Sheppey United 3-2 AFC Croydon Athletic - The FA Cup raises the profile of the club, says Sheppey United boss Ernie Batten

Saturday 05th August 2017
Sheppey United 3 – 2 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Holm Park, St Peters Close, Queenborough Road, Halfway, Sheerness, Kent ME12 3BD
Kickoff 05/08/2017 15:00

The Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Saturday 5th August 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Holm Park

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says there will be more interest in the club after winning their first FA Cup tie in 17 years today.

The Ites knocked out their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division rivals AFC Croydon Athletic by winning an enthralling Extra Preliminary Round tie at Holm Park.

Batten’s men can now look forward to a mouthwatering Preliminary Round home tie against Bostik South side Hastings United on 19 August.

Winger, Timmy Babbington, 21, produced a moment of sublime quality, cracking a dipping, curling drive into the top corner from 35-yards, before striker Dan Bradshaw pounced on some poor defending to double their lead inside the opening 24 minutes.

AFC Croydon Athletic pulled a goal back through striker Nahum Green’s finish, but they had a mountain to climb when Trey Williams increased Sheppey’s lead after only 110 seconds into the second half.

The Rams accepted a lifeline through Green’s second goal of the game but luck deserted them when it really mattered and Sheppey United held out for the £1,500 in prize money.

“First of all, I thought it was a terrific game of football, there was every aspect going on there.   There were good goals, there was lots of movement. I thought at times we played some great football, created lots of chances against a good side,” said Batten afterwards.

“I thought AFC were good, physical and they were disciplined and they were dangerous themselves and they hit the post in the end. We hit the bar with Dan Bradshaw’s header so there was lots of incident, lots of good football and it could have been 6-5 in the end if all of the chances had gone in.

“I’ve just said in the changing room, it’s a typical exciting FA Cup tie that we used to see years ago.  I was really pleased with the win and I thought it was a terrific game for the fans.”

AFC Croydon Athletic boss Kevin Rayner rued his side’s bad luck and poor defensive play when it really mattered.

“I think we’re a bit unlucky today. There was not a lot between us, I think. We’ve given them two goals from mistakes, which doesn’t often happen,” said Rayner, now in his second season with the club.

“Tom Penson, for their second goal, he sort of miskicked it straight to the forward and that’s put them 2-0 up and then we’re chasing but I think the lads didn’t give up and chased hard and got ourselves back in it.

“Straight after half-time we made it hard again with another poor goal we gave away but they kept going. I think we were a little bit unlucky not to get something out of the game.”

AFC Croydon Athletic left-back Tom Penson had a poor game as he allowed Tom Loynes to cut the ball inside for Hicham Akhazzan, the former Sittingbourne stalwart flashing his left-footed angled drive past the far post from 25-yards after 129 seconds.

Luck deserted AFC Croydon Athletic when Green released striker Edison Teberen down the left channel and he cut into the box before his shot was blocked and skipper Morgan Jenden dragged his shot across the keeper only to see the ball kiss the foot of the far post.

“We didn’t get any luck today.  The pleasing thing today was Sheppey are a decent side and I think we competed and looked as good as much as they did. We’re just a little bit disappointed, just a bit frustrated,” said Rayner.

Batten added: “We set up our shape to be very, very attacking and I thought AFC took advantage of that in terms of their counter-attacking so they used the ball extremely well and it works both ways. On the other side of the coin I thought we were expansive in our play and it was kind of end-to-end and a squash buckling Cup tie.”

Williams’ cross was cleared out to Remell Davis but the central midfielder stroked his left-footed drive into the hands of former Croydon keeper Francis Ameyaw from 20-yards.

Sheppey United started on the front foot and Babbington was at the forefront of their good attacking play.

He wrapped his foot around the ball down the touchline to whip in a great deep cross, which was knocked across goal by Bradshaw but Akhazzan saw his free header loop over the crossbar from four-yards.

“Yes, our early play really was terrific and could’ve had a couple of goals in the first 15 minutes,” added Batten.

It was only a matter of time that Sheppey United notched a deserved lead and when it arrived with 16 minutes and 13 seconds, Babbington’s strike would have graced the Wembley Final next May.

Holding midfielder Luke Girt rolled the ball out to Babbington, who was allowed to cut inside and crack his right-footed shot, which screamed over, dipped and curled over Ameyaw’s hands into the top left-hand corner from 35-yards.

“Timmy’s a classic type of winger that he can be quiet and then he can burst into life at any moment,” said Batten.

“I’ve seen him do that before. He cuts in and have a good shot. I’ve seen him put them out of the ground as well, come down with snow on them. It was a sweet, sweet strike and a great effort.”

Rayner said: “It wasn’t a bad goal but we gave him too much time and space to do what he liked with the ball.

“Other than that, the other two goals were mistakes from us basically which normally wouldn’t happen.”

Rams skipper Jenden was also allowed to cut inside on to his right-foot but his 30-yard shot lacked the same quality and former Cray Valley keeper Jordan Carey made a comfortable save.

Sheppey United accepted a gift as they deservedly increased their lead, the goal timed at 23 minutes and 37 seconds.

Tom Brunt, who was playing on the right of a three-man defence, floated over a deep free-kick to pick out Babbington on the other side of the box.  He skipped past Ehis Izokun to reach the penalty area and cut his cross, which Ameyaw failed to cut out.  However, left-back Penson kicked the ball straight into Bradshaw’s path, who swept his shot into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards.

“That’s Dan’s bread and butter in there. He’s in and around the six-yard box waiting for any bits in there so that was a standard goal for Dan,” said Batten.

“I thought we deserved to get in that position with our play and I thought that period was really good and there was a period when we got a bit over confident in terms of we lacked a little bit of discipline in our positional play and that allowed Croydon back in the game.”

Rayner said: “Tom Penson is pretty reliable. He’s put his hands up, his miskicked it, tried to clear the ball and went straight to their forward for the second and the third goal we had the ball. We know why we’ve lost the game today, it’s those two errors.

“It’s frustrating really, they haven’t really done an awful lot to be 2-0 up in my book but we were still in the game.  I thought if we could get one we’d have a good go. We did thankfully. It’s just disappointing to concede straight after half-time!”

AFC Croydon Athletic showed character and their response was immediate, pulling a goal back with 26 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Izokun produced a quality through ball which split open Sheppey’s defence to put Teberen through on goal.  He drilled his shot from inside the right-hand side of the box which Carey dived to his right to push away but Green was the only man to react and he took a touch before rifling his right-footed shot into the empty goal from six-yards.

Rayner said: “Yes, it was a good finish. I think we deserved that goal anyhow to get ourselves back in it.  The turning point really was a minute after half-time, we’re not concentrating, gave away a silly goal and then trying to get that goal back.”

Batten said: “I thought we pushed on a bit too far at times in our play and we left ourselves a little bit open but sometimes you can’t have it all.  We went out and tried to win the game, which we done and we did get caught a couple of times on the counter-attack.”

Penson played the ball inside to Kaffo who teed up Emmanuel Oloyede, but his left-footed shot from 30-yards bounced once into Carey’s hands for a comfortable collection.

Carey, however, was fully tested in the 38th minute when he got down low to his left to prevent Oloyede drilling a low right-footed drive into the corner from 25-yards.

Rayner said: “It was a good save in the end.  Luck on the day isn’t it? On another day that may go in or we may get the rebound.”

Batten said: “He done ok Jordan, he’s a young lad, he’s learning the game. We’re hoping that he goes on with us and carves out a career for himself but he’s a young goalkeeper with lots of learn of course but he’s very willing and he’s very dedicated in doing that.”

Both teams had pace up front, both team’s struggled in the middle of the park and often the ball bypassed this area.

Sheppey United had one last chance to kill the game off just before the break when Davis drove forward through the heart of the pitch and released Babbington through on goal but the big frame of the advancing Ameyaw insured the shot rolled harmlessly wide.

Rayner said: “I think Francis is a good keeper. The first goal he may have done better, may not, but it’s poor when you give two goals away.  Francis has done well.”

Ameyaw plucked Akhazzan’s free-kick out of the air but his distribution was poor and Loynes’ curler from outside the box curled around the far post, before another shot from Davis from outside the box flashed wide.

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts at the break.

“I was a little bit disappointed that we’ve gone 2-1 when we really could’ve been out of sight with our first half performance,” said Batten.

“We had to change the shape a little bit in the second half, we spoke about that. We were a bit more disciplined.  We had three in the middle and we felt that two of them, instead of one going in the hole, two were going in there leaving us open on the counter so we sorted it out there.”

Rayner added: “Just trying to keep in it for the next 15 minutes. We knew we had a couple of good forwards on the bench.  Unfortunately they scored within two minutes, it ruins the plans. It took us 10 minutes or so to settle us back down.”

Sheppey United struck the top of the far post after only 63 seconds into the second half as Girt strode forward with the ball, Bradshaw’s flicked released Williams and his superb cross was met by Bradshaw’s towering hanging header, which sailed across goal to clip the woodwork.

“It was great. Dan craned his neck there trying to knock that back across the goal. It was a great move and a very close affair, it could’ve been a goal,” added Batten.

But the home fans didn’t have long to wait for their side to despatch their third goal.

It was a move created in Sittingbourne as Loynes played right-back Tom Brunt on the overlap to reach the by-line and he cut the ball back across goal for Williams to slid in to poke the ball into the net from six-yards.

“Trey’s come in today for us, we’ve signed him and I thought his movement was good today. He put himself around, made some good runs and received the ball and deserved the goal,” added Batten.

Rayner added: “It’s the moment before that, we’ve got the ball! Francis given it to Tom and he’s not concentrating and he’s knocked it out of play and they’ve taken a quick throw and we’ve fallen asleep. It’s a poor goal.

“For 10 minutes or so we had to regroup.  We was under a lot of pressure but once we got back into the game I thought we dominated the rest of the game as the team that seemed likely to score again, which was us and they got the third goal.”

Ameyaw was called into action as Sheppey United started the second half on the front foot.

Akhazaan played a one-two with Girt and Williams easily turned Jack Higgins, who was slow at the heart of the Rams defence and drilled a right-footed drive from 25-yards, which the keeper pushed over with both hands.

Rayner said: “He got in space, we were pushing forwards. It was their only chance really, I think.  The last sort of 25 minutes of the game we had a go so they were going to have the odd moment where we’re exposed.  I thought we pretty much dominated the last 20 minutes and a bit unfortunate not to get the third goal.”

AFC Croydon Athletic scored their second goal with nine minutes and 33 seconds on the clock, courtesy of one long diagonal ball and a composed finish.

Striker Andy Walker suffered a frustrating game up until this point but he hit a long diagonal ball from the right-hand side, just inside the Sheppey half, which picked out Green. It appeared that his first touch was too heavy, but he brought the ball under his control to dink the ball over the keeper bouncing into the empty goal from a tight angle from eight-yards.

“It’s a good finish,” said Rayner.

“He was on all the time that side. He took the beating of, I think, Tom Brunt out there, whoever was out there, he had the beating off all day.  We were trying to get him on the ball as much as possible but he had another good chance, either the keeper saved it or he got shut down.  He was causing a lot of problems that side.”

Batten added: “I think again, it was a counter-attacking move, a ball into the diagonal area. When we’ve got three at the back, it’s a new system for us, we’re still learning it. We’ve got ourselves a little bit exposed at the far post and the guy’s nipped in, it was a good finish to be fair to him.”

Sheppey United were wasteful when Babbington’s fine pass put Bradshaw through on goal but he rolled his shot just past the foot of the far post with only the advancing keeper to beat.

“You’re kind of hoping when it’s 3-2 and on a knife edge, when you do get the next goal you get it 4-2. If we had got that, I think we’d have been more settled,” added Batten.

Batten made a tactical change by moving Brunt inside to partner substitute Kwasi Amoah in the middle of a back-four as James Huggens came on at right-back in an attempt to nullify Green’s threat down the left.

Bradshaw’s low shot was gobbled up by Ameyaw, after being put through on goal by Williams at the halfway point of the second half.

AFC Croydon Athletic threw more men forward, switching formation to 4-3-3, even 4-2-4 as they went in search of an equaliser inside the final 10 minutes.

All three of their corners came in the final seven minutes. Two deep corners from Green were met by two Higgins headers, which the number five steered wide.

AFC Croydon Athletic’s big moment to grab an equaliser arrived seven seconds into time added on.

Kaffo played the ball up to substitute Carlton Murray-Price, who played Walker through on goal but his right-footed shot flashed across last-man Carey to agonisingly bounce off the far post before the relieved keeper grabbed hold of the ball on the deck.

Rayner said: “We had a forward standing there, it just bounced the other side of him. If it bounces to him we’re 3-3 but like I say Sheppey have had their luck today and we haven’t so that’s what it boils down to.”

Batten admitted: “I think that’s what they say ‘luck of the Cup’.  I think if you’re going to win the Cup you need moments like that to happen to go for you.”

What, Sheppey United, a club in the ninth tier of English football to win The FA Cup?

“Of course, we go to win every competition we’re in, so we’ll be going for that flat out to try to win it,” came Batten’s reply.

The last time Sheppey United won a FA Cup tie was when they beat Hampshire side BAT Sports 5-4 on penalties at home after a Preliminary Round replay finished 2-2 after extra time back in the year 2000.

“Is it really? 17 years! That’s good data there,” came Batten’s reply.

“As you know the story, Sheppey went out of business didn’t they. We’re back now. It’s great to be holding these games and hosting them and the whole thing’s fantastic for the club and to play Hastings in the next round for me myself, I played all my best football down at Hastings.  I had six years down there so it will be a special day for me.

“I wouldn’t put it past us to knock them out here.  There will be a big crowd here, they’ll bring a few. I wouldn’t put it past us, on our day, anything could happen. I think we’ll have a good chance.

“I think winning today is massive for us. It just means there’s more interest in the club. We’ve got a plum tie, Hastings United at home and it continues to raise the profile of the club from where we’ve come three years ago so it’s amazing really.”

AFC Croydon Athletic have not hosted a FA Cup tie and have now lost to Colliers Wood (twice), Erith & Belvedere, Horsham YMCA and now Sheppey United in the past five seasons at this stage of the competition.

“But we’ve had away draws every game. It was a bit more even today the scoreline, so that’s a positive. It was a tough game but we done fairly well and didn’t deserve to lose,” added Rayner.

Sheppey United: Jordan Carey, Tom Brunt, Remell Davis (George Batten 78), Luke Girt, Jon Ralph, Rob Saunders (Kwasi Amoah 42), Tom Loynes (James Huggens 61), Hicham Akhazzan, Dan Bradshaw, Trey Williams, Timmy Babbington.
Subs: Stuart King, Jack Mahoney, Tom Montgomery, James Coppins

Goals:  Timmy Babbington 17, Dan Bradshaw 24, Trey Williams 47

Booked:  Luke Girt 39, Jordan Carey 72

AFC Croydon Athletic: Francis Ameyaw, Ehis Izokun (Carlton Murray-Price 86), Tom Penson, Junior Kaffo, Jack Higgins, Ibrahim Kallon, Emmanuel Oloyede (Victor Lazari 85), Morgan Jenden, Andy Walker, Edison Teberen (Jack Guilford 59), Nahum Green.
Subs: Dan Burnett, Ben Rayner, Adnan Ali, Leigh Wise

Goals:  Nahum Green 27, 55

Attendance: 263
Referee: Mr Remi Olopade (Romford, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Kevin Preston (Romford, Essex) & Mr Gavin Bailey (Dagenham, Essex)

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