Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 25th March 2017
Match Report: Cameron Smith: Photo Paul Downs (Stuart's set HERE)
Corinthian-Casuals notched four second-half goals to comprehensively defeat Sittingbourne as the Bracken Brothers pioneered their side to a 4-0 victory, which added three more points to fuel the play-off pursuit.
The damp and depressing mood on a Tuesday evening transformed into a cheerful and celebratory night after ninety minutes of gruelling, high intensity football saw the away fans leave Walton Road victorious. Shaun Okojie’s quick movement and precise finish in the 46th minute was the only goal as Casuals stole a 1-0 win versus a physical and gritty Molesey side. Danny Bracken a.k.a Mr Three-Hundred Games was smiling the most as he modestly soaked up applause following his incredible milestone. Despite having a rather quiet game against the frustrated Moles, Bracken would have had to be alert for Saturday, where mid-table Sittingbourne travelled to Tolworth.
Proudly based in Swale district of Kent, Sittingbourne have had a mixed season, in terms of position and performance. Situated in fourteenth place, manager Nick Davis would still feel hard done by as the flying Dorking Wanderers managed to squeeze a narrow 1-0 win during their encounter last week. In the past ten meetings, Casuals have only managed to emerge victorious twice and could regard Bourne as a ‘bogey’ side. Earlier in the season, Corinth arduously travelled to Woodstock Park on a Tuesday evening only to be defeated by the 10 man Brickies.
The bright yellow shirts of the visitors and the pink and brown of Casuals gathered on the halfway line to hold a minute’s silence for the tragic events that occurred in Westminster earlier this week before the game began.
Despite the absence of Reyon Dillon upfront, Casuals looked full of confidence as the hosts dominated the first 45. The full-backs of Sittingbourne seemed flustered; the main source of Casuals attack was from the wings as Jordan Clarke caused havoc in the opening act. Bursts of pace and slick skill set Bourne on edge with Clarke utilizing his abilities from set-pieces. Four or five consecutive corners were halted mid-flight by the irritating wind, which prevented Clarke from assisting. Jack Strange leapt into the air at the near post following a Clarke cross, but could only guide the effort over the bar.
The central midfield pairing of Josh Gallagher and Coskun Eskim was a handful for the away side- especially the more attacking Gallagher, who produced Casuals’ best opportunity. Edging into first half injury time, Gallagher controlled a high ball around 30 yards from goal and decided to have a shot. It was a terrific decision as he hammered the ball accurately and vigorously over the keeper. The crossbar thwarted Gallagher’s screamer and the game was still even. Their only promising chance, Sittingbourne struck on the verge of half-time, but could not take the lead. Clawing the ball out of the net, Bracken brilliantly kept the scores level as the referee blew for the break.
Ben Cheklit was replaced by Warren Morgan at half-time with James Bracken hoping to replicate Tuesday’s reaction to the start of the second-half. And they did. In the forty-ninth minute, Clarke was stopped in his tracks as his trademark, mazy run was halted by the outstretched leg of a Bourne defender. Clarke fell to the floor and the referee pointed to the spot. Shaun Okojie nestled the ball on the penalty spot before sending keeper Simon Overland the wrong way with a low conversion. In true Okojie fashion, the goal-scorer was laid-back as he happily strolled to the jubilant Casuals supporters. Again, Casuals were able to take advantage of the opponent’s momentary lapse in concentration to score!
Corinthians were hungry coyotes, who were unsatisfied with their first bite. A fourteen minute period was made up of pure Casuals possession and were awarded for their persistence in the 63rd minute. Sittingbourne committed yet another cynical foul on the danger-man Clarke from around 25 yards out. He won it and took it, although he didn’t want to try and find the net himself. Smoothly threading the ball to the open Bettache, Clarke unselfishly grabbed his second assist of the match! Super Maz’ positioning was flawless as he slipped through the Brickie’s ranks undetected to fire the ball into the top left corner with authority. Casuals had breathing space- it was 2-0.
It wasn’t 2-0 for long. Juevan Spencer’s deceiving cross was subtly flicked on by the backheel of Strange at the near-post, which guided the ball towards Danny Dudley. The centre-back slammed the ball into the roof of the net before joining the Casuals fans in celebration. Sustained pressure in the last fifteen minutes resulted in the inevitable fourth, which arrived in the 90th minute. Gallagher was cruelly denied by the crossbar in the first half but got his own back when the midfielder curled the ball into the bottom left corner and wheeled away in celebration. The pink and brown army had thrashed the sorry Sittingbourne with four devastating, individual strikes; the full-time score was 4-0.
A game of milestones, the tremendous score-line was Casuals’ 200th win in the Ryman Division One South and the 50th victory under gaffer James Bracken during his two year tenure. In the Casuals end, there was an electric atmosphere when the players shook hands with fans- both realised that a play-off spot could be theirs! However, Corinth shouldn’t get complacent as five games remain with a trip to Hythe Town next on the agenda.