Tunbridge Wells 0-2 Faversham Town - Our main aim is just to get out of this league, says Faversham Town boss Tommy Warrilow

Monday 15th April 2024
Tunbridge Wells 0 – 2 Faversham Town
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 15/04/2024 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Monday 15 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

FAVERSHAM TOWN manager Tommy Warrilow says he’s feeling glad that his side have reached second-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with two games remaining.

Steve King’s Deal Town celebrated winning the league title following their 3-1 home win over Scott Porter’s Lydd Town at the weekend, while Faversham Town produced a professional job to claim a comfortable victory at Culverden Stadium.

Former Fisher winger Darnelle Bailey-King opened his goalscoring account for the Lilywhites, before Sam Hasler notched his 15th goal of the season, from the penalty spot as Warrilow’s men got the job done by the 37th minute.

Deal Town got over the line by picking up 86 points from their 36 (of 40) league games, while Faversham Town have leapfrogged over two teams to hit second place with 77 points from their 38 games. 

Glebe have slipped down to third-place with 77 points from 38 games, Corinthian are now in fourth-place on 76 points from 38 games, while double-cup winners Erith Town are in fifth-place on 71 points with four games remaining.

Tunbridge Wells, who went into this game on a four-match unbeaten run, remain in 15th place in the table, having picked up 41 points from their 34 games.

“Just a job well done because no disrespect it’s not the best playing surface in the world here and it’s always a difficult place to come, so I think this was a massive potential banana skin and I think we’ve come here and just done a solid job and thoroughly deserved the win,” said Warrilow, whose side extended their unbeaten run to nine games.

“They’ve got a lot of games to play and we’ve seen their results.  It’s a very hard place to come and I’m delighted the way we’ve been performing over the last five or six weeks and we’ve just continued the run.”

Faversham Town’s 36-goal striker Stefan Payne remained on the bench as he “had a little issue with his hamstring,” and Warrilow revealed that the former Tonbridge Angels striker “will be fine” come Saturday and that “everyone will be fighting and available for selection.”

Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, lost the services of both of their centre-halves, Harry Hudson (groin) and Sammie McLeod (hamstring) during the first half.

Tunbridge Wells manager Steve Ives said: “I think we were lacklustre, off the pace, gifted an easy first goal to Faversham from poor marking from a long throw and in truth that was the worst thing we could’ve done because they were just comfortable after that.  We’ve given them the lead cheaply and they never looked in danger of losing it, if I’m honest.

“That’s what makes it probably more disappointing because we’ve raised our standards in terms of level of performance and most of that has been based around hard work and cutting out silly goals.

“I thought the first goal was really poor. Two people have held their hands up, which is great but it’s too late and then to back that up there’s a debatable penalty.  Either way that came from a corner, which we didn’t mark very well as well, so two poor moments from us.”

Hasler was pulling the strings for the Lilywhites and he fed Bailey-King, who drilled a right-footed angled drive which crashed off the near post from 25-yards with two minutes and 43 seconds on the clock.

“It was a great start by him.  I thought he worked really hard up there. We went with Darnelle up, Stefan Payne’s carrying a little knock and Warren Mfula is just getting back from his knee injury, so to be fair to Daniel Thompson, he’s been playing through a bit of sickness.  Darnelle puts himself about and his work-rate, he deserves his goal and he was unlucky not to get a couple more,” added Warrilow.

Ives added: “I wouldn’t say they came out with all guns blazing, they did hit the post, I give them that but I thought it was quite a slow start to the game and we’ve just opened the door and given them a really early lead.”

Faversham Town opened the scoring with four minutes and 51 seconds on the clock, following a three-man set-piece routine.

Left-back Bradley Simms launched the first of his three long throws into the penalty area, the ball was flicked on by Hasler at the near post and Bailey-King had the simple task of poking the ball into the bottom far corner from a couple of yards to score Faversham Town’s 100th league goal of the season.

“Listen, it’s a long throw. We’ve been speaking about these the other week. If you’ve got it, you use it. Everyone uses them and that’s why,” added Warrilow.

Ives added: “We just let him walk into our box completely unmarked, which was nice of us and then someone’s lost their man at the back post so was that a good goal?  I think it was very, very, very poor from us to be truthful, really disappointing.”

Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper George Bentley made a comfortable save in his midriff as Hasler spun and cracked a left-footed shot on the turn from 22-yards, before Tunbridge Wells created their only chance of the first half in the 15th minute.

Right-wing-back Matthew Astle swept a free-kick into the Faversham penalty area and the ball was punched away by goalkeeper Jacob Russell, while under pressure and the ball came out to Astle, who drilled a low right-footed shot through a crowd of players from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by the former Ramsgate and Ashford United goalkeeper.

“Just one chance in the first half? I couldn’t really disagree with you,” said Ives.

“I don’t think there was a lot of goalmouth action. I just thought we were really off it tonight.

“They needed three points to secure play-offs, congratulations to them, they’ve achieved their objective.  I didn’t really think they really had to overstretch themselves too much and I didn’t think it was a particularly good game of football but we’ve given them an early lead.

“We haven’t really had to muster too much of a threat until maybe there was a spell in the second half of approximately 15 minutes – we went 3-5-2 and had a little bit more of a go at them.”

Warrilow added: “This is the thing, if we limit people with shots from long distance then we know we’re doing our job – but we’ve looked solid as a (back) four for a while now and not just that they give us a lot going forward as well.  The full-backs and the attacking sense, so we’re delighted with the result.”

Referee Samuel Hall awarded Faversham Town a penalty kick when Hasler’s corner came in from the left and in the second phase, centre-half Connor Essam drilled a left-footed shot towards a crowd of players inside the box and substitute centre-half Siji Akinlusi was penalised for handball.

Bentley walked towards the penalty spot and had a spat with penalty taker Hasler before the kick was taken and both players were booked by the referee before Hasler sent Bentley the wrong way with a left-footed penalty, just left of centre, to win the game for Faversham Town, with 36 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock.

Both manager’s were asked about the penalty decision and the spat between the pair.

Warrilow said: “Silly really, I don’t know what it was all about.  I’ve given up what is handball and what isn’t handball.  We had one against us the other week. It’s evened itself out today.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it, so obviously it was handball and it’s done and he’s converted it well.”

This website relies on no video evidence while typing up these match reports while most people at the game are in bed, and just like me, both manager’s couldn’t really see whether it was handball or not, especially when it happens within a crowd of players.

“I mean, you’re standing around the area I was, which is probably 50 to 60 meters from the event, so it’s very hard.  It’s very hard for me to say with 100% certainty whether that was or wasn’t a penalty,” said Ives.

“What I will say, we had a very similar thing happen against Sutton last week and the linesman said to us ‘if it hits the part of somebody’s body and it’s not an unnatural position or if it hits, for example their thigh and then it bounces up and hits their arm, that’s no longer a penalty.’

“I questioned the linesman (Byron Beard) on that and he said to me ‘he didn’t see the incident’ and I take that as he’s passing deference on to the referee on it.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty. I think it was very harsh.  We’ve got the Veo but that will be 60 meters away so we’ll probably never know. The boys all think it was very harsh. 

“I’m not really sure what the handbags was all about afterwards. I didn’t expect Sam Hasler to miss, he’s a good player.”

Faversham Town missed a glorious chance to add a third goal on the stroke of half-time, following another set-piece.

Holding midfielder Billy Bingham floated the ball from close to the centre circle into the Tunbridge Wells box, the ball was flicked on from within a crowd of players and the ball fell kindly for Bailey-King, who volleyed just past the right-hand post when he should have scored.

Warrilow added: “Another set-piece we work on. He’s disappointed because that was his easiest chance out of the lot to be honest but just have to keep doing them because we believe in them, we do cash in.”

Ives added: “Again, set-pieces, being the operative word.  We weren’t good enough on set-pieces.  He did volley wide but we gave him the time and the space to do that.

“We’ve been really good at defending over the last, it used to be our Achilles heal. We used to let 50% of our goals in from dead ball.  Both the goal we let in against them last time when we drew two-all was with a dead ball so we know we had to be careful.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the interval and Ives was clearly unhappy with his side’s performance on a windy Monday night, which also included a five minute downpour just before the penalty.

Ives said:  “It didn’t help two of my centre-halves had to go off injured quite clearly but that’s not going to be helpful.

“I just felt we weren’t at the races today. I don’t know, maybe it’s knocking the rhythm.  For some obscure reason the League not giving us a game on Saturday when we’ve still got six games to go. It’s a bit unusual to play on Monday night but I’m making excuses up really.  I don’t actually know why we were off it today but we were.

“I said to them (at half-time) that was absolutely rubbish, probably the worst we’ve played certainly in the last 15 games and I just sort of challenged them to try to put up a bit of a fight and make a contest of it because rightly so Faversham had a bit of a cigar out and I just wanted to see a little bit of fight.

“I did feel there was a spell maybe 15 minutes where we put a little bit of effort in.  I can’t really congratulate people putting a little bit of effort in but there was a little bit of fight.”

Warrilow added: “Nothing really. We knew they’re going to come out of the blocks, 2-0 down. We’re kicking downhill (in the second half) so we just wanted to try to turn them a little bit more.

“It’s not a night for football but that’s the only thing that we didn’t really do enough of was getting men behind but at the same time we got in a few times playing through the middle.

“It’s just the final, whether it was a bobble or whatever but overall it was just a solid performance.  I’m not going to start nick-picking out the negatives.”

Tunbridge Wells’ 32-goal striker Trevor McCreadie was often an isolated figure up front on his own, while Faversham Town’s two centre-halves Essam and Ben Gorham shut the door firmly shut.

Astle swung in the home side’s third of five corners inside the opening three minutes and the ball was worked to McCreadie inside the box but he slipped over before dragging his right-footed shot across Russell and past the far post from 12-yards.

The next second highest goalscorer in the home team tonight was Regan Corke on eight goals, so Ives was asked whether he’ll be looking for his players to share the goals around next season.

Ives explained: “It will be nice wouldn’t it.  Both the systems we’ve switched between this season involve one centre-forward, so by default you’re going to expect him to score most of the goals and most of the way we play is based on trying to create chances.

“I would really love us to score more set-pieces. They’re so few and far in between I can almost remember every single one.

“In an ideal world you would want two of your 10s (attacking midfielders) getting near double figures and you want a couple of people scoring dead balls but it’s easier said than done. You know the sort of money flying around!”

Warrilow added: “We know Trev’s a good player but thankfully tonight we limited him to a few chances.”

Tunbridge Wells should have won a penalty in the 52nd minute when Astle and Rory Ward linked up well in midfield before the ball was worked to McCreadie, who easily cut inside Essam, who clearly pulled the striker’s red shirt as he beat him along the by-line - but the referee waved away appeals and McCreadie went on to drill a deflected shot high over the top of the near-post from a tight angle.

“Maybe Trev had a penalty, the linesman waved it away but I’m clutching a little bit for positives tonight,” admitted Ives.

The impressive Hasler released left-winger Kieron Campbell, who evaded James White’s sliding tackle inside the Tunbridge Wells penalty area but the former Herne Bay winger poked his shot past the foot of the near-post from a tight angle.

Warrilow said: “I thought it (the second-half) was a very good performance, different to the first because they were going to go a little bit gung-ho more.  They left Trevor up there and got bodies around him to try to overload the midfield area and the wide areas but we kept our shape and we just locked it up the last 5-10 minutes of the game because we thought we could get them in wide areas and get at them and we did.  Unfortunately, sometimes, the elusive bobble or final ball wasn’t right.”

Bailey-King went to pieces on the edge of the Tunbridge Wells penalty area following the away side’s second and final corner in the 67th minute.

Hasler floated the corner in from the left and substitute striker Warren Mfula missed the header inside the six-yard box and the ball was cleared out to Bailey-King, who swept his left-footed shot past the right-hand post from 18-yards.

Hasler turned James Shield in midfield before releasing Mfula in behind but the former Sheppey United striker dragged his left-footed shot and past the far post from 16-yards.

“Let’s not make it too much of a sob-story, we’ve been in a really good run of form and we’ve just had a bit of a sub-standard night tonight,” admitted Ives.

When asked about the luxury of bringing on the likes of Bennett and Mfula and Payne sitting on the bench for 90 minutes, Warrilow replied: “There’s a lot of teams in this league that have got good players on their bench so we’re no different to anybody else.

“Warren’s been struggling with his knee,  Billy came out with his blisters and I left him out tonight because I wanted to start with the same midfield that started Saturday’s (2-1 home win over Snodland Town) but with three or four games to go that will change. 

“We’ve started to start picking some momentum up, we’ve not been shouting from the roof-tops about it but just slowly getting on with it because unfortunately here, I say it all the time, is that when we win a game of football, it doesn’t matter because you’re expected to win it and no-one’s ever turned round and said ‘well done’ to you because of the players’ we’ve got and the stigma around the club, which is sometimes a little bit unfair.

“There’s other teams in this league doing the same but unfortunately, like I said to the boys ‘get on with it, accept it, we stick together’ and our main aim is just to get out of this league.”

Tunbridge Wells failed to lay a glove on promotion-chasing Faversham Town tonight and Dover Athletic loanee, Archie Hatcher, 18, had the last chance of the game, just 74 seconds after coming off the bench.

Fellow substitute, Billy Bennett, played the ball inside to Hatcher, who drove straight down the heart of the pitch before unleashing a low left-footed drive from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by Bentley.

“I feel for Archie because I brought him in at a time when we were short of players and then all off a sudden in that week four players came in.  The boy has been nothing but professional. I spoke to Mike Sandmann over (at Dover Athletic) and apologised for his lack of game time.  I’ve got to do what’s right for Faversham,” explained Warrilow.

“Archie came and four players turned up a few days later, which limited his chances but he’s done well, got his shot off (tonight) and just done his job.”

Reflecting on their clean-sheet, Warrilow added: “I appreciate what the boys have done tonight because it’s a very hard place to come. It’s very, very difficult conditions and the wind made it a horrible night for football, so to keep a clean-sheet and get three points, it keeps the momentum going and it keeps us in second spot.”

Faversham Town complete their league campaign with a home game against basement side Welling Town on Saturday, before a final day trip to Punjab United.

As things stand tonight, the Lilywhites will have home advantage in the play-off semi-final, as well as the final, should they get there.

“We don’t want to try and throw that away. I’ve been in football long enough not to take anything for granted but we’re delighted to get second spot because we’ve been consistent over the last six or seven weeks,” added Warrilow.

“I treat Welling Town as it’s whoever. I just respect every team in this league and treat every game as a massive cup final now because we want home advantage but even our away form is unbelievable (losing twice on their travels, but five league games on the plastic pitch at Salters Lane).

“I want to finish as high as possible as well.  I’ve had a lot of play-off experience in my time, some good and some bad and I know what those occasions can do for people.  I’m glad we’ve gone back to second and hopefully we can stay there.”

Warrilow knows getting out of this division is “a priority,” and will have to do it via the play-offs.

“It’s priority. They haven’t had much to shout about down here (at Faversham) for the last couple of seasons, relegated last year, so hopefully if we can get out, that’s the target, is to get out of the league whether that’s doing it ugly, good or whatever but at the minute we’re looking very solid and we’ve got that little bit of confidence in us – but that confidence will never turn into arrogance.

“We won’t take nothing for granted, we’ll just take each one as it comes.  Welling Town may be bottom of the league but look at Ross County beating Rangers (in the Scottish Premiership) yesterday, Liverpool losing to Crystal Palace, it happens in football.

“We’re in training on Thursday, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re not going to be a million miles away.”

Tonight was the first of six games in the last 12 days of the season and Tunbridge Wells welcome double-cup winners Erith Town to Culverden Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Wells then play Hollands & Blair (away, 20 April), Bearsted (home, 22 April), Holmesdale (home, 24 April) and Kennington (home, 27 April).

Ives revealed that he can add Jack Walder and Jacob Feasey to his squad that faces Adam Woodward’s Challenge Cup and Kent Senior Trophy winners next.

“Erith Town have got a lot of energy, which we will have to match. If we play like that, we could be in all sort of trouble,” warned Ives.

“Exactly the same as Faversham, I think, need a win to get themselves over the line. It’s pretty boring seeing, I’m not bitter and I take my hat off to anyone who achieves there aims for the season, but it’s pretty boring having to listen to the other teams supporters’ cheering and clapping them off.  You’d much rather be the party poopers from our point of view.

“What do I expect? I expect a lot more effort out of my team and a little bit more quality.

“It hasn’t helped the two players have got injured tonight on the first hurdle.  We’re probably going to need the numbers and probably a bit of lucky really.

“It’s a shame, you keep looking at the league table and the games we’ve got in hand and you keep thinking if we can pick up some points there we can kind of elevate ourselves up but the reality is it’s not like any other game because the fatigue is going to kick in but what can you do? There’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.”

Tunbridge Wells: George Bentley, Matthew Astle, Ned Lewis (Jack Gallagher 80), James White, Sammie McLeod (Daniel Tear 46), Harry Hudson (Siji Akinlusi 24), James Shield, Bradley Austin (Morgan Vale 73), Trevor McCreadie, Rory Ward, Regan Corke (Muiz Alaka 67).

Booked: George Bentley 37, Rory Ward 51

Faversham Town: Jacob Russell, Tariq Ossai, Bradley Simms, Billy Bingham, Connor Essam, Ben Gorham, Kieron Campbell, Nathan Wood (Archie Hatcher 88), Daniel Thompson (Warren Mfula 60), Darnelle Bailey-King, Samuel Hasler (Billy Bennett 83).
Subs: Matthew Newman, Stefan Payne

Goals: Darnelle Bailey-King 5, Sam Hasler 37 (penalty)

Booked: Sam Hasler 37, Tariq Ossai 49

Attendance: 334
Referee: Mr Samuel Hall
Assistants: Mr Byron Beard & Mr Julian Cowan
Observer:  Mr Peter Lindsey