Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 2nd April 2016
Report by Cameron Smith. Photos by Stuart Tree (full set of photos here)
Shaun Okojie scored a scrappy 89th minute winner to secure all three points against East Grinstead Town on a sunny afternoon in Tolworth.
Okojie, who scored five goals in five games last month, was inevitably chosen to frighten the East Grinstead defence alongside usual partner Jamie Byatt. The absent Danny Dudley was replaced at centre-back by Ben King while Josh Uzun was introduced at the expense of James Cottee on the left wing. The visitors, who have gained confidence in hope of advancing above their dangerous 21st position (one spot from the relegation zone) after a victory over Guernsey on Easter Monday, hoped to take valuable points away from play-off hopefuls Casuals.
Lacking a proven source of creativity, the first half was frustrating as chances went by, not taken. The inclusion of Uzun however, gave Casuals life when a powerful effort kept Grinstead goalkeeper Jack Howard on his toes. It was not just Casuals having half-chances as the away side thought they should have been awarded a penalty after Ben King lunged in on a Wasps forward. However, the referee consulted the linesman and gave a goal-kick, much to the relief of deputy King. As half-time lingered, both teams needed to change their approach in this disjointed affair.
Created by Juevan Spencer, Casuals kick-started the second half with a flowing move ending in Okojie firing a brutal shot horrendously wide of the gaping net. Another beautifully worked move, Jamie Byatt headed in a trademark Spencer cross, which resulted in crazy celebrations from the well-spirited crowd behind the goal. Jubilance was short-lived as the linesman flagged the goal offside and stamped on the Casuals parade. Niall Wright was gifted a rare opportunity to grab headlines as a block set the midfielder up for a shot but the ball somehow ended up in the car park! In the 77th minute, Emil Salama made tremendous impact from the substitutes bench with a lightning shot cannoning off the crossbar much to the disappointment of the faithful Casuals supporters.
Nevertheless, Casuals continued to make chances and did not give up- even in the 89th minute. Shaun Okojie netted his thirteenth of the season with a header from one yard out in a perplexing goal-line scramble. The goal-scorer was thrown to the floor by his team-mates in ecstatic scenes.
A devastating loss for the respectable East Grinstead contingent, they still hover just outside the drop zone. Meanwhile, Casuals sit in seventh, four points of play-off heaven. More points hope to be consumed in the mid-week fixture at home to Carshalton Athletic and I predict that it will be a goal-fest.
After the match, Manager James Bracken spoke to Stuart Tree.
“We deserved to have that game won well before that last minute winner today. That’s probably as an important goal as we’ve had all season.
“We’ve had that determination and work-rate about us all year. It would’ve been very easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves in the last ten minutes and settle for the fact that it wasn’t going to be our day, but we didn’t – we kept going and playing until the final whistle.
“We got our just rewards. I said to the lads, if you’re going to be successful and win things, you need to have that resolve about you as a team and they certainly did today.
“We’ve picked up three wins out of three which is what we’ve needed to do. Realistically, we’ve got to pick up another three wins out of the last four games as an absolute minimum. More than likely, we’ll need to win all four. But if we keep playing like we are then that will happen.
“We’ve had a good squad all season. In fact it’s probably been too good. Over the last couple of months, it’s evolved and one or two have gone for different reasons and we’ve tightened up the squad a little ready for the final run-in. We have that in the changing room now and that’s why we’ve won three out of the last three.”