Snodland Town 4-1 Sutton Athletic - We’ll just see how far we can get and go as far as we can in The FA Vase, says Snodland Town boss Luke Wallond

Saturday 25th September 2021
Snodland Town 4 – 1 Sutton Athletic
Location Potyn's Sports Field, Snodland Community Centre, Paddlesworth Road, Snodland, Kent ME6 5DP
Kickoff 25/09/2021 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 25 September 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Paddlesworth Road

SNODLAND TOWN manager Luke Wallond says his chairman will be very happy that the club has reached The FA Vase First Round for the second time after pulling off an upset to beat their league rivals Sutton Athletic.

Daniel Kelly’s side arrived at Potyn’s sitting in fifth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table with 15 points from six games, while Snodland Town were in sixteenth-place (bottom five) with eight points from nine games and haven’t won a league game in six.

Snodland’s lone striker Lee Friend curled in an early goal before a howler from goalkeeper Shaun Wicks gifted their Hextable-based opponents an equaliser as winger Conor Evans notched his fourth goal of the season.

Snodland Town put in a vastly improved second-half performance and Friend notched his eleventh goal of the season from the penalty spot, before the same three players were involved in two well-worked corner routines, which were headed home by central midfielder Edward Rosetti.

Snodland Town came away from their league rivals Westfield with a 2-1 win in the First Qualifying Round, while Sutton Athletic saw off Newhaven 4-2 at Lower Road.

“Great result. They’re doing really well in the league, beat Boasted (on penalties after a 4-4 draw in the Kent Senior Trophy Preliminary Round) in the week.  To beat them 4-1, yes, it was a good result,” said Wallond.

“They played the ball about well, they moved it fast, they’ve got a lot of good players. At half-time we sort of switched onto that and made the second half a bit more comfortable.

“I thought they’re one of the best footballing sides we’ve come across. They move and they pass it about well. They’re organised and it took us by shock because a few of the other teams have been rough and tumble and who wins what, big battles and today was more about football.

“The first 45 minutes was hard.  We spoke at half-time and we worked out what they’ve done, what they didn’t do and it made our lives a lot easier.”

Sutton Athletic coach Tristan Cropley added: “It’s always disappointing when you lose, especially in the FA Vase. It’s one of those competitions for Step Five and Six, a realistic chance to get to Wembley and against a side in our own division, so yes disappointing is the overall feeling.

“The way that they played was very effective and took the lead through that. In the second half we tried to get the ball down and play but it just wasn’t to be. They took their chances and we had half chances and didn’t really take them.”

Sutton Athletic played an attractive brand of passing football on the deck and it took them only 20 seconds to create their first opening.

Snodland Town gave the ball away as they tried to play out from the back and eleven-goal striker Arlie Desanges stroked a speculative right-footed drive towards goal from 35-yards, which was comfortably gathered by Wicks.

Cropley said: “I think with Arlie he’s 100% blood and guts. He wins a lot of half-way line balls particularly when they were going long. He was looking for legs around him really, so he can be the main man but if he hasn’t got legs around him there’s not much more he can do. He can win the first ball but we just have to make sure we’re there for the second.”

Wallond added: “We kept him comfortable. It wasn’t his day. He looked like he’s a good player and maybe didn’t get the rub of the green today.”

Snodland Town’s right-winger Daniel Ashton was a threat during the game and he did well to beat three defenders on the edge of the box before heading the ball over to an unmarked Friend, who powered his free-header over the crossbar from close to the penalty spot.

“Lee Friend has a lot of chances, scores a lot of goals.  I think because it’s him and how many he’s scored and how many he’ll keep scoring, I think every time he gets the ball you expect him to score and sometimes I have to just ignore the fact that I expect him to score every time and let him get away with one or two,” said Wallond.

However, Snodland Town went direct as they took the lead with seven minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Former Lordswood centre-half Charlie Plummer was the weak link within the Sutton Athletic back four and he was guilty of making a costly mistake in the build-up.

Ashton clipped a long ball forward which Plummer failed to deal with and Friend turned the towering presence and cut onto his right-foot before curling a sublime shot across the keeper and bouncing into the far corner from 25-yards out.

“To be honest, that’s what he does. That’s why he’s an important player for us,” said Wallond.

“When you’ve got a striker that has one chance and scores and it’s a tight game, it changes games and we’ve had that against us a few times.” 

Cropley added: “He (Plummer) should’ve won the header, probably should’ve won the header. As a defender he’ll be disappointed with that, that Charlie didn’t clear the first header.

“We knew that was the way that they would play and they did and they got in and scored and actually it was a well finished shot to be fair but after that I think we wised up to that and I think Charlie then started winning the headers and we were then winning second balls but we knew it was coming, it came and then we had to respond to it really.”

Sutton Athletic’s holding midfielder Dan Gunner clipped a ball over the top to put Desanges through on goal but his right-footed hooked shot from a tight angle was comfortably gobbled up by Wicks at his near post.

Both sides won five corners-a-piece and Sutton Athletic went close from their first flag kick in the 20th minute.

Gunner floated a deep corner towards the back post where Desanges hung his header back across goal and sailing past the far post from eight-yards.

Snodland Town goalkeeper Wicks was called into action in the 26th minute, a good save from behind a crowd of players following a set-piece.

Snodland centre-half Adam Hooper chopped down James Sutherland down the right channel and Gunner cut the resulting free-kick back towards the edge of the box where Evans swept a first-time shot through a crowd of players from 16-yards, taking a slight deflection and the ball bouncing just in front of Wicks, who dived low to his right to push the ball behind for a corner.

Cropley said: “It sort of spilled around a bit, bobbled around and I saw it go out. I just think it’s one of them where just a toe or a knee or a thigh and it goes in but it was frustrating.

“I think with this team and you could see that in midweek, four-four against Bearsted, when we go a goal down we don’t panic and we didn’t.”

Wallond added: “He does that quite a lot, there’s a few times that he’s saved us when they possibly could’ve scored.  That’s why we like him here. He’s a really good goalie. 

“I tried having him the season before and he went elsewhere but that’s how it happens, we’ve got him and we’re glad to have him.”

Gunner hit a long diagonal from inside the Sutton half which split open Snodland’s right-back Sammy Swift and Evans cut into the box but his attempt on goal skimmed the head off centre-half Wheeler and Wicks easily gathered the bouncing ball.

Swift’s long throw from the right was launched into the Sutton penalty area and Ashton flicked his near-post header straight into the hands of the visiting keeper.

However, a poor piece of goalkeeping from Wicks gifted Sutton Athletic a deserved equaliser, timed at 31 minutes and 39 seconds.

Sutton Athletic delivered a nice move on the deck which involved Gunner playing the ball into Christopher Page, who feed Evans before Gunner stabbed the ball to winger Leon Thomas who played the ball inside to Page, who poked the ball into Evans, who stroked a weak left-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from a central position 20-yards from goal.

Wicks stepped to his left and crouched down in an attempt to scoop the ball up, however, he allowed the ball slip through his fingers, the ball nestling apologetically inside the bottom right-hand corner.

“They all count, don’t they?” admitted Cropley.

“What you can say about that goal, that sums it up. You’ve seen four or five players there so when we play football, we don’t go A to Z. We play through the team. It was a team goal and if you get it on target, the keeper has got to make a save and unfortunately for them, he didn’t.”

Wallond said: “Not ideal, not ideal at all but unfortunately, you’re a keeper, you’re the last man in defence and you’re going to make mistakes, things happen and it’s how you recover from that.

“I think in the second half he made a couple of good saves and claimed stuff.  One thing we don’t do, you don’t knock a goalie’s confidence, so you kind of take it on the chin, ignore it to a certain degree and let him do his thing for the rest of the game.”

Snodland Town almost regained the lead just 139 seconds later when Wheeler hit a long ball over the top from the halfway line and Ashton rose inside the box to knock his header over the keeper and looping towards the top far corner, only for Plummer to bravely head the ball off the line as it dropped.

Sutton Athletic should have scored in the 38th minute when Evans fed the ball to Gunner, who lobbed the ball towards the far post to put Sutherland in behind Swift but the central midfielder smashed his shot into the base of the side netting from a tight angle from eight-yards out.

“James is a quick player and when you’re running at a ball at that pace to then have the composure to then knock it past the keeper, so it’s easy for us on the bench to say could he get it on target? Yes, but when you’re running at a ball at speed, it could’ve gone anywhere,” said Cropley.

Wallond added: “First half they moved the ball so well, their movement’s good, they’re going to get chances. We limited them to as least as we can but I expect them to have a few chances and sometimes the rub of the green goes with you.”

Both were asked their thoughts at the break, with Sutton Athletic the more dominant side during the first-half, although it was the total opposite for the second half.

Wallond said: “If I’m honest, I didn’t need to give them a roasting. I think we battled hard first half, which is what I asked from them. 

“We needed to be a bit more composed on the ball and maybe because we knew we were in the game a bit more than in other games and a bit more consistent in the first half, the boys got a bit too excited and started to chase the ball rather than sometimes it’s better to let them come to you and then engage at the right times and the right areas on the pitch rather than chasing, which opens the game up.”

Cropley added: “Just talked about hard work really. Again, we go back to Tuesday night. We were 3-1 down against Bearsted, again we didn’t panic. We’ve got the ability, we just need to work harder.

“We kept the same side that we finished and we just said we need to work harder. We need to work harder off the ball and when we get the chances, we need to take them.”

When asked whether their midweek exploits of 120 minutes of football and winning a penalty shoot-out against higher league opposition in Bearsted, took a lot out of his players, Cropley replied: “No! If anybody says that, that’s an excuse.”

However, the half-time introduction of left-winger Bailey Pearce lifted Snodland Town out of their first-half slumber and the home side were desperately unlucky not to score after only 52 seconds.

Pearce and Andre Trenton linked up inside the Sutton Athletic half and played the ball inside to Friend, who took a touch before curling his left-footed shot across the well-beaten goalkeeper, the ball kissing the outside of the far post, from 30-yards out.

“You’re not going to finish everything, for me, it was nice to get the chances because the more chances you get, hopefully, the more goals you’re going to score, it counts for itself,” said Wallond.

Cropley added: “Lee Friend is a talented player. You look at the goals for column, you see Lee Friend at the top because he’s a goalscorer.  Disappointed, we’d like to cut out the A pass as it were. We didn’t cut the A pass out and he probably should’ve scored and probably should’ve scored.”

Trenton, one of three central midfielders, came alive during this period and fed Thomas, who swept a right-footed shot on the turn from 25-yards, which was held by Joe Hyde, smothering the ball low to his right just 63 seconds later.

Sutton Athletic made a change in the seventh minute as left-back Joby Smith made way for Marvin Francis, a right-back by trade and it was an interesting second-half battle with Francis and the impressive Ashton, who was a threat throughout.

Referee Ben Al-Shaikh pointed to the spot after Francis was adjudged to have committed a clumsy tackle that sent Ashton tumbling to the ground within the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Friend stepped up and stroked his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite goalkeeper Hyde guessing the right way, to give Snodland Town a deserved lead (going by their second-half performance) with 16 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

“To be honest, Dan Ashton on the wide right, he done really well for most of the game, if not, all of the game,” said Wallond.

“They brought the left-back on to try to stop him from doing what he’s done and it made no difference, if anything it made Dan’s life a bit more easier for him.”

Cropley added: “Well, we film the game and I’ve watched it back. For me, it’s not a penalty but football’s all about opinions. He did score the penalty and on a different day it isn’t given but he’s scored it and that’s what happens.”

Wicks recovered from his earlier set-back and pulled off a brilliant save to deny Sutton Athletic a 66th minute equaliser following a set-piece.

The impressive Evans floated his right-footed free-kick into the box from 35-yards and Desanges rose to bury his header towards the top left-hand corner, only for Wicks to claw the ball behind for a corner, high to his right.

Cropley said: “Great save by them and I head their bench say ‘he needed that, he needed that confidence,’ after letting that goal in. 

“It mirrored very much the Bearsted game. It went in, in that instance so Arlie is effective at going that but at that time the keeper was equal to it, so well done to him.”

Wallond added: “That’s what I say, he (Wicks) can make a mistake but then he retrieves it back later on.”

Hyde pulled off a good save of his own in the 69th minute, following a Snodland free-kick.

Hooper delivered a free-kick from the right and Ashton popped up in the middle of a crowd of players inside the box to plant his downward header towards the bottom far corner, which forced Hyde to dive to his left to push towards safety.

Wallond said: “It’s nice to get on the end of the ball. We’ve worked on them a little bit, obviously spoke at half-time about the way we can change stuff and it’s starting to pay off.”

Cropley added: “I felt particularly first half with the pitch and with the way that they were playing, a lot of goalkeepers, if they’re in the right position, just catch everything and they were living off scraps so he didn’t have too much to do.

“Second half he had a bit more to do, obviously because that’s when the goals went in but he didn’t have many saves to make and I think that just about sums up today. I don’t think there were that many shots on target for either side.”

Snodland Town’s third goal (27:10) and their fourth goal (31:33) involved the same three players from two copy-cat set-piece routines.

Holding midfielder Webb seemed to take an age walking over towards the corner flag and was hurried along by the referee after the visiting bench complained about the length of time it took him to take the home side’s second corner of the game.

Webb swung in a deep corner from the right which was headed back across goal by Hooper (easily beating Desanges to the ball) and Rosetti powered his free header into the roof of the net from six-yards at the back post.

Wallond said: “Ted Rosetti has been superb for us this season. He’s scoring, which helps. In the past he hasn’t scored as many as he can.  This season, he’s out there, he’s scoring. He’s also my skipper and he’s leading by example. He wins every tackle, wins every header the best he can and he chips in with a few goals, which always helps.”

Cropley added: “Dan said to the players ‘we just don’t concede from corners’ and we don’t! It just takes a quick second for somebody switches off and doesn’t grab the man they’re supposed to and it goes in the back of the net and 3-1 then it’s a very different game.”

Clinical Snodland Town sealed the deal, this time the corner was taken from the left, with Rosetti taking his goalscoring tally up to five for the season.

Webb floated another deep corner over to Hooper, who was a bit further out on the right-hand side, and he put another header across the face of goal and Rosetti looped his header into the roof of the net from 12-yards, this time Hyde stepping to his left in an attempt to get his fingertips to the ball.

“Adam Hooper has played one game for us so far, he’s a massive player to have with us. Ashley Cooper’s here today, two massive players for us. It’s something that we’ve struggled with a little bit. I’m not saying the boys haven’t done the best they can but we’ve been turned quite a lot at the wrong times in games, which has cost us goals.  We were nice, solid and compact today and I think the experience helped.

“We spoke about (our set-pieces) at half-time and we changed the way we were delivering them and that worked.”

Cropley added: “If you could do a replay like Match of the Day, then it’s the same goal. It’s basically the same goal. People have again switched off, we can’t argue with it, other than the fact that we should’ve done better!”

Left-winger Evans almost capped an impressive performance off with a second goal in the final 10 minutes, curling his left-footed shot across the keeper and just past the far post from 30-yards, after receiving a pass from Gunner, who linked up well with his attacking players.

Cropley said: “If you know Conor, he’s a match-winner and he will do that and I’ve seen him score from that and he knows he can score from that so why not?

“I thought he had a great game and it would’ve capped off what he scored with, with another goal so for me you take your chance don’t you? You take a shot, you take a chance and he did that. It didn’t go in, at least at 4-1 down we were still trying to score. We’ve not given up and that was the case on Tuesday night in the cup.”

Friend had a chance of scoring a hat-trick when he dropped deep to collect a loose ball and ran into the box on a 30-yard run but his shot was charged down by Sutton Athletic’s right-back Tony Hill and Hyde gathered.

Sutton Athletic kept plugging away, however, and substitute Jordan Samuels found space some 35-yards out to drill his right-footed shot towards the near corner, which saw Wicks drop down to his knees at his near post to make a comfortable save at the end of the game.

Snodland Town can now look forward to their ninth FA Vase tie in their history in the First Round on Saturday 23 October - the draw taking place on Monday lunchtime.

Wallond wants his side to now kick on and climb up the league table, starting here next Saturday against FC Elmstead, a side now in fourteenth-place with 19 points from nine games.

Snodland Town have now slipped down into the bottom four, one place above the relegation zone, three points better off than last placed side Sporting Club Thamesmead, although Snodland Town are only eight points adrift of the play-offs.

He said: “Today is massive, as you’ve seen, the ground is improving, the facilities are improving, there’s a great committee, a great chairman, a great board.  I don’t want them to progress too quick as I want to keep my job for as long as possible because I like being here. We have nice facilities.

“The group of lads we’ve built together is good and all I get is support and backing. They’re always asking ‘what do we need, how can we progress, how can we improve’? They deliver all the time so it’s nice to be here and yes, I think they will be very happy with today.

“We just remember what we done today and take it into Saturday’s home game against FC Elmstead.

“Every manager would like to win the league but some managers have to be more realistic.  We’d like to be in the play-offs. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I still have the backing but as players you all want to do the best you can.  If you can squeeze in second, third, fourth or fifth place, we’d love to. There’s a lot (29) of games left.”

When asked about leading Snodland Town out at Wembley Stadium in The FA Vase Final, Wallond was more realistic, adding, “It’s a long way and there’s a lot of games. We’ll just see how far we can get and go as far as we can.”

Sutton Athletic have slipped down to seventh and welcome Ennio Gonnella’s Kent Football United side to Lower Road next Saturday.

The Dartford-based outfit came back from the Withdean Stadium with a 5-0 win over AFC Varndeanians in the FA Vase today and are in tenth-place in the table with 13 points from 10 games.

“It will be tough. Kent are in and out of form at the minute. It depends which Kent turns up and as you’ve seen today, it depends which Sutton turns up. It will be a good game. We know quite a few of their players from the Elmstead games. It will be a good game, probably one that will have plenty of goals in it,” predicted Cropley.

“We’ll keep going and we’ll put a team out to beat the next team that we play and we’ll do that another 33 times and hopefully that will be good enough to finish nearer the top.

“I hear other teams talking about league titles and being title contenders. I won’t mention those teams – you can’t say that after 10 games, it’s a 38 game season, it’s far too early.”

Snodland Town: Shaun Wicks, Sammy Swift, Ashley Cooper, Bradley Webb, Sam Wheeler, Adam Hooper, Reece Hunt (Bailey Peace 46), Edward Rosetti, Lee Friend, Andre Trenton, Daniel Ashton (Edward Hodges 80).
Subs: Omar Elmantawy, Ben Holder, James Stewart

Goals: Lee Friend 8, 62 (penalty), Edward Rosetti 73, 76

Sutton Athletic: Joe Hyde, Tony Hill, Joby Smith (Marvin Francis 52), Christopher Page, Richard Gregory, Charlie Plummer, Conor Evans, Dan Gunner, Arlie Desanges, James Sutherland (Jordan Samuels 74), Leon Thomas (Harry Bradford 74).
Subs: Sam Betts, Harry Sheridan, Lewis Oduku, Theodore White

Goal: Conor Evans 32

Attendance: 89
Referee: Mr Ben Al-Shaikh
Assistants: Mr Myles Hewson & Mr Darren Wilson