Sevenoaks Town 2-2 Canterbury City - It was nice to come away from a side at the top and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with them and got something from the game, says Canterbury City boss Ben Smith

Saturday 13th January 2018
Sevenoaks Town 2 – 2 Canterbury City
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 13/01/2018 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 13 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports form Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN boss Micky Collins says his players were massively tested after losing their 100% home league record to Canterbury City.

The Oakes were cruising in the first half and found themselves 2-0 up inside the opening 30 minutes, courtesy of Rory Hill’s tenth-goal of the season and Jason Thompson’s header.

Sevenoaks struck the woodwork twice through Billy Bennett and Canterbury City were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat on the artificial pitch at Greatness Park.

But Canterbury City turned it around during the second half to extend their unbeaten run to five games.

Dave Pilcher buried a penalty to score his 21st goal of the season, before left-back Jamie Maxted finished off a good move at the near post to give the league leaders a massive scare on their own patch.

Sevenoaks Town extended their unbeaten record in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division to 16 games and have banked 43 points from 18 games.

They are now a point clear of Beckenham Town but with a couple of games in hand after Beckenham’s game at second-from-bottom side Rochester United was postponed and third-placed Crowborough Athletic (39 points from 20 games) lost 2-1 at home to Cray Valley.

Collins, who read his side the riot act immediately after the game inside the home dressing room, cooled down ahead of the post-match press conference.

“Disappointed! I thought first half we started the game slowly and I think we got into it and really we should’ve put the game to bed,” said Collins. 

“We should’ve gone in at half-time out of sight.  We missed chances and that’s what happens but do you know what? You’ve got to give full credit to Canterbury because I thought second half they were excellent. They were the better side by a mile and really apart from a great save from Ben and some other bits, they could’ve won it!

“We were poor second half.  You can look at our own players and say we never turned up, which we didn’t and we weren’t good enough but you have to look at the other team and say credit to them.  They really, really deserved what they got out of the game and the minimum they deserved was a point.”

Canterbury City manager Ben Smith said: “My mind is scrambled with what to think really because we were so bad after they hit us on the break and the goals were against-the-run-of play early on and then after that we were pretty much shell-shocked.

“They’re a very good side so you know as soon as they scored and they smelt blood they’re a side that literally smother you and suffocate you and that’s what they started to do and they missed a couple of chances.

“Second half and it’s a completely different Canterbury City!  The football that we did in the first 10 minutes of the game, we did for a good 30-40 minutes of that second half really.

“The lads are a little disappointed that they didn’t go and nick it.  I don’t think they deserved to lose and I don’t think we deserved to lose after the second half either so a fair result, I guess.”

Canterbury City started the game on the front foot, creating three chances before Sevenoaks Town grabbed the lead.

Laurence Harvey hit a long ball out of Canterbury’s defence which was chased down the right channel by Pilcher, who crossed towards the near post and Matt Martin nipped in front of Jack Miles and the ball bounced into Ben Bridle-Card’s hands.

Then, just 28 seconds later, Harvey drove a 35-yard drive from wide-right which bounced once into Bridle-Card’s hands for a comfortable save.

“To be fair to the keeper, he’s held that really well. It did skip up on him and we had players’ running in on that so good handling,” added Smith.

Canterbury right-back Pat Nzuzi then played the ball into Rob Lawrence, who whipped in a cross from the right and Pilcher watched the ball drop out of the sky and hooked a volley, which sailed into Bridle-Card’s hands.

“There the ones that you get you off your seat don’t they? You think here we go, it's a goal but he just didn’t get the connection,” said Smith.

“It’s a very difficult technique to pull off but he’s the type of player that he’s been scoring those.  His goalscoring form this season for a midfielder has been outstanding. It’s one of those where you can say he was unlucky. It would’ve been a great goal had he scored but he’s kicking himself thinking he should’ve scored.”

Collins added: “They started lively, I didn’t think we did.  We never came out, we never played with intensity.  We didn’t get on the ball quick enough and we rode the storm. We’re at home and it’s up to us to take the game to them, which I thought we did first half.”

But clinical Sevenoaks Town grabbed the lead with their first opening, timed at 10 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

Lee Carey hooked the ball inside to winger Hill, who skipped past a couple of players, cut into the middle of the pitch and onto his right-foot and produced a classy finish, a dipping drive which screamed past the diving keeper into the far corner from 30-yards.

When asked about Carey’s debut, Collins said of the former Hastings United and Shoreham holding midfielder: “He done well! We had a friendly against East Grinstead on Tuesday night, which was good for us so we had a good luck at him then and got him settled in.  It’s going to take time because he’s new to the side so he’s got to learn how we gel and how we play but I thought he done well in his first game.”

And when asked about Hill’s tenth goal of the season, Collins said: “It’s a great goal! We’ve been saying that to the boys, sometimes we try to do that extra pass and play our way in. Why can’t we just pull the trigger? He’s pulled the trigger and it’s a great goal.

“We knew we needed to do that because we played Canterbury away and it was 0-0 and it was tight and I think if we’d have got the breakthrough down there it would’ve been a different game and I thought today as soon as we got the breakthrough it might open the game up a little bit and it did and then we took the game to them for the rest of that first half.”

Smith said: “I’ve said to the players before the game don’t let him come in on his right-foot because he is someone who pulls a rabbit out of the hat and he finds the stanchion.

“Rory Hill is one of the, arguably the best player in this league.  You can’t afford to let him come inside like that. He’s skipped round two challenges, he shouldn’t be skipping through challenges in centre midfield and that was a real disappointing aspect of the first goal.

“You hold your hands up and Jack Delo’s got no chance! What can you do? It’s a great goal. It knocked the stuffing out of us because we had a good start.”

Sevenoaks Town should have doubled their lead within seven minutes.

Carey fed Hill, who cut in towards the edge of the penalty area, twisting and turning before floating in a cross from the left.  Maxted failed to clear his lines with a header and Billy Bennett hooked his shot into the ground from just six-yards out, the ball kissing the crossbar and going over for a goal-kick.

Collins said: “He’s got to score! He’ll know that, he’s got to score and then you’re 2-0 and you’ve got the ascendancy and if you get the third one, 3-0 and when you get the fourth it’s the cherry on top of the cake but listen that’s football, it happens.

“He puts them both away and it’s a totally different game and it’s not happened.”

Sevenoaks Town should have been 3-0 up inside 24 minutes.

Canterbury central defender Will Hadler – the 17-year-old brother of Gillingham keeper Tom who has just returned from a loan spell with Gloucester City – nodded the ball out for a throw-in.

Bennett took a quick throw and released Byron Walker down the right channel and Bennett made a run into the box and swept his shot against the crossbar from eight-yards after the ball came in from striker Walker, who was later helped off the pitch by Collins nursing a painful right Achilles injury.

On Bennett’s two crossbar hits, Smith added: “He definitely should score the first one! The second one, it’s a tough shot. It’s coming at him with pace.

“We’re relieved to not get two in quick succession because then you’re thinking they’re going to steam roll you because better sides at this level, once they smell blood they can really go through the gears, especially when you’re low on confidence at that point.”

Hadler gave away a foul on the very edge of the penalty area and after Thompson’s dummy, Hill lashed his right-footed free-kick over the top of the right-hand post from 19-yards.

A comfortable Sevenoaks Town side gave themselves a two-goal advantage with 29 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Miles fed Carnegie, who shrugged past Maxted down the right and he whipped in a great cross from the by-line towards the far post for an unmarked Thompson to bury his header past Jack Delo from six-yards.

Collins said: “You’ve got to get the composure then to go and get the second goal and we did. We played great football. It was a great cross and JT heads it in and we’re 2-0 up and you think right, we go in at half-time, steady the ship, come out and play some football and go and get the three points.

“As I say, we’ve got to give full credit to Canterbury because they got at us and caused us problems.”

Smith said: “Disappointing, we’ve not tracked a runner.  Jamie Maxted and Carnegie had a bit of a ding-dong all game down that side.  Both wide men for them are very good and we’ve let it go. We’ve let them pass into him too easily, We haven’t shut that off but Thompson is not the most mobile player – he’s a quality player – so the fact that he’s peeled off someone and made a run into the box unmarked is very disappointing.”

Hill swung in a free-kick from within the left-channel, which was headed up by Hadler and quick thinking from Delo ensured he punched the ball before it dropped onto Walker’s head at the far post for a simple close-range header.

Canterbury City were poor in the first half and they could have pulled a goal back following the first of their seven corners.

Pilcher swung in a deep corner in from the left which was headed back across goal by Harvey and Hadler steered his header straight at Bridle-Card despite being put under pressure from Corey Holder.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Collins said: “I’m still disappointed that we missed the two chances really because they’ve got some good players and to have opportunities to be three or four-nil up and you’re not, you always know 2-0 is the worst scoreline in the world - and it is. You take that over being 1-0 or 0-0 obviously but it’s always that third goal that wins it or not and if we’d have come out and got the third I think we’d have won but we didn’t.

“Full credit to Canterbury today and second half I thought they were excellent.  They played like we did. It’s a cliché but it’s a game of two halves.

“At half-time we just pointed out how we got in and how we managed to open them up at times and could we do it?  I thought we came out and we were a bit too deep and invited the pressure on and they played a more direct game and it worked to their advantage.”

Smith said: “Have a bit more belief in yourself and we’re on a fantastic surface to play football.  As soon as they scored we just went into our shells and didn’t want the ball anymore and then you’re giving it back to them all the time.

“We made a couple of changes.  Sam Lawford came off, he had a bit of a knock so we didn’t want to risk him because we’ve got a Quarter-Final next week (at home to Sporting Club Thamesmead in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy) and we had a slight re-shuffle up top.

“I felt we could get in behind them so we put Matt Martin up top. His running caused them no end of problems up there.  He gave a real tough torrid time second half.

“Darren Marsden, with that little bit of quality that can carry a ball.  He’s someone who you don’t have to tell to have composure because he’s got too much off it, the same as Rob Lawrence.  We moved him from playing up top to out wide on the right and suddenly we had outlets that can hold the ball for us and get us 15 yards up the pitch.”

Canterbury City vastly improved during the second half, so much so that it appeared that Smith changed all 11 players with new personnel during the break.

Dan Keyte released Martin down the left and he flashed his shot across goal and rolled past the foot of the far post after only 30 seconds.

Smith said: “We wanted a response from them and that was a glimmer of what was to come. 

“He’s managed to slip down the side of them.  Their two centre halves (Ripley and Holder) are very good centre halves but with his movement and his pace they did not have a nice second half.”

Collins said: “I think Ben had it covered. It was a good move from them really for him to get in but I think we had it covered and I wasn’t too fussed about that but it was the fact that we were inviting them on too much and when you do that at times it’s going to come back and bite you.”

Canterbury City were given a lifeline, which they accepted with five minutes and 16 seconds on the clock.

Pilcher played a short corner to Martin and Lawrence was fouled inside the box by Carey and referee Daniel Proctor pointed to the spot.

Pilcher stepped up and sent Bridle-Card the wrong way with a right-footed penalty, which nestled into the back of the net, just right of centre.

“We worked on set-pieces on Tuesday night.  We wasn’t happy with what we were doing on set-pieces recently so we worked on a few things and one of the things happened to come off and we got ourselves a penalty,” revealed Smith.

“At that point he either misses and then all belief and momentum we had was gone.  He scores and suddenly we ask questions of what their character is about.”

When asked about Pilcher’s goalscoring form, Smith replied: “We’ll keep that quiet! Dave was looking for football, he’s been around Ramsgate’s, Hythe’s, Sittingbourne and he wasn’t really getting the opportunities that he craved because he was playing a holding midfield role, a deeper role.

“He spoke to us, how we’re going to get the best out of him and he’s got the licence to get forward from midfield. He’s goalscoring record for us is fantastic.  To score 21 goals from midfield at any level, that’s fantastic.  He’s had a few penalties but you also have to have the nerve to stand up there and take that penalty so when people say they’ve had x amount of penalties, the same as (Tottenham Hotspur striker) Harry Kane.”

Collins said: “I was more concerned about the short corner! I was more annoyed that the fact we came out and we’re not switched on and defensively we’ve been immense at the back all season (conceding 9 league goals before today).

“I thought second half we weren’t at the races and that’s not good enough!

“You look at it and think how do we react? Are we going to come out and react and deal with it the right way and for me the disappointing thing today was we didn’t and that’s when you’ve got to grab the game and put to plan what we work on when these situations happen and we didn’t and fair play to them, they’re going to go for the jugular then because there’s an opportunity here to come and get at least a point.”

Sevenoaks Town hit Canterbury City on the counter-attack when Carey hit a long diagonal ball out of defence to release Hill down the left and he cut inside and crossed for Carnegie, who hit his right-footed drive over the crossbar just a couple of yards inside the box.

Pilcher whipped his right-footed free-kick over a four-man wall and over the crossbar from 25-yards, before Joe Nelder (who was to be later withdrawn with a knee injury) crossed for Martin to glance his header across the keeper and past the far post on the hour-mark.

Canterbury City had Sevenoaks Town on the ropes during a dominant 10 minute spell inside the final 20.

Smith said: “There was a spell there where we were pressing on them, we were robbing the ball off them high up the pitch and they were just catching us on the break and that was always going to be the danger.  You’ve got to make sure you still keep the balance and keep it tight at the other end and there’s always going to be gaps opening up when you’re losing and chasing the game.

“I think Dan Keyte in the middle of midfield did all the basic things well and all of the jobs I asked him to do, which I felt he didn’t do in the first half, he went back to basics in the second half. He sat there and he gave us a lot more stability in the team stopping those counter-attacks.”

A brilliant save from Bridle-Card frustrated Canterbury, following their fourth corner of the game.

Pilcher swung in a corner from the right and Hadler’s left-footed hooked shot seemed destined to fly into the corner from 10-yards, but the Sevenoaks keeper fly to his left to make the save.

Smith said: “Great save! To be fair to the lad he took a knock earlier in the game. I think he was slightly injured so to get across to that, a fantastic save!”

When asked about Hadler’s debut, Smith replied: “I thought he was excellent! He was nervous but he’s gone out there and he’s played as good a strike force you’re going to play in this league and he’s more than held his own.  I felt second half he was getting better and better as the game wore on.

“He’s been with us five to six weeks now and I think it was the right time and he deserves his opportunity to play and I’m really pleased for him, he’s got a good future.”

Collins added: “Great save! That’s a great save and then it’s two-all and then they’ve got to get the next one and you’re in trouble.

“I said it to the bench we’re not at the races second half but listen good sides don’t lose and that’s the difference! We’re 16 unbeaten. We don’t lose!”

Carey’s free-kick was floated into the Canterbury box where Tom Ripley came up from the back to loop his header just over the crossbar and onto the top of the roof of the net.

Canterbury City deserved their equaliser when it arrived with 31 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

It was a good move down the right as Pilcher and substitute winger Connor Hendricks linked up and Lawrence played a reverse pass behind Holder who was pressing him to give Hendricks space in behind and his low centre was poked into the bottom right-hand corner by Maxted from six-yards out at the near post.

“We asked them to have more composure,” said Smith.

“We’re a good side when we can play in their half and there were a few times when we got the ball around the edge of their box and we had that composure to just keep the ball moving rather than panicking and trying to force something.

“We were waiting for the opportunity and waiting for the moment and we did that to great effect on that side.

“Rob Lawrence was pinned up against Corey Holder. He’s done fantastic to hold him up and the timing of the pass out wide to Connor Hendricks was fantastic and what a ball in!

“Jamie Maxted’s made an overlap earlier on in the move and rather than just jogging back in - he’s stayed up and we asked him to play higher up the pitch – he’s seen it go wide and thought do you know what? I’ll nick one!

“He took a lot of stick in the first half from their bench, so I think he enjoyed that!”

Collins said: “Do you know what? He got some stick first half because he was getting torn to bits by Harrison, which most full-backs do to be fair and fair play to him and he enjoyed his moment but poor from us, we haven’t picked him up. He's come from a long way round to get there. 

“They put the cross in and he’s got across. It was a good striker’s goal, near post. I scored quite a few of them myself. Fair play, it was the least they deserved.

“You stand there and you’ve got to be honest, you can’t paper over it, you have to look at it and go they deserved to be two-all.  There’s no doubt about it.  Any neutral who watched it will say the same.”

Canterbury were now pressing for a winner and Harvey planted a header forward and Martin cut inside and stung Bridle-Card’s fingers with a drive from outside the box.

Smith said of Martin: “Again, a different player second half.  At times they were scared to death of committing themselves to him because he’s a very elusive customer, got a great shot off but the positioning from the keeper made it look easy to be fair to him.

“It looked like there was only going to be one side that was going to win it.  Maybe the last five minutes of that half our chance of winning it was probably gone.  That’s when you feel their quality comes and nick something.”

Carnegie told his team-mates “oi! Sevenoaks. This is where we earn our money!” and they rode the storm and almost won it at the death.

Greg Benbow threw the ball to Carnegie, who whipped in a left-wing cross and Bennett looped his free header just over the crossbar.

“They came close but so did we,” added Collins.

“We changed things, we moved things around a little bit.  I wasn’t too happy with what was going on so we changed it and then we took the ascendancy back in the last five minutes. Could we go and get it? Did we deserve to? Probably not on the balance of play. First half we won it comfortably, second half, I thought they did.”

Smith was full of praise for his side for coming through this test with a point, a result that sees them climb up one place into the top ten with 31 points from 21 games.

“They made it difficult for us but we came through it and there’s a lot of times when we play the top sides over the last two seasons where were the bridesmaids. We play well, show a good account of ourselves and people have said before you play really nice football,” said Smith.

“Today, we have shown that we can dig deep, we can hang in there, show some character, all the things that in the past we’ve not quite had really. We’ve been a bit naïve in the past.  It was nice to come away from a side at the top and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with them and got something from the game.”
Reflecting on the result, Collins added: “Full credit to Canterbury, they were full value for their point at least and they tested us massively.

“Sixteen unbeaten, we haven’t got a clean sheet, which is disappointing but our defensive record is still great but we’re still top and we’ve still got games in hand.

“There’s 20 games to go, it’s miles. Everyone talks about winning titles but titles don’t get won until you win it and there’s a long way to go and there’s a lot of teams vying to knock us off that top spot.”

Sevenoaks Town: Ben Bridle-Card, Jack Miles, Greg Benbow, Lee Carey (Paul Springett 76), Tom Ripley, Corey Holder, Harrison Carnegie, Jason Thompson, Byron Walker (Tom Youngs 69), Billy Bennett, Rory Hill (Frankie Sawyer 69).
Subs: Stephen Camacho, Joe Burden

Goals: Rory Hill 11, Jason Thompson 30

Booked: Harrison Carnegie 38, Corey Holder 59

Canterbury City: Jack Delo, Pat Nzuzi, Jamie Maxted, Dan Keyte, Laurence Harvey, Will Hadler, Matt Martin, Joe Nelder (Connor Hendricks 65), Rob Lawrence (Robel Grant 90), Dave Pilcher, Sam Lawford (Darren Marsden 46).

Goals: Dave Pilcher 51 (penalty), Jamie Maxted 77

Booked: Jamie Maxted 90

Attendance: 89
Referee: Mr Daniel Proctor (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Toby Enstone (Plumstead, London SE18) & Mr Daniel Baruch (Longfield)

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