Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 16th April 2016
Report by Cameron Smith. Pics: Stuart Tree
Corinthian-Casuals left their fate to the final day of the season as they moved into the play-offs thanks to a late winner from Jamie Byatt to edge Walton Casuals 3-2 at the Moatside stadium.
After a convincing 3-0 victory at Walton & Hersham, Corinthians were looking to extend their impressive five wins in a row but were hampered by a few key absences. Dave Hodges and Emil Salama’s names did not appear on the team-sheet, with striker Byatt converting to left-back and James Cottee starting on the wing. Danny Dudley was introduced to the substitutes bench after a three game absence. Meanwhile, Walton Casuals, who are forced to play in Merstham FC's ground due to Waterside Stadium's renovation, sat in 17th place, safe from relegation with nothing apart from pride to play for.
The first-half was end to end with both sides threatening to open the scoring. The best chance came in the fifteenth minute as Ben King stood over a free-kick, weighing up his chances. The centre-back curled a brilliant set-piece onto the top of the crossbar much to the relief of the helpless Walton keeper Brannon Daly.
Daly was called into action again as three minutes later, a low Niall Wright effort was a straight-forward save for the hosts's shot-stopper. Perhaps due to the horrendous condition of the goal-mouth, Daly let the ball go and the in-form Shaun Okojie took advantage, tapping the ball into the net for his seventeenth of the season. Still dwelling on his previous mistake, Daly nearly fumbled Josh Uzun's corner into his own net before the crossbar came to the rescue. On the half-hour, Corinthians fans behind the goal were celebrating but not for anything to do with the game in front of them. With play-off rivals Faversham Town losing and Hastings drawing, Casuals moved into fifth place, the play-offs!
The jubilance lasted ten minutes until Walton equalised; Omar Folkes found himself with a clear opportunity to level the game and he did- even if the powerful effort deflected before finding the net. With new found confidence, Walton nearly took the lead before half-time but skipper Scott Day’s shot sailed over the bar.
The hazardous strike-partnership of Folkes and Odunaike looked to tire the Casuals defence in the second half. That became apparent when Odunaike rounded keeper Bracken but could only hit the side-netting. That missed opportunity for Walton was to be rued as Uzun broke his fourteen games without a goal. The midfielder side-footed the ball into the far corner ahead of the crazy celebrations that ensued from fans and players as Casuals resumed their lead.
Terry 'Butcher' Murray headed the ball just over the bar from a corner as the visitors pressurized the busy Walton defence, searching for a third goal. Nevertheless, the hosts also had chances to score- and they took one of them. The dangerous Odunaike was set through on goal and after racing past Bracken, the speedy striker passed the ball into the net with ease as Walton equalized for the second time.
With fifteen minutes to go, there was one proven goalscorer that could save the away side. However, club legend Jamie Byatt was playing his role at left-back. Nevertheless, Warren Morgan trespassed his way through the worried Walton defence on the byline, he delivered a fantastic pinpoint pass into the area for the oncoming Byatt to slot home. The left-back used his striker's instinct to find space and to convert the ball into the near post. Byatt screamed in delight at his third goal of the season and it proved to be the winning one.
Play-off rivals Faversham Town lost 2-1 at East Grinstead while Hastings gained a point during the 2-2 draw at Ramsgate, which mean Casuals edge into the play-offs with only one game to go. The final day of the season will see Casuals face Three Bridges at home, Hastings host Herne Bay and Faversham play Hythe Town. As James Bracken said: “Our fate is in our hands.”