Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 1st April 2017
Match Report: Cameron Smith, Photo Stuart Tree. (Full set HERE)
An electric Corinthian-Casuals performance left ten-man Hythe Town in pieces on a warm Saturday afternoon in Kent as the visitors maintained their play-off push with a 5-0 thrashing.
The Casuals contingent were living the life last week. Bathing in the glorious sunshine whilst watching their side net four goals, the pink and brown army were delighted with the dynamic performance versus the lowly Sittingbourne. Goals from Shaun Okojie, Mahrez Bettache, Danny Dudley and Josh Gallagher sealed three points, which cemented Casuals’ fourth place position. Four was the magic number as Casuals also found themselves four points off nearest rivals Greenwich Borough. The Sittingbourne destruction was James Bracken’s 50th win and he looked to grab his 51st the following Saturday versus Hythe Town. It would certainly be a challenge…
The Cannons blasted their way to a one-sided 6-3 win in Tolworth back in September 2016 and hoped to replicate that performance in the comfort of their home- The Reachfields Stadium. Located on the south coast of Kent, Hythe beat the flustered South Park 1-0 last week, which ended their five game winning drought. Their season peaked when Guernsey flew over in January and Hythe trounced the Channel Islanders 8-1. A passionate set of staff and players, Hythe weren’t going to go down without a fight as the eighth place side wanted to end the season in a respectable manner.
Appeal after appeal after appeal. The red shirts of Hythe consulted the referee every time a foul was given as the vocal hosts managed to squeeze a yellow card out of referee Isaac Searle inside the first ten minutes. Jamie Byatt’s late challenge on captain Craig Cloke earned the left-back, who took the place of an absent Dave Hodges, a booking. Both sides cancelled each-other out in the first 45 with the tenacious attacking efforts of the white away shirts lacking a cutting edge versus the organized back four of Hythe. In the 20th minute, Hythe’s no.9 Jay May nearly opened the scoring as the striker nudged the ball past the committed Bracken, however the situation was swiftly dealt with by Jack Strange. Jordan Clarke’s free-kick was slotted over the bar by Dudley, in one of Casuals’ best chances of the half so far.
May, who was Hythe’s pacey target-man, was in the thick of the action again- but for the wrong reasons. Five minutes before half-time, Casuals enforcer Coskun Eskim gave away a foul on the halfway line and was unfairly punished. But it wasn’t by the referee. May had lashed out on the midfielder with a vicious elbow that caused James Bracken to explode in anger on the touchline. After speaking with the perpetrator, the referee grabbed the red card and gave it to the furious May. The striker stormed off and quick as a flash, everything changed. Hythe were down to ten and Casuals had the advantage.
Moments after the fourth official awarded five minutes of stoppage time, Corinth barged towards the penalty area with newfound confidence. Clarke collected the ball on the right flank, but didn’t choose the obvious choice of feeding in a team-mate or working round the solid Hythe defence. Donning the no.11, Clarke cut inside and edged closer to goal before launching a rocket towards the unfortunate Hythe goalkeeper. The effort was remarkably hit as it twirled straight into the top left corner of the net. The Casuals supporters were in raptures as Clarke had subdued celebrations whilst his colleagues mobbed him. The last kick of the half, Clarke’s sublime finish was only the start of Casuals’ rout as the floodgates opened in the second-half.
Shaun Okojie is making a strange habit of notching goals moments after the second-half starts. The superb low effort at Molesey and a slick penalty against Sittingbourne were recorded minutes after the referee re-started the match. Okojie would make it three out of three in Hythe. Everyone had just returned to their positions for the second-half when the no.9 bundled in a masterful Bettache cross. Minimal celebrations from the players, riotous celebrations from the fans.
Dominating possession and opportunities, Corinthians turned two into three thanks to an accurate Shaun Okojie assist, which allowed Josh Gallagher in a one-on-one situation with the keeper. Gallagher’s first shot was tamed by no.1 Joe Mant, but the rebound was simply tapped in by the jubilant Josh. 3-0 suddenly switched to 4-0 in the 84th minute. Jordan Clarke wasn’t finished making an impact on the game as the winger curled a terrific corner towards the busy penalty area and the set-piece was met by the overpowering Okojie. Super Shaun celebrated and then departed as James Bracken brought on youngster Andy Ali ahead of the experienced striker.
Five minutes later, Josh Gallagher added a fifth. The bearded beast was clean through on goal again, but this time, he had no trouble in dispatching with a low, clean strike into the bottom left corner. Both Gallagher and Okojie completed the match with a double to their name.
Hythe were eventually put out of their misery when the referee signalled for full-time- it was 5-0 to the Casuals. Everyone in visiting colours were overjoyed with the landslide victory, James Bracken included, as the gaffer got his 51st win. Godalming’s shock 1-0 win over Hastings United aided Corinth’s play-off dreams, but they didn’t move from fourth place due to Greenwich’s 5-0 victory. Next on the agenda is a trip to the iconic seaside of Brighton as Lewes wait for the menacing Casuals.
Stuart Tree spoke to James Bracken after the match:
“We started the game awfully and were second best for much of the first half. The sending off has had a massive impact but we’ve been in that position before, when playing ten men and it isn’t often as easy as we made it look in the second half.
“We should take credit for doing the job we did in the second period. The goal just before half time certainly helped settle us down and then the second goal just after meant we could enjoy the rest of the game as we’d want to.
“We went to Sittingbourne and we couldn’t come back against ten men as with Cray Wanderers where they shut up shop. It’s not as easy as it sounds and credit to the boys in the second half – we played some good football and scored five. That’s pleasing for all the lads and especially those who scored.
“We were top of the form table before the match and this win keeps us there. It’s the right time to be hitting good form.
“The fact that we’ve only conceded one goal in the last six games is probably the most pleasing aspect of this run. We’re not shipping any goals but today, Danny’s had to be alert on three or four occasions when players have broken through and he’s had to make one or two saves. He’s been in the right place at the right time and done enough. A keeper that doesn’t come off his line quick enough or gets it wrong could’ve seen us one or two nil down and a mountain to climb.
“The clean sheets are pleasing; the form is pleasing but I still think the performances can be better.
“We’ve had a smattering of good performances in our recent run and some where we’re not as good as we could be. That’s promising though because I still feel there’s more to come from the team – and Hythe is a tough place to come and get a win. We done it against Greenwich and Dorking and now here at Hythe. We’ve beaten some good sides.
“We have to be pleased with it overall but at the same time, keep a level head and just approach things right and ensure the mentality stays the same.
“Usually, when we slip up, others slip up too or vice-versa but very rarely we get a week where we get a good win and those chasing us drop points. There’s a little gap that’s opened up after this weekend and next Saturday at Lewes, we have another massive game. Replicate this win and we’ll put another side out of the race to catch us.
“We’re just ticking the games off now. If we get that win next week, we’re looking at one more win and perhaps a draw in the last three games to secure a playoff spot. But we don’t want to stop there. We have our sights set on Greenwich. We’re looking behind but we need to look in-front and keep the pressure on.
“Home advantage in the playoff semi-final would be most welcome. I know we’ll get great support – better support than any of the other teams regardless if we’re home or away – that’s a given. Our record is not fantastic at home but to get our own support down, make it our day in our environment and replicate the Dorking or Greenwich wins, which we can do, would be great.”