Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 22nd October 2016
Match report and photos: Stuart Tree (full set here)
Shaun Okojie bagged a triplet of goals in a comfortable away win for Corinthian-Casuals as they defeated strugglers Chatham Town 4-1 in the Ryman League Division One South.
The win emphatically put to bed the disappointing performance in the 1-0 loss to South Park on Tuesday night. Though their hosts, Chatham Town lay just above the relegation zone, the encounter could've thrown a curveball on a pitch that resembled a bobbly dust-bowl.
Manager James Bracken made two attacking changes to his side which have failed to score in three of the last four matches. Ben Cheklit and Jordan Clarke replaced Jamie Byatt and Josh Uzun.
Chats started brightly, testing Danny Bracken in goal within the first minute and forcing a fine save. But it didn't take long for Corinth to impose themselves on the game; Juevan Spencer intertwined with Dave Hodges to cause problems for the Chat's right flank; Maz Bettache looked lively on the tricky surface and Ben Cheklit lay in wait on the far side. Indeed, it was Cheklit's cross that found the 6'2” Okojie who's header was steered narrowly wide.
Chatham in parts looked dangerous too. With a tinge of 'shoot on sight' policy, Owen Price connected well with his 25 yard effort which whistled past the post. Bracken had to be alert to a cross which found a Chats forward in a great position.
Bracken's opposite number, Alex Hyde was soon called into action when Bettache's corner found the head of Okojie and an outreached left hand tipped the ball around the post.
The deadlock was broken on 34 minutes when Jordan Clarke threaded a ball through to Bettache who blasted an accurate ball across the six yard box and was met by Okojie at the back post. Casuals had their first goal in over 200 minutes.
It could've been two just before half time. Another wicked Bettache ball from the corner spot was met by Jack Strange who directed his header onto the Chatham bar. It wouldn't have been undeserved.
The second half took a while to spark into life and Chatham enjoyed more possession but in the course of sixty seconds, the scene was set; Owen Price forced an excellent save from Bracken who's lightning reactions prevented the equaliser. Casuals broke with pace and Juevan Spencer found himself with Hyde confronting him in the box, but laid the ball back to Okojie who placed the ball in the net from the edge of the box. The strike was as calm as the big man's celebrations.
A few nervous minutes could've ensued when Luke Medley took matters into his own hands. The Chatham forward almost ripped a hole in Bracken's net when he smashed a shot past the keeper's near post. But just three minutes later, Okojie had his hattrick. Warren Morgan made a trademark burst from right-back into the box and found the striker waiting to pounce on the penalty spot. A slight scuff didn't matter as it was enough to clinch the points.
And to rub salt into the wounds, substitute Jamie Byatt played in Josh Gallagher who found no problem in striking the ball past Hyde to end the game with a deserved 4-1 victory.
The win lifts Casuals into fifth place on goal difference. Manager James Bracken had these words to say after the match.
“Zero frustrations for me today. We're in the playoff spots, we're playing well, we're competing to try and win this league.
“When we've lost, when we've drawn and even when we've won, we've come away with some frustrations. I'm pleased to say that today, we've come away with none of those frustrations.
“Going forward, we look bright, exciting, creative and quick. At the back we look solid. Everyone worked in between and they knew what was expected of them. They've delivered a performance of which we've been searching for since the start of the season... a performance that really imposed ourselves on the game.
“What was pleasing was for us to not only impose ourselves on possession and quality, but be clinical and stick four in the net. Those goals today put us back in the playoff spots, so they have a real impact and it's good for our confidence.
“Everyone can beat everyone in this league. It's about getting on a good run and ignoring what others are doing. Other sides will have good streaks but we have to make sure our winning streaks are longer and better than theirs. Hopefully, after the Christmas period and into next year, we're still in with a chance to put a run together and achieve something by the end of the season.
“There's still a lot of games to play. Every team is going to lose matches because it's a very competitive league this year. There's probably nine or ten teams that are realistically thinking that they can reach the playoffs. We have to ensure we're still up there with the top sides, just by being consistent week in, week out.”
Next week, eyes turn to the FA Trophy as Casuals travel to Chesham United's Amy Lane to take on Chalfont St. Peter.
“It's a neutral venue but it's fifteen minutes from their own ground and some of their lads will be local so let's not dress it up - it's still an away game for us. I expect the pitch to be better there than if it was at Chalfont and we want to have another good run in the Trophy.
“I said only a couple of weeks ago that cup games are good if you win them and keep momentum. It's about building on this win today, using this as a benchmark and asking the boys to go and play to that same level. If you can beat that, then whoever we play will be in for a tough afternoon.”