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Sunday, 21 December 2014
Metrogas 1-2 Fleet Leisure - We just couldn't get over the final hurdle, admits Roy Davies PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 18 May 2013

Haart of Kent County League Premier
Saturday 18th May 2013
Stephen McCartney reports from Tiepigs Lane

METROGAS manager Roy Davies admitted losing out on the Haart of Kent County League Premier Division title on the last day of the season was a little bit hard to take.

The New Eltham based club needed to avoid defeat to grab the title but Fleet Leisure gate-crashed the party to grab a 2-1 victory to ensure leaders Hildenborough Athletic clinched the title with 56 points from 26 games, finishing one point clear of Metrogas.

Fleet Leisure, who play their home games at Rochester United’s ground in Strood, like Metrogas, now play the waiting game to see if they are accepted in to the Kent Invicta League, having both applied to enter the Step Six league.

The Kent Invicta League have already lost two clubs for next season. Champions Phoenix Sports, who lost only twice in the league this season, are expected to earn promotion to the Kent Hurlimann Football League. Woodstock Park pulled out with only two games of the season remaining due to Sittingbourne’s move to Broadoak Road next season.

Fleet Leisure, who finished their campaign in fourth-place with 47 points from 26 games, opened the scoring through a quality finish from Tony Swann, before Metrogas restored parity through Sean O’Sullivan’s volley.

But Fleet Leisure scored what turned out to be the winner just before half-time when striker Marcus Heddon slotted home following a fine two-man move on the counter-attack.

The final whistle brought an air of bitter dejection at the final whistle and even the injured Danny Gorman punched the home dug-out and shouted out “F*** O** in despair after his brother blew the club’s title chances.

“It’s a little bit hard to take,” admitted Davies, 54, after the game.

“First half we never really turned up but we changed it a little bit second half.  I thought we played all the stuff second half and just battered the goal and didn’t end up getting the equaliser that we needed.

“We was a little bit unfortunate before the game to lose both centre halves in the warm-up.  We lost our centre-midfield player last night, he’s got blood poisoning on the knee and we had to re-shuffle the pack. It’s been one of those seasons really. It really typifies our season.”

Davies added: “You never set your stall out to get a point. We set our stall out to win the game. 

“We’ve had enough chances to win that game four or five.  I don’t think second half they had a chance.  I don’t think they had a shot on goal. One actually. Yes, they did have one shot at goal in the second half.

“It just wasn’t our day unfortunately, but we’ll come back bigger and stronger next season.”

Fleet Leisure manager Lee Richmond, who celebrated his 50th birthday last week, was delighted that his side gate-crashed the party with their 13th league win of the season.

“We said if they want to win it, they’ve got to earn it. We’re not going to let them have it and just roll over,” said Richmond.

“We just said let’s go out and enjoy it. We had no pressure on us. 

“I had two seventeen-year-olds and a sixteen-year-old. I thought they went on as boys and came off men at the end.

“I thought every single one of my players were superb today.”

The game was switched to Coney Hall’s Tiepigs Lane ground because of cricket being played at Metrogas’ Forty Foot Way ground.

And with so much riding on this game, a crowd of 102 were in attendance and they saw Metrogas squander numerous chances to get over the finishing line in first place.

Dean Heather’s right-footed free-kick was knocked down by central midfielder Tom Maloney and profligate striker Gary Gorman was in an offside position by the time he skied a left-footed volley on the turn from eight-yards after 13 minutes.

But clinical Fleet Leisure switched off the Gas as they took the lead with their first chance six minutes later.

Referee Keith Wenham appeared to have cuddled Metrogas central defender Nick Curran after a foul was given away some 40-yards from goal, and the home side appeared to have switched off defensively.

Mark Swannage – who was immense sitting in front of the Fleet Leisure back four – clipped his right-footed free-kick towards the left-hand side of the penalty area.  Swann peeled away from Metrogas right-back Heather and produced a quality finish, cracking a right-footed volley over his left shoulder from fifteen-yards, which sailed over the flat-footed keeper Jack Howard into the far corner.

Richmond, who was without his suspended son Colin, the former Sittingbourne, Maidstone United and Leatherhead Ryman League midfielder, hailed his side’s opening goal.

“We said to him ‘take the boot off now and put it in cement’ because he’s never likely to score a goal like that again!  We’ll make an imprint of it.

“He caught it just right and it’s one of them that they either go into the top corner or in the crowd.  He’s hit it sweet and it got us off to a good start.”

Davies pointed the finger of blame to his right-back Heather, for falling asleep at the free-kick.

He said: “It was a great finish. He took it really, really well. It was a good goal, the first one, but it was an error by the right-back.  Firstly, in giving the ball away in the middle of the park then conceding the free-kick and then not getting back quickly enough so three errors by the same guy.

“We still hadn’t switched on. The error compounded it but the boy took it well. It was a good goal.”

Former Beckenham Town striker Gorman was to have an off-day in front of goal as he failed to score from a number of decent opportunities.

Impressive right-winger, Joe Barry, whipped in a corner from the right, which swung out to Curran just outside the penalty area and the former Beckenham Town player clipped the ball back into the box and the unmarked Gorman stretched and sent his left-footed half-volley over the bar.

Curran clipped a delicious ball over the top of the Fleet Leisure back four in the 25th minute and Gorman’s dummy took advancing goalkeeper Michael Elder out of the game but central defender Andy Pierce managed to get back and cleared the ball off the line as Gorman swept a right-footed shot towards goal from a tight angle.

Curran then clipped a free-kick from midfield into the penalty area and 16-goal striker Pat Hitchin sent a looping header into Elder’s gloves from fifteen-yards.

Metrogas scored the goal that they needed in the 38th minute, thanks to central defender’s O’Sullivan’s fifth-goal of the season.

Fleet Leisure central defender Josh Cantwell gifted Metrogas a corner, which was whipped in by Barry from the right and the ball came out to Curran, who brought the ball under his spell on the edge of the box before striking a right-footed shot across the face of goal and heading wide. 

However, O’Sullivan reacted swiftly and stuck out a long right leg to re-direct the ball into the top far corner, across the keeper, to score from eight-yards.

Davies said: “He stuck out a leg and finished it top corner. He’s done well for us. It’s his first season with us. He’s only eighteen. He’s played centre back most of his career. We played him at left-back most of this season. Today he had to shuffle across to play centre half.  I think he’s actually got five goals for us now from centre half or left-back, which is a great return, especially when you lose your top striker halfway through the season.”

Richmond added: “We switched off.  The bloke on the edge of the box had three or four touches. We were slow to get to him. To be fair it was a good finish from him in the end, he had to adjust his body.”

This goal should have settled Metrogas’ nerves, but Fleet Leisure were clinical again in the 42nd minute to score the winner.

Heddon picked the ball up in midfield and played the ball to substitute James Trueman, who released Heddon through on goal and the striker kept his composure and slotted his right-footed shot underneath the diving keeper to roll the ball into the net from 12-yards.

Richmond was delighted that a striker that he plucked from a lower league club has performed at the higher level.

He said: “He’s come from us from NK Aces and since he’s been here I think that’s his seventh goal in about 12 games.  His effort was superb, he ran into channels and when he’s one-on-one you’d put your mortgage on him.  He took it really well. I’m just over the moon.

“He’s come from NK Aces, who were in Division One this year.  We went to see him and he was just getting fed up.  He said he’d like to try himself at the level and he’s blossomed with better players and things like that and if he pushes on next year he’ll be even better.”

Davies admitted he was expecting his goalkeeper to do better in that situation.

He said: “Jack’s been good for us this season on one-on-one’s, he’s excellent. I don’t think he’s conceded the goal like the second goal all season. He normally gets his body down to those but unfortunately today it just went under him and we knew the rest.”

When asked what he was thinking at half-time, the Metrogas manager said: “Just the fact that we hadn’t turned up.  We hadn’t competed, we stood back and watched anything we tried.  Nobody was trying to back it up.

“We said at half-time. We played too much long ball in the first half.  We shortened it up second half, played from the back, sucked them in but they never really came on to us either. They were just prepared to sit back and get behind the ball but we played and in the end we had to deliver long balls into the box but for a couple of good saves by the keeper, a couple of swings in front of goal, we didn’t quite have the composure to nick the goal we needed, which summed the day up really.”

Fleet Leisure decided to sit back during the second half – leaving Heddon as their hard-working lone striker – and they were content to soak up Metrogas’ pressure.

Man-of-the-match Barry swung in a corner from the right and Gorman lost his marker at the near post and powered his header narrowly wide from eight-yards.

But Fleet Leisure goalkeeper Elder produced a world-class save to thwart Gorman in the 51st minute.

Barry delivered a precise free-kick in with his right-foot from the right flank and Gorman was left unmarked at the far post. He directed his header down and into the hard surface and Elder got down quickly low to his left, stuck out a strong left hand to flick the ball away to deny Gorman his sixth-goal of an injury ravaged campaign.

It was one of the best saves made this season!

Richmond said: “It’s funny! When he done that we were saying Gordon Banks with the Pele one in Mexico when he slipped and flicked it up.

“He’s made a few rickets in the last couple of weeks but he’s come good today, which he is good at. Proper goalkeeping display for a change.”

Davies described it as a “top drawer save!”

The Metrogas boss thought Gorman should have scored at least one of his many chances.

He said: “Gary’s struggled all season. He’s had a hernia operation and he wouldn’t have started today had the injuries hadn’t affected us.  I wasn’t sure he was going to get through 90 minutes but the way it was going all the chances seemed to fall to him.  We did consider taking him off but we just felt another chance would fall to him and it did. 

“Unfortunately he was a bit rusty. He never had the ability to take the chances today. Another time, when he was fitter, I expect him to bury those.”

Fleet Leisure’s sole second half chance, however, arrived in the 61st minute when Heddon played the ball in to Trueman on the edge of the box and he played in midfielder George Kennett, who only had goalkeeper Jack Howard to beat, but the keeper dived low to his left to make a fine block.

Davies explained why he maintained a back-four when Fleet Leisure only had Heddon in an advanced role.

“Because we were trying to play from the back, so I didn’t want to expose us at the back. They’ve got one there and we’ll keep him there and we’ll push people on with the ball at our feet and we’ll get into the last third with the ball at our feet.

“We then couldn’t break them down. The pitch wasn’t conducive to keeping the ball on the floor really. It’s a poor surface again that’s cost us this season. Our pitch is decent.

“We lose out to the cricket. At this level it’s a travesty that you can’t play your home games at home because of cricket and that’s a real bug-bear of ours and they’re not even our club’s cricket team! They’re an outside cricket team, which really is frustrating but you’ve got to play on all surfaces, all teams, all weathers and you have to play what’s in front of you. It just wasn’t our day!”

Metrogas started to pepper the Fleet Leisure goal for the final 25 minutes and Maloney did well to reach the left by-line before he cut the ball back towards the far post and Barry’s left-footed shot on the turn deflected off Pierce and the ball looped just wide of the near post.

Davies was full of praise for winger Barry.

He said: “Joe’s missed all the season. Joe’s probably only played the last six or seven games for us. He started the season and work commitments got the better of him and he couldn’t make it. He only came back into the fold six or eight games ago.

“He can play when he’s got the ball at his feet, but he needs a good surface. He doesn’t need it bobbling up around his knees when he’s trying to take people on. The pitch didn’t suit him today. He’s a class act and we need to get him fit for next season.”

Sam Chaney then flicked a pass to put Gorman in, but the striker sliced his left-footed volley wide of the near post.

A free-kick from Metrogas substitute Jamie Craig wasn’t dealt with by the Fleet defence and the ball dropped to Barry, whose right-footed half-volley bounced agonisingly wide of the far post.

But Metrogas’ best chance to secure the title came as the game edged towards the final ten minutes.

Hitchin was crowded out by a sea of red-shirted defenders inside the box and the ball came out to Chaney, who curled his right-footed shot agonisingly past the foot of the far post from eighteen-yards.

Davies added: “On his right peg as well! He’s all left-footed and that one fell to him nicely and he clipped it lovely. I could see the net bulging with that one but unfortunately like two or three other chances that just sort of missed that far post.”

Influential skipper Tom Forster then stroked a left-footed shot from 20-yards, which deflected just wide of the post as it appeared that it wasn’t going to be their day.

Speaking about Forster, who did the ugly parts of the game well, Davies said: “Tom Forster has been great all season. His energy levels are fantastic. The boy is so fit. It’s unbelievable and he drives us on all the time.  Today was no exception. He carried the armband very well and he drove us on all 90 minutes.”

A long ball forward from O’Sullivan skimmed off the head of Fleet Leisure skipper Cantwell and Elder produced his second great save when he dived high to his left and pushed the ball away with his outstretched left hand.

Barry swung in the resulting corner from the right and the unmarked Curran headed down and wide of the left-hand post.

Metrogas could have snatched the title with 45:05 on the clock when Curran sent one last hopeful ball into the box and the unmarked Gorman stroked a low drive towards the near post, which was beaten away by Elder.

Richmond was pleased that Gorman was having a bad day in front of goal.

“We know his quality and to be fair the chances he had I thought he could put at least one away but it’s one of those days. On another day he’s got four goals hasn’t he?  It’s just one of those days that it doesn’t fall for him and it fell for us.”

Davies said: “Again, agonising then!  We were just swinging it in there with a few hell Marys to see if we could get something fall our way, but it wasn’t our day today!”

When asked how his players were in the home dressing room after the game, Davies said: “You could imagine, absolutely chocked.  The old preverbal sick as a parrot and whatever, but as I said to them they’ve had a fantastic season. They’ve coped with a lot of adversity injury wise and different bits and pieces.

“We’ve reached a good Cup Final, a good run in another cup and to get to the last game of the season and it’s still in your hands, it’s got to be considered a good season. 

“We just couldn’t get over the final hurdle.  It creates a quiet dressing room at the end but we’re a good bunch of lads, we’re all good friends and we’ll come back big and strong next season.”

The Metrogas manager congratulated Hildenborough Athletic on their success.

He said: “They’ve got more points than us.  Hats off to them. They took four points off us this season. They beat us down at their place and nicked a draw of us back at ours so of course they’re deserved champions.”

Richmond added he noticed the silence coming from the Metrogas dressing room after the game.

“When you walk off as quiet as that it was nice,” he said.

“That was what we said at the start. We didn’t want to hear them cheering in the other changing room and that’s what we got so job done!”

Metrogas: Jack Howard, Terry Murphy, Dean Heather (Jamie Craig 76), Tom Maloney, Sean O’Sullivan, Nick Curran, Joe Barry, Tom Forster, Pat Hitchin, Gary Gorman, Sam Chaney.
Subs: Tom Gibbons, Lou Nightingale, Alex Tarrant, Shaun Maher

Goal: Sean O’Sullivan 38

Booked: Terry Murphy 90

Fleet Leisure: Michael Elder, Jack Walter, Karlton Blake, George Kennett, Andy Pierce, Josh Cantwell, Marcus Heddon, Tony Swann, Alex McKay (James Trueman 30), Mark Swannage, Joe Loft (Sam Aldred 78).
Sub: Simon Gibson

Goals: Tony Swann 19, Marcus Heddon 42

Booked: Joe Loft 76, Andy Pierce 77, Jack Walter 81

Attendance: 102
Referee: Mr Keith Wenham (Orpington)
Assistants: Mr Martin Cook (Blackfen) & Mr Darren Keating (Sittingbourne)

Last Updated ( Friday, 29 November 2013 )
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