Snodland Town 0-0 Rochester United - I think we've got a chance of getting in the play-offs, says tenth-placed Rochester United boss Matt Hume
Snodland Town 0 – 0 Rochester United
|Location||Potyn's Sports Field, Snodland Community Centre, Paddlesworth Road, Snodland, Kent ME6 5DP|
SNODLAND TOWN 0-0 ROCHESTER UNITED
Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Wednesday 2 March 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Paddlesworth Road
ROCHESTER UNITED chairman/manager Matt Hume believes his side can grab a place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division play-offs after holding fourth-placed Snodland Town to a goalless draw.
Both sides created chances to win it but a lack of quality in front of goal ensured this hard-fought local derby ended in a goal-less stalemate at Potyn’s.
Sutton Athletic – who knocked Premier Division side Holmesdale out of the Challenge Cup to reach the Semi-Finals courtesy of a 1-0 win at Oakley Road tonight thanks to Arlie Desanges’ 34th goal of the season – are top of the pile with 57 points with 11 games remaining.
The play-offs are currently occupied by Stansfeld (53 points with 14 games remaining), Tooting Bec (53 points with 11 remaining), Snodland Town (51 points with nine remaining) and Bridon Ropes (50 points with 11 remaining).
Rochester United remain in tenth-place with 39 points on the board but have 13 games left to play, extending their unbeaten run in the league to 10 games and last suffered a league defeat back on the 4 December.
Snodland Town went into this local derby with patchy form, having picked up nine points from their last six league games.
“It was a tough game. I don’t think we started particularly well but I give Snodland credit for that. I think they came out and were very lively and asked questions of us at the back,” said Hume.
“I think in balance it was a good nil-nil. I think both teams had good chances throughout the game, maybe towards the end we could’ve nicked it but they had a couple of good chances in the first-half.
“Typically, it was a well hard-fought game. I don’t think it was a great lot of football in the first-half at different times.”
Snodland Town manager Luke Wallond added: “It was a bit of a battle to be honest. I think we probably edged it. We had a few chances we probably should’ve put away and those things get a result for you.
“We had a couple of chances first-half. I think if we bury them we would’ve been one, maybe two up.
“Rochester battled hard, they played quite well, we played quite well and I think in the end it was a bit of a stalemate and a bit of a battle in the wet conditions.
“For the last four or five weeks we’ve been a bit inconsistent at times. We’ve picked up three points on Saturday (by beating Westside here 3-1), tonight, obviously I didn’t want to lose. Rochester will be up there if they win their games in hand so yes, a point gained but potentially we could’ve got the three.”
The key battleground of the middle was packed by both sides, with Snodland playing a 4-5-1 formation and relying on the pace of nine-goal lone striker Caine Smith.
Snodland Town were the more dominant side during a lively first-half and created their first opening inside eight minutes.
Bradley Webb swung in a right-footed free-kick from within the left-channel but Smith got underneath the ball and steered his free-header over the crossbar at the far post from four-yards.
Webb whipped in a high, hanging corner from the left towards the back post where centre-half Ashley Cooper’s downward header lacked power and debutant Rochester United goalkeeper Jamie Kelly made a comfortable save.
Kelly, making his debut because Ben Nourse is serving a two-match ban, excelled in the 17th minute when he prevented Snodland Town from taking a deserved lead.
A ball was played from within a congested midfield to split open the two centre-halves (Robbie Summerhayes and Lewis Cook) to put Smith through on goal but Kelly came off his line and made a vital block with his legs.
Wallond said: “I think any other time that goes in from Caine. He’s been out with a ban for the last few weeks, maybe he’s a bit rusty. It was unfortunate. Caine has a lot of chances and normally scores from those chances but today wasn’t his day.”
Hume added: “I just said in the dressing room after the game what a major plus that was.
“When you bring a goalkeeper into a new side, he obviously doesn’t know anyone. We’ve got a particular way of playing at the back but we’ve gone through what we wanted him to do and he executed it brilliantly throughout the game. He made some really good saves for us throughout the game – he was excellent!”
Rochester United created their only real goalscoring chance of the first-half just 145 seconds later.
Former Ashford United striker Levi Gold cut into the Snodland box from the right but goalkeeper Shaun Wickes came off his line and bravely smothered the ball at the quiet striker’s feet and Rex Ejimonuyeabala failed on two occasions to put the ball in the back of an empty goal from 12-yards.
“I don’t think we created much in the first-half,” admitted Hume.
“I was disappointed with our pressing because we’re very good at working hard in those areas and today I did have some harsh words with him at half-time about our work-rate and picking up second bits and pieces.
“I think second half we definitely upped that a lot more but yes I agree I think in the first-half Snodland probably had the better of the chances or better quality chances and I think we had a couple of chances had it fallen for us better it could’ve easily been a goal for us as well but on balance, pretty even.”
Wallond added: “Shaun is always brave. The last couple of weeks he’s been superb. He’s been superb for most of the season.”
Rochester United winger Liam Wilkins’ second corner of the game was cleared out and shortly afterwards Tony Whitaker put the ball into the box towards the back post where Summerhayes steered a difficult header looping over the crossbar, while aiming for the top far corner.
Snodland Town were to be denied again, this time by a superb double save from Kelly in the 29th minute.
The impressive left-winger Daniel Ashton charged forward going on a 50-yard run before the ball fell to Webb, who stroked a right-footed low drive towards the bottom left-hand corner. Kelly dived to his right and used a strong right hand to push the ball away and ensured he prevented Smith from scoring from the rebound.
“Dan gives me 100% week-in-week-out. He wins his headers and tackles and he wears one of those GPS vests that tracks him and he’s doing a lot of k’s every time he plays,” revealed Wallond.
Snodland’s centre-half Adam Hooper launched a free-kick from the half-way line down the left-channel and Webb chested the ball down before cracking a looping right-footed volley whistling just past the far post from 30-yards.
“It was moving in the air and from (the dug-out) when someone hits it like that you think ‘blimey, could it be? Could it be? And it wasn’t quite,” added Wallond.
Rochester United right-back Tom Webb whipped in a cross with his left-foot towards the near post where big targetman Lucas Payne’s downward header from inside the six-yard box was picked up by Wickes.
Ashton found himself in a central position and played the ball out to Webb on the left but he dragged his first-time angled drive flashing harmlessly past the far post at the other end.
Snodland Town’s holding midfielder Ben Davisson, a recent capture following his departure from Sevenoaks Town, showed some class and should have smashed the deadlock at the end of the half.
Webb’s hanging corner came in from the left was cleared out to Davisson, who shifted the ball past Wilkins outside the box and as space opened up in front of him his low left-footed drive towards the bottom corner from 22-yards was held by the outstanding Kelly, low to his right.
“He’s a good signing Ben, thing’s weren’t what he wanted at Sevenoaks and he wanted to come over and he’s on board so it’s a great addition this time of the season,” said Wallond.
“Ben gives us a bit of experience, he’s calm on the ball, he wants to play football and he helps everyone around the pitch by being vocal.”
Wallond said: “At half-time I said ‘boys, superb first-half and carry on as you are,’
“First 5-10 I felt Rochester would come out and at us. They were quite vocal in their changing room at half-time so I knew they’d come out all guns blazing.”
Hume said: “Very harsh (words were said at half-time) because we’ve been playing so well and we’ve had a tough month.
“At Christmas we started fourth-from-bottom and we’ve got a run together and we got our confidence up but we’ve done it by playing a certain way and we have to keep working hard.
“Today, I felt first-half we didn’t put that to practice as well as we have done so I had to give them a little bit of a harsh talk, probably the first one that I’ve had to do for them but they’re a great bunch of lads, they reacted in a really positive manner and I think second half we went out and performed a lot better.”
Rochester United were kicking down the slope for the second half and both sides put in plenty of graft but were lacking when it really mattered in front of goal.
Snodland’s right-back Sammy Swift launched a long throw into the Rochester box but Ashton steered his header wide inside the opening four minutes.
However, both sides had chances to smash the deadlock on the hour-mark.
Kelly launched a free-kick straight down the middle of the pitch and Payne’s speculative half-volley from 35-yards brought a comfortable save from the Snodland keeper.
Wickes smashed the resulting kick straight down the middle, the ball was flicked on by Ashton and put Smith through on goal.
Keeper Kelly came out and clattered into the striker and the ball trickled towards the open goal but Rochester’s centre-half Cook rushed back to clear the ball a couple of yards from the goal-line.
Wallond claimed: “I think when Caine was through on goal, the goalie came out rushing towards him and I think to the point he was more worried about the goalie whacking him than getting on the ball because I don’t think the goalie was near the ball.”
Hume simply added: “I thought Lewis was superb today.”
Rochester United’s best moments were when they got the ball out wide and Webb whipped in a cross towards the near post but Payne steered his near-post header just wide from eight-yards in the 62nd minute.
Rochester United missed a glorious chance to smash the deadlock seven minutes later.
Kelly kicked the ball straight down the middle and Ejimonyeabala played the ball out to Wilkins on the right and he put in a tricky low cross which cut across the corridor of uncertainty and Gold should have buried the chance at the far post instead of poking the ball straight at Wickes.
“I felt as the game went on, it might be me being biased because you tend to watch what good things you’re doing, I think towards the end of the game we started to create little chances and little openings from balls out wide,” said Hume.
Wallond added: “Another great one by Shaun, brave again. That’s what Levi does, he gets his chances and nine times out of 10 he’ll score and if you limit him through the game, you’ve done well there and we’ve limited him that one and it could’ve been a goal and 1-0 to Rochester.”
Rochester United continued to press for a late winner, throwing caution to the wind and were the more likely side to go on and win the game.
Emilio Regini-Moran released Luise Dos Santos (both subs) down the left and he cut the ball back for Payne, who poked his shot straight at Wickes from 10-yards in the 85th minute.
Summerhayes and Payne both lacked composure in front of goal and fired shots straight at Wickes at the death.
“I’d say we probably had three or four good chances in the latter part of the half when we could’ve easily nicked it. I think it maybe have been unfair but I think on balance nil-nil was probably a fair result,” admitted Hume.
“He (Payne) had a couple and on another day he might score but he didn’t but tonight he didn’t connect properly and Shaun done well and in the end it wasn’t too dangerous,” said Wallond.
Rochester United welcome 12th placed Westside to Rede Court Road on Saturday, a side that have won just one of their last seven games.
“That doesn’t mean nothing as far as I’m concerned,” said Hume.
“One thing I’ve learnt so far, I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the top of the league and the bottom of the league. We’ve found it just as hard to beat teams that are lower than us as we have as we have higher up.
“If we conduct ourselves in the right manner and work really hard we should win but as we’ve shown against Faversham Strike Force (in our 4-4 draw) the other day we dropped points there as well, so we’ve got to respect every team we play. We’ve got to work really hard and to maintain what we’re doing, it’s going to be a tough call.
“I think we’ve got a chance of getting in the play-offs but it’s exciting for the lads. We’ve got to take each game as it comes but we’ve got to five every bit of commitment in each game to get something out of it.
“I think we’ve got to believe we can (finish in the play-off zone) until the points say we can’t. The lads believe they can. I will always believe we can until it’s mathematically impossible.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get this run of form put together earlier because I think if we had done and played as well as we have since Christmas, I’m sure we’d be amongst it but we’ve just got to take every game as an individual thing, focus on that and just concentrate on each game and then in three or four weeks, we’ll see, let’s see.
“I’ve learnt in football don’t get too high when you win and don’t get too low when you’re losing.
“The lads’ have got loads to play for and they’re playing like they can get in there and I believe the league is so open.”
Snodland Town, meanwhile, welcome Forest Hill Park here on Saturday, with Darrell Queeley’s side second-bottom in the division, having collected five wins and six draws from their 24 games.
“They’re the sticky ones. Sometimes you go (and play the) top five teams and you know what’s going to turn up. Sometimes the teams near the bottom maybe (they suffer from) a little bit of inconsistency during the season and they can turn up any Saturday they want to turn up,” warned Wallond.
Croydon (47 points) and Larkfield & New Hythe (46) are two clubs that will want to have a say in the play-off race come the end of the season.
Wallond said: “For me this is my first proper season here, my first season got cut short because of Covid.
“This season, I said to the chairman and he said ‘what do you think? What do you not think? I said I’d like to get into the top five because whenever I want to do anything, I want to do the best we can.
“We’re sitting there currently. If you said at the start of the season, an outsider might go Snodland (should be) midtable and I think we’re up there with the big boys and hopefully we can stay there, we’re doing superb.
“If we can stay in the top five, that’s our goal. There’s a long way to go, there’s team below who have games in hand, like Rochester and Larkfield.”
Snodland Town: Shaun Wickes, Sammy Swift, Jason Hayes, Ben Davisson, Adam Hooper, Ashley Cooper, Daniel Ashton, Bradley Webb, Caine Smith (Edward Hodges 90), Edward Rosetti, Sean Adams.
Subs: Ben Holder, James West, Jake Bates, James Bush
Booked: Caine Smith 77
Rochester United: Jamie Kelly, Tom Webb, Max Ciano (Luise Dos Santos 73), Tony Whitaker, Robbie Summerhayes, Lewis Cook, Rex Ejimonyeabala, Harrison Hume, Levi Gold, Lucas Payne, Liam Wilkins (Emilio Regini-Moran 79).
Subs: Ben Wyness, Charlie Dale, Samuel Miles
Booked: Max Ciano 56, Tom Webb 90
Referee: Mr James Beadle
Assistants: Mr Mark Relf & Mr Santosh Raj Pandey