Rusthall 2-3 K Sports - I'm sure we'll turn it around, I know the fans will stick with us and the results will turn around, insists Rusthall boss Jimmy Anderson

Wednesday 29th September 2021
Rusthall 2 – 3 K Sports
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 29/09/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 29 September 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

RUSTHALL manager Jimmy Anderson insists his side will turn it around after K Sports snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on a chilly night at Jockey Farm Stadium.

Rusthall remain rooted to the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with four points from nine games and extended their winless run to seven, while Aylesford-based K Sports climbed up into the top-eight with 14 points from eight games, courtesy of a three-match unbeaten run.

Rusthall striker Luke Adams capped an impressive performance with an early strike to score his fourth goal of the season but Max Morgan grabbed an equaliser just before half-time to bring the visitors’ level.

Morgan rifled in a quality strike following a long ball to give K Sports the lead just before the hour-mark before Rusthall deservedly equalised courtesy of an own goal from K Sports’ centre-half Connor Cheek.

However, lone striker Morgan, 24, grabbed his hat-trick and an unlikely winner as he punished some poor defending from Rusthall centre-half James White.

When asked how his side lost a game that they should have won, Anderson said: “Decision making, not just defensively, passes, in attack. It’s been the topic of our season unfortunately and yes, we are where we are because of decision making and game management at the minute.

“I thought Max Morgan up front for them was pretty clinical tonight.  I think in total he scored six goals and three of them might have been offside so we’re getting punished at the minute but we’re lacking confidence.

“I thought first-half we were really good, probably the best half we’ve played this season. We could’ve created a few more chances if I’m being right picky.”

For K Sports manager Barry Morgan, he was full of praise for his son Max for being clinical when it mattered in front of goal.

“What can I say? It was two not brilliant teams tonight. I’ve never seen so many mistakes in a game of football in my life,” said Morgan.

“We’ve come here, we’ve won 3-2. I don’t know how we have really. I don’t think they deserved to win the game either.  I thought probably a draw would’ve been a fair result.

“We’ve given the ball to them literally every time we’ve had it.

“For some reason our striker (Morgan) got booked in the first half for nothing. He didn’t even touch the guy and we’re saying to him at half-time go on the pitch and do not touch anybody or get near anybody because he’s going to go and he didn’t and he smashed in one of the best hat-tricks I’ve seen. 

“I don’t often give my son credit but I give credit tonight. It was an unbelievable hat-trick. He’s come to help his old man out and he did tonight and he’s got a hat-trick so I’m well happy.

“I think Rusthall have improved. I’ve watched them a couple of times at the start of the season and I do generally think they have improved and I think they’ll get out of the position that they’re in. They probably need a bit more something - but so do we!”

Rusthall started the game on the front foot and it took them only three minutes and 59 seconds to score following their first chance.

K Sports’ left-back Harvey Killick gave the ball away and Adams punished him by drilling his right-footed shot across the keeper and into the far corner from 16-yards.

Anderson said: “We took the lead nicely with Luke Adams with three minutes on the clock. Like everyone’s lacking a bit of confidence at the minute so obviously that goal will give him a little bit

“Luke’s a goalscorer at this level. We’re bottom of the league but we’ve got two goalscorers up front with him and Josh Biddlecombe, who have proved themselves at this level.  They’re both happy to be here. It’s just the rub of the green at the moment.”

Morgan added: “He (Killick) got a call to hold it and what a ridiculous call and they were always going to nick that at that stage of the game. He’s just settling in.  He received a hard ball anyway. He shouldn’t have received it and from there it just went from bad to worse. It was an amazing game really.”

Adams was a lively character during the game and he pounced on a loose ball in front of Lewis Foreman to unleash a first-time 30-yard drive towards the bottom near corner, which was comfortably saved by visiting debutant goalkeeper Hayden Chipping.

K Sports offered nothing up front during a poor first-half performance, including when Rusthall lost striker Josh Biddlecombe, who was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes by referee David Rowland for showing dissent in the 18th minute.

Anderson said: “It’s funny because that was the one occasion when we did do a bit of game management, we killed the game and slowed it up and we drew a lot of fouls.  No disrespect to them, they didn’t really create that much in the first half so it was a bit disappointing from us going in at 1-1.”

Morgan added: “Did you see me trying to get them at it? We were slow out of the traps tonight, we weren’t at it really.”

Rusthall play with three at the back and right-sided centre-back Callum Adonis-Taylor almost scored in the 29th minute when he drove over the halfway line and into the final third before playing a one-two with Adams before he was denied by a diving save from Chipping at his near post.

“It was great build-up play. I think Callum Taylor started it from the back. The ability that Callum’s got and he’s played for me before, I expect him to score but he’ll say he’s a centre-back and got a bit of a nosebleed.”

Morgan added: “Hayden’s come in for us tonight because Charlie Walker was unavailable.  Luke Adams had a great game. I thought he was one of the best players on the pitch. If Max wasn’t on it, I would’ve given him man-of-the-match. I think Luke Adams played really well.”

Rusthall rued an even better chance just 28 seconds later when the outstanding Adams played the ball along the deck to find Tom Lawrence in oceans of space inside the box but the central midfielder lacked composure and lashed his left-footed drive over the crossbar with only the keeper to beat.

Anderson said: “Luke was a threat in the first-half. It was great play again and that’s what I’m trying to say to you, in the sense of it’s just decision making. It’s just not defensively or making the right passes in the final third as well.”

K Sports took 36 minutes to create their first goalscoring chance when holding midfielder George Batten fed Segun Victor Ikudehinbu in space and he drove down the middle of the pitch and Stephen Ikpeme (Rusthall’s left-sided central defender) opened the gate but Ikudehinbu’s shot was weak and trickled into Ryan Burbridge’s gloves.

Rusthall kept playing on the front foot and left-wing-back Rory Salter fed Biddlecombe down the line and he took a touch before whipping in a great cross towards an unmarked Lawrence, who steered his header across goal and just past the far post from 12-yards.

However, K Sports grabbed an equaliser totally against the run of play with 44 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock.

Centre-half Jack Bray played the ball into Ziyad Ghali, who found a pocket of space inside the centre-circle and his long ball split open Adonis-Taylor and White to put Max Morgan through on goal and he timed his run to perfection and slotted his right-footed shot across the advancing Burbridge, the ball kissing the base of the far post before nestling into the back of the net.

Morgan said: “He was always scoring that! I knew he was scoring that. I could see his movement. He got in just the right place. It’s amazing we managed to pass it to him!

“What can I say to them at half-time? I said ‘you’ve got to go out there and be a bit better!’

“You’ve got to be organised, keep your shape, which we didn’t do brilliantly but the one thing I said at half-time was to tell Max not to get sent-off!”

Anderson admitted: “Max was clinical tonight. He scored a few when he was offside. I don’t know how tight they were but he was clinical in front of goal.

“From our point of view we gave them that goal. We had chances to clear and it was a half-clearance and then I think one of my central midfielders sliced the ball and it went straight to their man and he’s got played in and he’s been clinical.

“It’s annoying really because it is a great time for them to score. I’m sure their team-talk changed. I’m sure their manager was probably really angry with how they were playing in the first half.

“From our perspective, we were massively disappointed. It would have been a great confidence booster to come in 1-0 up at half-time. 

“Teams play on a bit of luck and they were lucky to get that goal in the first half and they might say they deserved it because they defended really well in the first half against us.”

Both sides won five corners apiece and Lawrence’s left-wing flag-kick was cleared out to Salter, who unleashed a left-footed dipping drive just over the crossbar from 30-yards just 110 seconds into the second half.

Rusthall were even closer to scoring just 72 seconds later following their third corner of the night.

Salter’s left-footed inswinging corner from the left was cleared out to Jack Smith, who smacked his right-footed volley screaming agonisingly past the left-hand post through a crowd of players from 25-yards.

“We came out and it was another good start, considering we’re lacking in confidence,” added the Rusthall manager.

K Sports went route-one as they grabbed the lead with a quality strike from Max Morgan with 11 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Joseph Lewis launched a long diagonal ball over the top of White to put Morgan in on goal. The former Faversham Town striker cut into the box, cut the ball onto his right-foot before rifling a stunning shot into the top far corner.

Morgan said: “Good goal, good goal. That was his second. Even though he wasn’t allowed to touch any of their players, he works hard to get into the right area and it was a great ball from Joe.

“They did what we asked at half-time and get the ball forward for Max to get on the ball. He’s hard to catch and the ball always holds up here so they’re treading water, he’s very, very quick.”

“Do you know what? I thought anything can happen still. We were capable of losing 4-2 and what a joke their goal was. It was like an evening out at the circus wasn’t it?”

Anderson added: “We were really disappointed about that goal because it was one long ball from the back. We knew what they were going to do. We heard their instructions at half-time, they were pretty honest about it. They said to just go long, just keep going long.

“Max Morgan will play on the shoulder, he’s quick, he’s got a turn of pace and they got their reward from it, so it worked well for them.”

A diagonal pass out of Rusthall’s defence by Adonis-Taylor found Salter some 35-yards from goal out on the left and his first-time left-footed drive from 35-yards swerved and narrowly cleared the top left-hand corner with Chipping well-beaten.

Rusthall’s attacking play deserved an equalising goal and it arrived with 17 minutes and 55 seconds on the clock in bizarre fashion.

Salter threw the ball short to Ashley Sheppard, who hit a long diagonal from inside the Rusthall half.  Some poor defending from Bray and Harvey Killick opened the gate for Adams down the right and he reached the by-line and drilled in a low cross towards the near post.

Biddlecombe found a pocket of space and flicked his shot towards goal which Chipping did well to smother to his right and the ball bounced off Cheek (who was inside the six-yard box) and crossed the goal-line for an own-goal.

“A bit of luck, what we needed at the time,” admitted Anderson.

“Luke presses, there’s confusion between their defenders, probably the one cross we’ve done all game on a surface that’s a bit slippery out there. He’s drilled it across, Josh has got a toe to it, the keeper makes a good save and it’s bounced in off their defender and it’s got us back into the game.”

Morgan added: “It was a joke, wasn’t it? That’s it. We gave it to them completely, didn’t we?

“I mean we had two defenders come together. I don’t know what happened and obviously the ball is going to end up with them and they were going to score and the fact that it was an own-goal made it even more, what can I say, a joke goal!”

This was a spirited Rusthall performance and they appeared to be the only side that were going on and winning a vital three points in their struggle to avoid relegation.

However, more poor defending from centre-back White gifted K Sports the winner with 33 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Harvey Killick, Foreman and Victor Ikudehinbu linked up down the left before the ball was played out to Lewis on the right and he took a touch before whipping in a cross into the Rusthall penalty area.

White – the weak link in Rusthall’s back three - decided to use his chest to control the ball inside his penalty area and this proved a costly mistake as Max Morgan punished the defender and drilled his shot under the keeper to score his hat-trick.

Morgan said: “It was just, that’s what they do, strikers innit.  You know. They were three very good finishes tonight. If you can get him playing, he’s a good player.

“I’m being serious. That was a miracle tonight that we got three points.”

Anderson said: “James probably holds his hands up to it. All game he’s defended well, he’s brought it down with his chest when he should go with his head and it’s punished,” said Anderson.

“Joe Lewis has played two long balls and it’s two long balls that we haven’t dealt with and it’s just decisions, it’s another decision where Whitey’s gone to bring it down and potentially play. I don’t know why? Instead of using his head and it’s obviously cost us that goal.

“I agree with you, I felt we were going to kick on and score (the winning goal) and it’s another individual error that’s cost us.”

K Sports substitute Timileyin Babington drilled a 25-yard drive which forced Burbridge into making a diving save to his right after he was fed by Victor Ikudehinbu.

Rusthall kept plugging away, however and called Chipping into action again inside the final three minutes.

Adams’ clever pass released substitute winger Charlie Clover down the left and he cut inside and his right-footed angled drive was pushed towards safety by Chipping, who dived to his left to keep the three points intact.

“He cut in and he had a shot, the keeper has parried it and it bounces out and it just mises all of our men and it’s been that way all season,” admitted Anderson.

Morgan, who had a hat-trick of goals chalked off for offside in the 14th, 52nd and 87th minute, was to be denied a fourth goal at the death when he was played in again but this time the former Crowborough Athletic stopper was equal to it, pushing the ball away.

Anderson and his coaches locked themselves in a room behind the goal to discuss this game, where a victory would have seen Rusthall claw themselves out of the bottom two.

“We’ve come up from Step Six and confidence was booming in the group going into games knowing we’d beat teams, even teams in the Prem. When your confidence is low and you’re trying to get a point or even three, you make wrong decisions at the wrong time,” said Anderson, who was asked about the contents of the post-match meeting.

“It was just me talking to my coaches and secretary. It’s just a chat after the game. It wasn’t negative. It’s very hard to ask more from the boys at the minute because it’s individual errors and the opposition are clinical at the minute.

“I’m sure we’ll turn it around. I have no doubting that. We have the right personnel and players in the group. 

“We were the better team, we’ve been found out probably. The reason why we’ve lost and they’ve won maybe is the experience in game management and we haven’t got that at the minute because one reason or another we might be lacking in confidence.

“The fans were fantastic.  They were here tonight singing out in the cold on a Wednesday night where fuels hard to come by so I appreciate everything that they’re doing. I appreciate them coming. Just stick with us. I know they will and the results will turn around.

“The way that we’re going to survive and I’m confident in doing it, is the fact that we take game by game. We continue to try and do the right things like we did today.

“If we were a team where I felt that we couldn’t win a game and we couldn’t survive then I’ll be openly honest with you – individual errors are costing us so we’ll work on them and we’ll put it right and that’s a guarantee.”

Tenth-placed Kennington (12 points from nine games) visit Rusthall on Saturday, with Rusthall level on four points with Tower Hamlets, who suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Holmesdale tonight, travelling to K Sports on Saturday.

“Listen, when I came here I had two players. I know a lot of players and they’ve come but tonight was the worst we’ve played all season and we’ve managed to get three points. We’ve been improving until tonight,” added Morgan.

“What can I say? I don’t really know what’s going to happen on Saturday after tonight. If I had a crystal ball it might help me but I just don’t know what is going to happen.  I need to go away and dust myself down.

“I’m actually super happy that we’ve got three points. Just don’t know how.  Fair play to Max, I’m his biggest critic but I’m well happy with him tonight. He’s done what I wanted him to do.”

Rusthall: Ryan Burbridge, Louis Anderson, Rory Salter, James White, Callum Adonis-Taylor, Stephen Ikpeme (Ijah Currie-Wilson 81), Ashley Sheppard, Jack Smith, Luke Adams, Josh Biddlecombe, Tom Lawrence (Charlie Clover 81).
Subs: Lorenzo Cuozzo, Jake Hampson

Goals: Luke Adams 3, Connor Cheek 63 (own goal)

Booked: Rory Salter 90

Temporary Dismissal: Josh Biddlecombe 18

K Sports: Hayden Chipping, Joseph Lewis, Harvey Killick, George Batten (Timileyin Babington 69), Jack Bray, Connor Cheek, Ziyad Ghali, Lewis Foreman, Max Morgan, Segun Victor Ikudehinbu, Tarik Ibrahim.
Subs: Ian Batten, Lee Smith, Isaac Bignell

Goals: Max Morgan 45, 58, 79

Booked: Max Morgan 20, Joseph Lewis 27, Lewis Foreman 90, Tarik Ibrahim 90

Attendance: 107
Referee:  Mr David Rowland
Assistants: Mr Joseph Neanor & Mr Teddy Osborn