Snodland Town 0-2 Bearsted - We know if we win all six games, I think that will probably put you in the play-offs, says Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens

Monday 01st April 2024
Snodland Town 0 – 2 Bearsted
Location Potyn's Sports Field, Snodland Community Centre, Paddlesworth Road, Snodland, Kent ME6 5DP
Kickoff 01/04/2024 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Easter Monday 1 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Paddlesworth Road

BEARSTED manager Kevin Stevens hailed his resilient side’s good solid performance that kept their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division play-off hopes alive, as Snodland Town pulled out of the race for the top five.

A crowd of 170 witnessed a hard-fought local derby, lacking in quality, as Bearsted claimed their second 2-0 victory over their big-spending neighbours to leapfrog over Luke Wallond’s side into eighth-place, six points adrift of the play-off zone with six games remaining.

Striker Eniola Hassan drilled in his fourth goal of the season to give injury-hit Bearsted the lead, before Snodland Town kicked down the slope during the first half and looked certain to level proceedings before substitute winger Robbie Roberts’ deflected strike deep into stoppage time gave Stevens’ men a big three points.

“I thought first 30 minutes we were decent, trying to play on a pitch that isn’t suited to playing obviously, then we lost our way a little bit and I just think the second half we had to grind it out, just had to grind it out,” said Stevens.

“We lost a couple of players, another couple of players through injury, which didn’t help. It was a good, solid performance second half.

“They (my players) worked really hard. We came here with six missing and to lose a couple through injury, again, the pitch is awful.  I know it’s the same for both teams but it’s awful. 

“We just ground out a result today, which is pleasing.”

When asked about his injury list, Stevens admitted ‘it’s huge’, but he believes striker Ollie Freeman (nose operation) and Jordan Tingley (shoulder) will hopefully be available for their next outing.

James Nurden (broken wrist), Colby Waite (ACL) are on the treatment table.

Whitstable Town (losing 3-2 at home to Deal Town) and Snodland Town were the only teams in the top 10 to lose today, as Snodland Town and Punjab United pulled out of the play-off race as they are now nine points adrift of Erith Town.

Deal Town are on course of claiming their first title since Tommy Sampson’s side in 2000, as Steve King’s men have picked up 79 points from their 32 games.

Glebe (74 points with three games remaining), Corinthian (73 points with five remaining), Faversham Town (68 points with five remaining) and Erith Town (65 points with six remaining) hold the play-off places going into the final 27 days of the season.

Whitstable Town (61 points with four remaining), Lydd Town (60 points with six remaining) and Bearsted (59 points) are ready to pounce if Adam Woodward’s Challenge Cup winners slip up.

Wallond failed to make himself available for post-match media duties.

Bearsted started the game on the front foot as they kicked down the slope at Paddlesworth Road – but this game lacked quality and shooting was mainly off-target from both sides.

Left-back Callum McCarthy threw the ball to left-winger Malachi Hudson (playing against his former side) and the ball was worked to Nathan Palmer, who cut onto his right-foot and his 25-yard angled effort sailed harmlessly high and wide of the far post inside the opening nine minutes.

Central midfielder Jack Palmby then switched the ball out to Palmer, who played the ball inside to Hassan, before the ball was laid off to Hudson, who played a short pass back to Palmby, who sliced his left-footed shot past the right-hand post from just outside the D.

“I thought we started really well. If there’s a criticism I think we over-pass sometimes,” admitted Stevens, whose side play-out-from-the-back.

“I think it’s very hard to come away from our (grass) surface, which is really nice and sometimes when you come away, you’ve just got to move the ball a little bit quicker.

“I thought we kept hold of it a little bit too long on a pitch like this is going to bobble away from you at times. I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t move it a little bit quicker.”

Snodland Town missed a glorious chance to grab the lead in the 15th minute, following a set-piece.

Holding midfielder Connor Pring whipped in a quality delivery with his right-foot from the right which sailed in between the two centre-halves for Snodland Town’s centre-half Joel-Michael Odeniran to plant his free-header over the crossbar from 12-yards.

“I’ve just said to the boys at the end, we literally really gave them nothing today and that probably for me, along with one other, was their only decent-ish chance,” said Stevens.

“It’s still hard to put that away but he did get in between the two centre-halves well.”

Bearsted deserved their lead when it arrived with 17 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock, following a well-worked move.

Palmby played the ball inside to Hassan, who swept the ball out to Hudson on the left and he played the ball through to Hassan, who controlled the bobbling ball inside the penalty area before cutting onto his right-foot and drilling his shot across keeper Sam Freeman to find the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

“It was a good little bit of play, that’s what Eniola has got to do more. He’s a terrific player,” said Stevens.

“He’s very creative for us but he’s got to get better putting the ball in the back of the net.

“I thought he took it a little bit too wide but it was a nice little finish in the end.”

The game was mostly a cagey affair and Snodland Town failed to test visiting goalkeeper Frankie Leonard.

Pring delivered a high, hanging delivery from the other side of the pitch in the 34th minute and Ryan Sawyer (who was playing at right-back rather than his usual centre-half position) sent his header past the near-post from a tight angle.

“I thought we kept Snodland really quiet.  We did the same at our place to be fair. With their quality you expect them to create a little bit more than they did but our defence is decent.  We work on it a lot and they’ve kept most teams out for most of the season,” said Stevens.

“We just said (at half-time) they’re going to come at us. We know they’ll go pretty direct down the slope, so we knew what to expect.

“I said don’t drop too deep, keep high. We didn’t want to go further and further back and ended up on the edge of our box winning headers.  Be brave and don’t get their full-backs too much time to clip balls, which I thought we done fairly well.”

Bearsted went close to doubling their lead just 50 seconds into the second half when McCarthy’s throw from the left came out to Palmby, whose shot from the outside of his boot just screamed past the left-hand post from 20-yards.

“As that fell to him, I actually thought it wouldn’t surprise me if Jack put that in. He’s scored a couple like that in the last seven or eight games so he gets in those positions. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite catch it right,” added Stevens.

Holding midfielder Henry Muggeridge floated in a corner from the right towards a crowd of players at the back of the Bearsted penalty area and winger Nathaniel Olawole emerged to steer his header harmlessly wide of the left-hand upright.

Bearsted were putting their bodies on the line to protect their slender lead and centre-half and captain Ryan Blake lead by example by putting in an outstanding performance full of commitment and desire to maintain a clean-sheet.

“Ryan’s been good all season.  I’ve had the (medical team) saying to me so many times this year ‘I can’t play him’, not because he’s got a serious injury, just tight, something’s ready to pull.

“She said ‘if you play him,’ you’ll lose him for four or five games but he’s dug in and just played, fair play.  He just wins every header and leads the team well and he’s had a good season.”

Blake started the game alongside Daniel Melvin but he lasted 30 minutes, suffering concussion following a tussle with Olawole, while Palmby was later forced off with a dislocated shoulder after bravely sliding in to prevent Francis Babalola poking the ball into the goal on the edge of the six-yard box.

Muggeridge started to make things tick for the home side as they were kicked down the slope during the second half.

His dink from within the right-channel saw Olawole skip past Adam Turton before the away side cleared their lines and Muggeridge’s first-time shot from 18-yards cleared the crossbar.

Pring’s dead-ball deliveries were excellent and Sawyer planted his header over the Bearsted crossbar from 12-yards.

Wallond hooked ineffective left-winger Alfie Eldridge in the 59th minute and brought on Ben Davisson in the middle of the park and Snodland Town’s players played with more urgency and desire for the remainder of the game.

Snodland Town were to be denied an equaliser in the 70th minute thanks to a headed goal-line clearance from Bearsted’s substitute centre-half Phillip Headley.

Odeniran launched a long ball out of Snodland’s defence and Blake missed his clearance and Babalola put the ball into the box where Olawole’s looping header dropped over Leonard and Headley got back to save the day in the centre of his goal-line.

“When it happened, I thought ‘that’s safe, the keeper will just gather that’, but it was a good clearance from Phil,” said Stevens.

“Phil came on for Melv when he got injured and I thought Phil was absolutely fantastic today.  He hasn’t played a lot recently because of work and because of different stuff but I thought he was really good when he came on.”

Muggeridge swung in his second of four second corners and the ball was cleared out to Davisson, who recycled the ball back towards the edge of the Bearsted box where Pring’s left-footed shot from inside the D took a deflection and was comfortably gathered in Leonard’s midriff.

“I mean Frankie’s a young keeper, a terrific young keeper, got quality. I don’t expect him to get beaten from there anyway, so he dealt with it nicely,” added Stevens.

Muggeridge’s third corner was hung in from the right and Olawole headed the ball into the ground and watched the ball drop over the crossbar as he aimed for the top far corner of the goal.

Bearsted were hanging on at this point in proceedings but Blake put in an outstanding performance to extend his side’s unbeaten run to four games (drawing their last three games and coming here on a run of six games without a win).

Bearsted should have grabbed their second goal on the counter-attack in the final six minutes.

Quiet striker William Johnson-Cole released Hassan, who cut into the penalty area on the right and only had Freeman to beat but the former Whitehawk and Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper got a feint touch low to his left to ensure the ball flashed just past the foot of the near-post.

“I thought that was going to be 2-0.  I just thought Eniola just touched it a fraction too wide, which created a harder angle for him to score.  The keeper came out and smothered it quite well, so I expected that to be 2-0,” admitted Stevens.

Bearsted’s holding midfielder Turton floated their fourth corner in from the right and substitute Jacob Kalonda screamed in despair after meeting the ball with a header, which flashed past the far post.

The home side were temporarily down to 10 men at the time as Sawyer’s right elbow was covered in blood after using it in an aerial challenge to accidentally flatten Blake, which went unnoticed by referee Andrew Stanford or his assistant Martin Bullock.

Sawyer had to go off the pitch on two occasions to get his elbow taped up, as this hard-fought derby lasted 50:25 in the first half and 58:58 in the second half.

Bearsted substitute Roberts came to life during stoppage time and Stevens’ men took an age to find him in space and his left-footed cross skimmed off Sawyer’s head and was met by Dieko Falade’s head at the back post but his effort from inside the six-yard box flashed wide.

Leonard made a comfortable save (53:05) to prevent Taylor Fisher from scoring with a 30-yard free-kick, before Bearsted hit their hosts with a late sucker-punch, grabbing a flattering second goal with 55:05 on the clock.

Hassan swept the ball from one side of the penalty area to the other and Roberts took a touch before hitting a deflected left-footed drive, which looped over the outstretched arm of Freeman and dropped into the roof of the net.

“Do you know what, Robbie is a terrific player,” hailed Stevens.

“This is his first season playing at this level – after a bad injury.

“Robbie’s a really good player. He’s going to come along and be a really good player for us.  My only thing with him, I said to him a couple of times is his crossing and his finishing. We’re going to work on that and we’re going to work on that big time with him because he’s a quality player.

“I’d like to say he’s listened to me and shot for a change but I’m glad he got it. He deserves that.

Stevens revealed that he attended Snodland Town’s 2-2 home draw against Lordswood at the weekend, while Bearsted’s drawing streak against Holmesdale (1-1), Kennington (1-1) and VCD Athletic (0-0) has come to an end as they became only the fourth team to win at Potyn’s in the League this season.

“I know I keep saying this and it’s no disrespect to Snodland but the playing surface, you’ve got the slope, which makes it like a game of two halves. You’ve got a bobbly, horrible uneven surface, which I actually think hurts them as well as us by the way.  I think they play some good football at times and we said to them (the players) today when we got here, you’re going to have moments when you’ve got to dig in an awful lot here, especially when they’re going down the slope and they turn you and play off seconds and I thought we done that well. We did that really well.”

Bearsted have scored 56 league goals this season, letting in 40.

Stevens admits: “It is just scoring goals for us at times. We do not score goals but we’ll always defend well.  We won’t give a lot away, so fair play to the boys today.”

Snodland Town travel to Punjab United on Saturday, while Steven’s side welcome Stansfeld to Honey Lane.

Stansfeld, who lost 2-1 at Corinthian today, are in the bottom three with 22 points (five wins, seven draws and 23 defeats) and are three points above Rusthall and five above Welling Town, whom still occupy the sole relegation spot.

“I’m surprised where Stansfeld are where they are actually because they always make it hard for you but on our home pitch, nice surface, it plays well for us, I’m expecting a really good performance on Saturday,” said Stevens.

“Six games to go and we know if we win all six games, I think that will probably put you in the play-offs, so there’s no better thing to push for than try to win those six games.

“I think (having promotion play-offs in at this level for the first time has) made for a brilliant season. I think I’ve said to you before when they announced there were play-offs (at this level), I thought it would make the league even harder because I knew teams would push more money at it.

“We’re probably ahead of ourselves than where we expected, if I’m honest and that’s because we’ve got a young squad and a lot that aren’t experienced at this level so we expected to be, we’ll be looking at next year and the year after to be getting play-offs, so we’ll be ahead of ourselves.”

Stevens said being in and around the play-off picture and enjoying their best ever campaign at this level ‘has been fantastic.’

When asked about the prospect of finishing in the top-five, Stevens replied: “It will be huge.  I think if I’m totally honest, we don’t want to drop down and finish seventh, eighth or ninth, even if we miss the play-offs.

“I want to try to be top of the rest, if you like, but it will be a great achievement, a massive achievement, especially with the young squad we’ve got.”

Snodland Town: Sam Freeman, Ryan Sawyer, Taylor Fisher, Connor Pring (Ainsley Linton 73), Joel-Michael Odeniran, Robbie Bissett (Ashley Sains 89), Alfie Eldridge (Ben Davisson 59), Henry Muggeridge, Francis Babalola, Tariq Ibrahim, Nathaniel Olawole.
Subs: Scott Andrews, Artem Kuchkov

Booked: Joel-Michael Odeniran 90

Bearsted: Frankie Leonard, Dennis Agbudume, Callum McCarthy (Conrad Lee 89), Adam Turton, Ryan Blake, Daniel Melvin (Phillip Headley 30), Malachi Hudson (Robbie Roberts 65), Jack Palmby (Jacob Kalonda 64), William Johnson-Cole, Eniola Hassan, Nathan Palmer (Dieko Falade 69).

Goals: Eniola Hassan 18, Robbie Roberts 90

Booked: Ryan Blake 57, Callum McCarthy 76, William Johnson-Cole 90, Kevin Stevens (manager) 90

Attendance: 170
Referee: Mr Andrew Stanford
Assistants: Mr Matthew Williams & Mr Martin Bullock