Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 4th April
Report by Darren Pasley
Pics: Stuart Tree
“They’ve got to take a long hard look at themselves. A pat on the back isn’t far away from a kick up the backside… and that’s what they needed today” was Matt Howards stern assessment as Casuals went down to a late Ricky Freeman winner for relegation threatened East Grinstead Town.
It completed the double for the Wasps over Casuals and gave them a much needed 3 points with other clubs around them picking up points over the weekend.
Casuals without the usual Central defence pairing of skipper Joe Hicks and Danny Dudley moved fullback Danny Green alongside Andy Mills. There were also returns for Jake Gill and Mason Welch-Turner following the midweek defeat at Three Bridges.
Jamie Byatt had the games first effort with a glancing header after getting across his marker and the same player hit the bar in the 12th minute following Juevan Spencer’s right wing cross.
Baff Addae East Grinstead's match winner in the midweek win over South Park had his side’s first effort after a quarter of an hour but volleyed harmlessly over from fully 30 yards.
Almost immediately Casuals nearly took the lead with the bar again to the rescue of the visitors.
After Welch-Turner showed a brilliant touch and vision down the left to free Hodges the resulting cross was expertly hooked goalwards by Byatt with the ball cannoning back off the bar. The rebound was blocked on the line before the ball was scrambled clear for a corner.
Addae continued to present the only threat to the home makeshift defence but on several occasions to the frustrations of his teammates he elected to shoot with others better placed.
The first half was a poor spectacle with most opportunities arriving from mistakes rather than any craft or guile. Marc Cumberbatch coming closest with a volley that was deflected just wide.
In the 36th minute Addae was denied by the strong outstretched arm of Danny Bracken after cutting inside and firing off an effort.
The second period saw Byatt once again thwarted early on as this time, keeper Seb Bos managed to divert the striker’s effort wide after a neat turn and shot.
In the 53rd minute East Grinstead took the lead with Casuals once again causing their own problems.
The danger seemed to be averted after Tom Carlse elected to cross instead of shoot but Mills inadvertently knocked the ball back into the path of Richmond Kissi who curled the ball round Bracken for the games opener.
Casuals response was instant and within 90 seconds had level with a contender for goal of the season.
Maz Bettache broke through the middle and feed Dave Hodges down the left. Despite being 20 yards out at an angle the winger looked up and delivered a perfect chip over Bos to bring the scores level, It was a brilliant bit of skill and brought a rare moment of quality to an otherwise dour game.
As in the first half neither side failed to take hold of the game and only half chances were served at either end.
Perhaps the best fell with 15 minutes remaining when Spencer knocked the ball back into the danger area where substitute Aaron Smith-Joseph hit a weak effort wide despite being in plenty of space inside the box.
Spencer himself came close to getting on the scoresheet when following a goalmouth scramble his effort squirmed under Bos but was cleared off the line by John Sinclair as the visitors dug in looking for a vital point.
Indeed the final stages of match saw the side who are battling for the lives at their debut step 4 season look to take all 3 and substitute Ricky Freeman saw a curled effort brilliantly held by Bracken with 4 minutes remaining.
Freeman on his debut was not to be denied however and with 3 minutes remaining he tapped home the winner after Emiliano Hysi had done brilliantly to get to the byline and cut back the ball.
Casuals only response was another Hodges effort deep into stoppage time but on this occasion Seb Bos gratefully clutched onto the ball.
Post match Matt Howard commented
“Defensively, I didn’t think we were in any trouble today. Attacking wise, Jamie Byatt’s hit the bar twice. If they go in, we’re 2-0 up at half time and it’s a different game. But if you don’t take your chances when you’re on top, then you run the risk of losing.
“After going 1-0 down, we got the goal back straight away and I thought ‘okay – worst case scenario is we’ll get a point’.
“But there were errors all over the pitch and I’m really disappointed. That’s three points dropped.
“We’re in a funny situation at this club where we were safe with nine games to go. That’s been a while since that’s happened. I hope the players haven’t switched off because of that.
“I’m really disappointed but on the flipside, we’ve had a great season. As a group of players, we’ve been looking up the table rather than looking over our shoulder for pretty much most of the season.
“At the end of the season, with 46 games played, the league table doesn’t lie. If we finish 12th or 13th, that’s where we deserve to be”.
“We have players with aspirations of playing at a higher level, yet they’re only performing as a mid-table side. If you don’t pull up trees at this level, you’re not stepping up to the next.
Stuart Trees pictures can be viewed here .