Erith Town 4-2 Deal Town - The Cup Finals are a day out for the players' but we work all season to get into the play-offs and that's where we want to be, says proud Erith Town boss Adam Woodward

Tuesday 27th February 2024
Erith Town 4 – 2 Deal Town
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 27/02/2024 19:45

(Erith Town win 5-4 on aggregate)
Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Tuesday 27 February 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

ERITH TOWN manager Adam Woodward says it means a lot to reach their second Cup Final of the season but he would swap both for a place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division play-offs at the end of the season.

Deal Town had beaten Faversham Strike Force (8-2), Bearsted (2-0), Staplehurst Monarchs (5-1), Kennington (2-1) and were leading 2-1 from the First Leg at The Charles Sports Ground last Tuesday.

Erith Town defeated Tooting Bec (3-1), Rusthall (3-0), Holmesdale (3-1) and turned it around on home soil and will play fellow promotion-chasers Corinthian in the Challenge Cup Final on Good Friday, 29 March, at a venue to be confirmed by the League.

Deal Town arrived in Thamesmead on a 21-match unbeaten run and last tasted a defeat when they lost 3-0 at home to Snodland Town in the League on 24 October.

Erith Town went into this Leg sitting in fourth-place in the table with 50 points from their 27 league games, having lost only twice at home in the league.

Title favourites Deal Town were in fourth-place in the table with 55 points from their 24 league outings and are 11 points adrift of leaders Glebe but with six games in hand.

Michael Golding’s Corinthian claimed a 2-2 draw at First Division leaders AFC Whyteleafe tonight to get through 5-2 on aggregate, while Deal Town travel to Lincoln United in The FA Vase Quarter-Finals on Saturday 9 March and are heavily involved in the title race.

Deal Town grabbed the lead against-the-run-of-play through wide striker Wes Hennessey, who scored his fifth goal for the club, while dual-registered with Isthmian League South East Division side Ramsgate.

However, Erith Town levelled on the night through an emphatic finish from centre-half Jerome Jayaguru.

Erith Town right-back Tom Ash drilled in following a set-piece, before Deal Town levelled proceedings on the night through reserve team striker Jamie Kennedy, who buried a header following a corner to score his third goal for the first-team.

James Dyer swept in his 23rd goal of the season to level the aggregate score before substitute midfielder James Miles slotted in his fifth goal of the season to send Erith Town through to another Cup Final.

The Dockers travel to Maidstone to tackle First Division side Croydon in the Kent Senior Trophy Final on Sunday 14 April.

“I think we deserved that.  I think we gave the team that will win the league a great game, both games,” said Woodward.

“We went down there last week quite depleted and the aim of the game last week was to stay in it and bring them back here and I always fancied us here.

“Listen, we’ve had a fantastic performance on Saturday against Bearsted (winning 4-0) and I thought maybe tonight might’ve been one step too far but the players in there have done the club proud.  They deserve the credit to get into the final.”

When asked about being the first side to beat Deal Town since October, Woodward believes King’s men will go on to cinch the league title.

“I think they’re going to win the league by a massive, massive margin and I think they’ll get to the FA Vase Final as well,” predicted Woodward.

“They’ve got a great side, they’re well-drilled and credit’s got to go to my management team because we marked in a certain way from set-pieces.  I know we conceded one but they looked vulnerable from set-pieces tonight and we looked much stronger. We stood up and be counted.”

Deal Town manager Steve King added: “I’m disappointed. I thought they were the better side tonight.  Their home form has been very good, obviously what’s disappointing from us is to concede four goals away from home is unlike us but I could see it coming.

“We probably made too many changes over the two games in the end.  It’s a difficult one because we have so much to play for but we had enough senior players on the pitch tonight.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an under 18s or a reserve team, we had senior players on the pitch tonight to not concede those goals.  We’ll watch the video tomorrow and we’ll analyse.

“It’s the first time we’ve lost for a long time, so it hurts but no complaints about the result. 

“I think they’re arguably one of the toughest SCEFL sides that we’ve played.  I think they’ll 100% definitely get into the play-offs.  They’ve got a lot of home games to play and they’re very good here.  They’ll get in the play-offs, whoever the other three teams are, which obviously could be ourselves.  They’ll probably be the team you want to avoid. I thought they were very good tonight.

“We knew how tough coming up here tonight was going to be. It’s probably, other than the Vase games, Faversham away in that run, it was probably the most difficult game we’ve had since 24 October. 

“I don’t think it was a shock.  It wasn’t like we’ve lost to the bottom of the league or something like that. We accept it. We knew it was going to be very tough but we’re disappointed.”

Deal Town created their first opening after only 182 seconds when central midfielder Billy Munday played a diagonal pass to wide striker Josh Byford, who cut inside and lacked composure to get his shot on target from 25-yards, dinking his left-footed effort harmlessly past the far post, before the away side’s front three linked up well with their next attempt.

Byford released Kennedy, who teed up Hennessey, whose right-footed angled drive from a tight angle was comfortably saved by Mackenzie Foley at his near post.

“I thought our front boys were good all night actually, I thought they were excellent,” said King.

“We came away from home, we’ve scored twice. Both of my centre-forwards have scored. I can’t ask for much more than that.

“I thought we were unlucky early with a couple of chances. We started well, the first goal’s a cracker.  Look, I’m pleased with our attacking boys, we just haven’t defended well enough.”

The in-form Dyer cracked a left-footed snap-shot towards goal from 25-yards, which was superbly palmed around the post by former Dockers goalkeeper Adam Molloy with three minutes and 56 seconds on the clock.

“We hit the post and Molloy pulled off an absolute worldy in the first 10 minutes.  We were on the front foot and we put it on them.  That was the game plan, put it on them, don’t let them rest.  Make sure you’ve got lots of energy and I thought we started really brightly,” said Woodward.

King added: “I thought Dyer was outstanding tonight. I’ve seen him quite a lot over the last couple of years, obviously when he was at Glebe and I think he’s always been a player for me who has flattered to deceive a little bit but I think in the two games, last week and today, I think he’s been outstanding. I think he was the best player on the pitch tonight. He was a threat all game.”

Molloy often opted to punch rather than catch the ball as Erith Town dominated the corner count by 12-6, with Dyer swinging in a corner from the right towards the near post, which was dropped by Molloy but a hooked shot from Dockers’ holding midfielder Jamie Miller went past the right-upright from eight-yards.

Erith Town winger Harrison Carnegie charged down the right before playing Miller on the overlap and his cross sailed over Molloy’s head and clipped the far post.

“It’s another chance that we haven’t taken. We should’ve been two or three up before they scored their goal,” admitted Woodward.

King added: “I think it will be frustrating if we concede from that. It was just an overhit cross.

“It’s hard to defend that slope (the car park end of the stadium). I think the frustrating thing for me tonight was defending that slope is really hard and we conceded one defending it and then we conceded three, which in theory should be the easier end.”

Miller floated in a cross from the left, the ball was chested down by Ladic Melconian inside the box before Harry Taylor’s first time left-footed drive from 16-yard sailed over the crossbar.

When asked about Melconian’s 23rd minute withdrawal, Woodward said: “Ladic has rolled his ankle on the pitch.  The pitch was bobbly tonight. It’s had a cut and a supposedly roll today.  I don’t think that was true because we’ve lost a player now and it’s something that we’ve got to address as a club because the pitch isn’t up to the standard the way that we want to play. It’s disappointing that we’ve lost him and we have to make sure we get him back.

Woodward, who has 13 League games and two cup finals to play during the final nine weeks of the season, added: “I need to go and speak to the chairman because we do need a few more bodies through the door, whether we like it or not, we do need some more bodies.  I reckon we need a couple of bodies. 

“We’ve got a lot of games in a short period of time.  The fixtures haven’t been kind to us, so it’s something that we have got to address as a team, as a club.  We’re down to about 15-16 players now.  If you noticed tonight, I’ve got a 16-year-old boy (Gezz Francis) on the bench from the under 18s, so we need to get a few more bodies through the door.”

Deal Town grabbed the lead, against-the-run-of-play, with 12 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Liam Hark hit a long ball out of defence before Byford played the ball inside to Aaron Millbank, who fed Hennessey, who drilled a right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

King said: “A great strike! A great little move. A great strike.  Pleased for Wes.  I thought the front boys were good. It was a great little move and a great finish.

“Wes gives us something a little bit different.  Obviously, we’ve been using him more as an impact player off the bench.  Our normal forwards didn’t play tonight but every time he’s started, he’s looked good and got goals so fair play to him.”

Woodward added: “Very much against-the-run-of-play.  I think we were on top at that point.  The management team turned to each other on the sideline and said that’s the difference maybe sometimes.  They’ve had one chance and scored and it was a half-chance as well but once that happened we had to settle ourselves down and the boys did.”

It could have been two when Millbank played the ball in behind Dockers’ right-back Ash to release Kennedy but he lacked composure as he lifted the ball over the advancing keeper inside the box but his shot ended up towards the corner flag than the goal.

Erith Town levelled on the night with a clinical finish from an unlikely source, with 18 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Jayaguru came up for the home side’s fifth corner of the night, which was taken by Dyer from the right and was palmed away by Molloy.

Carnegie played the ball in from the right and Jayaguru easily cut inside Deal Town’s holding midfielder Ben Chapman before emphatically drilling his left-footed drive into the top right-hand corner of the net from 15-yards.

Woodward said: “Do you know what, JJ gets a lot of stick off me because he’s a young centre-half and sometimes he needs to be a bit tougher and look, we were quite open with him. He lost his man for the goal down at Deal and he took responsibility but tonight I don’t think he put a foot wrong.

“I thought he was exceptional, him and George Goodwin at centre-half.  It weren’t a bad finish for a centre-half, was it?!  He’s cut in and he’s shown what he can do from that sort of range. He’s a dangerous player JJ when he gets a shot away.”

King added: “A great finish from him. I think even their bench were surprised.  We gave the ball away cheaply, trying to clear it. We was then out of position. They’ve got an overload on our left-hand side and the centre-half has cut inside and swept it into the top corner with his left-foot, so what can you say about that? It’s a good finish!”

Dyer drilled a free-kick from the halfway line into the Deal Town penalty area for centre-half George Goodwin to go close with a diving header, which sailed across the keeper and just past the far post.

Molloy made an unconvincing save on the half-hour mark when he almost let the ball slip through his fingers as the impressive Dyer cracked a left-footed deflected drive heading towards the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards, in the second phase of James Trueman’s looping throw-in from the left.

Dyer’s impressive performances will have Isthmian League South East Division club’s taking a keen interest in his services.

“Listen, I spoke on Saturday and spoke to you before about him.  James Dyer is an exceptional player,” said Woodward.

“I think he’s settled down this year. He’s only had us as a club, he’s usually having two or three club’s a season and as I promised him at the start of the season, if he stays here for a year, I’ll get the best out of him and I think we are at the moment. 

“I think he’s dragging us through games with others around him and he’s showing a great maturity as well, which is really impressive.”

Deal Town were their usual threat from set-pieces and Jack Penny floated a deep corner in from the right towards the back post where centre-half Alfie Foster’s header ended up bouncing off the top of the crossbar in the 38th minute.

“I couldn’t really see what happened but I thought our set-pieces were good tonight, we looked a threat.  We got a second goal from it.  A bit frustrating that we didn’t get a second goal. I don’t think we deserved another goal,” admitted King.

Seven of Erith Town’s 12 corners came in the first half and Miles (who had replaced Melconian) saw his left-wing corner fail to beat the first man as Ben Chapman cleared his lines.  The ball was recycled back into the box by Jayaguru’s long ball and Goodwin’s downward header bounced into Molloy’s gloves for a comfortable save.

The half-time whistle was blown (46:21) with Deal Town leading 3-2 on aggregate and Woodward believed his troops could turn it around.

Woodward said: “Keep doing what you are doing because I feel like you will come out on top and there wasn’t much tactical input. It was more just keep doing what you were doing.”

King added: “I thought we done ok first half.  We defended that difficult half. I don’t think they had that many chances in the first half, although they had a lot of territory.

“We wanted to go out and try to get the first goal in the second half and obviously try to put them under a bit of pressure.  That was the message really but we knew it was going to be difficult.

“We conceded. It was frustrating. We got back into it, we got the equaliser and I’m really disappointed with the last two goals.”

The Dockers went close to levelling the aggregate scores inside the opening seven minutes following their eighth corner of the night.

Miles played it short to Dyer before Miles floated the ball in from the left channel for Goodwin to head down and agonisingly past the far post from eight-yards.

Woodward said: “It’s another chance from a set-piece.  Against Deal side’s you don’t get many, you don’t really get chances from set-pieces.  I think our delivery was really good from Milo tonight.”

However, Erith Town deservedly took a 2-1 lead on the night to level on aggregate, with eight minutes and 54 seconds on the clock, following their ninth corner of the game.

Dyer floated the ball in from the right, Carneigie knocked the ball down and the away side failed to clear their lines and the ball fell kindly for Ash, who rifled his right-footed drive over a crowd of players into the roof of the net from 10-yards.

“We had a little chat on Saturday and I said if you kept a clean-sheet I’ll buy you a pair of boots and he did and tonight his new boots haven’t come so he’s playing in his old ones again and he’s scored a fantastic goal to take us into the lead and that’s credit to Tom,” said Woodward.

“Tom’s been a bit unlucky this year. He’s played right-back, centre-half, left-back. He’s been a bit versatile. He’s a very good right-back in my opinion. I think he’s the best right-back in the league. He’s a young kid, he’s only 19 years’ old and I think he’s played a lot of games at this level, I think he’s played well over 50-60 games.”

King added: “I don’t really want to comment on the goals conceded until I’ve watched the video tomorrow.  I’m disappointed with them. But I can’t say who was at fault or what happened at the minute so I’m going to watch the video and dissect it and we’ll go from there.”

However, Deal Town grabbed the equaliser with 11 minutes and 10 seconds on the clock, following their fourth corner.

Penny floated the ball in with his left-foot from the left and Kennedy showed desire to get on the end of the ball to bury his header over a crowd of players into the roof of the net to score from 12-yards, to give King’s side a 4-3 aggregate lead.

Kennedy has scored 20 goals in 24 games for Deal Town’s Reserves, the league leaders in the Kent County League Division One Central & East (three levels beneath the first team).

King said: “I thought it was a great header, a good delivery, a good header.  Jamie’s done really well for us.   He’s come from the reserves, scored a lot of goals for them. He scored a header against Erith last week and got another one tonight.

“I was really pleased with my forward boys, got no complaints at all from that side, for me.”

Woodward added: “Listen, that’s what they’re about Deal.  They’ve got fantastic set-pieces.  The boy on the left, the left-footed lad has fantastic delivery of the ball.  Once chance that they’ve had from a set-piece and they’ve scored it.”

Erith Town continued to play on the front foot and scored their third goal of the game with 20 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock.

Miles switched the ball out to Ash in space on the right and the right-back clipped a long diagonal ball back to Miles, who whipped in a great cross towards the back post for Dyer to nip in front of his man to sweep his left-footed shot past the diving Molloy to find the bottom right-hand corner from eight-yards.

“Harry Taylor tried an overhead kick. I think he’s put a big dent in the ground and swept home by James Dyer. He’s in the right place at the right time again,” said Woodward.

“I say to him he’s in a rich vein of form at the moment so he needs to be in areas around the goal.  I think it will fall for him and it did again tonight.”

King added: “I don’t want to say I’m repeating myself but I can’t really comment on the goals because I want to watch them. Otherwise, I will say somebody made a mistake.  I’m not 100% sure who but I’m disappointed with them.

“We brought Tom Chapman and Rory Smith on at that point.  Can we go and nick a goal and try to win it? If it goes to penalties, 50-50, we’ve got a chance at that point.  It is what it is at that stage, try not to lose the game.”

Erith Town went close inside the final seven minutes when Carnegie’s cross was cleared out to 23-goal striker Taylor, who cracked a right-footed drive from 30-yard, which screamed just past the foot of the right-hand post, with the keeper scrambling to his left.

Erith Town kept knocking on the door and Molloy produced a world-class save to thwart the home side with 39:28 on the clock.

Substitute winger Jake Lovell released Carnegie, who reached the by-line before hanging over a cross towards Taylor’s head and his effort was destined for the goal, only for Molloy to stretch to his left and claw the ball out.

“Oh, exceptional. David Seaman-esque. Sheffield United in The FA Cup. It was a fantastic save and that’s why I think Adam Molloy is a goalkeeper who wins leagues,” said goalkeeper Woodward.

“Saves like that wins leagues and wins cups and unfortunately tonight it didn’t happen for him but he’s made them saves a lot during his career and that’s why he’s playing for Deal and he’s the reason why they’ve signed him because he knows how to do it when he has to.”

King added: “Outstanding save that wasn’t it.  Molloy’s good with penalties as well, so if it had gone to it, we would’ve been confident.

“We had a good penalty shoot-out win (6-5 on penalties after our FA Vase Last Sixteen tie at Bridgwater United finished 2-2) the other day, but it wasn’t to be.  They got the winner haven’t they.”

Molloy, who has recently won this league with Sheppey United and Erith & Belvedere, does have a weakness, as Woodward revealed.

“I’ve had Adam as a goalkeeper here (at Erith Town) and at Glebe and if you can put the ball underneath his bar and put him under pressure I think he struggles a little bit from that and we identified that.”

Deal Town had a chance to grab the victory when Munday released substitute winger Tom Chapman, who cut in from the right towards the edge of the D before dragging his left-footed shot across Foley and past the right-hand post.

“Tom’s outstanding isn’t he.  It’s difficult to come on for 20 minutes to try to influence the game. We looked after him in both legs, looked after Rory Smith, had no Ashley Miller (cup-tied), looked after Joe Reeves, looked after Macauley Murray.

“Tom showed his class when he came on but he didn’t have enough time to influence the game.”

Erith Town deservedly sealed the victory with 43:53 on the clock, much to the delight of the home fans in the crowd of 171.

Carnegie hit a long diagonal pass on the counter-attack to release Dyer, who threaded the ball through Hark’s legs to play in Miles, who placed his first time right-footed finish into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards.

“Milo has been a bit unlucky with me,” revealed Woodward.  “I pick on him a little bit.  Listen, credit to Milo because he sat out the last couple of games but he’s scored the winner and he’s stuck one up me.”

King added: “We were on the attack. We’ve been countered. I don’t know at the minute how he’s ended up in so much space. I will in the morning and we’ll deal with it then.  I don’t know how we got outnumbered.

“I was disappointed. Fair play, good desire from them. A good bit of quality, a good finish. I need to watch it.”

With 16 League games still to fit in and a FA Vase Quarter-Final tie at Lincoln United on 9 March (and hopefully a two-legged Semi-Final before a return trip to Wembley Stadium for the Final), this defeat could well be a blessing in disguise for Deal Town.

King said: “I’m gutted.  You don’t want to lose a semi-final.  I hate losing games of football and we’ve just lost a game of football, a cup semi-final.

“Could it be a blessing in disguise?  We wanted to win.  Yes, we change the side up. I think I was sensible but when we were here we want to win games. I’m not used to losing games in the last 12 months. I don’t like it, so I will reflect.  I’m not very happy.”

Erith Town deserved to go through on their impressive home performance here tonight.

“It means a lot, a lot because I think there’s a mental point with Deal. We’ve struggled against them. The last time we played them, in the last three or four games we haven’t won and we’ve always been unlucky,” said Woodward.

“Tonight, I don’t think we were.  I think we fully deserved to win and it gives us confidence now to go down to their place.”

Woodward takes his side to bottom-five side Stansfeld on Saturday.

He said: “But forget that, forget the cup final, forget the other cup final. All I’m focused on now is Stansfeld on Saturday and we’ve got a job to get into the play-offs.  That was our ambitions at the start.  The cup finals are great but if you was to give me the play-offs now and no cup finals, I’ll take it.

“The cup finals are a day out for the players but we work all season to get into the play-offs and that’s where we want to be.

“Listen, it will be a tough game, Stansfeld won on Saturday (2-0 at home to Kennington).  They’ve got a fantastic striker in Mayowa Olufeko (nine goals) and Billy Shinners’ getting them playing. He’s a good manager Bill and we know it will be a tough game when we go down there.”

When quizzed about facing Corinthian and Croydon, Woodward replied: “It will be tough, both tough games, both very tough games but there’s no easy games in cup finals is there.  No cup final is easy so we’ve just got to make sure that we go down there and we switch on and prepare the right way again.”

Glebe are at the summit with 66 points from 32 (of 40) league games.

The four play-off places contain Corinthian (59 points from 28 games), Faversham Town (57 points from 30 games), Deal Town (55 points from 24 games) and Bearsted (53 points from 29 games).

Waiting to pounce are Whitstable Town (51 points from 30 games), Erith Town (50 points from 27 games), Punjab United (48 points from 27 games), Snodland Town (47 points from 27 games), Lydd Town (47 points from 28 games) and Lordswood (46 points from 28 games).

Deal Town, meanwhile, who have now lost three games in 33 games in all competitions, travel to Crayford to play fifteenth-placed side VCD Athletic at the weekend.

The Vickers' lost their fourth game on the bounce tonight,  going down 3-2 at Punjab United and King is keen to bounce back from their painful exit.

“Tough but we have to go and win haven’t we.  One thing we’re good at is reacting.  Tonight could be a massive favour for Saturday. We’ve had a long chat out there and we’ll come in on Thursday and train and we’ll do the video and we’ll make sure we’ve done everything we need to and we go to VCD ready to pick up an important three points,” said King.

When asked about handling the fixture congestion, King replied: “We’ll be ok. We’ll be fine. We’ve just got to defend better.  We have to play better but we’ll be ok. We’ve got a fit squad, we’ve got a decent squad.

“I imagine we’ll make six changes on Saturday from today’s team.  Boys will come back in who we’ve rested tonight and we’ll go to VCD and we’ve got to try to pick up three points.”

King sent a scout to watch Lincoln United win 1-0 at bottom-of-the-table side Pinchbeck United tonight.  Sam Swinn scored the only goal in Spalding tonight, which keeps Lincoln United in second-place in the United Counties League Premier Division North table with 63 points from 26 games, seven points behind leaders Sherwood Colliery, but with two games in hand.

“Huge game isn’t it but I’ll worry about it next Wednesday morning. I’m worried about VCD now. I’ll be seething for three days now. I won’t talk to many people for three days and I’m not happy and we’ve got to react on Saturday.

“Once we get Saturday out of the way, we’ll focus on Kennington on Tuesday and once that’s done then we’ll focus on Lincoln.

“I’ve got my scouting team out doing my work for me. I’ve got somebody watching them tonight and we’ll make sure they’re watched and ready but I won’t focus on that until Wednesday morning next week.”

Erith Town: MacKenzie Foley, Tom Ash, James Trueman, Jamie Miller, George Goodwin, Jerome Jayaguru, Ollie Milton (Jake Lovell 62), James Dyer, Harry Taylor, Ladic Melconian (James Miles 23), Harrison Carnegie (Calum McGeehan 90).
Subs: Aaron Jeffery, Gezz Francis

Goals: Jerome Jayaguru 19, Tom Ash 54, James Dyer 66, James Miles 89

Booked: Harry Taylor 46

Deal Town: Adam Molloy, Liam Hark, Jack Penny, Ben Chapman, Alfie Foster, Alex Green, Wes Hennessey (Alex Smith 87), Aaron Millbank (Rory Smith 70), Jamie Kennedy (Connor Coyne 80), Billy Munday, Josh Byford (Tom Chapman 69).
Sub: Zak Hammond

Goals: Wes Hennessey 13, Jamie Kennedy 57

Attendance: 171
Referee: Mr Howard Collins
Assistants: Mr William Rough & Mr Haniel Whitmore