Sporting Club Thamesmead 0-2 Kent Football United - If we get promoted it’s a great reward for these boys and something they should be proud of, says KFU boss Ennio Gonnella

Monday 27th March 2017
Sporting Club Thamesmead 0 – 2 Kent Football United
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 27/03/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Monday 27th March 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

KENT FOOTBALL UNITED manager Ennio Gonnella says his side will keep fighting to grab promotion at the end of their best campaign in only the club's seventh-season.

The Dartford based side won an uninspiring encounter thanks to two second half goals from Laurent Hamici and substitute Marcus Cassius to remain in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table with five games remaining.

Kent Football United have collected 68 points from their 31 games, five points adrift of Glebe (who have two games in hand) and six points behind Rusthall (who only have three games left to play).

“I thought the first half was a very competitive game but I thought they had a game plan to shut us down. It worked. They’re young lads, they had a bit of energy about them, although I do feel we controlled the game from start to finish,” said Gonnella.

“I thought they had the slight better chances in the first half.   In the second half we dominated from start to finish and it became a boring game in the end because I don’t think they would go on to win it and we took the foot to the gas.

“It’s a whole month of fixtures that we’ve won now. It’s hard to keep winning four or five-nil, it’s unrealistic, but we’ll take results like that.”

This was Owen Jones’ seventh defeat in 19 since taking over as joint-manager of Sporting Club Thamesmead alongside Lee Hill.

“They’re a good side, first of all, a good side. They work hard, they’re organised, got good players, good luck to them, they did well,” said Jones.

“I thought first half we were definitely in it. Even though there were times when they put us under a bit of pressure. We were still on it and doing well.

“Again, we can’t seem to keep the same side. We just keep getting injuries. We had a couple of players stuck on the M25, other players injured, especially three players particularly that we depend on.  They have long-term injuries so that knocked us back a bit.”

A crowd of 86 were at Bayliss Avenue and they had to endure a poor game where 12th-placed side Sporting Club Thamesmead offered very little up front without injured striker Dan Parish, leaving too much of a burden on 25-goal star Josh Patrick.

Kent Football United created the first opening inside the opening three minutes.

Right-winger Darryl Dylan skipped past Bosun Gbajabiamila to play the ball inside to Gerry Gonnella, who pinged a delightful diagonal out to left-winger Stefan Cox, who cut the ball onto his right-foot and from 25-yards his angled drive was comfortably caught by Simon Vanderhook.

Sporting Club Thamesmead’s left-winger Alain Akumwami was a threat and caused Kent Football United’s right-back Stefan Dickson problems throughout.

Patrick played the ball inside to holding midfielder Ben Williams – who joined the attack in the final third – before playing the ball out wide to Akumwami, who cut into the box before dragging his right-footed shot past the near post from 16-yards.

Jones said: “I thought he played really well today. He worked hard and he was unlucky.  If the ball ran a little bit better for him a few times when he ran at that full-back I think we would’ve got something out of it. 

“I thought their full-back was their weak link so that was what we were trying to exploit.”

Gonnella added: “I think if I’m honest with you, their bark was bigger than their bite!  I don’t think they had that many opportunities, a clear-cut chance to score.  I think they were all half-chances but he done well, their lad. He’s a very pacy guy and caused our right-back a few problems.”

Man-of-the-match, Marlon Patterson, was bossing the middle of the park and he pinged a sublime diagonal pass out to Cox, who whipped in a quality cross towards the near post for Hamici to nip in front of his marker Cory Knight to flick his shot over the bar from eight-yards.

The visiting manager said: “Hamici’s another one, playing injured. He’s got an ankle injury. He’s been out. When he left Staines, he got injured, he was out for four weeks. This is his second game back. He’s still not fully recovered, you could see that, so we took him off to protect him but I’m glad he got his goal.”

On Patterson’s performance in the middle of the park, Gonnella said: “He’s a player with experience. He can’t play at left-back now because he’s too old but in the middle he’s an absolute diamond. To have him and Gerry (Gonnella) compliment each other very well and he’s so good on the ball, so good.”

It was proving to be a frustrating night for lone striker Patrick, who struggled to get past Jordan Anderson and Danny Willis.  The Sporting Club Thamesmead striker was forced to hit a speculative left-footed drive from 30-yards, which bounced into Alfie George’s hands for a comfortable save.

Cox’s troublesome knee injury forced him out of the game after 17 minutes and he was replaced by Cassius.

“Stefan Cox’s has come back after being three months out with a knee injury,” revealed Gonnella.

“He does need an operation.  He’s ignored the op. It’s due to come but he decided that he wanted to play today. We gave him a run-out. It’s a knee injury he’s got and it’s just unfortunate for us that it’s been like that all season.  They come back, they do well, score a goal, come back and they get injured again.”

Patterson pinged another diagonal pass out to the left and Cox’s replacement Cassius cut inside to drill his right-footed angled drive, which flashed past the foot of the near post from 25-yards.

Sporting Club Thamesmead went close to breaking the stalemate in the 29th minute, courtesy of a fine save from former Glebe and Holmesdale keeper George.

The lively Akumwami cut inside and stroked his left-footed shot towards the bottom far corner from 25-yards, forcing George to dive to his left to push the ball around the post for a corner.

Billy Holloway swung in the resulting corner from the right but Mudiago Wanogho came up from the back to send his free header straight into George’s grateful hands.

“Alfie’s a great new addition,” added Gonnella.

“He’s only been with us two weeks. I’ve heard some rumours especially from the club’s that he played for previously that he wasn’t great. I can’t see anything wrong with him, I think he done brilliant.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead’s right wing-back Richard Seasay fed the ball into Patrick’s feet, he took a touch before stroking a low shot towards the corner from 25-yards, which was gobbled up by George, diving low to his right.

Cassius was keen to cut in from the left and his low drive in the 37th minute took a deflection and flashed just past the foot of the near post.

The home side created the last chance of the first half when Gbajabiamila rolled the ball to Seasay, who centred low for Patrick, who turned to drag his shot past the far post from the edge of the visitors’ penalty area.

Jones said of his talisman Patrick: “He’s just unlucky.  You just can’t replace somebody like that. He’s a very good player. He works tirelessly hard. His commitment is 10 out of 10. 100% commitment. It’s just unfortunate it just didn’t run for him tonight.”

Gonnella was full of praise for his two central defenders Anderson and captain Willis for keeping Patrick frustrated.

He said: “When you’re playing against two Ryman (standard) centre backs it’s hard. It’s a different level and I think Danny Willis and Jordan Anderson were absolutely brilliant. They knew his game inside out. They tried him over the top, it wasn’t happening, Danny Willis cleaned up. They tried him to the chest, Jordan had the height advantage over him. I think we always knew he would be their dangerman.”

Thankfully, after a poor first half, referee George Lowe decided not to play any stoppage time and the crowd hoped for a vastly improved second half.

Jones said: “I told them I wanted more of the same, just press a little bit higher, especially the midfield players. We were just dropping off a little bit.  I wanted Jordy (Akumwami) and Richard Seasay to get back a little bit quicker even if the ball breaks down, just get back regardless.”

Gonnella said: “Just keep doing what you’re doing with a bit more passion up top. The final third can be a bit better with quality. We changed our tempo. We’ve got a big habit in this league because these boys can play second gear and win games. They tend to drop second gear instead of playing their own tempo. The second half, especially the first 20 minutes of it, it was their tempo, they were knocking it about brilliantly and thankfully for us we got the goal.”

Kent Football United created the first chance of the second half inside six minutes when Cassius turned Ben Williams before cutting in and striking a right-footed drive towards goal from 35-yards, which bounced into Vanderhook’s hands for a comfortable save.

“They’re always going to get opportunities because they’re a good side and all the time we were keeping them at a distance, they were shooting from a distance and I thought it was alright,” said Jones.

Sporting Club Thamesmead went close to scoring less than a minute before Kent Football United did.

Tony Hill floated in a free-kick from the left and Patrick showed more desire than George to get to the ball first at the near post but the striker’s brave header (as the keeper attempted to punch the ball clear) was planted over the crossbar.

Kent Football United were gifted the lead, timed at 11 minutes and 6 seconds, courtesy of a howler from Vanderhook.

Dylan played a low pass into the right-hand corner of the penalty area and Vanderhook came off his line and failed to grab hold of the ball. Hamici, who has played Ryman Premier League football for Metropolitan Police and Staines Town this season, wasn’t going to miss and rolled his shot into an empty goal from 16-yards.

“Blessing really. It was a goal we needed to settle the nerves. We knew if we could get one we would go on to win the game,” said Gonnella.

“It was a mix-up, I believe, from their defender and keeper and Hamici was alert, even half injured alert and managed to put it into an empty net, so we’ll take that one.”

Hamici has dropped three levels to return to the club – but Gonnella is delighted to see him back.

“It’s a blessing, a blessing, especially with Aaron Dalhouse, who’s out now with a suspension for four games. To lose a prolific goalscorer and to get one back is only a blessing,” he said.

“Hamici got snapped up by Met Police and done really well and got snapped up by Staines but the travelling for him was a nightmare and I must be doing something right because he enjoys it and he wants to come back.”

Jones admitted the goal was a poor one to give away.

“It was more like it was wrapped with a bow and it was all packaged all well with his name on it,” he said.

“I’m disappointed with that. I’ve spoken to Simon. I’m not slaughtering him but he knows. I just said to him get your head up but he knows, he knows I’m disappointed because I thought he could’ve done a little bit better with it.”

Akumwami was carrying his team-mates and he powered his shot past the near post from 20-yards, as Sporting Club Thamesmead struggled playing three centre halves, two wing-backs, a diamond in midfield and Patrick up front on his own.

Kent Football United, who passed the ball out from the back and were playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, doubled their lead through a piece of quality in the 69th minute.

Left-back Dean Carpenter played a low pass up to Anthonio Gonnella, who flicked the ball into Cassius path, who drilled a right-footed screamer over Vanderhook’s head from 30-yards.

“Great move, great move. It’s one that we’ve been working on in training as well,” revealed Gonnella.

“Because we play with a 10, we try to get the ball into feet as much as we can. It was lovely awareness by Antonio, great movement by Cass, great build-up from Carps and a great finish, a great finish.”

Jones also blamed the goalkeeper for Cassius’s screamer.

“It wasn’t in the roof. It was central though.  Don’t get me wrong, great strike, but should he really be beaten from a straight shot that swerves at the last second? It’s not like it’s swerved in the corner! He said there were players in front of him but we were joking in the changing room and said yes one player! He's been really good for us all this season. He’s come in from playing for the reserves and I think he’s done really well.”

Cassius joined Hamici on eight goals for the club this season.

“We were slagging him off three weeks ago. We were saying he can’t score and I said if you score like that, piledrivers, I don’t mind. To be fair I think it’s six in six for him.”

Akumwami tried to score with a speculative drive from 30-yards, which was blocked and the ball rolled into the path of substitute right-winger Ermal Nurja, but he took a touch before hitting his right-footed drive over the top of the near post from 18-yards.

Kent Football United’s substitute left-winger Gavin Quintyne skipped past Hill before playing the ball inside to Antonio Gonnella, who cracked a right-footed dipping curling drive from 30-yards, which Vanderhook grabbed at the second attempt, dancing to his left.

“I think it was a tired attempt if I’m honest. It was the right idea, the right angle to pick for the goal but I don’t think he got enough on it,” said the manager.

“I think the game swallowed out because I think Thamesmead gave up.  They knew they weren’t going to win. We then realised we were going to win so we took the foot of the pedal, which was probably the wrong thing to do.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead squandered a glorious chance to grab a consolation inside the final couple of minutes.

George’s clearance was charged down by Holloway, who latched onto the loose ball on the corner of the box and with an open goal in front of him, the ball sailed over the top of the near post from 16-yards.

Jones said: “I don’t know how he’s missed that!

“Again, he knows I’m disappointed. I haven’t said too much to him but I can’t believe he’s missed it really! He should put that in the back of the net. Alright, I don’t there was only about two minutes to go but if he puts that in who knows what’s going to happen?

“Unfortunately, which is what I don’t like, players are relying on Josh Patrick to put the ball in the back of the net so it’s kind of if Josh doesn’t score, we struggle to put the ball in the back of the net.  Having said that, Dan Parish wasn’t playing today either. He’s another player who’s been scoring for us and he wasn’t playing today so that made it difficult again.”

“I think Alfie made up for his mistake. It was only going to be a gift that got them a goal in this game and that was a blatant gift,” admitted Gonnella.

“But full credit to Alfie. He redeemed himself with two great tackles and he’s managed to put him off but it was the response from the two centre backs. As soon as that happened they burst their gut, they got behind the ball and even if he put it on target I think Jordan had it covered anyway.”

Kent Football United host fifth-from-bottom side Orpington on Saturday, before completing their best ever League campaign with games against Lydd Town (away), Holmesdale (home), Glebe (away) and FC Elmstead (away).

“If I’m honest with you, the whole target this year was to change the facia of Kent Football United,” admitted Gonnella.

“I know some people think they’re hated and I don’t know what the rumours were before I got here. We’re just trying to do everything right and I said to the boys forget what everyone else is doing.  Rusthall and Glebe haven’t come out of first and second for a while. They deserve to win it. If we can nick it at the end we’ll do it.  We’ll keep fighting and keep going. All we want to do is complete. If the season stopped today, I’ll be a very proud man.”

Kent Football United will install a £25,000 seated stand and floodlights at their ground by the start of next season.

When asked whether the club can go up if they finish in the top two promotion places, Gonnella replied: “As far as I’m aware, yes.  Our target was always to compete and that’s management and the players. The club do their own thing. If we get promoted it’s a great reward for these boys and something they should be proud of.  I should be proud. I’ve never won a promotion before so from my own selfish being, I would like that and if the club’s ready, we are ready and if it’s not, it’s not.

“I want these boys to just walk away with no regrets.  Orpington are hit and miss.  We played them first time round, it was a very comfortable game. I don’t think there’s going to be an easy game between now and the end of the season.  I think Orpington are playing for pride. We’re trying to close the gap on Rusthall and Glebe and it will be a tough game.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead were second-from-bottom in the table and the club axed joint-managers Danny Joy and Ross Baker after only 18 games in charge of the club.

“The players who have been playing have been superb, they really have,” said Jones, who left his role as reserve team manager at Ryman League Division One South club Greenwich Borough to take charge here.

“They’ve showed real character and we’ve just got to get these four games out of the way and then we’ll go for it next season. I really believe that we’re going to do well next season.”

But that will all depend if the club can keep hold of their prized asset, Parish, who like his team-mates do not get paid to play.

“There’s good players at the club. He’s a big player at this club.  He can’t be replaced because of the way he plays.  But every player has got the potential to be a big player at this club.

“We’ve not really discussed anything like that (his future), so I can’t really comment on that.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Simon Vanderhook, Richard Seasay (Ermal Nurja 61), Cory Knight, Ben Williams (Tony Ecuyer 58), Ricky Hardie, Mudiaga Wanogho, Tony Hill, Bosun Gbajabiamila, Josh Patrick, Billy Holloway, Alian Akumwami.
Subs: Sodiq Badaru, Anthony Collins

Kent Football United: Alfie George, Stefan Dickson, Dean Carpenter, Gerry Gonnella (Nicholas Gonsalves 82), Jordan Anderson, Danny Willis, Darryl Dylan, Marlon Patterson, Antonio Gonnella, Laurent Hamici (Gavin Quintyne 73), Stefan Cox (Marcus Cassius 17).
Subs: Mark Allen, Antwon McKenzie

Goals: Laurent Hamici 57, Marcus Cassius 69

Attendance: 86
Referee: Mr George Lowe (Canterbury)
Assistants: Mr John Baigan (East Dulwich, London SE15) &  Mr Kieran Stoneham (Gravesend)

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