Whitstable Town 1-3 AFC Sudbury - I was embarrassed by the performance, admits Jim Ward

Saturday 18th October 2014

The FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Saturday 18th October 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Belmont Road

WHITSTABLE TOWN joint-manager Jim Ward says he was embarrassed with the performance from his players after they crashed out of The FA Trophy at the first attempt.

The Oystermen reached the last 32 under former manager Nicky Southall last season when their epic eight-match run was ended in the Second Round by Conference South side Ebbsfleet United, who grabbed a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 win in front of 742 fans at The Belmont.

The run also banked £17,450 in welcomed prize money, but despite only having three survivors from that squad in Luke Watkins, Scott Heard and Jake MacKenzie today, Whitstable Town put in a woeful first half performance to gift AFC Sudbury a comfortable victory to bank the £2,500 in prize money and handed their opponents a trip to Ryman Premier League side Bognor Regis Town in the next round in two weeks’ time.

AFC Sudbury midfielder Sam Clarke lead by example by scoring twice within the opening 19 minutes and the woeful performance from the Whitstable Town players ensured chairman Gary Johnson showed his sportsmanship by awarding the visiting skipper a well-deserved man-of-the-match award after the game.

It was the first time that he posed for photographs with a visiting player with the bottle of bubbly.

Oliver Berquez, 32, scored on his debut to kill the game off on the stroke of half-time.

Whitstable Town, who were unbeaten at home in the league after seven games, scored a scant consolation through Joe Kennett’s first goal for the club with three minutes left.

Both sides were in eighth-place in the Ryman League Division One South and North respectively, but AFC Sudbury could have rattled in a lot more goals than the three that went past Watkins.

Ward said: “How many times have we done it this year? We keep waiting until half-time before we turn up!

“Three-nil down within 45 minutes, the game’s over isn’t it? It hasn’t been over every game we’ve played because we keep coming back from things like that but no. Just, just, honestly not good enough!”

Ward added: “At the moment we just don’t know what team’s going to turn up. It’s disappointing because when they’re on form their great to watch.

“Disappointing today. The club will be disappointed. The supporters will be disappointed, especially the chairman. We didn’t want to go out today, that’s for sure!”

Berquez, an arrival from league rivals Maldon & Tiptree, almost made it a dream start for his new club, going close after only 36 seconds.

Ayrton Coley was released down the left and he played the ball inside to Berquez, who swept the ball out to Jack Wilkinson.  The left-back whipped in a cross which was cleared out to the edge of the box and Berquez took a touch and drilled his right-footed shot narrowly over the crossbar.

AFC Sudbury were given the freedom of Whitstable to exert their dominance all over the pitch as Whitstable Town lacked heart and desire during an embarrassing first half.

Wilkinson launched a long throw into the penalty area and Clarke’s back-header was clawed away by Watkins to his left.

But the inevitable came when the Suffolk side opened the scoring within fifteen minutes.

Kris Newby whipped in a cross from the left and Clarke powered his downward header past Watkins from fifteen-yards.

“Free header in the box, soft goal, really soft,” said Ward.

“We could do with a big, ugly centre half here. We’ve just come to the club. We’re only fifteen games in or something.  It’s a trial by error thing at the moment.

“We’re sat eighth in the league – I think it’s a bit false.

“We need to get back on show again. Whether it means getting on the phone and speaking to more defensive players because going forward we ain’t bad. We ain’t bad.  We’ve proved that by the number of goals that we’ve scored against teams.”

AFC Sudbury went close to increasing their lead just 68 seconds later when right-back Ben Robinson delivered the ball into the penalty area for Newby to turn and drill his right-footed shot just past the foot of the left-hand post.

Whitstable Town’s goal was leading a charmed life and three goal-line clearances saved them momentarily after pin-ball inside the penalty area after Wilkinson whipped in a corner from the right.

But Whitstable Town faced a mountain to climb when AFC Sudbury killed the game off as early as the 19th minute.

Whitstable Town’s back-four were nowhere to be seen when a sublime through ball released Clarke through on goal and the midfielder was given time to drill a right-footed shot across Watkins to find the far corner.

Ward said: “He was left (in space). He got in between the lines and easy finish! Just again, poor defending. I can’t tell a lie about it.

“First 20 minutes they could have been four up! I’m not getting away from that fact, but we rode the storm a little bit then they’re all terrible goals, terrible defending goals to give away.

“I’m not blaming the back four. Its midfield, forwards.  Everybody has got to do their part so they’re disappointed at the moment.”

Winger Scott Kemp then cut in from the left comfortably going past three defenders before his lob was palmed away by Watkins at the near post and Kemp reacted first to the ball and poked his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Whitstable Town, meanwhile, took 27 minutes to create their first chance.

Right-back Ashley Ulph whipped in a free-kick towards the edge of the box where Aaron James came up from the back to glance his header harmlessly wide.

Whitstable midfielder Nick Treadwell swept the ball out wide to right-winger Tom Loynes, who went on to drill a right-footed shot narrowly over the bar from sixteen-yards.

When asked about his side’s first half openings, Ward replied: “Nothing! Honestly.  First half was a non-entity. We just weren’t at the races. We were lucky to get a goal the last kick of the game.”

Despite watching their side getting battered by a team at the same level, the home fans behind the goal were giving their side vocal support that the players in red didn’t deserve.

Ward said: “They’re a great set of supporters’ here.  It’s the best part about this club! That’s wrong to say because the board are good, the facilities are good, everything’s good. We just need to be giving them a bit more.”

AFC Sudbury continued to press forward at will with players in red forgetting that you can tackle opposing players.

Wilkinson swung in a free-kick into the box, which was headed away by James and Coley’s left-footed shot from 18-yards looped into Watkins’ gloves for a comfortable save.

The visitors committed their eleventh (of eighteen) foul in the 37th minute and outclassed Whitstable Town finally got a shot on target.

However, lone striker Ian Pulman was never going to score with a speculative right-footed free-kick from 35-yards, which he stroked straight into Alex Archer’s hands for a comfortable save.

Clarke was denied a hat-trick when his shot was blocked by advancing Watkins’ legs after the Sudbury skipper cut in and drilled a low shot towards goal.

Ryan Hervel whipped in the resulting corner from the left towards the far post, which was smacked over on the volley by Newby.

Whitstable left-back Peter Wedgeworth over-hit a free-kick and Ollie Gray retrieved the ball on the touchline and cut the ball back to Tom Loynes, who whipped in a first time cross for Kane Rowland to plant his header over the bar from ten-yards.

But AFC Sudbury delivered the knock-out punch with a third goal two minutes and 33 seconds into stoppage time.

They were awarded a free-kick down the left-channel, which was floated in by Hervel, which sailed over Watkins’ head and Berquez stabbed his shot over the line at the far post from close range.

Ward said: “The five’s pulled off the far post. Me and you could have scored it! It was just a tap in on the goal line!

“I felt we were lucky to get in 3-0! I’ll be honest with you. It was the worst 45 minutes that the players’ have given us this year. Really, really disappointing.”

The home fans in the crowd of 192 could not believe what they were seeing from their side and demanded more heart from their side.

Ward said: “We came in, we made a couple of changes. At least we got around the pitch. Girty and MacKenzie came on and they got around the pitch and caused them problems.

“Other days we would have got back in it.”

The Ward brothers made a double substitution at the break and hauled off Rowland and Gray, bringing on MacKenzie and Luke Girt.

Kennett slotted beside James at the heart of defence, while MacKenzie slotted in on the left flank, with Girt beside him.  Loynes was pushed further forward and for the early exchanges Whitstable Town appeared to be interested in the game.

When asked what was said to his battered troops during the interval, Ward replied: “We didn’t say a lot. I was embarrassed by the performance.  There was a few raised voices but sometimes you can read too much into it. 

“Maybe we haven’t got the right quality of players here? Simple as that! Yet on our day we’re world-beaters.”

Ulph, who was soon to be forced off through injury, whipped in a cross from the right and Archer dropped MacKenzie’s looping header, but the ball bounced off Pulman and dropped wide of the near post after 88 seconds.

AFC Sudbury went close to increasing their lead inside 12 minutes.

Hervel played the ball into Newby, who found Robinson on the overlap.  His cross saw defender James challenge Clarke inside the penalty area at the near post and the loose ball fell to Newby, who drilled his right-footed shot over the bar from fifteen-yards.

Whitstable Town failed to take a lifeline when their best chance of the game fell to eight-goal Pulman in the 61st minute.

MacKenzie played a sublime through ball to cut open the Sudbury defence for the first time to put the striker through on goal.

Pulman brought the ball down under control off his chest before stroking his right-footed shot agonisingly past the left-hand post.

Ward said: “Other days Ian scores! He’s only got eight goals for me. 

“There’s no “I” in team. It’s us.  Even from the kick-off we’ve given the ball away and I thought it’s not going to be one of those games again.

“But I’ve got belief in this set of players. They’re a good set of lads.  I know other clubs will be dying to get them. A lot of these lads that are here now, a lot of clubs would be sniffing around them all the time, but the balance is wrong. There’s something wrong some place so we’ll amend it.”

Another looped throw in from Wilkinson bounced off Berquez’s head, which was caught by Watkins.

AFC Sudbury central defender Craig Pope clipped a fine ball down the line to Robinson, who played the ball inside to Coley and substitute Terry Rymer set up Berquez, whose right-footed drive was beaten away by Watkins.

Treadwell, who ran himself into the ground, committed a foul and Hervel whipped in the resulting free-kick into the Whitstable box and Pope’s header brought a great save from Watkins, who juggled the ball to prevent the ball sailing into the top corner with 22 minutes left.

Ward said: “He made a couple of great saves Luke. He’s kept us from being embarrassed. He done well. What else can you say about that?

“He’s a decent keeper on his day but when he’s getting no protection from the ones in front of him – I don’t mean centre halves – I mean the whole package!”

The comeback against Walton Casuals - which Whitstable Town somehow won 5-4 earlier in the month - was unlikely to be repeated.

Kennett played the ball inside to Wedgeworth, who cracked a left-footed drive over the bar from eighteen-yards.

AFC Sudbury were denied a fourth goal when substitute Correy Davidson was allowed to dance into the penalty area and laid the ball off to Hervel, whose right-footed drive from 22-yards forced Watkins to parry low to his right.

But Whitstable Town pulled a goal back in the final three minutes.

Loynes swung in a corner from the right and Kennett powered his towering header into the roof of the net from eight-yards.

Ward was satisfied with his side’s second half performance.

“Second half, when we showed a bit of spunk, they (Sudbury) weren’t such a good team then were they? When we got amongst them.

“They’re decent. They’ve won their last five games or something like that so they’re a big money club in Suffolk. They’re one of the top clubs in the league. They shouldn’t be in this level. They’re a bigger club in this level.

“But I don’t care who we play against. We must turn up. If we don’t turn up, we’ll get battered.”

Whitstable Town substitute Luke Girt had their final chance inside stoppage time, blasting his right-footed shot over the bar from 30-yards.

The Oystermen now have a seven-day period before their next game, at home to Hythe Town.

Tim Dixon’s struggling side beat Maldon & Tiptree 3-0 at Reachfields Stadium in The FA Trophy today.

Ward said: “Tuesday will be the first time we’ve trained for, I don’t know. Not only us, all the clubs are in the same boat. We’ll train Tuesday and we’ll train Thursday, work very hard to get into the boys and try to sort it out, try to improve our league position.

“You get loads of Kent derbies. You get about twelve Kent derbies without Cups. We’ve already played Herne Bay twice and that’s not in the league.”

Ward wants a reaction from his side after today and wants no repeat of their FA Cup First Qualifying Round defeat to their Kent rivals.

“We owe them one! We went down and got beat 4-0 so we’ll get ourselves properly prepared. 

“Hopefully a couple of injured players will be back, it looks like they are and we’ll try to improve our league position.”

Whitstable Town: Luke Watkins, Ashley Ulph (Reiss Crimmen 53), Peter Wedgeworth, Ollie Gray (Luke Girt 46), Aaron James, Nick Treadwell, Scott Heard, Joe Kennett, Ian Pulman, Kane Rowland (Jake MacKenzie 46), Tom Loynes.
Subs: Matty Guila, Jack Healey

Goal: Joe Kennett 87

AFC Sudbury: Alex Archer, Ben Robinson, Jack Wilkinson, Ryan Hervel, Ryan Henshaw, Craig Pope, Kris Newby (Terry Rymer 64), Sam Clarke, Scott Kemp (Correy Davidson 68), Ayrton Coley (Jordan Blackwell 77), Ollie Berquez.
Subs: Lee Flynn, Jack Guyton

Goals: Sam Clarke 15, 19, Ollie Berquez 45

Attendance: 192
Referee: Ian Bentley (Orpington)
Assistants: Mr Alexis Stacchini (Orpington) & Mr Piotr Zachwieja (Orpington)