Sevenoaks Town 3-0 Croydon - It was important to increase the gap so the pressure is not on us, says Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins

Tuesday 20th March 2018
Sevenoaks Town 3 – 0 Croydon
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 20/03/2018 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 20 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins says it was important to increase their lead at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table to 10 points.

Frankie Sawyer was substituted as soon as he had completed his hat-trick as Collins’ men moved clear of Crowborough Athletic in the pecking order with 63 points on the board with 11 league games remaining.

Croydon are a very talented young team and they played it out from the back but too often they passed the ball backwards and sideways and gave the ball away too often when unopposed.

The game was played at a high tempo, mainly on the floor, as both sides excelled on the 3G pitch at Greatness Park and Collins was impressed with their visitors after extending his side’s unbeaten run to five games.

Collins said: “Tough game that, really tough game.  I was so impressed with them. I thought they were a really, really good side.  It probably suited them on a 3G.  It though it was a credit to them, a credit to their manager and their club, the fact that they’ve got so many young kids out there.

“We had to be on it tonight and we knew that before we came into the game and I think if we weren’t we would have come unstuck, we nearly did.

“I was so impressed with the fact that not only did we get the three points, we kept a clean sheet against them.  I’m not gobsmacked by it. I just said to their manager they’re a really good side and he should be very proud of them because they’re a good team.”

After beating Beckenham Town (2-0) and Lordswood (3-0), Croydon slipped down a place into sixth in the table with 46 points with nine league games remaining.

“I thought the experience told today.  They were by far savvy in regards to letting us have the ball at times and setting traps and going against us,” said Croydon manager Harry Hudson.

“I thought we started the game very poorly and they could have put the game to bed but from maybe minute 10 onwards, especially second half, we did dominate the ball.  I don’t think the scoreline from minute 10 onwards was fair.   If they had scored from three one-on-ones then you probably would have said we’d lose the game three or four nil but from that point onwards, losing the second half 2-0, I don’t think it reflects the balance of play.”

Jason Thompson was bundled over by Martin Sontan and drilled his free-kick over the wall from the right-hand side and the ball was plucked out of the air at head height by Croydon keeper Alex Hewitt.

Sevenoaks Town should have broken the deadlock inside the opening seven minutes.

Thompson and striker Kenny Pogue linked up outside the box and Thompson split open the Croydon defence to put Sawyer through on goal but Hewitt got down quickly to his right to tip the low shot around the post.

Collins said: “I thought they started quite lively and then we settled for a couple of minutes and I thought we opened them up two or three times and I thought Frankie could’ve had a hat-trick in the first six minutes but it wasn’t to be – but he's ended up with one in the end anyway.”

Hudson said: “The first 10 minutes was an absolute blur! We actually started relatively quite well and we were getting caught.  They were getting behind us.  Frankie, we know about Frankie, was making good movements in from the left in behind, which weren’t being tracked, which led directly to their goal and the game was chaotic in the first 10 minutes and our style and the way we wanted to play, chaotic is the last word we want to use to describe it.”

Billy Bennett then played in Sawyer straight through the heart of the pitch with a sublime through ball but the striker drove his low shot straight at Hewitt from inside the D.

But Sawyer kept going and made it third-time-lucky by opening the scoring with nine minutes and 14 seconds on the clock.

A long ball straight down the heart of the pitch was flicked on by Pogue which fell kindly for Sawyer, who planted his low right-footed shot past Hewitt from just inside the penalty area.

Collins said: “The guy’s worked it out quite early that they were a little bit open.  Ken got the flick on and Frankie’s always off the shoulder, he’s lively and goes in and slots it.

“It was a good start and then we’ve got to build on that and it took a while to do that.”

Hudson added: “Again, for us it’s one direct ball, one flick on that Nathan (Campbell) usually wins everything and Kenny Pogue is a very big guy and we haven’t tracked the runner, he’s got the wrong side.  For us it’s a disappointing basic goal to concede but certainly one that was coming to be fair.”

Croydon fashioned open a chance in the 18th minute when Aidan Brown got in down the left and his cross from the by-line was cleared out to Emmanuel Maja, whose initial shot was blocked and wing-back Bradley Wilson drilled his shot over the bar from distance.

Sawyer played the ball in from the left wing to set up Brett Ince, who flashed his right-footed angled drive wide.

Croydon played pretty football but they kept giving the ball away and a mistake from Nathan Campbell – the centre of their three man defence – saw him give the ball straight to Pogue, who played the ball along the deck to Sawyer on the left, who cut inside to float over a deflected cross towards the far post but Harrison Carnegie failed to poke the ball in from close range.

“I think their guy got a touch on it as it came over,” added Collins.

“Harrison was going to go in and put it in and their guy got a little touch on it and it put Harrison off and couldn’t put it away.”

Bennett played a one-two along the deck with Sawyer before curling his right-footed shot towards the far corner from 20-yards, which was held by Hewitt as he dropped down to his knees, slightly to his left, on the half-hour mark.

“We do what we do, we’re good in the final third when we get the ball up there and we try to create chances.  I just think at times we’ve got to put games to bed a little bit earlier and we didn’t,” said Collins.

Hudson added: “I don’t think they were on top of the game as much as they were in the first 10 minutes.  The first 10 minutes there were three one-on-ones, which they could have put the game out of sight.  The save was one for the cameras.  I think it was relatively comfortable and from outside the box you wouldn’t class that as a huge chance to concede.”

Croydon played their own pressing game in the 35th minute when Jamie McGeoghegan escaped from his central defensive duties to press Bennett inside the Sevenoaks half before playing in striker Lauris Chin.

He cut towards the edge of the penalty area before drilling his right-footed shot crashing against the inside of the right-hand post and away towards safety.

“I thought it was a good press from us,” said Hudson.

“It was the first time we released one of our back five to commit to the press because before that point I thought we were far too safe.  Jamie’s committed to the press, nicked it and put Chinny through. He’s done what he could have done beating the keeper and hitting the inside of the post and it’s bounced back out.

“If the truth be told, if we had gone in at 1-1, that would’ve been slightly fair on the balance of play. It’s a huge chance and Chinny’s done what he could’ve done.”

Collins admitted: “That was our fault! We gave the ball away. We tried to overplay and we gave the ball away and they were quick on the break and to be fair to the kid he’s got to score.  Fortunately for us it’s hit the post and came back out. if that goes in, it’s a different game, totally different game.”

Wilson, who enjoyed a free role in moving forward from his right-wing-back position, stroked a free-kick from just outside the left-hand corner of the box, which was saved comfortably by Sevenoaks keeper Jack Bradshaw.

Maja lost the ball inside Croydon’s final third and Carnegie drove forward and stung Hewitt’s fingers with a fierce drive in the last action of the first half.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Collins said: “I had a moan really. We got in four or five times very early on in the game and then all off a sudden we went back to playing a different style and totally changing it and falling into their trap.  We tried to match them with the way they were playing and we didn’t need to do that.  I thought we could get in earlier so I had a moan and I got the reaction.  We came straight out and got a second.”

Hudson said: “Without giving away too much tactical stuff, it was about understanding. We had to have more retention centrally to allow us to get on the half-turn.

“It was quite safe in the first half because we were quite static so we worked a bit on how we can create different rotations in central areas to allow us to get on the half-turn to play forward, which is very important for us.

“I spoke about defensively, we were too passive so we had our three centre halves marking one at times so we needed to release one of those players, so we changed shape defensively, to allow us to press higher and in the second half Sevenoaks didn’t have established possession in the second half, which they did manage to achieve in the first half.”

Sevenoaks Town hit Croydon on the break by doubling their lead, courtesy of a three-man move, with five minutes and 4 seconds on the clock.

It was as simple as right-back Chris Edwards hitting a long ball down the line to release winger Carnegie, who destroyed Bryan Akongo to put the ball on a plate for Sawyer to tap the ball in from six-yards in the middle.

Collins said: “One, you’ve got to get the ball down the line. Two, you’ve got to put the cross in and three, you’ve got to have a man in there and we’re good at that.

“That’s what annoyed me at half-time because we weren’t quick enough getting the ball forward and we were passing it around and not penetrating enough. As soon as we do it and we’re direct like that, alright we have to get things on the end of it and we have and we get the second goal.”

Hudson added: “It was our corner and we were out of shape and they were allowed to play it across straight away to their full-back, who was allowed to slide it down the line. One pass cuts our full back out of the game, which is disappointing from that point onwards.

“The information that my players have given me about what the official (Andy Butler) has said about why it wasn’t offside is against the Laws of the game so that’s vey hard to take. The fact that he was offside, even though it came off one of my players shins, even though it was a forward pass.  That’s not my understanding of the Laws of the game but it is what it is.  How they got to that situation is a very basic error. It’s not great football, they’ve not played through us. It’s just one pass can get behind us and from that point onwards - the goal is offside!”

Sevenoaks midfielder Ince drilled a right-footed free-kick towards the bottom right-hand corner from 30-yards, but was denied by a smart save from Hewitt, diving low to his left to tip around the post.

“It’s a great strike, that’s a good strike.  You expect him to go over the wall or whatever and he’s absolutely smashed it, fair play to the kid, strong arms and he’s pushed it around the post,” said Collins.

“It was a good hit from the kid. I think Alex is relatively comfortable. It came from us giving the ball away but there were fewer mistakes in the second half,” came Hudson’s reply.

Croydon were more attack minded after the hour-mark and called Bradshaw into action on more than one occasion.

Maja and Chin combined outside the box and winger Johnson took a touch before drilling a right-footed shot which stung the keeper’s fingers before the keeper gathered the ball at the second attempt.

“I thought the reaction from the boys after the second goal was really fantastic,” said Hudson.

“It would have been easy to then lower the tempo and stop believing we could get back in the game and stop doing the things that got us success.

“I think we had our best spell of the game around the hour mark, a little reflection that Sevenoaks had to chase the ball a lot and they were more tired so gaps appeared but I thought we had to stay in the game.

“That was a well-worked move. Sammy should have hit it across goal, he might have got a rebound or a deflected effort to get it in.”

Johnson floated in a cross from down the left-hand channel, the ball was flicked on in the middle and Sontan was denied by Bradshaw, who got down low to his left to turn the ball behind for a corner at his near post.

“I thought it was a fantastic reaction from the goalie to be fair,” said Hudson.

“He didn’t have a lot to do in the game but I thought he doubled up really well.  I thought it was a flowing move of football, got us an overload in the box and that was probably our biggest opportunity to get back into the game and the goalie done well to smother the chance very well.  It was fantastic build-up to get that far.”

Collins said: “That was good.  You can end up like that because they’re lively, they overload you quite a lot and that’s what’s happened. One of us have switched off and he’s ended up unmarked at the far post but do you know what? Jack’s a good keeper and a lot of keepers would’ve stayed rooted on their line there and had a shot at them and maybe it goes in but as soon as he’s gone to have a touch, he’s out on his face and he makes a save.”

Sevenoaks Town killed the game off with their third goal, courtesy of another three-man move, with 29 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Greg Benbow hit a long ball out of defence which was chased by Pogue down the left channel.  The striker cut inside and cut the ball over towards the far post for Sawyer to slid the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from close range to score his 12th goal for the club this season.

Collins said: “It’s quite funny really. Frank was coming off so I said we’re going to replace him, he looked tired so he went over to the far side of the pitch to slow down the substitution and Kenny’s got played in down this side and then Frankie’s appeared from where he wasn’t going to be so indirectly I take the credit for that one. It’s a good finish and it was good build-up so I had a little chuckle about that one.”

Hudson, again, felt the goal should have been chalked off.

“The official (Butler) said to me at the end he wasn’t up with play and he got it wrong.

“It’s hard to take.  Listen, the game was very quick and it was for us. I don’t want to berate officials but fair play to him he said he wasn’t up with play and it was the wrong decision.  That’s quite hard to swallow as a manager.

“It’s come from a goal kick, a long ball and not checking the runner, not winning the first ball. It’s disappointing, the manner that they’ve got into that situation.  From that point on the outcome is disappointing.”

Croydon’s young side kept going after going three goals down and good wing play from Johnson set up a chance for Wilson, who slid in to flash a first time angled drive across the keeper and past the far post from the edge of the box.

Collins said: “They’re going to keep going because they’re a good side and do you know what? Credit to them! Three-nil down away from home, they’re still trying and probing and still trying to play their football, which is a joy to watch.  When you see two teams passing the ball like that, it is a joy to watch.

“But do you know what? Sometimes 3G pitches allow you to do that.  You come here and it’s a perfect surface especially when it’s a little bit wet and you can slip the ball around and it’s a good advert for football and that was perfect.”

“We kept going, that’s the one thing that we’re proud of the boys tonight,” said Hudson.

“We finished the game with seven teenagers, six under 18s, of which four of them are 16 years old, which I think is a real testament of what’s going on at the club in the younger age groups because we don’t have a budget.

“The fact that the boys never stopped doing the right things and continued to probe and I think dominated the ball. It’s very easy to go hiding against experienced players when the scores like that and that’s why I’m very proud of the team tonight.”

Croydon substitute Khaliq Raymond-Callendar cut in from the left wing to bring a comfortable save from Bradshaw from 18-yards, after fellow substitute Daniel Pepple played the ball out to him.

Sevenoaks went route-one again at the death.  Bradshaw’s kick was flicked on by dominant target-man Pogue to put through substitute striker Byron Walker, who dragged his shot wide when he only had the keeper to beat.

Sevenoaks Town remain top of the pile on 63 points while Crowborough Athletic are sitting in the second automatic promotion spot with 53 points from 26 games.

Beckenham Town and third on 53 points from 28 games, followed by Whitstable Town on 50 points from 25 games.

Collins takes his side to Whitstable Town (Saturday) followed by Beckenham Town (27 March).

“We said to the boys tonight, it was important to increase the gap so the pressure is not on us, we just have got to keep chalking them off,” said Collins.

“It’s a big game on Saturday, we know it’s important for them as well as it is for us. It’s a must-win for them, it’s not for us really but we’re going to go there and try to get three points, 100%.

“They’re all going to be big games, the boys know that. If we was going to break it down and we’ve got 11 games to go, we’re probably eight games away from winning the league, if we win all eight.”

Croydon host Erith Town at Croydon Sports Arena on Saturday.

Hudson said: “If we get rid of some of the silly mistakes that cost us today, we’re on a continued upward turn and that’s what we’re hoping for.

“Generally, I think we’re very hopeful for a positive result.  We’ve got a target to finish top four, that will be an outstanding achievement for us. If we finish top six that would be a very good achievement for us so you can see from the boys tonight they’re definitely not thinking they’ve got nothing to play for.”

Sevenoaks Town: Jack Bradshaw, Chris Edwards, Greg Benbow, Brett Ince, Jack Miles, Corey Holder, Harrison Carnegie (Orlando Smith 83), Billy Bennett (Osman Proni 65), Kenny Pogue, Jason Thompson, Frankie Sawyer (Byron Walker 76).
Subs: Josh Froggatt, Ben Wilson

Goals: Frankie Sawyer 10, 51, 75

Booked: Jason Thompson 64

Croydon: Alex Hewitt, Bradley Wilson, Bryan Akongo (Khaliq Raymond-Callendar 77), Nathan Campbell, James Fotheringham (Nicholas Wilson 64), Jamie McGeoghegan, Sam Johnson, Emmanuel Maja, Lauris Chin, Martin Sontan, Aidan Brown (Daniel Pepple 58).
Subs: Andy Mott, Fidan Fejzi

Booked: Martin Sontan 36, Emmanuel Maja 55

Attendance: 117
Referee:  Mr Matt Charles (Chatham)
Assistants: Mr Harry Graham (Orpington) & Mr Andy Butler (Maidstone)

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