Tunbridge Wells 1-0 AFC Croydon Athletic - It doesn't matter how many you win by, it's just getting the points on the board that's important, says Tunbridge Wells boss Richard Styles

Tuesday 29th September 2020
Tunbridge Wells 1 – 0 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 29/09/2020 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 29 September 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Richard Styles says he is pleased with his side’s unbeaten league start to the new season.

The Wells are in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 13 points from five games, a couple of points behind Chatham Town and Corinthian in the pecking order.

Central midfielder Harry Hudson, 19, scored his first goal for the club but it could have been more but an impressive performance in the AFC Croydon Athletic goal by Brazilian Marcos Belloli-Pereira, who made a string of second-half saves.

“A big performance, totally deserved,” said Styles.

“Glad to get another three points on the board at this stage of the season, that’s the most important thing.

“If you’d ask if I would’ve taken that at the start of the season before we got going I would’ve taken that all day long to be unbeaten and to win the way we did tonight. I’m pleased with that.”

Injury-hit AFC Croydon Athletic, meanwhile, are in the bottom five with four points from six games and with only four goals to their name.

“I thought we competed well enough, nothing really first half.  Our keeper had a decent game,” said AFC Croydon Athletic manager Kevin Rayner.

“They’re not a bad side Tunbridge Wells.  I thought we competed to stay in it. We had a couple of good chances but it just wasn’t there, was it?

“We’re gradually getting players’ back in. We’ve had a lot of injuries. We’ll have a couple back in on Saturday, so we’ve still got three or four to still come back in so I’m sure we’ll be absolutely fine once we have everyone fit and firing.  The squad is getting a little bit better so I expect us to improve as we get a couple more back.”

A great piece of goal-line defending from AFC Croydon Athletic’s right-back Abbas Oduncu thwarted Tunbridge Wells in the eighth minute.

Euan Sahadow got down the left-channel and over-hit a cross, which was retrieved by right-winger Regan Corke, who cut the ball back to Hudson, to hang over a cross towards the far post towards Sahadow, who was denied by a brave piece of goal-line defending from Oduncu.

Rayner said: “I think he’s done quite well tonight against their winger. Euan Sahadow is quite a dangerous player and I thought Abbas looked after him quite well.  He needed to have a good game against him and he did. I think he got the better of him over 62 minutes but it was a good battle between them.”

Styles said: “I don’t know how that’s not gone in!  People I’ve spoken to and the players’ on the pitch have said it’s great defending from their lad to block it so I think we’ve done everything but score in that situation.”

Belloli-Pereira had his fingers stung by Corke’s fierce drive as the former Rusthall winger got in behind the away side’s defence just a couple of minutes later.

“I was hoping Richard Atkins would come across and nick it but it’s gone straight through to the keeper whose looked after it, so it was another opportunity,” said Styles.

Rayner was delighted with the performance from his goalkeeper, who has recovered from suffering from poor fitness before the season was curtailed in March.

He said:  “He had a good game, he had a good game on Saturday. He’s done well.

“He came in last season late at the end of the season and to be honest we killed him playing, he hadn’t played in a little while but he’s worked hard during pre-season and he’s had a good game tonight.   He’s made a couple of outstanding saves but he’s been doing well.”

AFC Croydon Athletic only created a couple of goalscoring chances during the entire game and they should have grabbed the lead in the 11th minute.

Oduncu played the ball inside to central midfielder Jack Clark, who skipped past Hudson and fed the ball to striker Luwayne Greenwood, who otherwise cut an isolated figure during the game, lacking support from his attacking team-mates.

Greenwood drilled his shot towards the far corner, which forced goalkeeper Aaron Lee-Wharton to dive to his right to parry the ball straight into the path of Billy Murphy, who took a touch and beat the keeper with his left-footed drive from penalty spot distance but centre-half Robbie Bissett got back to clear the ball off the line and the keeper grabbed hold of the ball as it came his way.

“We should’ve scored really,” admitted Rayner.

“I think if we get ourselves in front, it was quite tight in the first half, I think we’ve got a little bit extra to hold onto. I think we’re just lacking that little bit of composure up top tonight, probably the difference between the two sides.”

Styles said: “A little bit sloppy from us, a little bit sloppy and we’ve allowed them in, we’ve allowed them an opportunity.  I felt the ball possibly could’ve been palmed away wider than it was but we’ve given them an opportunity there but thankfully we was able to defend it and go from there.”

AFC Croydon Athletic played the game on the front foot around the 20th minute mark without creating any goalscoring chances.

The home side went close to breaking the deadlock, following a set-piece.

Sahadow floated the ball in from the right and a crowd of players jumped up with the goalkeeper, who punched the ball away straight to Tunbridge Wells’ left-back James Nurden, who placed his right-footed shot through a crowd of players and just past the foot of the left-hand post from 20-yards.

“He’s left-footed, he’s a left-back and he probably should’ve hit it with his left but for some reason he’s hit it with his right and it’s driven wide. If he would’ve hit it with his left, he’d probably would’ve scored,” admitted Styles.

Tunbridge Wells wasted a great chance to take the lead inside the final 10 minutes of the first-half.

Jordan Wells strode into the penalty area down the right to reach the by-line before cutting the ball back to Hudson to sweep his first time shot straight at Belloli-Pereira, the former Didcot Town goalkeeper making a comfortable save.

“An opportunity we knew Harry could give us that tonight. He probably should’ve hit it a little bit better, maybe he was a bit surprised that it’s fallen to him. He’s hit the target, he’s made the keeper work,” said Styles.

Rayner added: “It was a good chance. He hasn’t put that one away but it was a fair chance.”

Another chance went begging for the home side when Hudson fed Corke, who whipped in a great cross from the right and striker Richard Atkins’ got the deftest of touches with a diving header which sent the ball screaming past the far post.

“We had to keep plugging away really. Richard Atkins had one just before half-time which was a golden opportunity,” said Styles.

“We were causing problems, we were knocking on the door. We just had to make sure we kept doing it. We just had to keep plugging away, keep our levels high, keep our energy high, keep creating chances, keep putting the ball in areas where we caused problems and our chance will come.”

Rayner added: “I thought we were just keeping the way we were. I thought we were likely to get a chance but obviously we need to keep it tight at the other end and just hope we get the chance and put it away.”

AFC Croydon Athletic’s left-back Michael Oshin switched off at a set-piece which saw Sahadow play a clever free-kick out to Corke on the right and he played the ball back inside to Sahadow, who failed to keep his shot down as he tried to curl his shot towards the top far corner from 25-yards.

Goalkeeper Belloli-Pereira pulled off a brilliant save to frustrate Tunbridge Wells in the thirteenth minute.

Corke sprinted past Oshin and centre-half Marcus Travers before his cross was cleared by Kallon.  Hudson picked up the loose ball and cut the ball back to Jordan Wells, whose right-footed drive was tipped around the foot of the post by the keeper, who got down quickly to his right and got a strong hand to ensure the ball went behind for the home side’s eighth corner of the game.

Tunbridge Wells claimed the deserved victory from the resulting corner, the goal being timed at 13 minutes and 15 seconds on the clock.

Rayner had substitute Timileyin Babington stripped and ready to come on but decided to wait to bring him on once the game restarted following the goal.

Corke swung the corner in from the left and the ball dropped at Bissett’s feet at the far post and he poked his shot against the base of the right-hand post and the ball fell kindly for Hudson, who steered his low shot through a crowd of players and into the back of the net.

Styles said: “The headers been saved, we’ve hit the post, somehow, Bissett hasn’t scored and I’ve sort of turned away in admiration, can’t believe we haven’t scored and it’s fallen to Harry to score.

“I’m absolutely delighted for him because it’s his first start. He’s a nineteen-year-old lad coming into the side and he’s been absolutely brilliant and I’m absolutely delighted for Harry Hudson tonight. 

“Yes, it was coming and it was just a case of when really.”

Rayner said: “We stayed in it or a while, the goal was a bit, they got the rub of the green with the goal, so be it, that’s our luck at the moment.

“They put it away well. He got the luck of the rebound, it could’ve gone anywhere and it struck for him and he put it away well but we’ve not defended it great.

“The lad on the front post missed it completely and it’s gone to the middle of the box, someone’s had a dig and it’s hit the post and it’s come out but it’s bounced kindly for them.  I’m sure if it had been the other way it would’ve probably bounced out of play but there you go.”

Styles brought on left-winger Josh Froggatt to replace Sahadow in the 62nd minute and he tore Oduncu to shreds, while Atkins was soon to be replaced by Matthew Day.

“It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Froggy because of the competition for places and wingers doing well in their places and chances have been few and far between,” explained Styles, with Froggatt in the pecking order behind Sahadow.

“It was just a case of going on and enjoying himself and showing what he can do. He made a big difference because I thought he was very good when he came on.

“He wanted his goal, you could see that. You could see he was itching for that tonight and the right-back couldn’t really live with him.  We probably brought him on at the right time to have a go at their full-back because it was probably the worst thing he probably wanted at that stage of the game.”

The impressive Froggatt charged down the heart of the pitch before playing the ball on his inside to Day, who took a touch before stroking his left-footed shot which was gathered at the second attempt by Belloli-Pereira, low to his left.

Day fed Froggatt, who easily cut inside Oduncu and Kallon, before unleashing a right-footed angled drive which forced the visiting keeper into making another low save as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

“We’re pushing, we’re trying, we’ve decided we’re in the game at 1-0, we’ve decided we have to have a go and we’ve left it open a little bit at the back.  I think we’ve ended up pretty much 4-2-4 for the last 15 minutes trying to get something, that’s going to happen,” said Rayner.

Jordan Wells’ diagonal pass released Froggatt again and once again he cut in from the left and forced Belloli-Pereira into diving low to his left and grabbing hold of the ball at the second attempt.

Tunbridge Wells kept banging on the door and they missed another chance to increase their lead when Froggatt cut the ball onto his right-foot to put in a cross for Jordan Wells to slide in at the far post to poke the ball across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post.

“I thought we done everything but score,” admitted Styles.

“Their keeper’s made some great saves tonight, full credit to him and I thought he had a great game. We’ve had chances that we’ve missed, we’ve had crosses go across the face of goal. I think we’ve done everything but. We’ve had one disallowed.

“On another night it could’ve been four, five or six had we gone about it and the chances had gone in.

“It doesn’t matter how many you win by, it’s just getting the points on the board that’s important.”

AFC Croydon Athletic squandered a glorious chance to grab a point with 34 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock.

Babington got in behind the Tunbridge Wells defence after latching on to a big kick from Belloli-Pereira and only had Lee-Wharton to beat but he dragged his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from 15-yards.

Rayner admitted: “I thought he would’ve scored as well! He’s a good player Timi, he just needs a couple of games to get a bit sharper.  I thought he could’ve taken another touch. I thought he probably would’ve slotted it bottom corner but he’s just pulled it.

“He just needs more minutes on the pitch. He’s a good player, pleased to have him on board and I’m sure he’ll improve the team as we get going.”

Styles said: “It’s always a risk you take when you’re only 1-0 ahead because the game can change on a heartbeat so I was a bit disappointed they got in and had that opportunity. I’m obviously glad to see it go wide from that. We had to make sure we stood firm really.”

Bissett clipped a ball over the top which saw Corke cut past Oshin down the right before cutting the ball across the face of goal for Day to tap into the net from an offside position and assistant referee Stuart Peerless raised his flag to rule it out with less than five minutes remaining.

Dominant Tunbridge Wells created one last chance when Froggatt’s right-footed free-kick from 25-yards stung the fingers of the busy visiting keeper, who caught the ball at the second attempt.

Tunbridge Wells are one of five sides unbeaten going into the second month of the season and travel to league leaders Chatham Town next Tuesday night, the first of six league games during a hectic October.

“They’re coming thick and fast. I understand why because the league want to get them in and I fully understand that and we’ve got to manage the players’ right,” said Styles.

Styles was delighted that 191 fans were in attendance at Culverden Stadium tonight to watch this football match in the ninth-tier of English football.

However, The Football Association announced today that fans of National League South clubs have been banned from attending FA Cup Second Qualifying Round ties this weekend, which has received heavy criticism throughout the non-league family.

Styles said: “It’s huge, absolutely huge. Our fan base is so special and we’ve got such a great relationship with them and the changing room love them to bits.

“The fans are everything and on side to that obviously you’ve got your financial element where the money they pay on the gate and the beers they pay on the outside bar that we’ve made it’s all income and one thing the club hasn’t had from January right the way through to the start of the season, they’ve had no income so to have that income and have our fans back and cheering us on and roaring us on is huge and I wouldn’t have it any other way and we absolutely love it.”

Rayner takes his side to Aylesford on Saturday to play a K Sports side that held Sheppey United to a 1-1 draw last night.

Paul Atkins’ side are in fourteenth-place in the table with five points from as many games.

“We’re not putting the ball in the net basically but we’ve been struggling with injuries and we’re gradually getting people back,” revealed Rayner.

“Liam Harwood unfortunately dropped out last minute tonight through work commitments. We’ve got a couple of other lads coming back in for Saturday and I’m sure we’ll improve as we get going.

“I’m not panicking about anything. We know we’ve got a good squad once everyone’s fit and firing. We showed tonight we can compete.  I think Tunbridge Wells are top three at the moment and we competed well enough against them. I’m sure with a full squad we won’t be too far off then.

“I think the fans will know and most of the people around the club, everyone knows we’ve been struggling with injuries and we’ve competed well enough and they know we won’t have any problems once the players’ are back.”

Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Jack Hope, James Nurden, James Huggins, Ryan Cheek, Robbie Bissett, Euan Sahadow (Josh Froggatt 62), Harry Hudson (Sam Bewick 80), Richard Atkins (Matthew Day 65), Jordan Wells, Regan Corke.
Subs: Frankie Griffin, Miles Cornwell

Goal: Harry Hudson 59

Booked: Euan Sahadow 43, Josh Froggatt 84

AFC Croydon Athletic: Marcos Belloli-Pereira, Abbas Oduncu, Michael Oshin, Derrick Akpofure (Liam Coates 87), Ibrahim Kallon, Marcus Travers, Scott Eghaghe Omamoya (Timileyin Babington 60), Jack Clark, Luwayne Greenwood, Billy Murphy (Jordan Boateng 73), Jermaine Green.
Subs: Liam Harwood, Piotr Jacucha

Booked: Michael Oshin 27, Derrick Akpofure 55, Billy Murphy 76, Luwayne Greenwood 79, Marcos Belloli-Pereira 84, Abbas Oduncu 90

Attendance: 191
Referee: Mr Liam Vitoria
Assistants: Mr Ashley Rodi & Mr Stuart Peerless