Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 13th August 2016
Match report: Cameron Smith. Photos: Stuart Tree (full set of photos can be seen here)
The re-invigorated Corinthian-Casuals were victors in their first Ryman Division One South game as the complacent yet valiant Whyteleafe FC left King George’s with a 2-1 defeat and no points whilst Corinth collected three.
Last season was a distant memory as Casuals started their 2016/17 campaign hoping for a more successful one than the last. The pain of missing out on the play-offs due to unforeseen circumstances needed to be put behind us as a new season was on the horizon. Just like the song says, I woke up this morning feeling fine and I did have Corinthian Casuals on my mind.
The first match of the season was against East Surrey-based Whyteleafe FC who finished in the bottom half of the league last season in a respectable 15th spot. However, Leafe have proven to be a bogey team in the past few seasons with the previous two meetings ending in 1-0 losses for Casuals. James Bracken certainly wanted to change that as he fielded a strong starting XI for the opener. The usual trusty back four were used as always; but there was a shake-up in the midfield. Josh Uzun and James Cottee took their places out wide while new recruit Josh Gallagher partnered “Super Kevant Serbony” in the middle. Meanwhile in attack, Corinth had two fierce weapons ready to destroy the opposition’s defences once more as the 6ft 2in tank Shaun Okojie was complimented by the nifty but powerful fan favourite Jamie Byatt.
After a minute silence was impecably observed by the crowd, following the sad passing of Keith Blunt, Jamie Byatt rolled the ball to Serbony to start Casuals’ competitive season. From the start, Corinth knew that it was set to be a high-intensity game as Whyteleafe came out with pace and forcefulness. Nevertheless, Casuals managed to find a weak spot in the visitors side. Slack defending from Leafe captain Jason Mensah resulted in the resilient Shaun Okojie stealing the ball from the No.5’s feet before feeding James Cottee to score inside six minutes. With team morale low after conceding, Whyteleafe seemed to lose togetherness and communication, especially in the defence.
In the 17th minute, there was a unbelievable mix-up between Mensah and keeper Colquhoun in which Mensah looped the ball over the head of Colquhoun, who watched as it comedically bounced over the line and into the net. Delight for Casuals, dismay for Leafe. The 2-0 scoreline was deserved as Corinth dominated possession, having many chances. Thanks to full-back Dave Hodges who supplied Okojie with a fantastic cross. The target man connected with the ball but it flew over the bar. It was 2-0 at half-time.
In the second half, Whyteleafe were determined to turn the game around but struggled as Josh Gallagher saw his shot palmed away. Leafe keeper Colquhoun was called into action multiple times as Dudley and Okojie had efforts denied.
Regardless, Whyteleafe pulled a goal back in the 68th minute with midfielder Ryan Fowler adding his name to the scoresheet. A superb effort from just outside the area was hammered beyond the reach of Bracken with such force that no-one had time to react! The fast tempo of the match was halted with five minutes to go as substitute Emil Salama was taken off the pitch on a stretcher after a painful-looking injury (We wish him a speedy recovery). After a few anxious stoppage time minutes, the referee blew the whistle for full-time.
A well-deserved win, Corinth move onto the next league fixture which is away in Reigate as they face South Park on Wednesday evening.
After the match, Manager James Bracken had his take on the game.
"We're delighted to get off the mark with three points. Of course we want to start the season well. We've come into this off the back of a decent end to the last campaign and this pre-season. It was important that we continued in that form and hit the ground running, putting points on the board.
"If we take half of our chances today we'd probably be four-nil up before they even score. It's an old cliché but at 2-0, the game is never dead. But there was never any real danger or scary moments where they've peppered our goal. We've defended quite well and saw the game out at 2-1 which has been good enough for the win.
"Emil's injury isn't good. He's a terrific player and he'd have had a big part to play going forward over the next eight to ten games whilst he's with us. He was going to feature heavily and that looks as though that plan has been scuppered.
"However, we have a lot of strength in depth; it opens the door for someone else to get more game time. For instance, the Reserves side won again today against the team that won the league. I know what those players have got... I watched all of their pre-season games and there's some very good players.
"Of course, I'm gutted for Emil – I've known the boy since he was about four years old and you never want to see lads like Emil get hurt in that way.
"South Park lost their first game 4-1 to Hastings so I'm not sure what mental state they'll be in come Wednesday. A lot of their players know me personally and I have no doubts that it'll be a tough game. Of course, they'll want to beat us but we look forward to every game – we're bright, young and hungry to win.