Sevenoaks Town 0-1 Corinthian - I think it puts us out of the title race totally, admits Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins

Wednesday 15th February 2017
Sevenoaks Town 0 – 1 Corinthian
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 15/02/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 15th February 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins says tonight’s surprise home defeat to midtable Corinthian puts them out of the title race.

They remain in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table on 53 points and have 14 league games left to play.

Ashford United sit at the top of the tree with 58 points from 24 games but the money will be on Crowborough Athletic, second with 57 points from 23 games, to go on and clinch promotion back into the Ryman League for the first time since their one and only campaign at that level during season 2008-09.

Corinthian settled a depressing stalemate at Greatness Park courtesy of a fine move that was finished off by man-of-the-match Alexander Jack Billings, 179 seconds into the second half, for the winger’s tenth goal of the season to make it three wins out of three and three clean sheets in three too.

League titles are won or lost on miserable midweek nights in February and Collins was bitterly disappointed with his players who failed to turn up on a night when the pressure of a title race took its toll.

“We were awful tonight, poor performance,” admitted Collins afterwards following his side’s fifth league defeat of the season.

“Credit to Corinthians, I thought they played well, came with a game plan, executed it, probably got the only chance in the whole game really.  There was nothing going on either end and they deserved it. I thought they fully deserved the win.”

When asked where it puts Sevenoaks Town in the title race, Collins admitted: “I think it puts us out of it totally.  I don’t think we’ll claw that back. It’s not losing, it’s the performance.  You can’t perform that badly and carry the momentum on and go and win a league title. It’s just not good enough!

“You can have a blip and you can have a game where you don’t play well but that’s been two or three games in the last four or five that we’ve put out a lacklustre performance and tonight that was lacklustre.

“I don’t really look at the table. Anyone can beat anyone in this league on their day and Corinthian came here and they wanted it more.  It proved it last night when you see Barca getting tonked 4-0 by PSG in the Champions League. Why does that happen? It happens because one team turns up and wants it and if the other team doesn’t turn up and have 10 or 11 players turn up and play at a certain level, they’ll get beat.  That’s the difference between it.

“There was no quality football.  They wanted it more than our guys tonight and fair play to them.”

Corinthian welcome Crowborough Athletic to Gay Dawn Farm on Saturday and their manager Michael Golding knows his side have a big say in the title race this week.

“Really pleased, really, really pleased.  I thought the boys dug in, they done the dirty side of the game tonight,” said Golding, who operates without a playing budget.

“I thought it was a really competitive game, both sides. It probably wasn’t the most interesting game for the neutral but in terms of blood, guts, it probably had a bit of everything, probably lacking in goal-mouth action but other than that it was a fiercely competitive game.

“We said to the boys this week, playing the team with the best home record tonight in Sevenoaks and then on Saturday we’re at home to the team with the best away record it was a bit of a free hit this week.  There’s no pressure on us. We’re midtable, we’re disappointed where we are but in terms of coming here, we haven’t set up any different to how we have done over the last few weeks or all season. 

“I don’t think Sevenoaks are out of it. I think Sevenoaks and Crowborough will go the distance.  It’s obviously in Crowborough’s hands but Micky has a good side and I fully expect them to still be there or there abouts at the end of the season.”

Sevenoaks Town clearly missed winger Harrison Carnegie as the weight of expectation fell heavily on Kieron McCann’s shoulders and the rest of his team-mates and Collins admitted his side failed to deliver, especially Carnegie’s replacement, Stephen Camacho, who was substituted ten minutes after half-time.

Collins said: “He’s got a knee problem so that’s it, but you’ve got a good enough squad and they’ve got to step up and deliver.  You can’t look at one player not being there and say we’ve not won a game of football because we’ve had one player missing.  It’s a good enough squad there and when those players come in they’ve got to deliver.  Too many players tonight have underperformed and they know that!”

Golding added: “We’ve heard his injured.  Listen, we’ll give them the respect they deserve but we worry about what we can do on the pitch.  Harrison is a quality player, far too good to be playing at this level so maybe that played into our hands tonight.”

Mickey Dalton whipped in the first corner of the game which was cleared out to Camacho, who put the ball back into the box and Corey Holder came up from the back to nod his towering header into Joe Hagan’s hands from eight-yards inside the opening four and a half minutes.

Corinthian right-back Bradley Large gave the ball away to McCann, who cut inside and flashed his right-footed drive just past the foot of the left-hand post from 22-yards, as Sevenoaks dominated the early exchanges.

Golding said:“I was pleased we kept our shape really well. We restricted them from shots from distance.  On a wet night where it’s a little bit zipping off the surface you always worry but Joe’s done really well. That’s three clean sheets in a row now. Joe and the whole team and particularly the back four deserve a lot of credit.”

Central midfielder Joe Bingham then fed the ball into McCann, who stroked his right-footed drive towards the bottom corner from 25-yards, only for Hagan to drop down to his knees to gather at the second attempt.

But Corinthian proved to be a hard nut to crack from minute 15, with Marcus Evans and Sam Groombridge rock solid at the heart of their defence.

“I thought first 10-15 minutes we were on top. I thought we came out and we did what we normally do,” said Collins.

“We hit the post and we missed an open goal and you’ve got to take those chances and we haven’t.  However, you have got to keep playing at momentum and I thought 15-20 minutes in we dropped off the pace and allowed them back into the game and they got a stranglehold on it and after half-time they came out and played better by a mile.”

Golding added: “It wasn’t the most entertaining first half. It was a bit of a non-event really.  Like I said to the boys, they had more pressure on them in terms of they had to win the game, where we could go out and pick them off as and when we had the opportunity to, but I think there were probably two or three shots in the whole of the first half.  It wasn’t the most entertaining game.”

McCann put the ball in to the box and Corinthian survived a scramble, with the ball clipping the foot of the left-hand post, much to the despair of Collins.

He said: “I think the best effort was when it’s gone up and we’ve got the open goal and we’ve hit the post with it.  I think that’s the best chance of the game for us.  That puts us at 1-0. We’ve got more of a chance. It’s an open goal and we’ve headed it onto the post two yards out.  I don’t know if it was Billy (Bennett) or Yacine (Gnahore), we’re two yards out and we ain’t scored it!

“But you can’t look at one or two incidents and think that’s going to change a game, not for the amount of chances that we normally create and tonight we haven’t done that all over the park.”

Golding admitted: “That was probably the only time, apart from the shots from distance, that I thought they threatened, even in the second half they had a couple of shots from Jimmy Rogers on the edge of the box and free-kicks into the area, where they’ve got really good delivery.  Other than that, they didn’t really test us. That was probably the first time and the only time they really put us under pressure.”

The crowd of 87 at Greatness Park fell asleep for the rest of the first half that lacked quality.

Corinthian took 42 minutes to register their first opening.

Jack Bath and Michael Hagan linked up down the left and the ball was played into lone striker Brima Daramy. The ball bounced off him due to a lack of control and Large found space and from 35-yards sliced his left-footed shot harmlessly wide.

“I just felt when we got it up to our front three that we didn’t hold the ball up well enough,” admitted Corinthian’s manager.

“It was never our game plan just to come here and have a battle. We wanted to get the ball down and play as much as we can on a little bit of a bobbly surface.

“Brad’s come in from Tunbridge Wells. He’s a good addition, he’s done well. He’s still got to learn about what the club’s about. He’s got a long way to go but he’s definitely a good addition.”

Sevenoaks Town should have buried the glorious chance that came their way before referee Kirsty Dowle blew her half-time whistle.

McCann worked space down the left channel and floated in an inch-perfect cross to striker Yacine Gnahore, who glanced his header across the keeper and past the far post from six-yards out.

Collins said: “You look at that and go ‘was it us that we’re not good enough?’ Yes, I think we weren’t good enough. However, the other team defended well. They had a game plan and it worked for them and you’ve got to give people credit when they play well.  You can’t always say it was us that played badly and that’s why we’ve lost because there were two teams out there and credit to Corinthians, they came here and done a job.”

Golding added: “We know what Sevenoaks are going to be about, they’re going to get the ball wide, they get bodies into the box really well. They compete really well for the first ball. I thought Billy Bennett did really well up there tonight with Yacine Gnahore but again I thought Marcus Evans and Sam Groombridge marshalled them really well.”

The first half was so boring that spectators in the stand were more interested about talking about London bus routes than taking an interest in the boring stalemate unfolding in front of them.

“We just needed a bit more quality. We needed more quality going forward.  I don’t think we had anything in the final third so we spoke about a couple of bites to try to improve it,” said Collins.

“I think we’ve came out, to be honest we haven’t come out second half. I don’t think we have at all. It was fractious, it was awful and they scored after a couple of minutes and then all off a sudden we sort of pressed the panic button and we’ve stopped playing how we normally do.”

When asked his thoughts at half-time, Golding replied: “It sounds silly, the last three games we’ve gone in at 0-0 and then we’ve kicked on in the second half against Lordswood, Beckenham and again tonight but it was more of the same but just with a little bit more quality.

“I felt the three midfielders, although they battled really well, we maybe took too long to move the ball at times. The front three didn’t really hold the ball up and made the wrong choices when we did have limited possession in their half.

“We wanted more of the same but just add that little bit of quality that we know we can produce on our day.”

Corinthian broke that stalemate by scoring with their first shot on target, courtesy of a fine three-man move.

Large burst over the halfway line with the ball at his feet and once in the final third he played the ball inside to Josh James, who teed up Alexander Jack Billings, who left Nicholls flat-footed by driving his first time left-footed drive nestling into the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards.

“Really good, started a little before that, we moved the ball across the pitch, Jack into Bradley and Josh had the presence of mind to set it back into Jack and from 25-yards he’s rifled it with his weaker left-foot.

“Jack’s been brilliant for us this year. He’s probably been our most consistent player. He’s got double figures in terms of goals in all competitions. He’s played the majority of the season at full-back. We’ve only just moved him forwards and Jack’s a real good asset for us. He’s a real good player. It was a great finish and he finished off a really good move.”

Collins added: “Good finish, good finish, but we’ve allowed them three players there to have so much time on the ball and that’s something that we’ve got to question. That’s something that we’ve got to look at defensively. Whether it’s a midfielder or a defender you can’t allow people at any level to have that time on the ball. Again, I have got to question desire with that.”

Sevenoaks Town are always a threat from set-pieces and they almost responded immediately, but for a fine save from Joe Hagan, then the woodwork saving Corinthian.

Benbow swung in a deep free-kick from the left which was met by Joe Bingham’s glancing header, which was destined for the top corner, but Joe Hagan tipped the ball around the post.  The keeper then saw the ball drop over his shoulder from Benbow’s in-swinging corner form the right only for the ball to clip the top of the crossbar.

Collins said: “Again, it’s a set-piece. We’ve tired to put it in there into a good area and it’s not fallen our way, but you just can’t rely on them.  We’ve got to create more from open play and that’s the disappointing thing.  I think when you go away and we’ve had 10 chances and we haven’t put them away, you know why, it’s a lack of finishing, but tonight we didn’t create enough!”

Golding said: “Really good save from Joe. Joe’s in form at the moment. He’s still got areas in his game where we really want to improve on but he’s come in and he's done really well and it was a really good save.

“It hit the top of the bar. It’s difficult. We thought Joe was being pinned from Yacine, but it’s just straight after we scored.”

Corinthian were by far the better side after the hour mark with left-winger Alexander Jack Billings stealing the show with an impressive performance.

“Jack got involved in the game, that’s the one thing we said at half-time. If we can get Jack on the ball in and around the area that will make things happen for us and thankfully it did,” added Golding.

Joe Hagan launched a big kick down the right channel which was chased by the goalscorer, who saw his chip gathered one-handed by the back-peddling Nicholls.

“A bit of a half-chance really,” admitted Golding.

“Jack’s gone through, Jack’s got that about him. If it does drop to him that’s why we dropped him further forward. He’s not afraid of pulling the trigger but a comfortable save.”

The energetic Alexander Jack Billings when played a one-two with substitute Conor Johnson but his left-footed shot from outside the box lacked power and Nicholls made a comfortable save.

“The majority of the action particularly after we scored we always fancy we’ll hit teams on the counter, particularly with Louis’s pace and Conor when he gets on the ball can be alive as well and Conor’s coming off on the back of a hat-trick against Beckenham. He was unfortunate not to start tonight.”

Corinthian were a lot more hungrier than their opponents and went close again to increasing their lead in the 64th minute.

Brima Daramy’s last action of a frustrating evening for him was to play the ball in from the left, the ball was dummied by Alexander Jack Billings and James curled his shot just past the far post from 20-yards.

Corinthian substitute striker Louis Clarke almost made a dream start to his night by hitting the crossbar with his first touch in the 70th minute.

Joe Hagan’s big kick down the middle was flicked on by Alexander Jack Billings and Clarke’s right-footed cushioned-volley from 16-yards agonisingly clipped the top of the crossbar.

Golding said: “I said to him ‘go on and score with your first touch!’

“Louis is a great kid, he wants to learn and he wants to do well and wants to impress. He was so unfortunate not to score with his first touch. What a great technique, took it over his head and volleyed it onto the top of the crossbar and yet it was just so unfortunate, yet a really good technique.”

Nicholls then made a comfortable save from Alexander Jack Billings’ 30-yard attempt as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

The Sevenoaks Town faithful were expecting their side to threw the kitchen sink at Corinthian – but it failed to materialise as Corinthian slammed the door in Sevenoaks’ faces and made them look ordinary.

“The thing is we’ve got to come out then so we’re always liable to be caught on the break,” said Collins.

“We weren’t good enough tonight. We just weren’t at the races and when you do that once every 10-15 games you can probably take it on the chin, but there’s been too many performances like that.

“We’ve gone down to Crowborough last week and put in a great performance (in the Cup), got a great result down there and then tonight maybe it’s that, turn up, they’re thinking ‘it’s only Corinthians, they’re 11th and we expect to win’, and you can’t expect to win any game of football.”

Johnson played a one-two with Bath down the left and Johnson whipped a right-footed curler towards the top far corner from 30-yards, which forced Nicholls into making a fine save high to his left, clawing the ball up before catching it as it dropped down.

Sevenoaks Town lacked ideas, heart and desire as the game went on but they went close to snatching an undeserved equaliser in the final eight minutes.

Striker Billy Bennett danced his way into the box and cut the ball back to former Millwall midfielder Jimmy Rogers, who drove his shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from 25-yards.

“I’m quite fair when I see games like that and I think it probably would have been a travesty for Corinthian if we had equalised,” admitted Collins, who was uncharacteristically quiet during the game in the dug-out.

“I don’t think we deserved it and we certainly didn’t deserve to go on and win so at the end of the day it was a fair result. The best team won in my opinion and we’ve got to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down and go again when we’ve got Whitstable at home on Saturday.”

Golding added: “I think that was probably their best chance of the game. I think he’s a fantastic player and he’s one of the ones that you look if he’s starting or not tonight and that’s the luxury that Micky’s got here. He’s got great players and he’s got a really good squad and he can have players like that on the bench.  Joe seems to think it was comfortable.”

A loud cheer went up in and around the Corinthian dug-out at the final whistle tonight and confidence is high going into welcoming Crowborough Athletic on Saturday.  Corinthian have climbed up a couple of places into ninth with 35 points from 23 league outings.

Sean Muggeridge’s side lost 2-0 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion’s under 23s in the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup Quarter-Final tonight and have now lost four of their last five games (all cup defeats).

“The boys have got a free week.  They came in on Monday night, they worked really hard. Tonight was a free shot for them and we’ve done really, really well and afterwards in the huddle they’re looking forwards to Saturday even more so than they maybe were,” said Golding.

“We went down there earlier on in the season and we got dinged hard 7-1 so we’ve got something to prove and we won’t be rolling over. There won’t be any favours from us. We’ll be making it as difficult as we can.”

Sevenoaks Town: Ryan Nicholls, Marvin Okundalaiye, Greg Benbow, Mickey Dalton, Jack Miles, Corey Holder, Stephen Camacho (Jimmy Rogers 55), Joe Bingham, Yacine Gnahore (Byron Walker 68), Billy Bennett, Kieron McCann.
Subs: Chris Edwards, Tom Ripley, Toby Lansdale

Booked: Byron Walker 77

Corinthian: Joe Hagan, Bradley Large, Louis Pearce, Jamie Billings, Marcus Evans, Sam Groombridge, Michael Hagan (Conor Johnson 59), Josh James (Oscar Housego 90), Brima Daramy (Louis Clarke 69), Jack Bath, Alexander Jack Billings.
Subs: Joe Brown, Luke Tanner

Goal: Alexander Jack Billings 48

Booked: Marcus Evans 62, Louis Pearce 77, Bradley Large 86, Alexander Jack Billings 90

Attendance: 87
Referee: Ms Kirsty Dowle (Canterbury)
Assistants: Mr Kevin Greenhead (Bexleyheath) & Mr Joshua Weller (West Malling)

Coverage sponsored by: