Ryman League Division One South
Tuesday 1st November 2016
Match report and photo: Stuart Tree
As many of us will attest, football can be a frustrating game at times. Just ask Corinthian-Casuals’ Manager James Bracken following the 2-1 defeat to Sittingbourne in the Ryman League Division One South. He described the 4-1 win at Chatham Town ten days ago as ‘having zero frustrations’. How that had changed on this cold Tuesday November evening.
For all the possession, for all the territory, for all the chances… if you cannot convert your supremacy, then don’t expect to win the game. Despite playing with ten men for nearly the entire second half, Sittingbourne resolutely held out for a gritty 2-1 win.
Recent fixtures against the Brickies have yielded good results for Casuals in recent years. Bracken’s side did the double over the Kent side last season and Bracken was looking to extend that run.
Enforced changes saw Danny Dudley shift across from Right-Back into central defensive duties with Jack Strange missing and playmaker Maz Bettache was also absent from the line-up allowing Brandon Johnson his first start in six games. Jamie Byatt started ahead of Ben Cheklit who shared the bench with the returning Kevant Serbony.
Corinth started brightly under the dim floodlights of Woodstock Park. A quick succession of corners was well met by both Jamie Byatt and Shaun Okojie who the latter saw his shot from a few yards out cleared off the line by a Bourne defender. Jordan Clarke – on free kick duties saw his relatively comfortable effort spilled by Michal Czanner though made amends when he kept out Josh Gallagher’s follow-up. In truth, it was all one-way traffic as wave upon wave of advancements from Corinth gave plenty for the Brickies’ defence to deal with. Byatt snapping at the heels of Bourne saw the lively frontman go close with a header and then his snap-shot pass just wide of Czanner’s goal.
Squandered opportunities often get punished and this evening was no different. Dudley’s mis-controlled pass was gathered up by Steven Ita. Catching the back line on the hop, he laid it off to Tom Brunt who made no mistake in despatching the ball under Danny Bracken to give the hosts a surprise lead.
Bracken was called into action again soon after when the giant defender Jono Richardson blasted a header down the keeper’s throat only to see Bracken palm it over the bar.
Casuals came again… Czanner once again bravely foiling another attack with a last ditch save to prevent Warren Morgan and Okojie from levelling the score. A little nutmeg into the six yard box gave Gallagher the time and space to pick his spot but the midfielder dragged his effort wide in what was the best chance of the game. Jordan Clarke curled a dipping shot onto Bourne’s crossbar… the rebound falling kindly for the clearance.
Then the sucker punch. On the stroke of half time, Joe Loft doubled the score for Sittingbourne. The goal led to the hardy home supporters to chant ‘two shots and we’ve scored them both.’
If Casuals were to get anything from the game, Bourne’s Stefan Wright made the task a bit easier for the visitors. Wright’s lunging tackle on Brandon Johnson gave Referee Mr Ryan Whittaker no choice but to brandish a red card, whilst seeing Johnson limp off injured.
Nine minutes later, the comeback was on. Dave Hodges, who’d been excellent on the wing all game, whipped in a delicious cross perfectly meeting the head of Byatt who nodded home from six yards. The celebration muted as ‘Busy’ gathered the ball and retreated to get the game going as soon as possible.
The goal should’ve been the catalyst for a dramatic comeback but if anything, it just made Bourne’s defence more resolute. Though Casuals had the lion’s share of possession, well inside the Brickies’ half, credit must go to the effort that the hosts put in to ensure they came away with all three points.
Alas, parity was not forthcoming and when Niall Wright sustained a bad injury and had to be lifted from the field, the sides were once again therein ended Corinth’s chances of taking any points from Woodstock Park this season.
Casuals remain sixth in the league whilst Sittingbourne climb into the top half of the table. Once again, thanks to our hosts for their graciousness in victory and welcoming hospitality… as well as decent Cheeseburgers!
Manger James Bracken had these words after the match.
"Two games ago, I described my feelings as having 'zero frustrations'. Tonight, we went back to maximum frustration.
"This was a game that we started brightly despite arriving late and not having much of a warm up. We dominated the possession, moved the ball around nicely and settled in our overall shape. We created more than enough chances to be two or three up before we go one down.
"Then we concede another just before half time despite not being under any kind of pressure. They're sucker punch goals. The first one is an individual error which gifts them the chance and that's just one of those things. By conceding the second one just before half time, we make it hard for ourselves.
"I said to them, if we score in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, we can come back and get at least a draw. We've scored one, had numerous chances and had so much of the ball to salvage something out of tonight... but we haven't.
"I'm disappointed but I feel were slowly evolving at the moment into the team that I think we're going to be. However, we need to do that quickly as games are marching by. We don't want gaps to open up in the league table.
"We're positive. Okay – the final ball in hasn't been the best and we have to turn that dominance into three points. I've said in the changing room, we cannot apportion blame elsewhere. 'Oh but this happened or that's unlucky... that's football'. We need to make sure that if we want to win this league or reach the playoffs, we get rid of those excuses, turn them into nothing and come away with three points. It's easier said than done but we'll work hard to accomplish it.
"I've openly said to the boys, I've not enjoyed much of this season. I love what I do but as far as this campaign goes, I've not enjoyed it. Purely because I've got lads on the bench that I want to play. I've got lads who can't even make the sixteen that I want to play. I can't play everybody but this weekend is an opportunity for changes – some enforced and maybe a couple out of my own choice. That's a result of tonight where they didn't perform as well as they should have.
"I'm a big believer that you're only as good as your last game. I don't care how good someone thinks they are, if they put in a substandard performance, I've got other good players that are chomping at the bit to get on the pitch and show what they can do. It keeps everyone on their toes as long as it's embraced the right way, it should make us better.
"It's a difficult balancing act. You see the teams that get promoted out of this league and you pretty much know their starting XI before the teamsheet goes up. With us it's very different. That's not to say it cannot be successful. Just as long as it's embraced the right way. That the boys give everything they've got when they get the chance yet support their team-mates when they're not playing. It's hard for them though. They want to play every game... of course they do. But I can't play everyone."