Snodland Town 0-1 Whitstable Town - The club is far too big to be in Step Five and the club deserves to be back in Step Four, says sixth-placed Whitstable Town assistant Craig Coles

Wednesday 31st January 2024
Snodland Town 0 – 1 Whitstable Town
Location Potyn's Sports Field, Snodland Community Centre, Paddlesworth Road, Snodland, Kent ME6 5DP
Kickoff 31/01/2024 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 31 January 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Paddlesworth Road

WHITSTABLE TOWN assistant manager Craig Coles says his club are far too big for the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.


Marcel Nimani’s side remain in sixth-place in the pecking order after Margate loanee Harvey Smith headed in his eleventh goal of the season to settle this battle between two sides that are vying for the top five.

Snodland Town have only lost four games at home in all competitions this season.  Whitstable Town became the first side to win a league game here since Erith Town claimed a 1-0 League win on 9 September.

The other sides to win at Potyn’s this season were Chertsey Town (3-1, FA Cup, 19 August) and Tunbridge Wells (1-0, Challenge Cup, 29 November).

“I thought it was a really good game, both sides had quite a few chances,” said Coles.

“I thought the boys just worked really, really hard tonight. The big thing for us we’ve gone to quite a few away games this season and the standards we’ve set at home, we haven’t replicated that away from home and I think today the boys did themselves proud.

“They worked hard throughout, from the first minute to the last minute. The biggest thing for us now is creating that consistency away from home and seeing where it takes us come the end of the season.”

When asked about being the first side to win here in the League since September, Coles replied: “I didn’t know that statistic!  I think the biggest thing for us is we knew coming here was going to be difficult. They’re a great side, they’ve got some very, very good individuals in their squad.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing for us, we just wanted to be hard to beat and ultimately we set up and we changed the style of play slightly today, which for the majority of the game probably suited us.

“I think the biggest thing moving forward for the rest of the season is just trying to make sure we can mix it up and we can do different things when we do go away from home because unfortunately you come to pitches like this and you can’t play the type of football that we maybe would do (on our artificial pitch) at home.”

Snodland Town manager Luke Wallond added: “We’ve had quite hard games recently. I think performance wise tonight, positive.  We had a couple of chances first half, we didn’t quite make it.  Sometimes when you get your chances, if you can take them, then it makes the game a bit easier.

“But Whitstable battled, it was a great header for their goal from a corner.  I think we let him run off us a couple of yards and that’s what can happen when you play against good sides.”

Snodland Town kicked down the slope during the first half and created an opening through 11-goal striker Matthew Gething after only 219 seconds.

Right-winger Francis Babalola easily skipped past Whitstable Town’s left-back William Thomas before cutting into the box and cutting the ball back from the by-line, which was swept first time past the foot of the near post by Gething from inside the six-yard box.

“It’s unfortunate.  It’s been the story for us for the last two or three weeks, key moments that decide the game how it finishes but we’re getting there.  The performance tonight, effort, work-rate will and togetherness was all good tonight,” said Wallond.

Both Wallond and Coles was asked about their side’s direction of travel in the game.

“To be honest with you, we don’t have a set way of playing.  I think everyone sees they’re going to be better downhill, so they try to spin us.  It’s the same for both sides, so you’ll get sides come here and play downhill and play really well and struggle uphill and vice versa, so I mean it’s the way it is and it depends on the side and how you perform,” said the Snodland Town manager.

Coles added: “We went uphill first half, downhill in the second half. We said to Millsey (captain, Tom Mills) when he went for the (coin) toss, we said to him ‘if you can try and go uphill first half’, because we just thought that second half we could have the ability to get at them a little bit. It probably didn’t work out like that if I’m honest but I think it still helped either way.”

Thomas lined up a long throw but decided to throw it short to attacking midfielder James Jeffrey, who put in a cross from within the left-channel and recalled goalkeeper Scott Andrews stayed on his line and watched striker Emmanuel Oloyede steer his header over the crossbar from four-yards.

“Really good chance, really good play from JJ.  The main reason we brought him back to the club was to be able to create chances like that, so I’m really looking forward to working with him more,” said Coles.

Jack Bath hit a long ball out of Snodland’s defence which released Jordan Wells and the attacking midfielder released winger Taylor Fisher down the left.  He put in a low cross which Babalola controlled, cut into the centre but his left-footed effort from 22-yards lacked conviction and Jordan Perrin gathered comfortably.

Snodland Town left-back Robbie Bissett gave the ball away in the tenth minute to a deep Jeffrey, who held both his hands up to apologise to his team-mates after trying to score from 30-yards, which was comfortably gathered by Andrews.

Both sides won five-corners a piece and Snodland right-back Henry Muggeridge delivered a high hanging ball in from the right which swung out to Bath, whose free header was blocked within a crowded penalty area and Wells rifled his shot over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box, aiming for the top left hand corner.

Snodland Town were bossing the possession stats going down the slope during the first half before Whitstable Town turned the game into a stalemate after 20 minutes.

Snodland Town almost smashed the deadlock in the 34th minute, when Fisher stroked a left-footed free-kick towards the left-hand corner from 30-yards, forcing former Erith & Belvedere goalkeeper Jordan Perrin to dive to his right and use a strong hand to push the ball behind for a corner.

Wallond said: “Good save, a good free-kick.  Taylor scored a couple recently, he’s good with a dead ball.”

Coles added: “A great save. I thought he (Perrin) was man-of-the-match today for me. He was phenomenal, fantastic save and did really well throughout the game.”

Whitstable Town were guilty of a glaring miss in the 37th minute.

Central midfielder Liam Gillies stabbed a 10-yard pass into Jeffrey, who put the ball on a plate with a lofted left-footed cross onto Oloyede’s head, but his free header from 10-yards dropped just past the foot of the far post.

“I thought JJ (Jeffrey) and Eman (Oloyede) combined and worked really well. JJ having a little bit of a free role. The big thing is with Eman, he gets himself in some really, really good positions when he plays and for him now it’s just a case of making sure he puts the ball in the back of the net more regular,” added Coles, when asked about the 10-goal striker.

Mills launched a long ball out of the Whitstable defence, the ball was cleared away by Snodland Town’s left-back Robbie Bissett and Jeffrey’s special left-footed chip from 30-yards only just cleared the crossbar, with Andrews well beaten.

Wallond was asked why Sam Freeman was not in between the sticks tonight.

“Sam’s got a bit of a trapped muscle in his neck. He needs some deep tissue massage.  In a couple of days he should be alright, so he should be ok for Saturday.

“I thought Scott (Andrews) done very well, very, very well.  I don’t think he put a foot wrong to be honest with you.  He claimed crosses, punched crosses, his kicking was good, vocals were good. A very good performance from Scott tonight.”

On the subject of injuries, Wallond revealed that Jon Pilbeam will be playing for the under 23’s tomorrow night as he battles back from his Achilles injury.

For Whitstable Town, George Sheminant (knee) should be back either on Saturday or the following weekend, while Josh Oliver (ankle) has been ruled out for another three or four weeks.

Snodland Town lacked quality in the Whitstable Town penalty area – with Ollie Gray and Tom Mills often slamming the door in Gethin’s face as the Snodland Town striker often dropped deep or went wide as he was living off scraps throughout this tight encounter.

Muggeridge drilled a right-footed cross which Gething flicked on (ahead of Mills) on the edge of the penalty area but this was not even a half-chance as the ball sailed into Perrin’s gloves for a routine catch.

Both were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Wallond said: “I asked the boys, I’m a bit repetitive but it was a good performance for 45 minutes, keep it up, chances will come. It’s going to be a tight game. They’re going to want to be in the play-offs at the end of the season, we’d like to get in the play-offs if we can at the end of the season and games like that are going to be tight.”

Coles said: “I think the biggest thing for me in the first half was probably the ability of creating the chances.  We did play uphill. We changed the way we wanted to play slightly today because we knew what the pitch was like and we knew what the conditions were going to be like, so it was pleasing that the stuff that we’ve been working on over the past week or so.

“We had a meeting with the boys last night and we went through a few things, so it’s nice to see those things that we spoke to the boys about, they managed to put into practice.

“We said (at half-time) carry on doing the same thing.  We’ve said to the boys, we’ve had so many games this season where we’ve done it for 45 minutes and then we’ve dropped off a little bit.  I didn’t see that from any of the boys today. I thought they were fantastic throughout the game.”

Whitstable Town claimed the victory following their fifth and final corner of the game, timed at five minutes and 34 seconds.

Holding midfielder Mikey Dalton swung in a quality right-footed corner from the left towards the near post for an unmarked Smith to bury his header into the near corner of the net.

Coles said: “I was so pleased for Harvey, he’s been desperate to get a goal over the past couple of weeks.  He’s been on a bit of a goal drought, bless him, but I’m glad he’s got one and hopefully he can get back to scoring more goals now.

“He’s been fantastic, he’s a grafter, he works hard, can play in multiple positions.  The biggest thing for me is he’s coachable. Ultimately for someone at this level you ask him to do certain things, he’s got the ability to take it in and do it, so credit to him.”

Wallond added: “Great header, great finish and that’s the moment we probably went to sleep slightly. Our man gave him a yard and a half and that’s when you’ve got lads who can score like that, a yard and a half is enough space to finish.

“We were always in the game. It wasn’t a case of I was thinking ‘we were struggling, we weren’t creating etc’, so my thoughts were ‘would it come, would it not’ and then you make a few changes at the end to see if you can tinker it slightly and effect it that way.”

Wallond brought on three substitutes during the first half and central midfielder Connor Pring lost his footing and slipped over on a couple of occasions.  Smith charged down the heart of the pitch before drilling a shot past the foot of the left-hand post from 30-yards in the 62nd minute.

Snodland Town should have grabbed an equaliser in the 77th minute when Muggeridge’s cross sailed over the Whitstable Town two centre-halves and played in Babalola, who from a central position, smacked his right-footed half-volley over the bar.

“I think you’re always going to get a tough game, no matter where you go.  You can go anywhere in this league away from home and it’s always going to be tough,” said Coles, who was delighted with his side’s eleventh clean sheet of the season (in all competitions).

“The big thing for me today was when we went ahead, I didn’t think we would concede.  I thought we had enough in us, the boys worked hard enough throughout the game.  There wasn’t really a moment in the game that Marcel and I looked at it and went ‘actually we’re struggling a little bit here.’

“I thought the boys’ application was fantastic and long may it continue!”

On Babalola’s missed opportunity for Snodland Town to salvage a draw, Coles added: “I think it took a deflection off one of our boys and then he went through.  For a team like that to only create sort of one real chance of a threat, it’s a good statement for us but for me the biggest thing was I thought Jordan (Perrin) was outstanding today.  He was commanding, came for crosses on so many occasions and won them. I thought he was fantastic.”

A bitterly disappointed Wallond simply added: “Again, I keep saying chances but yes…”

Whitstable Town finished the game by playing on the front foot and creating chances on the counter-attack.

Thomas launched a long throw into the box and former Fisher targetman Eniyelayefa Amgbaduba nodded his header harmlessly wide inside the final 10 minutes.

Smith stroked a right-footed free-kick just over the crossbar from 28-yards, before a big kick upfield by Perrin played in Amgbaduba, who drilled his right-footed shot on the turn screaming across the keeper and just past the far post from 30-yards.

Snodland Town’s chances to grab a late equaliser vanished when referee Samuel Hall threw Babalola into the Sin-Bin (47:08) on the clock.

Wallond said: “I don’t know if you saw it, it was on his reaction. I’m not overly up on the rules (Laws, not rules) like referee’s are.  He didn’t swear at the referee, he didn’t shout at the referee. It was his arm movement. I don’t know if that classifies as a sin-bin or not, you probably know more than me.”

Substitute Amgbaduba lacked composure inside the D and his stoppage time shot rolled into Andrews gloves for a comfortable save.

Wallond said: “When you’re getting to the end of the game, we’re pushing on trying to get an equaliser and we would open up slightly and make challenges that we have to make to stop them getting through.

“No defeat is nice but they’ll be up there at the end of the season. We’d like to be up there at the end of the season and they’ll always be tight games against good sides.”

Coles said: “Ultimately games like this, the other team is always going to play a bit higher and they’re always going to try to nick a goal to get back in the game and ultimately we knew that we were able to catch them on the break with the players that we’ve got in the squad.

“We couldn’t get another one. We had quite a few opportunities to get another when we got to the final third in and around the box, we couldn’t quite find that cutting edge but hopefully we can find that on Saturday.”

When asked what his players’ gave him tonight, Coles replied: “I think application is the biggest thing. The way they applied themselves throughout the game. I thought the boys’ worked hard throughout the game.  It’s not to say that’s been missing, I just think away from home we’ve struggled to match that application that we’ve had in some of our home games, so the fact that they’ve been able to do it away from home, hopefully the boys can look at this result and try to pick ourselves up and go on a little bit of a run because we’ve got a lot of tough games coming up.”

Glebe go into February sitting at the summit with 55 points from 27 games, with nine other sides looking to grab a play-off spot in this 40-match campaign.

Faversham Town (51 points from 27 games), Deal Town (49 points from 22 games), Corinthian (47 points from 23 games) and Bearsted (46 points from 24 games) currently hold the tickets to the end-of-season lottery.

However, Whitstable Town (46 points from 27 games), Erith Town (41 points from 24 games), Snodland Town (38 points from 23 games), Lydd Town (37 points from 23 games) and Punjab United (36 points from 23 games) are all waiting to pounce.

Snodland Town travel to Chislehurst to play a Stansfeld side in the bottom four (19 points from 26 games) and fighting relegation.  They are three points clear of bottom side Welling Town, who have a couple of games in hand.

Wallond said: “I’ve just touched upon Whitstable will be up there at the end of the season.  I think my first season in the SCEFL Prem, I think what I’ve learnt quite quickly, every side in this league, on their day, is capable of beating anyone, so league positions to me, I don’t look at that and think that makes it an easy game.

“I think club’s like Stansfeld that have been about for a while and have been in this league longer than us, they know more about the level and what it should be and how to win games.

“We go into every single game with exactly the same mentality. If we perform we can win and if we don’t perform, any side will beat you.”

Whitstable Town, meanwhile, travel to Bearsted in a six-pointer clash at Honey Lane.  Bearsted manager Kevin Stevens and Stephen Sage were in attendance here tonight on a scouting mission.

“I think the squad those guys have got down there is probably the best I’ve seen over the years. They’ve got a really, really good squad, play some nice football.  The pitch is alright at the moment as well, it’s a lot flatter than this,” said Coles.

“It will be a really, really good game. We’ve had two really good games with them so far this season, so the way we play will be slightly different again on Saturday, it won’t be the same as today.  There will be little bits that will be similar but it’s just making sure the application stays the same because ultimately if we can apply ourselves in the same way, we’ve got an opportunity to get a result.”

Both Snodland Town and Whitstable Town have invested heavily in their squads this season – not as much as Faversham Town mind – and both Wallond and Coles were asked about the promotion/play-off race and if they are under pressure from their chairman to deliver promotion.

Wallond said: “Our first season up here. We wanted to try to push into it (the play-offs).  I always set my targets high, so maybe I set them too high sometimes but I wanted to try to see if we can get into the play-offs by the end of the season and we’re still going for that, so let’s see what happens.

“I would say from the chairman and board etc, they want us to do well as we can.  You’ve seen the facilities again tonight, new carpets in the clubhouse, everything’s improving all the time. They don’t stand still behind the scenes so they want us to do the best we can but I’ve never been told that we must make play-offs and it’s a case of doing the best we can.

“I set my goals as high as possible, so I’d like to achieve play-offs and I think because of the goals I want to achieve, they don’t force anything on me.

“Our squad’s got smaller as the season’s gone on, boys want to move on and play more minutes, different sides have approached them etc.  We’ve got a small squad at the moment but we’re strong enough.

“We’ve got 17 games, we’ve got a busy February.  You just want to win every game, so we’ll be trying our hardest we can and hopefully a little bit of luck, a couple of chances will go in and pick up some three points and kick on.

Coles made Whitstable Town’s aims clear.

“Ultimately, the play-offs are not going to be decided yet.  It’s still wide open. There’s so many games to go.  People probably think it’s silly me saying that, there’s 13 games to go!

“Everyone has still got to play everyone still, so people are still going to end up dropping points.  For me there’s probably eight or nine teams that are probably in and around that play-off position.

“There’s eight or nine teams from the top all the way down that have got the opportunity to get into the play-offs and or to win the league.

“If I’m honest, I think Deal will probably win it. I think they’ve been fantastic this season, especially when I’ve gone to watch them.  It’s so wide open, so wide open and as we’ve said to the boys, the only thing we can do is put our heads down and go on a run. 

“We did it before Christmas, so the boys have got to put in another stint like that because ultimately, if we do, we know then we know that we will get into the play-offs, if we put a run like that.  With the squad we’ve got they’re more than capable of doing it.”

When asked whether Nimani is under pressure to deliver promotion, Coles replied: “I don’t know. I’m not sure.  For us as a management team and especially as a club, as a fan base, they want to be promoted.

“The club is far too big to be in Step Five. You can only see the amount of fans we get down here each week and even the amount of fans that are up here today.  Ultimately, the club deserves to be back in Step Four (Isthmian League South East Division).

“We want, as a management team, we want to get them back in Step Four and we’ll do our utmost to make sure that we can give the club the best opportunity to do that this season.”

Snodland Town: Scott Andrews, Henry Muggeridge, Robbie Bissett, George Monger (Connor Pring 58), Jack Bath, Ryan Sawyer, Taylor Fisher (Nathaniel Olawole 73), Ben Davisson, Matthew Gething, Jordan Wells (Ainsley Linton 77), Francis Babalola.
Subs: Isaac Thompson, Jeff Duah-Kessie

Booked: Ainsley Linton 86, Ryan Sawyer 89

Temporary Dismissal:  Francis Babalola 90

Whitstable Town: Jordan Perrin, Jake MacKenzie, William Thomas, Mikey Dalton, Ollie Gray, Tom Mills, Harvey Smith, Liam Gillies, Emmanuel Oloyede (Eniyelayefa Amgbaduba 77), James Jeffrey (Reece Gillies 85), Joshua Williams (Tyler Anderson 85).
Subs: Edward May, Jabari Christmas

Goal: Harvey Smith 51

Booked: Mikey Dalton 19, Joshua Williams 71

Attendance: 148
Referee: Mr Samuel Hall
Assistants: Mr Steven Tunnicliffe & Mr Darren Stock
Observer:  Mr Mark Joy