5 January 2018
Return of popular ‘keeper averts goalkeeping crisis
Current Player of the Year, Josh Pelling, is drafted in as cover for injured goalkeeper
While victory over league leaders Lewes was the perfect way to kick-off the new year, it was typical of Dom Di Paola’s luck that the 2-1 win was tinged with frustration after losing goalkeeper Brannon Daly to injury. The former Merstham stopper, who became the fifth player to don the Hornets jersey this season when joining the club at the end of October, landed awkwardly in the closing stages of the first half, left the pitch on a stretcher and was subsequently taken to hospital for scans on his damaged knee.
“It summed our season up” said the beleaguered manager, who is himself battling against the effects of ‘flu. “We just can’t seem to get a foothold on this season and always seem to be taking one step forward and two back. Brannon has been playing well and it was nice to get some consistency at last, having had to chop and change our keeper almost every game until he came in. He went to A&E where, thankfully, the scan didn’t show any bone damage but he’s got a lot of swelling on the knee so we need to wait until that has gone down before he can be properly assessed. He trains with Arsenal during the week so they’ve taken a look at him but have told him that he needs to see a knee specialist, once the swelling has gone, so we won’t know too much more until the end of the week at the earliest. First and foremost our concerns are with Brannon himself as it looked a nasty one but it also gives us a bit of a headache for Saturday as we need to get someone in as cover. I’ve not had chance to speak to Mike Hunter yet but, to be fair to him, he’s not kicked a ball for about six weeks so it wouldn’t be ideal to put him in even if he was available. I have already put in a seven dayer for a ‘keeper but obviously have not even been able to speak to him yet so I’ve no idea if he’d even agree to come to us”.
Daly’s place in goal was taken by Eastbourne Borough loanee Charlie Harris for the remainder of the match, something that Di Paola admitted he was happy to agree to. “Charlie was really up for it, as he’s played in goal before, so it was him or Charlie Farmer but I felt we needed Chas’ presence at the back and, to be fair to Charlie Harris, he did okay. The trouble is that when that happens, you weaken the outfield as Charlie is a strong player. He scored the goal and looked lively so its a bit of a double whammy if you like when you have to stick him in goal”.
Daly’s injury was the latest of a trio of significant withdrawals from the match, with Lewis Hyde failing to recover from a knock he took during Saturday’s defeat at Carshalton and Scott Kirkwood twisted an ankle during the warm up. “That’s the trouble with playing football at this time of year” added Di Paola, “you just don’t get the time to recover. You’re playing four games in ten days so it’s literally play/rest/play/rest. Kirky was already struggling at Carshalton, Curtis Gayler was among the walking wounded and we had to take Bozzy off (against Lewes) to protect his groin so when its like that you can’t make tactical substitutions as you need them all to cover injuries. Its a tough schedule but thankfully we have a few days off before playing VCD and then we’ve pretty much got one match a week after that, apart from Pagham, which should help us”.
Reflecting on the last two matches, the manager said “I was frustrated that we didn’t get a point at Carshalton (on Saturday) to be honest. We defended soundly and, after a difficult first quarter of an hour, we competed well. Kirky had a shot well saved, I think we should have had a penalty when Dean Bown was shoved in the back, and we did okay. Carshalton will always have a lot of the ball as that’s the way they like to play; they rotate well and move the ball really well, but I don’t think they really caused us that many problems. But if you try and match that style of play then you’ll just get turned over so we had to adapt and I don’t really think we allowed them to make best use of their possession.
Then on to Monday and Lewes. You’re always going to be up for a local derby but the lads also followed the game plan brilliantly in the first half and we thoroughly deserved the win. We had three or four good chances in that first half, as well as the two goals, but obviously Brannon coming off changed the complexion of the game. We wanted to switch it around in the second half but with Charlie having to go in goal, and others struggling, we couldn’t afford to do it. We put Matt Boiling in at centre-half after they scored and I thought we stuck with it and defended really well and had some good opportunities ourselves on the break. Okay, we might have caught Lewes on an off day or it might just have been that we were really good, but I’m sure that if we’d sat off them like we did at Carshalton then Lewes would have beaten us. You’re always having to look at different ways at playing every opponent and we got up and at Lewes from the off and it worked. They have four really good goal threats up front and then you look at the bench and they bring on George Landais, who was first choice for us, and Omar Lawson who scores lots of goals and you can see how strong their squad is so it was a fantastic win for us.
They’re genuine guys at Lewes and I’ve heard (Rooks boss) Darren Freeman’s interview and fair play to him. They’ll probably go out and tonk someone next week as they are a very strong side. Its odd that we’ve beaten them three times now but, on each occasion, they’ve put out a different sort of team. This one has a lot more physicality about it, more robust than last year, but we are able to match that now. They’ll have the last laugh though, for sure. They’re four points clear of third with a game in hand and will fancy themselves to go up this year although I still fancy Cray to win the league. Every dog can have it’s day, though, and yesterday was ours.
Its just annoying, as a manager, that we can’t manage to do that every week. I said to the players after the game that they should enjoy the result but they should also be frustrated at where we are in the table because we should be striving to be where Lewes are. Its nice to enjoy days like yesterday but we have to be more consistent.”