Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 5th December 2015
Match report and pics: Stuart Tree (photos here)
Corinthian-Casuals left it late for the second time in a week to seal victory, scoring the winner deep into stoppage time.
Less than three days earlier, Juevan Spencer’s late header gave Corinth a dramatic win over Grays Athletic in the FA Trophy, but this time it was let to Michael Salako to bag the winner at Three Bridges, leaving it until the 95th minute to make his mark.
The win keeps Casuals within four points of the playoff spots and condemned Bridges to a fifth straight defeat.
Manager James Bracken was able to recall Warren Morgan after missing the FA Trophy replay through suspension and many were delighted to see Brandon Johnson back in the starting eleven after missing a number of weeks with a broken toe. Sekou Kaba was still missing through injury and with Dave Hodges unavailable, Ben King stepped in at left back.
Even before kickoff, many knew the game wouldn’t be a classic thanks to the combination of blustery conditions and a boggy pitch, which was particularly heavy in a couple of patches despite no real prolonged rain within the past week. The game was thrown into doubt as to whether it should be played but thankfully, the match officials deemed it suitable to fulfil the fixture.
Neither side showed any real quality and for much of the game, it looked as though the afternoon would remain goalless. In Casuals’ first chance, Emmanuel Akokhia broke free from his marker and forced a fine save from Kieron Thorp in goal. The rebound fell to Juevan Spencer who crossed it to Cherno Mendy with the winger firing wide.
Akokhia looked lively and troubled the Bridges defence once again with neat skills on the byline. Despite Mendy literally screaming out for the pass, Akokhia attempted to beat Thorp at the near post but the keeper was wise to the move.
Mendy almost became provider to another Juevan Spencer goal in an almost carbon copy of Spencer’s late winner against Grays. Mendy, in place of Hodges, whipped a fantastic cross to the far post but Casuals’ top scorer couldn’t add to his tally of 12 this season.
The closest chance of the half fell to Josh Uzun. Always dangerous from free kicks, Uzun curled his shot over the wall and onto the post.
At the other end, Ben Godfrey shanked a shot wide and Sam MacVicar went close with a header.
Chances were at a real premium in the second half as the wind really took hold – the floodlights swaying side to side gave an indication as to how strong the gusts had become. Bridges came close when Casselman fizzed a shot just wide of Danny Bracken’s far post.
Casuals had a big shout for a penalty when Ben King was scythed down from just inside the box. With the ball returning to him from a corner, he beat his defender to the follow up but was upended in what looked to have been a clear foul. However, despite protests, play was waved on.
With four minutes of time remaining, Matt Whitehead was dismissed for a second bookable offence and the home side were down to ten men.
Casuals threw on Michael Salako and Charlie Girdler in an attempt to get three points. Juevan Spencer could’ve wrapped the game up into time added on for stoppages but scuffed his shot wide.
However, Salako made no mistake moments later when finding himself in the box, fired into the top corner much to the dizzy jubilation of the very cold but very happy Casuals’ supporters behind the goal. With the goal coming five minutes into six added on, there was no time for the home side to reply and Casuals once again had grasped the win in the dying moments.
After the match, James Bracken commented on the performance.
“I still agree with myself… stoppage time is the best time to win. It was a very similar victory to midweek against Grays.
“In terms of the pitch and the conditions, it was a lot harder today. It was always going to be a scrappy affair. Even if the pitch was in good condition, with the wind it wasn’t going to be pretty.
“We’ve kept three clean sheets on the bounce and we’re always going to score goals. We continue to do that and we won’t be far away at the end of the season.
“I made it very clear how massive three points was today. Drawing, losing wasn’t an option. We need to win. We’ve gone from the point where we’d played three or four games more than other sides in the league to dropping a few games behind.
“It’s a cliché saying you’d rather have points on the board than games in hand. It’s true… but you don’t mind that if you’re six points behind with four games in hand. You can attack those first two matches and then push on. What you don’t want is to be twelve points behind with four games in hand as that’s too much to ask.
“So it’s important that when we have these league games in between our cup fixtures, we pick up the three points to keep ourselves in it.
“I’m very clear that I want to win every single game. That’s my mentality and I’ve always been like that. Last year, I played in seven competitions, this year, I’ve only played in six.
“We’re only out of one cup so far this season – the FA Cup, and that’s a tough one to win anyway.
“Although we only have one squad of players, they all want to play. They’re young, they’re hungry and their performance levels aren’t dropping off. If you ask them if they need to be rested, they’ll all say ‘no – I want to play’. There’s certainly no fatigue from them. They’re ready to go again and again.”