Sporting Club Thamesmead 1-4 Chatham Town - The boys have done amazing to get this far but it's a little step too far for us, admits SCT boss Joe Ford

Monday 04th March 2019
Sporting Club Thamesmead 1 – 4 Chatham Town
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 04/03/2019 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Monday 4 March 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

SPORTING CLUB THAMESMEAD manager Joe Ford admits it will take a momentous effort from his players to progress through to the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final after being outclassed in the first half by Chatham Town in the First Leg.

Chatham Town arrived at Bayliss Avenue in fourth-place in the Premier Division table with 59 points from 27 games – nine points adrift of leaders Corinthian but with a game in hand.

Sporting Club Thamesmead were in 12th place in the First Division table with 29 points from 25 games but have beaten Premier Division sides Beckenham Town (2-1) and Sheppey United (1-0) in the previous two rounds.

But Chatham Town put in a professional and highly impressive first half performance to blow away Ford’s side’s chances of causing a third upset in their best ever run in the Challenge Cup.

Byron Walker scored twice to take his tally up to 19 goals for the season, before man-of-the-match winger Matt Bodkin, 35, added a third as Chatham raced into a 3-0 lead inside 38 minutes.

The second half proved to be a dead rubber as both sides cancelled each other out, until a late flurry of goalmouth incident.

Josh Patrick slotted home his 18th goal of the season when he was presented with a gift inside the final six minutes to score a consolation goal.

Paul Vines – who played 78 minutes of Chatham’s 3-1 win at Crowborough Athletic in goal at the weekend after keeper Dan Ellis was forced off with a dislocated finger – tucked home a last minute penalty to score goal number 35 for the season.

Sporting Club Thamesmead lost winger Merrick Simms to a red-card for dissent towards assistant referee Danny Roberts before the final goal, voicing his disgust that he and referee Peter Conn ignored a sending-off offence committed by Chatham Town midfielder Zak Henry.

“I thought it was much of what we were expecting to be honest with you, probably a little step too far for us in terms of their quality compared to ours,” admitted Ford, whose side crashed to a 3-0 home defeat to bottom side Rochester United at the weekend.

“The boys have done amazing to get this far.  I’m not ruling it out but with a 4-1 deficit it’s a mountain to climb and you’d expect Chatham to go on now and get in to the Final.”

Chatham Town boss James Collins said: “That probably sums us up! Brilliant first half, not great second.  First half I thought we were excellent and second half we just didn’t get going for whatever reason. 

“I had to make a couple of changes and our rhythm went a little bit.  We’ve played quite a bit of football recently so maybe a little bit of tiredness crept in but a 4-1 win is a good result to take into the second leg and try to finish the job off next Tuesday.”

Chatham Town set the tone straight from the off and this tie was won and lost inside the opening 20 minutes of this 180 minute tie.

“You expect that to be honest with you with their league position, budget and the way that they’re going,” admitted Ford.

“The tempo they set at the start was a great tempo and we couldn’t live with it. Credit to them and credit to James, he’s got a really good side there and they thoroughly deserved their 3-0 half-time lead.”

Collins said: “On our day we are very, very good, very good and very hard to live with. It’s just that complacency. I don’t like saying it’s too easy because that’s disrespectful but sometimes we just go away from things and over complicate things and do things we don’t need to do.  It was enjoyable to watch first half.”

Bodkin’s skill on the touchline saw him beat two defenders before he floated in a cross, which was cleared by Sporting Club Thamesmead’s left-wing-back Timi Osibodu and Matt Parsons’ first time left-footed shot was sliced wide of the left-hand post from 12-yards after only 91 seconds.

Chatham Town debutant goalkeeper Kleton Perntreou, a 24-year-old Albanian, who has been snapped up from Bostik Premier Division side Worthing, launched a big kick upfield, the ball was poorly defended by right-centre-half Joel Mensah and Bodkin sliced his left-footed shot past the near post from 15-yards.

Bodkin floated a free-kick into the Sporting Club Thamesmead penalty area and Vines’ free downward header bounced comfortably into the hands of Charlie Martin.

“We’re patching a back four together every week at the moment losing Mason Simms to a broken leg like we did and losing Cameron Reardon to knee ligament injuries has really set us back and they’re two massive players for us,” said Ford.

“Tamer Bilal hasn’t played for quite a few weeks now and he’s come in tonight as a favour for me and him and Jamie Rawsthorne done the best they could but I know Chatham would create chances.  Unfortunately we’ve conceded quite a lot of goals this season (45 in the league) and unfortunately for us losing Cameron and Mason has made that even worse for us but I can’t really go too deep with the defenders there, they’re doing the best they can.”

Chatham Town took only nine minutes and 12 seconds to take a deserved lead.

Right-back Danny Grant released Vines down the right and he played the ball on the outside to winger Jon Pilbeam, who sprinted towards the by-line and whipped in a great cross towards the near post and Walker buried his header down and across Martin to score from three-yards out, despite there being three defenders swarming around him.

“It set the tone. That’s exactly what we spoke about. I think the first 20 minutes will set the tone for this tie because you come out and show them how good you are,” said Collins.

“I said they’re probably in their changing room looking at the team sheet and saying ‘you’ve got to stop Vinsey, Bodkin, Pilbeam’.

“Byron’s got a knack of scoring, he’s scored double figures (19) for us and we’re quite fortunate Michael Hagan (nine), Vinsey, Pilbeam and Byron have all got double figures for us this season.  We’ve got goals and it’s a good cross and a good third-man run and a good finish.

“We drew 0-0 against Rusthall the other week and everyone expected us to beat them and everyone expects us to win tonight so you can’t win in theory, you can only lose.  Obviously you can win the game but if you win you’re expected to win and if you lose it’s a giant killing but these can be tricky ties and I thought we played well.”

Ford added: “Byron’s clinical. You can’t let him get in those positions and it’s a good delivery into the box. I’m a little bit disappointed that we’re not goal side of the ball. I felt two players were facing our goal trying to clear a ball, which is difficult so yes we could set up a little bit better and got goal side and cleared our lines a little bit better, but credit the cross and they finished it off well.”

Bodkin’s skill and trickery gave Mensah problems all night and Collins was delighted to see him in full flight – but Bodkin’s performance levels dropped after the interval.

Collins said: “He’s unplayable when he’s like that. I like watching him play when he’s like that. He’s so, so good. I’d probably like a few more goals from him.  I love watching him play, he’s a great player.”

Chatham Town were camped in their opponents half and the home side were struggling to keep hold of the ball during the first 20 minutes.

Henry, who was playing far more advanced than his holding midfielder role at Cray Wanderers, played the ball inside to Pilbeam, who curled a shot on the turn across the keeper and around the far post from 25-yards.

Corey Walters-Wright hit a long ball out of defence and Henry clipped the ball over the top for Bodkin to latch onto but his attempted curler sailed harmlessly wide from 30-yards out.

Perntreou’s deep free-kick from inside the centre-circle was met by Richard Avery’s header inside the penalty area but the ball bounced comfortably into Martin’s hands.

Dominant Chatham Town doubled their lead with 35 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Patrick crashed to the ground as Perntreou grabbed hold of the ball on the very edge of his penalty area, before launching a big kick straight down the middle of the pitch.

Pibeam flicked his pass into Walker, who skipped past his marker before planting a left-footed drive past Martin from 15-yards.

“Rusthall sat in against us the other day and teams have started doing it but we’re getting used to it,” said Collins.

“We’re getting better at it because people keep doing it to us and they did it to us and we moved the ball a lot better than we did the other night. I said that to the players, football’s about learning and you can make mistakes but you’ve got to learn from them so that was the most pleasing aspect that teams sit in against us and we made right a few wrongs what we couldn’t do against Rusthall.”

Ford added: “Again, it’s switching off. It’s not dealing with things and it’s sloppy. It's unlike us. It’s young and immature and we are young but ultimately we fell short tonight in quite a few areas and it was a well-worked goal for them.”

The floodgates threatened to open as Chatham Town raced into a three-goal lead just 89 seconds later.

The home side switched off from Grant’s throw in and the ball was worked into Reece Butler’s feet and he cut inside and played a crossfield pass over to Bodkin, who was left in acres of space to cut the ball onto his right foot to curl his low shot around Martin to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Collins said: “I thought Reece was outstanding and I said that at half-time that might’ve lost our rhythm a little bit. Corey got injured and I had to take him off and taking Reece out of (central midfield) maybe we lost our rhythm. I thought he was excellent, a great pass and a great finish from Bods.”

Ford added: “We haven’t switched on from the throw. We’ve conceded two goals on Saturday from throw-ons.  We’re just not switching on quickly enough for some reason at the moment. We don’t seem to talk when the ball goes out of play, there’s no one organising. 

“I said to the boys at half-time we’re under-performing. We weren’t our usual self tonight. I felt they didn’t allow us to get into the way we play. Credit to them, it was a very immature performance.”

Martin rushed off his line and bravely smothered the ball at Bodkin’s feet on the very edge of his penalty area after Bodkin was played through on goal.

Sporting Club Thamesmead created one chance during a one-sided first half and that chance came in the final minute.

Ben Williams played a one-two with left-back Osibodu and whipped in a low cross into the Chatham penalty area.  The ball flicked off Butler’s heels and forced Pernteou into making a smart low save to his right to prevent an own-goal.

Ford said: “I don’t know the goalkeeper, I think he’s new. It was a great reaction save. Credit to Ben for putting it into the area and we were unlucky there for it to not drop into the back of the net but it wasn’t a chance really created by us. It was a half-chance.”

Revealing his keeper’s background, Collins said: “He got released from Crystal Palace 11 months ago and he’s been Worthing’s number one this season but I think Worthing’s goalkeeper broke his arm in October and they brought him in for 30 odd games but I’m led to believe Worthing’s keeper is possibly under contract and he wasn’t so he was looking for a new club and it sort of fell perfectly.  I think he’s played a couple of first team games for Hibernian as well.

“He looked the real deal. It was a cracking save and his distribution was excellent. He just kept finding Vinsey’s head all the game.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Ford said: “I just felt the boys could put a little bit more into everything that they had done. If that was hitting a tackle, winning a header, talking to each other and getting their shape a little bit better.

“I just said to them they worked really hard to get into a Semi-Final and I’m proud that they got here to this stage.  We’re the last club from our league at this stage of the competition. I’m quite happy with how far we’ve got but ultimately I just said to them I wanted to stay in the tie. We’ve fallen well short with what we set out to do tonight.”

Collins added: “I said look listen, you’re 3-0 up. It’s important we do the right things regardless of whether we score any more goals. Those instructions weren’t followed for whatever reasons so that’s bitterly disappointing.”

The introduction of holding midfielder Andrade Caetano added strength and resilience to the Sporting Club Thamesmead back-line for the second half and both sides cancelled each other out from the first minute of the second half until the 80th.

“That’s what we said to the boys, could we make it a little bit dirtier? Can we mix it up? Can we stop them being so much in possession and dominating things and I think we done that,” said Ford.

“I brought Andrade Caetano on, who I thought made a big difference in the second half.  I thought he got around people and made things hard and made a few challenges and seemed to give us a little bit of discipline in there so credit to him. I thought he was an outstanding performer on the night.”

Collins added: “I don’t think there was a shot on or off target was there? It was literally a non-event.  We gave the ball to them, they gave it to us. It was a chalk and cheese performance.”

Chatham Town sub-striker Michael Hagan whipped in a cross from the left and Vines smacked an acrobatic hooked shot towards goal, which was bravely blocked by the returning Tamer Bilal, who appeared to be ring-rusty.

Sporting Club Thamesmead scored a consolation goal with 38 minutes and 45 seconds on the clock, which was the first real shot on target in the second half.

Martin launched a big kick straight down the middle and Patrick pressed Butler (who had dropped to partner Avery at the heart of Chatham’s defence in the second half).  Keeper Perntreou rushed outside of his area and the two Chatham players got in each others way and allowed Patrick to nip in and stride into the box before slotting a left-footed shot into an empty goal from eight-yards.

“It was a gift but you have got to be in those situations and if Josh doesn’t press the ball there, the guy clears it quite comfortably but he got into an area and got his just rewards for it,” said Ford on the otherwise quiet talisman.

“It’s ricochet off his chest and he’s slotted it into an empty net. I’ve got to mention Charlie Martin, his distribution was great tonight, out of his hands and off the floor, he set that up.

“We had to go a little bit more direct in the second half. It’s not usually how I like doing things but they weren’t letting us play so we just had to do what we had to do.”

Collins said: “Kleton came in and apologised and I just said at half-time a goalkeeper is judged on clean-sheets. If you’ve got a game where you don’t have to do anything, take your clean-sheet, go home with it. You don’t need to get involved in a game.  I think that sometimes when players drop down levels they get into bad habits and it was disappointing to concede and disappointing from his point of view I would imagine.

“Like I said to him, as long as you learn from it, that’s what football’s about, learning from your mistakes and putting them right.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead lacked quality to mount an unlikely comeback but there was a controversial moment before Vines wrapped up the scoring.

Henry clearly launched a left-arm into Caetano’s face, flattering him to the deck and referee Peter Conn ignored this incident and allowed play to carry on.

The ball was played into the penalty area and Mensah was found guilty of pushing Vines inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty.

Senior Assistant referee Danny Roberts then flagged and the referee came over to him and after a word a red-card was pulled out in Simms’ direction for something that he said towards the lino.

That would have been avoided had Henry – who was already on a yellow – received the appropriate punishment.

“I don’t normally moan at officials but I think the decision that the end there is outrageous,” claimed Ford.

“It’s a blatant push in the face, high hand, whatever you want to call it and it’s left one of our players injured on the floor and the ref waved play on for a head injury.  I just don’t understand that part of it and it’s lead to their goal ultimately.

“It was a little immature by Joel, a push in the back but it doesn’t happen if the referee gets that decision right and then we go to Chatham 3-1 down and thinking we’re in the game.”

Reflecting on Simms’ act of dissent, Ford replied: “Merrick’s silly there at the end. He knows it, I’ve just spoken to him. It’s a learning curve for him. You can’t speak to officials the way he did but it’s easy to say he can’t speak to officials the way he did but ultimately he’s done it for a reason. The reason is he’s frustrated and annoyed with the decision in the first place.  Everyone in the crowd is wondering why the decision hasn’t been given!”

Collins added: “It’s a weird one. Jason Barton got sent-off for something similar at the weekend, which I thought was harsh. I think players try to feel where other players are so I don’t think it was an elbow. I think he put his hand in his face but I don’t think it was anything like that.  Who knows on another day a referee might give it and on another day the ref might send him off. It’s a tough one. Sometimes they feel for it. There wasn’t any malice in it. Possibly I wouldn’t have argued if a free-kick was given.”

Vines, naturally, slotted his left-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Martin the wrong way, to rattle in the fourth goal, which was timed at 44 minutes and 31 seconds.

Collins said: “We’ve missed enough penalties this season. I’m pleased he’s scored. He likes scoring goals. He’s brilliant. I thought he was a bit quiet tonight but I don’t think we gave him enough service in the second half and he’s got a knack of scoring goals.”

Ford added: “They’re going to create chances, they’re great going forward and we couldn’t live with them at times.  Fair play to them, they’re a really good side.”

There was still time inside injury time for Chatham Town to create further chances.

Mahoney whipped in a cross which was controlled by Vines’ chest and as Martin rushed off his line he was beaten but the ball was cleared off the line by Bilal.

Collins said: “That’s the frustrating thing about us. We’ve conceded the goal and then we started playing again. The last 10 minutes was back to what it was in the first half. We just got to find that happy medium.  Complacency comes into our game. When we get into that mindset we just really struggle to get back out of it again.”

Bodkin’s fine pass put Pilbeam through on goal and his shot flashed across the keeper and bounced against the base of the far post and there was still time for Vines to slice his first time shot wide of the right-hand post after latching onto Bodkin’s ball over the top.

Sporting Club Thamesmead are without a First Division game on Saturday but Chatham Town welcome Bearsted to Maidstone Road in the Premier Division.

Chatham Town will play Beckenham Town in the Kent Senior Trophy Final in Maidstone on Sunday 14 April and are most likely to play the winner of Corinthian and Fisher in the Final of the Challenge Cup.

“We’ve got to go there and play with a little bit of passion and desire and just go and represent the club well,” said Ford.

“We’ve got to go there and enjoy the occasion and play at Chatham’s ground, who are in the league above and try to be competitive and enjoy the night. If we do that I’ll come away as a happy manager because I felt we didn’t compete for 45 minutes tonight and we let ourselves down a little bit but second 45 I’m more happy with and I can go home with a smile on my face based on the second half performance.

“It’s going to take a big bit of luck, it’s going to take a momentous effort.  I never say never but ultimately they’ve got a firm foot in the Final now.”

Collins replied: “We’ve got to finish off the job! It’s half-time. We’ve got another 90 minutes and they’re going to come at us with nothing to lose. They’ll probably take heart and a bit of confidence out of the second half performance and we’ve got to make sure we turn up and play like we did in the first half.

“I’m not saying we are (in the Final).  I’m not going to be that disrespectful. Anything can happen. We could get a player sent-off in the first five minutes and they score one goal and you just don’t know.

“We’ve given ourselves a very, very good chance but we’ve got a home leg now to go and finish off the job and that’s exactly what we have to do now, we’ve got to finish it off.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Charlie Martin, Jamie Williams (Greg Adinna 57), Timi Osibodu, Jamie Rawsthorne, Tamer Bilal, Joel Mensah, David Jesus (Richard Morgan 71), Ben Williams (Andrade Caetano 46), Josh Patrick, Max Williams, Merrick Simms.
Subs: Elliott Rayment-Johnson, Max Walsh

Goal: Josh Patrick 84

Sent Off: Merrick Simms 89

Chatham Town: Kleton Perntreou, Danny Grant, Matt Parsons (Ben Davisson 65), Reece Butler, Richard Avery, Corey Walters-Wright (Jack Mahoney 46), Jon Pilbeam, Zak Henry, Paul Vines, Byron Walker (Michael Hagan 73), Matt Bodkin.
Subs: Sam Welch, Harrison Carnegie

Goals: Byron Walker 10, 36, Matt Bodkin 38, Paul Vines 90 (penalty)

Booked: Zak Henry 65

Attendance: 122
Referee: Mr Peter Conn (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Danny Roberts (Maidstone) & Mr Howard Collins (Horton Kirby)