FA Trophy First Round Qualifying
Saturday 29th October 2016
Match report: Cameron Smith. Photos: Stuart Tree (full set here)
Corinthian-Casuals’ FA Trophy hopes were terminated by both the efficient Chalfont St Peter and controversial refereeing decisions- which saw three Casuals players sent off.
Edging Thamesmead Town with a 2-1 scoreline three weeks ago, Casuals were set a tough away fixture at Evo-Stik Southern Premier side Chalfont St Peter, who batteredArsley Town in the preliminary round. Based in south-east Buckinghamshire, it was an hour or so drive up the M25 for the Casuals contingent. However, the game was unable to be played at Chalfont’s customary home ground so the teams met at Chesham United’s impressive stadium- The Meadow. Tenth in their league (same level as Casuals), the Saints have only picked up a single point from their last four matches.
Convincing, the 4-1 victory at Chatham Town (which included a classy hat-trick from Shaun Okojie) had increased confidence in the squad after the two previous games lacked the edge. James Bracken, re-assured by the performance at Chatham, only implemented one change to the Starting XI. Electric full-back Warren Morgan, who netted the match-winning strike in the preliminary round, was replaced by Danny Dudley.
As referee Robert Wainwright started the game, Casuals seemed to thrive with wingers Juevan Spencer and Jordan Clarke troubling the full-backs of Chalfont from the start. In the eleventh minute, the white shirts of Casuals spilled forwards, attempting to grab an early lead. Fresh from his three goal feat at Chatham, Shaun Okojie, who defied the offside trap, found himself 1 on 1 with Chalfont keeper Garry Malone. Skilfully rounding the shot-stopper, Okojie didn’t go to ground when Malone’s gloves made contact with his foot. Showing professionalism and resilience, Okojie powerfully slotted the ball past the two red shirts on the goal-line to give Casuals the lead. Ten minutes later, Okojie had another golden opportunity. The tricky feet of Jordan Clarke unselfishly nabbed the ball to Okojie before the talisman slammed a vicious strike against the crossbar.
Despite going behind early doors, the Saints edged back into the game. On the half-hour mark, Chalfont’s Craige Tomkins, who has found the net five times already this season, converted from close range after superb build-up play.
Casuals’ main aim was to end the half the way it was but that wasn’t the case for Tomkins. In the last few moments of the first half, a free-kick outside the area took a deflection off the Casuals wall and flew into the bottom corner of the net. Two for Tomkins, two for Chalfont.
As the intensity temporarily lowered, the first fifteen minutes of the second half was quiet. However, out of nothing, Chalfont scored a third. Controlling the ball with precision and skill, Tomkins majestically curled a vigorous low shot with a ridiculous amount of swerve. The best part of the goal was the celebration as Tomkins jumped over the barrier and stood in the empty terrace. Hilarity ensued as he began applauding his own goal and
Chalfont took a firm grip on the game.
James Bracken recognised that it was all or nothing now as he introduced the attacking Josh Uzun ahead of right-back Dudley. The change worked; a mass improvement sent a surge of adrenaline to the already-vocal Casuals fans. In the 70th minute, Ben Cheklit prodded a Juevan Spencer lay-off past Malone in the Chalfont net as he quickly grabbed the ball to re-start the match. With the score 3-2, Casuals looked like they could squeeze a result out of the game. What could go wrong?
Tensions flared in the 79th minute, Jordan Clarke had earned himself two yellow cards in three minutes which meant he was off. A blow to the Casuals comeback, surely it couldn’t get worse? But it did.
Substitutions and injury breaks wasted time, the referee was under pressure from Casuals players whilst precious minutes were going down the drain. Bizarrely, Wainwright randomly stopped the game and gave a straight red card to Niall Wright for use of a swear word following the defender being on the receiving end of an off-the-ball incident. Confusion rippled around the ground. In a matter of minutes, Mahrez Bettache, who was having a frustrating game, swore at himself after mis-controlling the ball. Ludicrously, the referee ran towards Bettache and issued another straight red card!
Controversial refereeing saw Casuals down to eight. The cherry on the cake was when three blows of a whistle echoed around the Meadow with barely any added time.
The well-organised Chalfont St Peter advance into the next round of the FA Trophy. We thank them and Chesham United for extending a warm welcome and we wish them the best of luck. Meanwhile, Casuals face a daunting away trip to Sittingbourne on Tuesday evening before an explosive Bonfire Night home match against Molesey.
After the match, Manager James Bracken gave his thoughts.
“It's shocking. There's not been one bad foul in the game. The referee has made consistent mistakes throughout and turned it into his own show.
“The most worrying thing for me is before the last red card was issued, the referee ran to our dugout and said to me and everyone on the bench “I'll send off as many of your players as I have to”.
“Within 30 seconds of that, Maz takes a bad touch giving away a throw-in and shouts to himself in frustration – which earns him a straight red card! Even their players and bench thought it was madness.
“The referee hasn't picked up on any swearing throughout the game – only once he's got a bee in his bonnet and wanted to be the star of the show. He completely lost the plot.
“I really try to not talk about referees but there really are some poor ones out there. We've had two or three good officials this season where I thought that was a good performance – and not even when we've just won.
“Overall, they're not good enough. However, I can handle those that aren't good enough because I understand that it comes from gaining experience and training.
“But some cannot even hold their hands up and say 'I made a mistake'. For instance, after an incident that led to one of their goals, the assistant referee said to me 'that was never a free kick, he didn't get anywhere near him.' Everyone in the ground had seen that.
“Yet when I asked the assistant after half time, 'did the referee tell you he made a mistake?' the response was 'no... he didn't see it'.
“If I make a mistake, I expect one of my staff to pull me up on it. But at least I'll have some transparency and honesty in everything that I do.
“No matter how hard we work and what we do throughout the course of the week to try and come and win a game, if referees do what they did today, we might as well not bother. I might as well not waste my Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and do something else instead. Earn a few quid and eat well tonight. There's no justification for his actions or words I can kindly say about that today.
“It wrecks the weekend of our fans who travel to all our games, our management, our players, our chairman... everyone. That's a lot of people that it affects and that shouldn't happen. They should be held accountable for their actions.
“Have we done enough for the win? No... we lost 3-2. I said to the boys in the changing room after, no matter how bad the officials are, you have to take the game out of their hands. We have to keep clean sheets. We have to score more goals than the opposition so at the end of ninety minutes we can say we've done enough to win.
“In the first half, by our own standards, we were poor. There were a lot of stray passes and never really got going. We had glimpses of what we can do. Shaun scored a good goal. There were a couple of passages of play where we created chances. But we weren't at our best.
“Second half, we've come out and controlled the game by putting passes together and playing football. Then Chalfont hit us with the sucker punch goal... and a really good one at that.
“We were in the ascendancy when we've pulled it back to 3-2. There was only side who were going to go on and score a third and even fourth. That was us
“But the game gets broken up badly by the referee. Not just with the cards but little things like not having substitutes ready. They all add up. The momentum was killed.
“He needs to understand that I don't want three minutes added on at the end of the game. I want the minutes played at the time because now we're in the ascendancy, we're buzzing and they're struggling. Chalfont are a decent enough side but not fit and when the game was played at a fast pace for a sustained period of time, they came apart. It was at that point that the game needs to flow and that's when the referee did nothing but stop play. Then to compound it. at the end, he completely lost it
“Our lads, we travel far, we don't get paid, they give everything, every week and the referee thinks that's an acceptable performance?
“We just need a game now to get this out of our system. We need to bring some of this aggression, control it and make sure that whatever happens, we're not deprived of three points. Whether we go out there and win four or five nil or scrape a one-nil. Whatever it is... we need to get today out of our minds and get winning. Let's get back on this run in the league.
“We came into this game on the back of a win and we'll look to get back on it and kick-on. Remember, we've got good players and a good side here. We're not far off from being very good. We just need to be consistent.”