Ryman League Division One South
Tuesday 8th March 2016
Match report: Stuart Tree. Photos from Andy Nunn can be viewed here.
Second half goals from Warren Morgan and Jamie Byatt rescued a point for Corinthian-Casuals as they battled back from 2-0 down to earn a draw with playoff rivals Hastings United.
And Casuals Boss James Bracken believed they were ‘unlucky not to come away with three points’ and hailed his side’s fighting spirit.
The two sides had played out a thrilling 3-3 draw just a few weeks back at the Pilot field and the 130 in attendance would be in for a treat should that be replicated.
Before kickoff, Casuals were dealt two big blows; Captain Danny Bracken was to miss his first competitive game in 185 starts due to illness. Reserve keeper Ricky Bowry was called up at the eleventh hour to deputise. At the other end of the pitch, in-form frontman Shaun Okojie, with eight goals in eight starts also succumbed to a sickness bug. James Cottee was promoted from the bench to start alongside Jamie Byatt, playing his first home game of the season.
Casuals began lively and after only three minutes, Sekou Kaba’s quick feet found space in the box but his shot was deflected over.
Hastings took the lead in the eighth minute when Billy Medlock let fly with a 25 yard effort that beat stand-in keeper Ricky Bowry with no chance.
They doubled the lead on 20 minutes after Zac Attwood was allowed to turn and shoot past Bowry.
Casuals fought back with Sekou Kaba hitting the post and Hasting’s keeper Harry Doherty made a superb last ditch save to deny returning hero Jamie Byatt. At the other end, Medlock fancied his chances again but his dipping shot was fired over.
The comeback began after the break when on 57 minutes, Warren Morgan made an impressive burst into the box and fired from an acute angle past Doherty.
In a half dominated by the home side, Byatt went close again with a trademark swivel and volley that had Doherty scrambling. Casuals continued to press and pinned Hastings in their own half. The pressure paid off; Byatt latched onto a looping Warren Morgan ball and in typical fashion, slotted home to level the scores.
James Cottee had a golden chance to sneak three points at the end but his snap shot went agonisingly wide with Doherty stranded.
The draw lifts Casuals up into seventh, two points from Hastings who remain in fifth place, taking up the final playoff spot.
“One thing we never lack is fighting spirit. We showed it on Saturday and we’ve shown it again tonight,” said Bracken after the match.
“But let’s not forget there was an awful lot of quality out there today. We’ve dominated that game for the majority of it. Hastings scored two goals in the first half against the run of play and then sat deep.
“Second half, we’ve almost taken them apart and we’re unlucky not to come away with three points.
We’ve got eight games to go and we’ll have a right good go and see if we can get to the playoffs.
Speaking of the loss of Captain Danny Bracken and in-form striker Shaun Okojie, Bracken said, “It gives you a little concern in the back of your mind when you miss your goalkeeper who’s played 185 consecutive games. It’s never easy. I’ve got faith in everyone in the squad including Ricky (Bowry) who’s stepped in tonight and done really well.
“Shaun’s scored eight goals in eight games and that’s a big miss for us. But other players step up to the plate, including Warren Morgan who’s got a goal and Jamie Byatt who’s bagged another.
“I want the boys to get points out of every game. We’ll turn up at Folkestone on Saturday motivated. Every single game I turn up to, I seem that little bit more focussed, that bit more motivated as we get to the business end of the season. I hope that’s rubbing off on the players.
“We travel to Folkestone knowing that they’ll win the league – they’re the best team in it this year, as the table tells you. But we’ll go there and try and cause another upset because we like to make a habit of that.