Sevenoaks Town 0-4 Maidstone United - We've actually created a legacy at Sevenoaks Town Football Club, says boss Micky Collins

Tuesday 25th July 2017
Sevenoaks Town 0 – 4 Maidstone United
Location Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX
Kickoff 25/07/2017 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Tuesday 25th July 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Greatness Park

MAIDSTONE UNITED boss Jay Saunders says there are plenty of positives and things that could be better ahead of their Vanarama National League opener on Saturday week.

The Stones eased to a comfortable 4-0 victory as they opened the 3G pitch at Sevenoaks Town’s Greatness Park, watched by a crowd of 437.

Former Eastleigh and Boreham Wood central midfielder, Jai Reason, got the ball rolling by scoring the first two goals, before former Southampton winger Harley Willard, 19, who lives in Tonbridge, cut in and across the box before slotting home.

Joe Pigott came off the bench at the break to score an early contender for Goal of the Season, before Sevenoaks Town blasted a late penalty over the bar through substitute Darren Marsden.

“A more pleasing game than we had at the weekend in France (a 2-2 draw against Arras).  I wasn’t pleased with the preparation and the performance and everything.  I thought we got more out of tonight. I thought it was more realistic,” said Saunders, who has evolved his squad after finishing in fourteenth-place last season.

“I always like coming down to play Micky pre-season because we have friendlies during the season and his teams are well-organised. They play match realistic to what you’re going to face in the League. I always enjoy these fixtures and it was nice coming down here and being the first team to play on their new pitch, which I thought it was excellent, it was a good evening.”

Sevenoaks Town manager Micky Collins said: “Great night, loved it, absolute great night for the club and for us. A tough test, always going to be.  I thought we equipped ourselves well, irrespective of the scoreline.  I thought in spells in the game we held our own and we tested them as well, which was really good.”

Both managers were asked about their experience of the artificial pitch.

Collins, who guided the club to a third-place finish in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division, won their first trophy and enjoyed their longest ever run in The FA Cup last season, said: “It was perfect.  You wouldn’t have known it was plastic, would you?

“To watch a game of football on it, it’s top end.  You get an occasional bounce, it’s a slow bounce rather than it skidding through but it’s not a damp night, there’s no moisture on it.  I think if it was wet it will be totally different.  If you talk to the players they don’t feel they’ve played on a plastic pitch.”

Maidstone United have played home games on such a surface for five seasons now and Saunders added: “Excellent, really impressed!   I was speaking to the boys and they were all impressed with it.  You could see it’s transformed the club. It looks like a different ground when you walk in.  I think it will go from strength-to-strength for them and I’m sure Micky will have a side that will change this season again.”

Sevenoaks Town wasted a glorious chance to stun Maidstone United after only 82 seconds when winger Tom Youngs shrugged off Kevin Lokko, only to chip the ball straight into the hands of back-peddling goalkeeper Lee Worgan.

“I think Tom’s got to do better with that! I think it’s fallen to him, he’s either got to put his foot through it or he’s got to get a bit more conviction on it,” admitted Collins.

“I thought the first 10-15 minutes, I thought we came out and played some really good stuff and I think we more than matched them and got in some great pockets and picked the ball up and created some chances – and then the quality showed!”

Sevenoaks Town goalkeeper Craig Holloway had a great night, making a string of fine saves to keep the final scoreline respectable.

The former Greenwich Borough stopper was called into action inside six minutes, diving to his left to push away Willard’s left-footed drive from 25-yards after the winger received the ball from Reason.

“I played with Craig many years ago at Gravesend & Northfleet as they used to be or Ebbsfleet, whatever you want to call them.  He’s always been an excellent keeper and as you say pulled off some great saves tonight. He’s a good keeper and he’ll do well for Sevenoaks this year,” said Saunders.

Maidstone United keeper Worgan had to be at his best to prevent Sevenoaks Town scoring during a decent start from the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division side.

Billy Bennett and Brett Ince linked up in the final third and Harrison Carnegie’s first shot was blocked by Joe Anderson. His second was flying into the top far corner – from wide on the right – but Worgan dived high to his right to push the ball onto the top of his crossbar.

Collins said: “Great shot! I think anyone else and in our league as well, that’s a goal but you’re dealing with a top end goalkeeper there and it’s bread and butter for him. Great save, that’s a really good save. We could’ve got our noses in front.”

Saunders added: “I thought it was quite even early doors, first 10-15 minutes.  I think we had a good chance, their keeper made a good save and Worgs has made a good save, tipped one on to the bar but I felt once we got to grips with it a little bit we started to create some good chances and on another night we maybe could’ve scored a couple more but all in all it was good for us. We played at a good tempo, they made us work and the boys got a lot out of it.”

It was inevitable that Maidstone United would open the scoring, with the goal arriving with 13 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Reason started the move in midfield, clipping the ball over the top to release Willard down the right channel.   He cut inside and cut the ball back for Reason to place his shot with the side of his right-foot past Holloway from 12-yards.

Saunders said: “It’s good for Jai. He only signed at the weekend. He’s been at Eastleigh for four or five years and he finished the season at Boreham Wood. He’s come in, he’s a little bit short of match fitness, it’s only his second run out since the end of last season and he’s been doing pre-season by himself.  He’s got a lot of quality on the ball and you can see the composure there.  He started the move and his composure with the finish, side-footed it in to the corner and it was a well-worked goal.”

Collins admitted: “Poor from us, fair play to the guy, he’s put a lot of energy to go and get in to the box. He’s come from the halfway line and we haven’t tracked the run and we haven’t passed him on either.  I had a moan about that at half-time, I wasn’t happy with that one.  Quality shows. He’s got in the box and got himself a goal.  We’ve got to do better than that!”

Holloway was called into diving action again in the 16th minute, diving to his left to palm away Jack Paxman’s right-footed drive from 25-yards, after Willard threaded the ball into his team-mates feet down the left and space opened up in front of him.

Anderson slipped the ball into Delano Sam-Yorke’s feet and the former Woking man saw his right-footed drive from 30-yards skid of the artificial turf and Holloway got down low to his right to hold to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom corner.

Collins said: “He’s a quality act. To sign someone like Craig Holloway at this football club, it shows you what we’re all about and the fact that he wants to come and play here, shows what we’re all about as well. He’s made some great saves tonight and I was probably critical with him at half-time with a couple of things he did, so there’s the levels we’ve set.”

Reason held off his man inside the penalty area to lay the ball off to Willard, who drilled his left-footed shot across Holloway, only for the ball to hit the top of the far post.

“Harley’s a young lad that’s come in. He’s only signed at the end of last week. He's been training with us. It’s come by (Gillingham’s director of football) Peter Taylor. Jamie Day at Gillingham said they’ve had him training but they needed a bit more experience. He’s a local lad. He used to live in Maidstone, now he lives in Tonbridge and he’s come in and really impressed so it was good to get a deal sorted.”

Collins added: “Good move again. It’s funny because the game was in different swathes and the first 15 I thought we were good and they went a bit more direct on us and they know how to play the pitch because they’re used to it (playing on a 3G pitch), we’ve had one session on ours and then they started to cause us problems.”

Maidstone United deserved to double their lead, the clock showing 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

Richards rolled the ball back to Anderson, who was given acres of space to whip in a delicious cross from the left and Reason made a run into the box to glance his free header across the keeper to find the far corner from eight-yards.

Saunders was full of praise for former Bromley left-back Anderson, who has provided many goals in pre-season.

“Good run into the box, a great move again.  I think Joe really offers us something in the final third as well. He’s good defensively and his delivery in the final third over pre-season, we’ve scored two or three very good goals from his crosses. It’s good for our forwards, they know when it’s set-back to him they’re going to get a decent delivery, which always helps as a forward with your runs.”

Collins said: “Again, you’ve got a centre midfielder make the box and we haven’t picked him up so we’ve looked at that, addressed it and moaned about it at half-time as well.”

Sevenoaks Town created an opening when Solomon Taiwo floated a free-kick into the penalty area, the ball was knocked down by a rising Tom Ripley but striker Billy Bennett (scorer of 23 goals last term) stuck out his right leg to guide his volley across goal and past the far post from just inside the box.

Collins said: “Half chance, yes, but we lost our way in that part of the game and that was when they got on the ascendancy.  They probably took 10-15 minutes to get started and after that they really, really upped it and we had to hang on.

“At 2-0 it’s game over, a club at that level, but we persevered.    We need to get out of this game what we want. It’s our pitch, we need to play on it, to get used to it. We’re not going to come up against them unless we get to the first round (Maidstone United enter in the Fourth Qualifying Round) of The FA Cup, so enjoy it and get what we can and I think we did get positives out of it.”

Maidstone United increased their lead by scoring a third goal, timed at 42 minutes and 36 seconds.

Anderson found Richards, who hit a 50-yard diagonal pass over to the right channel which was latched upon by Willard, who made at least a 30-yard across-the-box run with the ball before drilling his right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

“I think the pair of them Jack Richards and Harley were exceptional tonight, for two young lads.  Jack is 18, Harley’s 19,” said Saunders.

“It’s a great ball to Jack out to Harley and he’s capable of when he plays on that right of cutting in and he’s cut across. I thought he went way too far but in all fairness to him he’s cut it back and reversed it and it’s a great finish.”

Collins said: “He’s a good player, he’s been at a pro club for two or three years. He's a very, very good player but when he received the ball, we should’ve been tighter, which may have stopped him going off on a run. He’s gone across our midfield and our back four unchallenged.  I know it’s a friendly but you’ve got to be more competitive here.  It’s a decent shot but a free shot at goal.  I think that’s me telling them to be respectful to Maidstone and I think in a normal matchday situation someone would’ve stepped out and probably deal with it. We’ve shown him too much respect there because they’re full-time footballers and the last thing we wanted there is someone getting injured.”

Both bosses were asked their thoughts at the break.

Collins said: “Happy with it! We lost our way a little bit but the calibre of players we’re playing against, you expect that.  I was happy. I didn’t go in and moan. We pulled a couple of bits, a couple of moans about individual errors and certain bits. We could’ve got tighter but you’re always mindful who you’re playing against and take the positives out of it.  You can be negative all night long and I certainly didn’t want to do it.”

Saunders said: “To keep the tempo up! I sort of spoke to the boys before the game. I felt the last couple of games we felt a bit safe in our passing.

“When you’re going into the National League and we’re at home to Maidenhead, the nerves kick in a little bit on opening day and it’s a bit more direct. I said to the lads if it’s on to play forward and drop things in channels, don’t be afraid to do it and stretch the game and we did it at the right times.”

The introduction of Pigott gave Corey Holder a torrid time at the heart of Sevenoaks Town’s back-four.

Piggot smacked his right-footed free-kick against the near post from 20-yards early in the second half, before he watched Josh Hare’s long ball drop over his shoulder before cracking a stinging volley from 30-yards, which stung Holloway’s fingers. 

Holloway then saved a hooked shot from Reason, as he attempted to score from 25-yards, as Maidstone United peppered Holloway’s goal with shots inside the opening six minutes.

“He scored an excellent one against Crystal Palace last week,” Saunders said of Pigott’s free-kick.

“He fancies his chances in and around there.  He had a close one on Saturday in France.  He’s dangerous around that area. Holloway was beaten but unfortunately for Joe the post kept it out.

“If I’m being critical you probably do go and say our forwards and midfielders have got to take those chances but I think any manager will tell you, you’re only concerned if you’re not creating them.   We created some decent chances tonight, moved the ball well in the final third and some of our link-up play was very good. I don’t want to be too critical of them but we created some good chances.”

Collins added: “Great free-kick! I said Craig had it covered but I was probably lying! What a player! I’ve watched him when he was at Bromley when he was on loan from Charlton, he caught my eye then and when Jay signed him I rang Jay and said ‘what a signing, he’s a great player, a great footballer’ and probably deserves a bit more of a crack further up the league.

“I think his goal, someone sees that goal goes in, you’re going to put a million pounds price tag on that.  That’s an absolute worldie, that’s a fantastic effort, he's capable of that!”

Collins was pleased with the way they fashioned open a chance when Taiwo and Ince linked up and the ball was played inside to Youngs, who teed up Bennett, who stroked his right-footed shot straight at Worgan from 16-yards.

“It’s the fact that we played our way in.  We’re not playing our way in against a Step five or six side, we’ve played our way in against a top quality side and they are such a decent outfit,” added Collins.

Anderson released Richards down the left and the winger cut into the box towards the edge of the six-yard box before cutting the ball back for Willard, to sweep his left-footed shot against the underside of the crossbar from six-yards, the ball dropping into Holloway’s grateful hands.

Saunders added: “Great strike, again he’s capable of that. He’s a bit unlucky.  I think it bounced quite nicely into Craig Holloway’s arms but it was a great strike again.”

Collins added: “I think he had it covered. He waited for it to come off the bar.  You expected that.  The one thing I liked tonight and Jay and I had a chat in the bar, they took it seriously.  They played how they play, they didn’t play a pre-season friendly tonight. That’s a real positive tonight because you know you’re coming up against a real article.”

Maidstone United were keen to get the ball forward as quickly as possible and Hare’s long ball was met by Harry Phipps’ looping header, which landed on the top of the roof of the net with 22 minutes remaining.

Maidstone United’s final goal, timed at 28 minutes and 59 seconds, was stunning.

Pigott played Richards through the heart of the Sevenoaks defence and his right-footed drive crashed down off the crossbar and Phipps rolled the ball out to Pigott on the right, who cracked a stunning right-footed drive on the turn from 16-yards, which screamed into the top far corner of the net.

“I thought it was a great finish, top corner,” said Saunders.

“Jack was unlucky really.  We had a great bit of build-up play, it came out to Jack and it was a good save from Craig and Jack’s tried to lob him, come back of the bar and Harry Phipps’ recycled it and it’s a great finish from Pigs, who is capable of that.

“I’m pleased for Pigs, he’s scored, I think, in every pre-season game pretty much now so as a forward in pre-season, although you want your fitness, you want to be hitting the net and he’s been doing that.”

Collins added: “That’s a great goal, a great goal.  I’d relish that one on my CV. No-one’s saving that, that was a great effort.  I think if Worgan and Holloway had been in goal, no-one’s saving that! That was a very good goal to watch, pleasure to watch actually.”

Sevenoaks rallied for the final 15 minutes with winger Carnegie playing the ball inside to substitute striker Byron Walker but his left-footed drive from 20-yards was meat and drink for Worgan.

Paxman passed to Willard, whose left-footed drive was saved by Holloway, low to his left, at the other end.

Sevenoaks Town squandered an excellent chance to pull a goal back in the 80th minute.

Darren Marsden appeared to be clipped by Paxman just inside the penalty area and referee Chris Myatt pointed to the spot.

Marsden stepped up and blasted his right-footed penalty high over Worgan’s crossbar.

Collins said: “Great feet, Marso’s seen him coming and flicked it and took the dive and got the pen and then Byron’s handed it over and Marso’s handed it over the bar. Shame really. It would’ve been nice to have got a goal but again, take the positives.  We’ve created a problem in their box against one of their first team regulars and we’ve managed to get ourselves a penalty.”

Saunders replied: “Listen, I don’t think it was a pen. I thought it was outside. The ref said ask the linesman, the linesman thought it was outside as well. It was given. 

“I would’ve been disappointed to concede because it’s good for Worgs and the defenders to keep a clean sheet.  I know Darren Marsden well as well from playing against him so I’m sure he’ll be disappointed but for us I’ll be pleased.”

Holloway then beat away a couple of powerful shots from Pigott and Richards, before Sevenoaks Town missed a sitter in the final four minutes.

Holder hit a long diagonal over the top of the Maidstone defence and Carnegie turned substitute left-back Darren Cooper to cut the ball back from the by-line only for Steve Camacho to sweep his shot over the bar from six-yards.

Collins said: “They got the fourth and we relaxed and I thought the last 10-15 minutes we were in the ascendancy, which for me is a massive positive against a full-time club. Our fitness levels were good enough for the last 10-15 to create our best chances.”

Paxman released the impressive Willard down the left and after beating two defenders in the box his low drive was blocked by the legs of the outstanding Holloway.

When asked where he feels his side at this late stage of pre-season, Saunders, whose side host Southend United on Saturday, replied: “We’re getting there! We’ve got another couple of training sessions this week, Southend at the weekend and then we’ve got a week to prepare for it.

“I think we’re getting there slowly.  I think our fitness levels are getting better. We looked sharper tonight. It will be a good test against Southend but we’re getting there.  There’s a few things we have to work on.

“I don’t think we’re in a bad place, there’s plenty of positives, there’s things that could be better, there always is.”

When asked what tonight means to Sevenoaks Town, Collins replied: “Sometimes people look at what goes on, on the pitch and that’s it and that’s all that club’s focus on, they look at success. 

“What we’ve done here and what we’ve put on and realised it tonight, that’s a massive achievement.  When I’ve gone and left and even when (chairman) Paul Lansdale’s gone and everyone else we’ve actually generated a legacy at Sevenoaks Town Football Club and when the second phase kicks in and we get to where we need to be with the clubhouse, this club has come from absolutely nowhere.  Now it’s got a revenue stream and it's got what we want.”

Sevenoaks Town: Craig Holloway, Marvin Okunalaiye (Steve Camacho 56), Chris Edwards, Jimmy Rogers (Charlie Holness 65), Tom Ripley, Corey Holder, Harrison Carnegie, Solomon Taiwo (Yacine Gnahore 56), Brett Ince (Byron Walker 65), Billy Bennett (Darren Marsden 65), Tom Youngs (Josh Hernandez 56).

Maidstone United: Lee Worgan (Tommy Taylor 81), Seth Nana Twimasi, Joe Anderson (Darren Cooper 77), Stuart Lewis (Reece Prestedge 46), Josh Hare (Josh Dorling 81), Kevin Lokko, Jack Richards, Jai Reason (Harry Phipps 56), Delano Sam-Yorke (Joe Pigott 46), Jack Paxman, Harley Willard.

Goals: Jai Reason 14, 33, Harley Willard 43, Joe Pigott 74

Attendance: 437
Referee: Mr Chris Myatt (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Matt Pollington (Paddock Wood) & Mr Dan Friar (Rainham)
Fourth Official: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester)

Coverage Sponsored by: