Sutton Common Rovers 0-2 Erith Town - FA Cup run will breed a great collective spirit that we've tried to put together, says Erith Town joint-boss Ricky Bennett

Monday 08th August 2016
Sutton Common Rovers 0 – 2 Erith Town
Location Borough Sports Ground, Gander Green Lane, Sutton, Surrey SM1 2EY
Kickoff 08/08/2016 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay
Monday 8th August 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Gander Green Lane

ERITH TOWN joint-manager Ricky Bennett says having a FA Cup run will bring revenue and kudos to the club.

The Dockers threw away an early 2-0 lead on Saturday, before being held to a 2-2 draw by ten-man Sutton Common Rovers in Crayford on Saturday, but they got the job done on Sutton United’s artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane.

The hosts won the corner count by 14-4 – 11 of them coming in the first half – but it was Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division side Erith Town that will travel to Ryman League Division One South side Ramsgate in The FA Cup Preliminary Round on 20 August.

Pacy winger Bradley Simms opened the scoring – against the run of play – after 26 minutes, before striker Jack Mahon came off the bench to score a controversial clincher two minutes from time.

“Thoroughly delighted to be honest Steve,” came Bennett’s reply to the win.

“After Saturday, if I’m honest, that was our chance Saturday, when we went 2-0 up, but we did ride our luck a bit on Saturday and again today for the first 20 minutes but after that we adapted to them and then caused them problems and then stick it out, brilliant, brilliant!

“You could tell the difference between us and them on Saturday. We’re a team that has been put together in a short space of time.  They’re a side that’s been together for quite a while. They had impressive runs last year in The FA Vase and we’re trying to get to that sort of level.  It will take a while. The boys that we’ve brought in are good honest lads and we’re slowly getting there, slowly getting there.”

Erith Town were almost facing an uphill struggle when Sutton Common Rovers nearly scored with only four seconds on the clock.

Erith’s left-back Nick Kelleher threw a blue water bottle into his penalty area for goalkeeper Adam Highsted to pick up and he was off his line and straight from kick-off Danny Fernandez’s shot from the centre spot sailed over the keeper’s head and just dipped over the top of the left-hand post.

“It was a bit ding-dong, they had 11 corners in the first half but we defended them fantastically,” said Bennett.

“We put boys in there tonight that are just getting to know each other and it’s down to us (Ian Jenkins and I) to find the right shape and the right pegs in the right holes and we’re getting there and I thought tonight proved that we’re on the right track.”

It set the tone for an open first opening exchanges and Simms teed-the ball up for striker Lee Friend to sweep his shot into the hands of Sutton Common Rovers goalkeeper Leigh Bowden from the edge of the box.

The impressive Friend then cut in to stroke a left-footed drive towards goal from 20-yards, which brought a comfortable save from Bowden – with only 137 seconds on the clock.

Friend has been plucked out of the Kent County League where he scored 31 goals for Division One West champions Farnborough Old Boys Guild last season. It just proves that there is talent in the County League, it’s just finding it and the player having the ambition to step up three levels.

Bennett added: “He’s just a natural centre forward, loves to shoot. Sometimes he does too much, he’s very raw, he knows that but you just can’t coach that. That’s just in him. He just wants to score goals and he’s a threat and we’re delighted with him.”

Lee Coburn played a long ball out of the Erith Town defence which was chased down by Friend, who cut the ball back to his strike partner Jack Pallen, his 25-yard drive forcing Bowden to dive to his left to make the save.

Erith Town’s only corner of the first half was swung in from the right by Michael McKenna and right-back Nico James rose to plant his header over the crossbar.

Sutton Common Rovers weathered Erith Town’s first ten minute storm and Danny Fernandez smashed his free-kick into the wall, before it flashed past the left-hand post.

Miguel Anderson then played Francois Gabbidon in between two central defenders but Highsted advanced to make a vital save in the 13th minute.

Fernandez swung in the resulting corner from the right and Anderson planted his diving header over the crossbar from six-yards out.

“They’re quite lively up top and their two wide boys caused us problems on Saturday,” said Bennett, who plucked Highsted up after he was released by Ryman League Division One South side Hythe Town during pre-season.

“Adam’s a good keeper, he’s an experienced keeper and to have him is a bonus for us.”

Sutton Common Rovers’ right-back Aaron Bogle fed the ball to striker Gabbidon, who cut inside and flashed his shot just past the foot of the near post from 18-yards.

Gabbidon sprinted down the left wing before delivering a precise cross for Ferndandez to hit a spectacular overhead kick over the crossbar.

But despite the home side dominating proceedings, Erith Town grabbed the lead against the run of play, with the clock showing 25 minutes and 44 seconds.

Craig Hewett received the ball in space in the middle of the park and played the ball out to winger Simms on the left wing.  He cut into the penalty area and drilled his shot into the bottom near corner from 10-yards, pleasing Bennett.

He said: “Great goal! It’s exactly what we were talking about on Saturday and from Saturday, tonight.  That was how we were going to undo them. I think they’re a good side from midfield, forward. I’m not so sure they’re the greatest at the back and we were looking to exploit the space down the side of the centre halves and the full-backs and that’s exactly what we did for the goal.  The timing of the run, the weight of the pass, you can’t defend that.”

Another chance came Sutton Common Rovers’ way with skipper Liam Holden turning Pallen on the right and cracking dipping drive that crashed against the roof of the stand, narrowly over the crossbar.

Highsted pulled of his second vital save in the 34th minute.

Impressive striker Fernandez stroked his left-footed free-kick over the wall from 28-yards and the Erith Town keeper dived to his right to push the ball around the post for another corner.

Bennett said: “We knew the number 10 (Fernandez) on Saturday scored a worldy and he’s a threat but I think after the first 20 minutes we dealt with him.   We were a bit naïve giving away free-kicks with his quality in and around the box but that’s what Adam’s there for at the end of the day.”

The Kent side created some openings inside the final four minutes of an open half.

James fed Friend, who turned his marker on the right and continued his run but his low centre was cut out by Bowden, diving low to his right at his near post.

Simms then latched onto a deep cross down the left channel and he cut the ball back for Pallen to tee-up central midfielder Chris Michael, who was caught before he hit a dipping drive just over the bar from 30-yards.

Michael then played the ball into Friend, who stroked his first time right-footed drive from the edge of the box again, which brought a low save from Bowden.

Pallen dragged his shot past the far post for Erith Town, while Anderson cut in from the right wing and his dipping left-footed curler narrowly sailed around the far post at the other end.

Bennett admitted his side had to improve defensively during the second half if they were to win this game.

“Basically (we said) to keep, we had a shape and we had a plan and we said to keep it,” he said.

“On Saturday, after half-time, that was our downfall, first 10-15 minutes of the second half, we just went all over the shop to be honest.

“Today, we stuck to our plan. We stuck to our shape and nullified them and grew into the game.”

Pallen had a great chance to double Erith Town’s lead after only 26 seconds but he scuffed his poor shot across goal and the ball was cleared towards safety after Simms’ lung-busting 50-yard run down the left wing.

Fernandez shrugged off a foul from Michael and managed to get a 35-yard shot away, which he drilled over the crossbar, referee Matt Foden blowing his whistle for a free-kick which came to nothing.

Bowden made a save to deny Pallen from scoring from a couple of yards inside the penalty area.

Pallen and McKenna exchanged passes inside the Sutton Common Rovers penalty area and Pallen’s progress was blocked by a yellow wall and the ball came out to Coburn, who failed to keep his rushed volley down from 30-yards.

The impressive Friend then hit a shot on the turn from 16-yards, which was saved comfortably by the home side’s goalkeeper.

Sutton Common Rovers’ were a threat with a pacy attack but their finishing let them down, central midfielder Holden taking a touch before dragging his shot wide from 30-yards on the hour mark as Coburn and Smith slammed the door in his face.

Smith and left-back Kelleher have come out of Bromley’s Academy.

“It was too open the first 20 minutes, we were lucky to be honest, we’ll hold our hands up,” admitted Bennett.

“We went a bit, but that’s what happens in the Cup.

“Nick and Max, we signed them last week from Bromley. Their (stay at their) Academy has finished now so they’re our players. They’re good, honest lads. They’ve come with a good grounding if you like from Mark Hammond at Bromley and they’ll do well for us.  They’ve got to get to grips with senior football and this is what they need so it’s good for them and at the moment they’ll get better and better for us.”

Erith Town squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off inside the final 15 minutes.

James played the ball into Friend’s feet, who turned his man and played Simms in behind the defence, sweeping his shot towards the bottom far corner, forcing Bowden to dive low to his right to make a smart one-handed save.

“Once we got put across, we thought it was a goal but fair play to the keeper, he's narrowed the angle and he’s got across quickly,” added Bennett.

McKenna’s last action of the game was to float in a cross into the penalty area where an unmarked Pallen glanced his header past the far post.

Sutton Common Rovers were agonisingly close to levelling the game up following their 13th and final corner of the night.

Holden swung in a deep corner from the left and George Murphy rose above a crowd of players at the far post and watched as his header kiss the top of the crossbar from a tight angle.

Bennett said: “From where it was I don’t think he was ever going to score from there! If it was me I would’ve tried to get it back into the danger zone really so from that angle if he’d have scored from there, it would’ve been a worldy header.”

Erith Town stole the victory in a controversial manner, the goal timed at 42:04.

Friend skipped past his marker down the right on the halfway line and appeared to play the ball down the line – Mahon was clearly in an offside position.

The flag went up, the referee waved play on as he deemed Mahon was not interfering with play.

Friend latched onto his own pass down the right and as his marker was down on the deck the striker raced forward, cut into the penalty area and his shot bounced off the foot of the near post when he only had the keeper to beat.

The ball fell kindly at Mahon’s feet and he gleefully slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of an empty net. 

Holden was booked by the referee for contesting the decision to award the goal, which should have been disallowed because Mahon was offside in the build-up.

“Great refereeing, great refereeing,” came Bennett’s reply, who would have been fuming had Sutton Common Rovers scored like that.

“You can see how Lee plays, he looks to touch it past defenders and looks to get onto his own ball at times, which is what he done.

“I don’t even think he was trying to put Jack in. Jack was in an offside position but with Lee’s pace he knew he would get on the end of it. Credit to the referee I think to seeing that and letting it go.”

Friend deserved a goal for his excellent night but he drilled a shot over the bar with the last kick of the game.

Ramsgate’s joint-manager Danny Ward watched Saturday’s draw at Oakwood but didn’t watch tonight’s replay.

Bennett is looking forward to the trip to Southwood Stadium in the next round.

“Look forward to that to see Jim and Danny down there, get on quite well with them. It will be a nice day out for us but we’ll be looking to go there and get a result and not just for a jolly-up,” he said.

“The £1,500 in prize money will be brilliant for the club. I’m sure the committee will be chuffed with that. Hopefully, we can get a bit back to spend on the playing squad.”

When asked what a FA Cup run will bring to Erith Town, Bennett replied: “It’s all about the revenue to be honest – and the kudos.

“Also, especially for us it will breed a great collective spirit that we’ve tried to put together. We’re building a side from scratch that will now help us and go as far as you can in the FA Cup.

“It’s all about making a name for ourselves, we have this conversation every year. You can be in the final programme at the FA Cup Final if you do something along the way that’s a bit special and there’s always that for the players so we’ll just look forward to that (trip to Ramsgate).

Sutton Common Rovers: Leigh Bowden, Aaron Bogle, Ben Ewing, George Murphy, Richard Monan, Miguel Anderson, Liam Holden, Hamilton Antonio (Sam Pledger 79), Francois Gabbidon, Danny Fernandez, Michael Debrah (Sam Caillaux 67).
Subs: Tom Joyce, Ansom Cousins, Sam Blowers, Ross Bedding, Davis Cofie

Booked: Liam Holden 88

Erith Town: Adam Highsted, Nico James, Nick Kelleher, Chris Michael, Max Smith, Lee Coburn, Bradley Simms, Michael McKenna (Lamin Bah 84), Jack Pallen (Jack Mahon 77), Lee Friend, Craig Hewett.
Subs: Jack Lodge, Sam Collins, James Coppins, Lordway Gbehiri, Chris Pierce

Goals: Bradley Simms 26, Jack Mahon 88

Booked: Lee Coburn 18

Attendance: 92
Referee: Mr Matt Foden (Bromsgrove, Worcestershire)
Assistants: Mr Mike Coen (Worcester Park, Surrey) & Mr Philip Jones (Epsom, Surrey)


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