saturday so Rusthall have an issue of folding like a pack of cards.

Holmesdale’s third goal came just 92 seconds after their second goal, as winger Rawsthorne drilled in a low cross from the right into the Rusthall box and centre-half White directed his shot past his stranded goalkeeper to score an own-goal to seemingly kill the game off as a contest.

Roots said: “It’s the area that we want the ball to be put into to create either a chance for us or confusion across the back line. The defender had to clear something and he’s put it into his own net.  We were fortunate for the finish but at that moment we were on top and we were looking for them to collapse at that point.”

Anderson added: “It’s soft. The geezer has got time to have a shot and it’s a deflection off James White and unfortunately it’s gone past Matt Bailey in goal.

“The game’s over. I’m embarrassed because the two goals straight after half-time, we’ve given it them. The boys, in fairness, we started playing then. We came alive but it ain’t good enough, not at 65-70 minutes to then suddenly come alive and expect to get something out of it.”

Anderson blamed the fourth goal on his goalkeeper as he should have came off his line to catch the ball instead of punching away a cross from Rolex Buiti and in the next phase the ball was worked out to Punselie, who drilled in a low cross from the right towards an unmarked Palmer who drove his shot into the corner.

Roots said: “I thought Rolex had a really, really good game tonight. He’s 21 years old, coming into the side new this year (having played for Sporting Club Thamesmead last season) and he’s very, very good, very, very equipped player. It was a good ball into the box. Nathan actually has the first shot and the ball comes back to him and then a fantastic finish.”

Anderson added: “Yes, it’s a mistake by Matt. I think he should catch it and we’re just given them another goal. It’s just an individual error and that’s basically punishing us at the minute.

“We’ve conceded nine goals in two games and I would probably say three of them, the teams have worked hard to score them. Six of them we’ve given and at this level it isn’t good enough. At any level it isn’t good enough. At Step Six we wasn’t making these mistakes but look, we have to learn from it.”

Holmesdale declared at four and allowed Rusthall to throw caution to the wind and they pulled a goal back in the 68th minute from the penalty spot.

Smith’s sublime diagonal pass found Salter who cut into the penalty area and initially put Rawsthorne on his backside before the Holmesdale winger got back up and brought down the Rusthall left-back.

Adams stepped up and stroked his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, although goalkeeper Nathan Edwards dived to his right and got a hand to the ball he couldn’t prevent the ball nestling into the bottom corner.

“I think Luke was frustrated today, we didn’t give him enough service as he would like,” admitted Anderson.

“He’s worked hard, presses really well. Rory done really well to get into the box, they drew the foul. That’s what we were kind of hoping when it was 1-0 but unfortunately we made the silly mistakes, given them the second and third and 3-0 down you’re scratching your head. The penalty is great and we’re potentially back into it.”

“I think it’s probably a mix of the two I think,” admitted Roots when asked about declaring or Rusthall throwing caution to the wind.

“At 4-0, it’s hard to stay consistently tight in areas and I think we eased off in areas. It was a little bit like we were already at the dance, I suppose at that point. 

“I think the penalty turns them back into the game. I think at 4-0 we weren’t asking them to go and do too much but of course we wanted to get into that position so you have to manage it.

“Nathan got a good hand to it but Luke Adams is a top player. You give him any chances anywhere in the 18-yard box or a 12-yard strike he’ll score it.

“Listen, I can’t see it from my end so we’ll watch it back on the video across the week. The lad doesn’t think it was a foul, most people don’t when they give away penalties.”

A good move down the right ensured Rusthall pulled a second goal back in the final 11 minutes – but it was too little too late from the men in green and white.

Anderson fed Clover as the pair linked up well down the right and Clover’s low cross was spilt by Edwards and the ball fell nicely for an unmarked Currie-Wilson to tap the ball into an empty net from six-yards.

Anderson said: “We kicked on from it. The disappointing thing is how we played towards the end for the last 20 minutes is how we should play, how we’re capable of playing but it wasn’t our day today. We didn’t turn up today.”

Roots added: “I’ve known Ijah from his time at Lewisham Borough when I was at Forest Hill and obviously at Holmesdale (in the First Division).  I’m a big fan of Ijah actually.

“The lads were saying there was a possibility that it was in the goalkeeper’s hand. I don’t think so. It’s a much of a nothing. It’s a goal. It’s the only goal they’ve scored from open play, we’ll give them that one.”

Rusthall were almost gifted a flattering third goal in the fifth minute of injury time when Edwards slipped as he took a goal-kick and the ball went straight to Currie-Wilson, who charged into the box but Edwards made amends by diving to his right to make the save despite picking up a knock in the process.

Anderson said: “The keeper hurt himself doing that as well. I think he might be injured?  I don’t think we deserved it, we would’ve taken it if it went in but we deserved to lose today, we wasn’t good enough, unfortunately.”

Roots added: “I actually wasn’t looking so all I heard was the commotion. He slipped over and made a great save at the end. He’s a fantastic goalie and to come and catch the last ball like he did at the end under the pressure form the crowd, he’s proving himself to be a fantastic goalie and he made it a bit fun.”

Roots was pleased that his side have got their season up and running at the second attempt.

“They’ve given us everything tonight. We needed a reaction from Saturday. We played really well at K Sports in the same manner but had a bit of a job done on us against a well-established side and we lost the game 1-0 so we wanted a reaction so they gave me team ownership and responsibility with the same style of play with the right result.”

Both Rusthall and Holmesdale have small playing budgets and both managers were asked what their aspirations are this season.

Anderson said: “I’m meant to say ‘to stay in the league,’ but first and foremost is to enjoy it.  It’s to get these boys playing the way we can and take game by game. We’ve lost the last two but we’ve got another game on Saturday (a trip to K Sports in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round).”

Roots added: “For me its bitter sweet because I feel like we should’ve really be here a year ago and we’ve all been waiting so first things first we want to establish the club as a strength in the league and that takes a lot of work and a lot of knowhow within the league.

“We’re not setting any unrealistic targets. We want to do well in every competition we’re in and establish ourselves and we want to do it in a certain way, we want to play this way and we’ll see where it takes us.

“We want to reach a certain point in the league, which I think will be great with the budget and the reflection that we’ve got resource wise.  The budget is very, very small and it’s not what you would call a playing budget to other clubs.  A lot of the lads have been with me for four or five years and we’re on team spirit and that maybe can take us somewhere because it’s post Covid and not everyone plays for money and team spirit may take us somewhere, so really we’ll keep trying to win each game, take each game as it comes and see where it takes us.”

Rusthall: Matthew Bailey, Louis Anderson, Rory Salter, Jack Smith, Ryan Styles, James White, Charlie Clover, Tommy Lawrence, Luke Adams, Reuel Powell-Downey, Stephen Ikpeme (Ijah Currie-Wilson 57).
Subs: Jake Hampson, Lorenzo Cuozzo, James Sutherland, Stephen Harper

Goals: Luke Adams 68 (penalty), Ijah Currie-Wilson 79

Booked: Rory Salter 90

Holmesdale: Nathan Edwards, Rolex Buiti, James Teodorescu (Jacob Skelly 13), Nad Nwitua, Jordan Eels, James Shield, Jamie Rawsthorne (Joe Hart 90), Rory Ward, Owen Punselie, Charlie Hackshall (Harry Towner 64), Nathan Palmer.
Subs: William Polius, Khari Oriogun

Goals: Rory Ward 39, Jordan Eeles 49, James White 50 (own goal), Nathan Palmer 65

Booked: Charlie Hackshall 37, Rolex Buiti 73, Nad Nwitua 76, Harry Towner 77, Owen Punselie 90

Attendance: 250
Referee: Mr Simon Cutler
Assistants: Mr Callum Moore & Mr Stephen Luke