Please Note: We are currently working on a brand new website behind the scenes, so things may misbehave or not look quite right on the surface for now, but please bear with us - it'll be well worth it!

Paul Chambers: Too early to talk about winning the league

Posted in Club News on 19th November 2013 by Kentish Football

Paul Chambers says it’s too early to talk about his side winning the SCEF League title at the end of the season.

The Homelands outfit leapfrogged over Lordswood into fourth-place in the table with 24 points from nine games – four points behind leaders Tunbridge Wells but with three games in hand.

A crowd of 67 braved the coldest night of the season so far and turned their back on England to watch their 1-0 defeat to foes Germany in an international friendly at Wembley Stadium, to witness Ashford United extend their unbeaten run to ten games and pile on the pressure on title-favourites Tunbridge Wells.

Ashford United opened the scoring in this entertaining game through Sam Conlon, before Holmesdale levelled only 98 seconds later through Nick Whybrow.

But Ashford United went into the half-time interval with two fine goals, courtesy of Jordan Hill and skipper Gary Clarke.

Holmesdale pulled a goal back through a well-taken penalty from left-back Kristian Campbell, but Ashford United snuffed out a comeback when central midfielder Adam Cuthbert scored his eighth-goal of the season to kill the game off.

“I thought we battled really well. I thought we dug-in and I thought we did ever so well, so really happy,” said Chambers after his side’s eighth league win of the season.

“We’ve done alright so far, so I can’t complain. We’ve got a great squad and the lads’ have done everything they have been asked for, so they’ve been absolutely top drawer so I can’t complain at all.”

When asked about his side’s position in the title race, the Ashford United boss added: “Don’t really mean nothing at the moment! We’re in November! We’ll have a look at it in April.

“It’s not even worth talking about the league table. There’s some good sides in this league and that’s all there is to it.”

Holmesdale manager Paul Proctor added: “It was a good game. I thought they were very sharp in the first half. I thought they knocked the ball around well, caused us a few problems.

“I thought we played well but I don’t think we looked after the ball well enough. We made some individual errors at times under pressure because they was pressing us high.

“I thought they was better first half. If we came in (at half-time) 2-1 that would have been a fair result but we shot ourselves in the foot really. They’re a good side so it was an uphill task from there.

“We came out second half and I thought we played really, really well. We took the game to them, got the goal I think we more than deserved and again it was another basic error to give them the fourth goal. They’re a good side and then they shut up and they made it hard for us.”

Holmesdale created the first chance inside the opening two minutes when the impressive Campbell was released down the left and his left-footed angled drive forced visiting keeper Joe Mant to dive low to his right to make a comfortable save.

Ashford’s opening chance on goal arrived in the ninth minute when Ben Jordan played the ball into striker Gary Mickleborough, who stroked his right-footed shot harmlessly wide of the left-hand post from sixteen-yards.

John-Paul Collier was keen to impress against one of his former clubs and the central midfielder pulled all the strings in the Holmesdale midfield.

He played a one-two with right-winger Daniel Stewart before his trickery saw him speed past two men to reach the by-line before cutting the ball back to Whybrow, who drilled his right-footed shot from eighteen-yards past the foot of the near post.

But Ashford United broke the deadlock with 11:14 minutes on the clock and Proctor blamed makeshift central defender Mark Axell for the goal.

Ashford left-back Liam Whiting – whose pace down the flank was giving Liam Hirrell a headache for the 53 minutes that the Holmesdale right-back was on the pitch – intercepted Axell’s bad pass before he played the ball into Mickleborough, who released Whiting down the left-hand channel.

Whiting drove his cross into the penalty area and Conlon beat his marker (Lyndsey Prescott-Kerr) and looped his shot over the goalkeeper’s head into the net from 12-yards.

Proctor said: “They scored a goal from an error from Mark Axell, which they capitalised and scored.

“I thought they were lively in midfield so they pressed us high and they played one-in-one-out, playing the wide player getting in behind us. They’re a good side.”

Chambers added: “It was a good ball in and a great finish by Sam, so it was good.”

But Holmesdale were not down for long and a precise pass from Collier split open Ian Wallace and Ben Jordan (Ashford’s two central defenders) and Whybrow slotted the ball past Mant to score from 12-yards.

Proctor said: “Very good finish! Nick joined us from Cray Wanderers and he’s been lively around the club. He’s been good in training, a good lively player. He’s got a little bit to learn yet. He suddenly drifts in and out of games but he’s an excellent acquisition. He’s a really exciting prospect.

“I thought we responded extremely well and played some good football for five to ten minutes and got the equaliser.”

Chambers added: “We then fell asleep and let them back into the game really but we’ve battled. It’s not like our place where the pitch is perfect, it’s bobbly out there, it’s a big, bobbly pitch. I thought we coped with it really well and I thought we done excellent.

“It’s one of those things, at least we didn’t let our heads go down and we went in 3-1 up at half-time so there’s no problem. I’m well happy we’ve gone in at 3-1 at half-time and the game’s done.”

Campbell – who is on dual-registration with Ryman Premier League side Dulwich Hamlet – squandered an excellent opportunity to give Holmesdale the lead but he curled a left-footed free-kick high over the wall, the crossbar and into the fields behind the goal in the nineteenth-minute.

Ashford suffered similar fate when a ball forward from Whiting was cleared away by Axell and Conlon skied a volley high over the bar and into the night’s sky from 25-yards.

Luke Coleman – who was playing out of position down the left wing for Holmesdale – curled a right-footed free-kick around the near post from 28-yards.

Hill issued Holmesdale a couple of warnings when he drilled a right-footed drive past the post after good work again from Whiting down the left-hand side.

And Hill latched onto a long ball down the middle to beat Holmesdale keeper Alex Hyde to the ball but his right-footed chip from sixteen-yards sailed agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.

But Hill was rewarded for his persistence when he scored Ashford’s second goal in the 33rd minute.

Right-back Luke Cuthbert played the ball into Conlon, who pounced on a mistake from Hyde before playing the ball across the face of the penalty area.

Whiting kept the move alive by collecting the ball inside the penalty area and cut his low cross to the edge of the box where Hill drilled a right-footed shot across a crowd of players and the ball nestled into the bottom far corner of the net.

Chambers said: “It was a good finish by Jordan. He’s done well again tonight. All the goals were good goals so I can’t really complain.”

Proctor added: “Again, their second goal was disappointing. I thought we were in the game then. It was a good end-to-end game with good football being played by both sides. They scored a goal through another individual error.

“Disappointing. We gave the ball away in a bad area.”

A fine save from Ashford United keeper Mant thwarted Holmesdale’s target-man Steven Strotten from 22-yards in the 37th minute.

The striker wearing a custom-made number 23 shirt took a step before stroking his right-footed free-kick over the wall and destined for the corner, but Mant beat the ball out for a corner high to his left.

Proctor said: “Strotts took it early and the keeper was alive and sharp to his left hand side and did well to get it around the post.”

Chambers added: “Joe’s been quality and if he let them in I’ll be really disappointed. He saves them all day long. I’ve got no problem with Joe, he’s been fantastic this year.”

A poor clearance from Hyde, saw Whybrow loose possession to Hill, who cracked a right-footed drive from 35-yards which forced Hyde to dive to his right to catch and keep hold of the ball for a well-taken save.

But Ashford United went into the interval in the driving seat through Clarke’s fifth-goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.

Hill was released down the right and raced to reach the by-line before he cut the ball back for Clarke, who ghosted in to the box and side-footed a first time shot into the bottom left-hand corner from fourteen-yards.

Chambers said: “I thought it was a good goal. I thought that was probably the pick of the bunch. It was a really good move. We kept the ball really well and it’s come out to Gary Clarke and it was a great finish from Clarky.”

Proctor bemoaned: “At 2-1 I thought we was still in the game, pressing, playing high up the pitch, keeping the ball better and again the keeper should have come and picked the ball up and he hasn’t and they capitalised on the mistake. He’s given them a 3-1 lead at half-time!

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the halfway point.

Proctor said: “Basically said there’s still something in the game for us. We went out with a positive attitude and we passed the ball better.

“Three players were playing out of position today. Mark Axell had to go in at centre half, obviously we’ve lost Marc Cumberbatch to Greenwich Borough. John Wilfort is still injured so we had to drop Mark Axell back. We had to drop JP (Collier) back into central midfield with Sean Brown and play Nick (Whybrow) in the hole today, which is the first time he’s played there.

“I just said you’ve had 45 minutes. We talked about pressing them a bit higher up the pitch and pressing as a unit and they went out with a good attitude and I thought played well.”

“I was pleased. We just said we have to grind it out,” added Chambers.

“It’s hard to play your passing games, it’s a cold evening and the grass is a little bit long. You can take all these things but it’s a bit bobbly out there.”

The second half took a while to get going and a goal-line clearance from Stewart denied Mickleborough scoring with a low poked shot after Adam Cuthbert swung in a corner from the left.

A crunching tackle by Clarke on Sean Brown just inside the Holmesdale box gave the Bromley-based side a 65th minute lifeline, which Campbell accepted to silence the vocal away support.

Campbell tucked away the resulting left-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner despite Mant guessing the right way.

Both managers were asked their views on the tackle.

Proctor said: “No doubt it was a penalty!

“I think he’s scored five this season now so I think he deserved a goal. Kristian hasn’t missed one yet – I shouldn’t had said that!”

Chambers said: “We won’t talk about that one. We won’t talk about it. That’s just a bad tackle so it’s as simple as that.

“No penalty is a good one against us. Only good ones go in and we score but no it was a good penalty. The bloke took a good penalty. Joe doesn’t get beat many times from the spot so it must have been a good penalty.”

Holmesdale could sense that they could snatch a point out of the game, but Ashford had other ideas and claimed a vital three point haul with twelve minutes remaining.

Adam Cuthbert drilled a right-footed shot from 30-yards, which went underneath the diving Hyde and the ball caressed the right-hand post before finding the back of the net.

Chambers simply added: “Just finished the game off. He’s done and dusted it, just killed it off, so it’s superb.”

Proctor blamed goalkeeper Hyde for the goal.

He said: “Poor. He will be disappointed with himself. He had nothing to do for however minutes, I don’t know what minute it was. He’s touched the ball once, maybe twice in the whole of the second half before that, but that’s his job – he should be collecting them!”

Collier deserved a goal for being Holmesdale’s best player on the night, but he was denied inside injury time.

His right-footed free-kick from 25-yards was curling towards the far corner of the net but Mant dived to his left to push the ball away, to make his second fine save on a bitterly cold night.

Proctor was full of praise for Collier and said: “Really good today. He’s been out for a while – as ever – he’s got married and he’s had a busy first half of the season really. He’s been working hard in training and he is a class player at this level.

“He did (deserve a goal), he played well. He wears his heart on his sleeve JP. He’s the coach or assistant manager and he deserved a goal tonight. He played really, really well.”

Ashford United, meanwhile, play their next two league games at home against sides in the bottom four – Rochester United on Saturday, followed by Deal Town next Tuesday.

When asked what he’s expecting from those two games, Chambers replied: “Three points! Simple as that! We’re expecting another three points and that’s what we’re looking for!

“We’ll get through Saturday first and then we’ll have a look (at Deal) from there.”