SCEFL Premier Division

Saturday 11th January  

Along with their noisy travelling fans, Sheppey arrived as league leading scorers. Perhaps with the visitors attacking threat in mind, returning Becks manager Jason Huntley opted to bring skipper Ashley Carew back into the starting lineup (solidifying the midfield by playing him behind a front three), return Harvey Brand to RB and, in the suspended Junior Kaffo’s absence, give a debut to newly acquired screening MF Joe Bannon. 

The early signs were good. After just 7 mins, Carew seized on some loose control to win possession high-up the field. The captain exchanged passes with Brand on the right before playing across to Luke Rooney. He took a touch to get the ball out of his feet, set himself with another on the edge of the area, before steering the ball, past the outstretched hands of Sheppey’s Josh Pelling and into the corner for the early lead. 

It didn’t last long. Some neat passing after a throw-in on the right saw ‘The Ites’ work the ball back into the middle well. Ex-Town player Billy Bennett slipped in leading scorer Dan Bradshaw who arrived around the penalty spot at the same time as LB Archie Johnson – the ball looping up and over Becks GK Michael McEntegart and into the net. 1-1 after 12 minutes. 

Rooney was then fortunate to stay on. Having already escaped a yellow card for a meaty tackle on United’s Connor Wilkins, he was lucky to avoid a straight red for a full-blooded challenge minutes later that sent the same player out of the game. The referee opting to show the midfielder just a yellow, much to the disgust of the booing travelling support. Huge target man Rob Denness came on for the visitors as Wilkins was helped off, still clearly hobbling.

In the meantime, Sheppey were getting on top. LW Harrison Carnegie blazed over, just as Becks central defender Rob Carter’s desperate lunging challenge arrived, having been sent racing clear by Richie Hamill’s direct ball down the middle. Skipper Bradshaw then teed up Bennett who put another good chance over. But the best chance fell to Bradshaw himself. A long ball down the left saw McEntegart race off his line only to collide with Carter in the corner of the Becks area. With both grounded, Bradshaw swivelled but lifted his unnecessarily hurried first-time effort over the bar with the goal gaping.

Minutes later, a surging run by impressive LB Greg Benbow saw McEntegart relieved to smother after Johnson had initially blocked Bradshaw’s effort on the line. RW Danny Leonard created another half-chance after beating two defenders before Carnegie shot tamely when well-placed just outside the area. At the break Becks were glad to be heading back into the changing rooms on level terms.

Becks weathered another couple of early second-half scares. Firstly, when McEntegart did well to save at his near post and then when a rare mistake by young central defender Kiki Oshilaja allowed Bradshaw in, only for the league’s leading scorer to shoot narrowly wide when bearing down on Becks’ goal – Oshilaja snapping back at his heels looking to atone for his earlier error.

The game changed on the hour mark. 18 year old Bertie Valler had come on to replace the tiring Bannon and he controlled skilfully before feeding Rooney whose lofted pass then found the tricky Stefan Cox in space. Cox, who had switched to the right only moments earlier, gathered the ball, dummied to cross and with two United DF’s having turned their backs, advanced into the area before flighting a deceptive, measured, cross cum shot that beat everyone as it curled it’s way into the far corner. 

Cox tweaked a hamstring shortly afterwards and was replaced by Steve Townsend who did well to offer a constant threat on the left after coming on. But stung into a response, it was Sheppey who threw the dice, bringing on both of their two remaining subs (including replacing the original substitute Denness) and switching to three at the back. 

Sheppey’s pacy right-winger Leonard was a recurring menace. But with Valler impressing in the holding role and the intelligent Shameek Farrell always providing an outlet, Becks looked capable of seeing the game out for the crucial win. 

However, deep into injury time, Sheppey were contentiously awarded a corner – the ball seemingly having come off a United player last before going out. Up came goalkeeper Pelling to provide an extra body in an already crowded penalty area. The initial delivery was cleared back out to the right, but the second ball in somehow fell to arch-predator Bradshaw and he rifled home through the crowd to snatch a point with a close-range volley. He was then booked for removing his shirt amidst some wild celebrations in the corner.

Honours even. On the balance of play, perhaps a fair result. And a mouthwatering return clash to look forward to in February.

Photos: Marc Richards

Highlights of the match with commentary can be found at: