Sevenoaks Town 2-0 East Grinstead Town - We’ve got the backing of everyone at this football club and they know we’ve had an up and down start but it will turn, insists Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins

Wednesday 20th October 2021
Sevenoaks Town 2 – 0 East Grinstead Town
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 20/10/2021 19:30

Isthmian League South East Division
Wednesday 20 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins insists he has the backing of everyone at the club after ending their winless run of five games at a rain-lashed Greatness Park.

The Oaks climbed five places into twelfth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 10 points from as many games after two second-half goals beat their local rivals East Grinstead Town, who are languishing in the bottom five with seven points from eight games.

Tony Reid’s men were the better side during the first half but Sevenoaks Town secured a morale-boosting victory, courtesy of second half goals from centre-half Freeman Rogers and central midfielder Bradley Schafer to make it five wins from 17 games in all competitions this season.

“It was needed, it was hard-fought. They took us all the way there so that was tough but we managed to take our chances and get it over the line,” said Collins.

“I thought it was a great performance from us and everyone dug in. We changed the shape, done everything a bit different, left some people out and changed it around and the boys delivered.

“A new signing has come in and made a difference, so it’s positive all round. A really good performance at home and something that we needed. It’s been on the card at times but it hasn’t all flowed and we haven’t got the breaks and tonight, fortunately, it went our way.

“I think because of the conditions and it was so wet, the ball was skidding, it was quite an intense night and both teams were playing with a lot of tempo. It was a good performance and a clean-sheet, something we haven’t had for a while.”

The Wasps started the game on the front foot with the impressive right-back Fintan Walsh getting forward at every opportunity.  He played the ball inside to Troy Walters, who cut the ball onto his left-foot and curled his shot towards the top far corner from 16-yards, which was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Ben Bridle-Card, high to his right after only two minutes and 45 seconds.

Just 119 seconds later, holding midfielder Harry Carter played the ball out to winger Walters on the right and he cut inside before diminutive midfielder Bobby Dunn shot from a similar distance sailed over the Sevenoaks crossbar.

Sevenoaks Town’s first opening came in the 11th minute when right-winger Lamin Bah cut onto his left-foot and whipped in a cross, which was laid off by debutant target-man Fjord Rogers but Schafer lashed his left-footed drive high over the crossbar from within the D.

East Grinstead Town kept knocking on the door and Walsh took a touch before whipping in a great cross towards the far post where Marco Sousa Pina nipped in front of Danny Divine to hook his volley past the far post.

The away side were bossing possession during the early stages and they should have been reduced to 10 men in the 21st minute when winger Sousa Pina clearly attempted to kick the Sevenoaks Town goalkeeper following a set-piece, which resulted in a penalty box melee.

Referee Harry Wager consulted senior linesman Jack Owen and Sousa Pina got away with it, picking up a yellow card, while Sevenoaks Town centre-half Stephen Smith was also booked for his reaction.

“It’s a straight red card, anyone can see it,” fumed Collins, who claimed: “You can’t walk up to a goalkeeper and kick him in the head, you can’t do that!

“If you give a yellow card that tells me you’ve (the referee) has seen it.  If you’ve given a yellow card why haven’t you given a red? You’ve actually let them off and the silly thing is our player pushes him away because he’s done something quite bad and he gets booked as well, which is crazy when you look at the situation but this is what you deal with week-in-week-out.”

Sevenoaks Town took a while to get into their stride and they went direct when Ben Bridle-Card’s big kick straight down the middle was knocked down by Fjord Rogers, who flattened centre-half Glenn Wilson.  Play was allowed to continue and the targetman’s left-footed shot was parried away by Matte Pierson, diving to his right.

“Fjord hasn’t played properly for like three to four weeks because he’s been at Cray Wanderers and been on the bench and hasn’t had many minutes so we knew if we got an hour out of him, we’d be happy,” said Collins.

“It just gave us a different dimension. He just needs to get some match fitness. He came in and settled in and he took a bit of pressure of Louis Collins as well. We played Louis further up today, which we didn’t on Saturday (3-0 home defeat to Ashford United) and it worked.

“Sometimes you press the gamble button and try something different. We went back to exactly how we played against Phoenix and we’ve got two clean sheets out of those two games – or was it luck or was it judgement? I don’t know.”

Sevenoaks Town missed a glorious chance on the half-hour mark when Ansah played the ball back to centre-half Stephen Smith, who charged over the halfway line with the ball at his feet before splitting the defence with a fine diagonal ball along the deck.

Bah shifted the ball past his marker and dragged his shot across the keeper and flashing just past the foot of the far post in a one-on-one situation.

“They did (start well). Lamin’s gone in and he’s clean through, he’s one-on-one, he’s got to score and doesn’t hit the target and it goes wide,” said Collins.

East Grinstead Town produced some good attacking moves during the first half and Bobby Dunn and Walters linked up well before a reverse pass put left-back Liam Montague in on goal but he lashed his left-footed shot just past the left-hand post.

The heavens then opened and East Grinstead Town came within inches of taking the lead in the 38th minute.

Diminutive Dunn was inside Sevenoaks’ half and hit a diagonal pass over to Walters on the right and he teed up striker Frants Bakallis, whose left-footed shot trickled across the keeper and also past the foot of the far post from 10-yards.

Collins said: “Listen, they’re lively. They get the ball forward, they’ve got some good players. They move the ball really well but overall I felt we dealt with it. They huffed and puffed around the box. I felt their set-pieces were decent.”

Another chance went begging for the Wasps – six of their nine corners came in the first half – Sousa Pina rose at the far stick and guided his header just past the far post after Montague’s delivery from the right was heading towards a crowd of players.

Sevenoaks Town missed a glorious chance to go into the break with the lead, through the manager's son, Louis Collins.

Bridle-Card’s big kick, was knocked down by Fjord Rogers and found Bah on the right. He played the ball inside to Schafer and a lucky ricochet inside the penalty area gave Collins a glorious chance to score but he swept his left-footed shot on the turn across the keeper and agonisingly past the foot of the right-post from inside the six-yard box.

“We could’ve been 2-0 up in the first half but we’re not and that is us at the moment,” admitted Collins.

“Then what normally happens is we normally go and concede and then we’re struggling but then we didn’t.”

The Sevenoaks manager gave his troops some advice during the interval and it paid dividends as his side took the lead after only 67 seconds into the second-half following a set-piece.

East Grinstead Town’s centre-half Gregory Haydon was booked for a bad foul on the impressive Ansah.

Left-back Conrad Lee swung in a quality delivery with his left-foot some 35-yards from goal, right into the corridor of uncertainty and Freeman Rogers buried his diving header into the far corner.

“We got in at half-time and said if we get a free-kick in this area and put it in that bit and Freeman can you get across the front and they done exactly what we asked and he’s scored a goal from it,” said Collins.

“From a manager’s point of view to lay it out on the (tactics) board and say it how you want it and they deliver it, it’s something that we needed,

“The boys were galvanised and you could see from the celebration it’s just something to get our noses in front and keep a clean sheet.  It’s are we going to let one in or are we going to be strong and stand strong and control the game and I thought we did that at times.”

Montague’s first-time cross was knocked down inside the box by Bakallis inside but Dunn’s drilled shot was tipped into the side netting by the alert home goalkeeper.

East Grinstead Town’s last chance of the game came as early as the 56th minute.

Dunn played the ball into an unmarked Bakallis, who stroked his right-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 35-yards, the ball zipping off the soaked artificial surface but Bridle-Card diving to his right and smothered the ball into his arms.

“For me, that’s when a 3G pitch comes into its own because when it’s wet and it’s like that, the ball is going to move quickly and it’s going to be a fast game of football and it was,” added Collins.

Bah picked up the ball some 30-yards from goal, ran into the box and teed up Collins, who stroked his first-time curler from the corner of the box towards the bottom far corner, forcing Pierson to dive to his right to push towards safety on the hour-mark.

Schafer issued Pierson a warning at the halfway point, unleashing a 35-yarder which zipped off the turf and Pierson dived to his right to push away to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom right-hand corner.

Sevenoaks’ third and final corner was delivered poorly by Lee on the right, failing to beat the first man and the ball fell kindly to Freeman Rogers, who took a touch before placing his shot just past the right-hand post.

Recently promoted official Teddy Osborn raised his offside flag in the 28th minute to deny Sevenoaks as Lee’s left-footed free-kick was flicked on by Freeman Rogers and right-back Divine drilled his shot across the keeper and into the far corner.

Sevenoaks Town started to slow the game down during the final 20 minutes and they sealed a vital victory with nine minutes remaining and Reid’s men couldn’t make it a grandstand finish as they failed to create anything during the six and a half minutes of stoppage time.

Collins teed up Schafer, who was given time and space to place his right-footed shot past a flat-footed Pierson to find the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards.

“It’s a good goal. It goes into Louis, he squares it to Schafer and he has one step past the guy, which is trademark him and he’s kept his composure. He hasn’t tried to lash it and he’s just put it in the bottom corner,” said Collins.

“We just needed it at that time, they were starting to get on top a little bit and we just needed to get the second goal and hopefully we could see it over the line, which we did.

“He’s taken his chance. He’s come back from injury and we’ve not rushed him and put him in because we knew he’s taken time to get fit and tonight I unleashed him and he’s delivered the old Schafer tonight.

“Kweku Ansah came in for his debut was excellent, gave us pace and that drive forward,” added Collins, who revealed his midfield three of Stefan Wright, Ansah and Schafer have not trained together.

Collins added: “You’ve got to stand out there (in torrential rain) and the boys are running through it, they've given everything, the same as they did, credit to them, they gave their manager everything that they could.  We’ve managed to win it and we’ll sleep well tonight.”

Collins takes his side to Burgess Hill Town on Saturday, a side struggling in the bottom three with a win and two draws from their opening eight league games.

“We had the FA Cup run and I said all along the Redhill game (throwing away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 in The FA Cup First Qualifying Round Replay on 8 September), it knocked a lot out of the boys and then we lost Joe Tennent on the Tuesday with a broken leg and then we had to rebuild again, it’s like we had to rebuild the side.

“We’ve made another signing tonight and he’ll be available on Saturday so we’re trying to do the positive things but you want to nick points as you go.

“We’ve played so far a lot of the top sides and we’ve been up against some quality like we did on Saturday (against Ashford) and we’ve played Haywards Heath and Hastings.  We’ve played all the good sides and a couple of games where we should’ve done better.

“Tonight we’ve gone and got the three points and if we get three points on Saturday and we’re lucky enough to go down there, all of a sudden the whole league table is totally different.  Now it’s up to us to push on now.  There’s no point sitting on it and we’ve got three points and we go and lose the next four so we need to push on and put in a good performance on Saturday and hopefully, that will take us into next week and all of a sudden we’ve climbed the table.”

Reflecting on their recent run of poor form, Collins replied: “I knew that we have enough in that changing room to come and turn this around.  It’s one win, it means nothing at the end of the day but it was a long time coming. 

“We’ve got the backing of everyone at this football club and they know we’ve had an up and down start but it will turn.  One result ain’t going to change that but it certainly helps. Now it's up to us to go and push on and go and get something Saturday and make tonight worth it, that’s the bit.

“When it’s not going your way, you just need to dig deep and try to get something and the boys did that tonight and credit to them.  Where we go from here now is up to us.  We’ve now got to use that as a catalyst.

“You look at the league table, that’s not us, that’s not where we are normally are but what I keep saying was we were nine games in. Let’s look at this when you get past Christmas and then let’s look where we are because if we win on Saturday we could be in the top ten, that’s how crazy it is.  We’re not used to it here, we’ve always been further up the table.”

Sevenoaks Town: Ben Bridle-Card, Danny Divine, Conrad Lee, Stefan Wright, Freeman Rogers, Stephen Smith, Kweku Ansah (Max Walsh 90), Bradley Schafer, Louis Collins, Fjord Rogers (Jason Thompson 58), Lamin Bah.
Subs: Hayden Skerry, Dean Gunner, Ben Davisson

Goals: Freeman Rogers 47, Bradley Schafer 81

Booked: Stephen Smith 22, Lamin Bah 53, Micky Collins 65 (manager)

East Grinstead Town: Matte Pierson, Fintan Walsh (Adrian Okoo 84), Liam Montague, Harry Carter, Gregory Haydon, Glenn Wilson, Marco Sousa Pina, Seidou Sanogo, Frants Bakallis (Omar Nyame 66), Bobby Dunn, Troy Walters (Ruel Powell-Downey 60).
Subs: Kie Douglas, Andrew Cooney

Booked: Marco Sousa Pina 22, Gregory Haydon 46

Attendance: 108
Referee: Mr Harry Wager
Assistants: Mr Jack Owen & Mr Teddy Osborn