Erith & Belvedere 2-3 Phoenix Sports Reserves - It means a lot to us that we've achieved something of this magnitude for the club, says Phoenix Sports Reserves manager Ben Kotey

Wednesday 11th April 2018
Erith & Belvedere 2 – 3 Phoenix Sports
Location Coles Park, White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London N17 7JP
Kickoff 11/04/2018 19:45

ERITH & BELVEDERE  2-3  PHOENIX SPORTS RESERVES
(after extra time)
London Senior Trophy Final
Wednesday 11 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from White Hart Lane

PHOENIX SPORTS Reserves manager Ben Kotey says it’s a proud moment as his club celebrated winning the London Senior Trophy for the first time.

This all-Southern Counties East Football League First Division clash was played at Haringey Borough’s ground in north London and the decision backfired as only 80 people travelled to watch fourteenth-placed Phoenix Sports Reserves beat eighth-placed Erith & Belvedere 3-2 after extra time.


CAPITAL GAINS: Phoenix Sports Reserves win the London Senior Trophy for the first time after beating league rivals Erith & Belvedere 3-2 after extra time.
Photo: Mark Sullivan


Kotey’s men beat Canning Town (2-1); Hackney Wick Reserves (5-4 on penalties after the game finished all square at 2-2); Lewisham Borough (3-0) and Forest Hill Park (3-1) to reach the Final.

Erith & Belvedere, meanwhile, got past South Kilburn (4-1); FC Elmstead (2-0) and Tooting Bec (7-1).

And with the London Senior Cup Final tie between Balham and Cray Valley being played at Hendon next month, the London FA seriously need to think about playing final ties at a venue closer to both competing clubs to put bums on seats.

Phoenix Sports took the lead 11 minutes before half-time when striker Lewis Afflick tapped in a cross-come-shot from pacy winger Richard Sesay, the man-of-the-match who gave Chris Mirrlees a torrid time.

But Erith & Belvedere turned the game upside down by scoring twice in four minutes.

Captain Chris Page rifled in an equaliser with 11 minutes to go before Arlie Desanges tucked home his 17th goal for the club from the penalty spot.

But Phoenix Sports showed character to grab a late equaliser, which was headed in by substitute Frederick Olafsen, before Afflick’s tenth goal of the season won it towards the end of extra time.

“Very proud of the team today,” said Kotey.

“We scored early in the first half and I thought that a young group of players did themselves proud today.

“Erith & Belvedere are an experienced side. We had to play to the game plan that we set out and if we could do that we had a chance.

“When they equalised and went 2-1 up, I thought the team showed a great amount of character and determination to stay in the game and get the equaliser when they did and then extra-time is a difficult period.  Everyone is tired and anyone can take it.

“I thought we had one of the better chances in extra time and then the winning goal, I thought we took it and after that we would hold on and there was a possibility.”

Luke Coleman couldn’t deliver Erith & Belvedere’s first trophy since Micky Collins won them the Kent League and Cup double five seasons ago.

“I thought it was an open game. I thought it was played in the right spirit. Both sides went for the win. I’m disappointed to come off the losing side but probably for the best part of the second half and extra-time it was a lottery, anyone could win.  I thought both sides had a lot of chances,” said the manager.

Erith & Belvedere squandered a glorious chance to open the scoring inside the opening six minutes when dimulative winger Max Williams floated in a peach of a cross towards an unmarked Desanges at the far post, who sent his free-header over the crossbar from four-yards out.

“Arlie missed that one but on another day, nine times out of 10, Arlie probably scores! Arlie bounced back well, won a penalty and took it and had the confidence to score,” said Coleman.

Kotey added: “I just thought they had threats and Arlie is one of the major threats and he scored the penalty.  We just had to ensure that we could contain their threats and minimise them and when we had opportunities it was important that we took them because with their experience we just knew they would get other chances.”

Phoenix Sports’ opening chance arrived in the 13th minute when holding midfielder George Jones swung in a free-kick, which was cleared out to Sesay, who swept his left-footed shot from 15-yards across the keeper, who gathered comfortably low to his left.

Erith & Belvedere’s holding midfielder George Bryan swung in some high-quality corners during the first half and Phoenix keeper James Boughtflower’s handling was of an equal high standard.

After a cagey opening half-an-hour it was Phoenix Sports who drew first blood by taking the lead with 33 minutes and 53 seconds on the clock.

Sam Fitzgerald pinged a long diagonal out of defence out to impressive right-winger Sesay, who had pace to burn and he easily cut past Mirrlees and his cross-come-shot flashed across the keeper and an unmarked Afflick tapped the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from close range.

“I was pleased with that goal in terms of it looked like it was going in and Lewis as a centre forward made sure the ball went in and I thought we deservedly scored the goal,” said Kotey.

“We tried to play a little bit more than they did, so I thought when we got the goal it was well-deserved but I knew they would come back.”

Coleman added: “It was a poor goal for us to concede because we tried to nick the ball and we didn’t get there. We were open to being one-on-one. It was a cross-shot, it’s one of them where perhaps we could’ve done better with but the boys responded well to it.”

Boughtflower produced a couple of top drawer saves to deny Erith & Belvedere twice within the space of 40 seconds, within the last 10 minutes of the half.

Desanges picked up a loose ball at his feet, found a pocket of space and placed his right-footed shot towards the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards, which was tipped around the post by Boughtflower.

Williams was then given time and space to drill a left-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner from 35-yards and the Phoenix keeper dived to his right to tip the ball around the post for another corner.

Kotey said: “James is only 17, he’s a very, very bright intelligent boy.  I think he might be going to university in the summer, I’m not sure what he’s going to do. It’s his first season of senior football.  I think he’s come on leaps and bounds and I’m really proud of him, really pleased with him.  We went 1-0 up and to make that save was a vital moment in the game.”

Reflecting on his side’s two chances, Coleman said: “Arlie probably should’ve hit it a bit lower. On another day, he scores that 100%.  Good save from the keeper, probably more of a comfortable height than Arlie probably wanted to give him.”

Coleman added: “Max’s one, he made a good save. We probably could’ve scored one of them but we never did.”

Erith & Belvedere keeper Tommy Taylor also had a good game and he was called into action on the stroke of half-time.

George Jones’ sublime ball over the top was poorly defended by Darren Wheeler and this let in Sesay, whose drove in a shot from a tight angle, which was curling towards the top far corner, but Taylor produced a top-drawer save, diving high to his left to tip the ball around the post.

Coleman said: “Tommy’s always alert. Thing about Tommy is his starting position is always good so if the ball does go in behind he’s there or there abouts and receive it for us.  It’s a good save from him but Tommy does that every week to be fair.”

Sesay swung in the resulting corner from the right towards the far post and Fitzgerald rose to guide his downward header comfortably into Taylor’s grasp.

At half-time, Kotey said: “Basically what got us the lead we needed to ensure that we didn’t change it too much and kept to the game plan so that was the main focus of the team-talk, to keep playing the way we asked them to play and just be aware of their threats.  Where they caused us problems were set-pieces and their front two or three.”

Coleman added: “I thought it was quite an even game first half. I thought we had a number of chances, probably in retrospect better chances so for me I said to the boys we have to preserver and keep believing in what we were doing and  try to get a goal and true to form we got the next goal. The main regret was not holding out at 2-1.”

Taylor excelled again as he denied Phoenix Sports doubling their lead inside the opening seven minutes of the second half.

George Jones, who was often given freedom to control the middle of the park, hooked the ball straight down the middle to release Ramell Lake through on goal and his left-footed chip was held by Taylor as he flew to his left to make the save.

Kotey said: “It was a good save.  We were just hoping we could be a little bit more clinical in that situation and maybe take that pressure off us if that goes in.  At 2-0, it’s a different game but they were still in it when they’re 1-0 down.”

A big clearance up field by Boughtflower was half-cleared by defender Jason Mensah and Lake did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the box before setting up Kehinde Aileru, whose 30-yard drive was comfortably caught by Taylor.

Phoenix Sports were in full control but Erith & Belvedere substitute Tahjae Anderson missed a decent chance when he skied the ball over the bar from 15-yards after Desanges knocked down a cross into the box from Nad Nwitua, who started up front before dropping back into left-back after a struggling Mirrlees was withdrawn.

The game returned to its stalemate status for a good half-an-hour before Erith & Belvedere came back from the dead.

They grabbed an equaliser with 33 minutes and 34 seconds on the clock, following their ninth corner of the game.

Bryan swung in a corner from the right, Mensah flicked the ball on and Page swept his right-footed shot over Boughtflower’s left-shoulder into the roof of the net from 12-yards at the far post.

“Pagey has been exceptionally good for me all season since he’s come in,” hailed Coleman.

“I’ve made him my captain and for good reason because he’s just Mr Reliable.  I know what I get every week out of him, which is usually eight or nine out of ten.  A good goal from Chris, a great finish and fully deserved from a personal point of view from him because he’s exceptional for me week in week out.”

Kotey added: “That was an area where we thought they could hurt us at set-pieces and we spoke about that a lot in terms of dealing with set-pieces and dealing with the second ball.  Prior to the goal going in we were under a little bit of pressure and they kept the ball alive in the box and that’s where the goal came from.”

George Jones floated over a deep free-kick from the edge of the centre circle and Andrew Jones came up from the back and had a couple of bites of the cherry at the far post but Taylor grabbed hold of the ball at his near post.

But Erith & Belvedere grabbed the lead with 37 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock following a penalty.

Bryan’s sublime dink put in Desanges down the left-hand side of the box and he was fouled by a sliding David Adekoya and referee Jordan Whitworth pointed to the spot.

Desanges stepped up and clinically slotted his right-footed penalty just right of centre as Boughtflower dived to his right.

Coleman said: “I thought George engineered the opportunity when his ball over the top was a great weighted ball, really good vision from George and probably not a great challenge, which Arlie dispatched really well to be honest.”

Kotey added: “It was disappointing for me because my full-back David could’ve maybe stayed on his feet. He was a bit naïve there. He went to ground, it was definitely a penalty and we had to manage that moment a little bit better. He tucked it away clinically.”

Most of the opening 90 minutes produced a poor game but the game livened up towards the end of normal time.

Boughtflower dived to his left to push away a tricky free-kick out on the left from substitute Jonathan Murray, whose 30-yarder curled past everybody but the keeper dived to his left to prevent the ball creeping inside the bottom far corner.

The keeper launched a big kick and Aileru played in Lake through on goal and Taylor rushed off his line to make a vital block, low to his right, as the Phoenix striker looked destined to equalise from 16-yards.

Kotey said: “Ramell kept getting in those areas, these final third and again hoping he could’ve been a little bit more clinical. It was a great save by the goalkeeper. I felt if we could get another chance there was another one or two chances for us to get back in the game and it panned out that way.”

There was to be a twist as Phoenix Sports equalised with 43 minutes and 19 seconds on the clock.

Left winger Aileru was hugging the touchline when he was given time and space to deliver a deep, deep cross towards the far post where super-sub Olafsen rose to send his downward header into the bottom far corner from four-yards to break Erith & Belvedere hearts.

Kotey said: “Funnily enough we worked on getting it into wide areas crossing the ball.  The one time we did deliver a good ball in, in the air, they were good in the air so my game plan was to get crosses low and hard or pulled back.  It was a great delivery from Kehinde and Freddie’s come late and he’s climbed up and he’s guided it in so I’m very, very pleased.”

Coleman added: “I think overall that was the goal I was disappointed with the most because we’ve had this a couple of times this season.  I think back to Horley when we were 2-1 up in the 90th minute, tonight 2-1 up in the 89th minute, it’s lessons to be learnt. 

“I thought the penny might’ve dropped in terms of how we defend those situations, set-pieces but we are still relatively a young side. I’m not making any excuses for the boys. We should’ve defended that better.  We shouldn’t have conceded in the 89th minute.  We have to bounce back and I thought in extra-time we responded well, just a sucker-punch really.”

There was still time for three more chances before the start of extra-time.

Murray played in Desanges along the deck and the striker came agonisingly close to grabbing Erith & Belvedere the winner but his right-footed drive flashed across the keeper and bounced against the inside of the foot of the left-hand post before rolling along the goal-line and leaving the striker in despair.

Coleman said: “They’ve had chances, both sides that their fair share so did we. On another day Arlie scores that. Since he’s come in he’s got a ridiculous amount of goals in a certain amount of games so I back Arlie to score every chance he has but maybe my expectations need to be reined in slightly with him but he’s certainly a good finisher though.”

Kotey admitted his side got lucky.

“It’s literally rolled across the line so we had a little bit of fortune that you need in a game. I believe you make your own luck but there was a bit of fortune there definitely.”

Bryan swung in a corner towards the far post where a tiring Mensah glanced his header across goal and just past the top of the far post.

Phoenix Sports almost won it too as Taylor rushed off his line and made a brave save at Aileru’s feet, the ball trickling just past the foot of the near post before Fitzgerald met Callum Flynn’s resulting corner and glanced it across goal and past the far post.

Neither side could find the winner so the game went into extra-time.

Coleman said: “Extra time, I thought was a lottery. I thought both sides looked jaded. I think both sides put their all in to the 90 and it was a bit of a lottery but I felt we had a couple of chances in extra-time.  I thought we looked positive and more likely to score.”

Kotey said: “We just said to people ‘be honest with us’, in the sense of if you’re tired be honest and everybody said they were tried.  They were very honest but they thought they could keep going so that was credit to the players, they still had enough in themselves to keep going, even though they were all physically on their last legs.”

Set-pieces were a big thing for both of these sides tonight and Erith & Belvedere should have won it following their 12th and final corner in the 99th minute.

Bryan swung in another great delivery, this time from the left, which wasn’t cleared and Page lashed his shot over the bar from the corner of the six-yard box.

Phoenix Sports could have won it too, when on the stroke of half-time, Flynn played the ball into Aileru’s feet and he played the ball out to Sesay, whose left-footed drive was pushed away by Taylor, high to his left.

And in the second period, Sesay lost his footing inside the penalty area but the ball ran loose to Afflick, who reached the by-line to wrap his foot around the ball and Aileru rose on the edge of the six-yard box to plant his free header over the bar.

With a penalty shoot-out looking more likely, Phoenix Sports claimed the silverware by scoring from another set-piece, timed at 10 minutes and 50 seconds.

Flynn’s outswinging corner from the right looped out to Olafsen who hung his header back where it came from and Afflick steered his trophy-winning downward header into the far corner.

Coleman said: “If we don’t defend set-pieces, again our defending at certain situations, we’re going to come unstuck and that’s what happened, so credit to Phoenix.

“I thought it was a good header.  I said that to the boy after the game.  I thought we could’ve defended it a bit better because it was actually an outswinging corner that sort of looped to the edge of the box, which was a disappointment but nevertheless we’ll roll with the punches and learn from tonight.”

Kotey said: “Funnily enough, I thought set-pieces were their strength and it was a bit ironic that we won the game from a set-piece so that was pleasing.”

When asked to sum up the club’s trophy success tonight, Kotey said: “For me it’s a proud moment.  Phoenix Sports are a fantastic club. The chairman Mr Mortlake, Alf Levy, the secretary, the first team manager Paul Bryon.

“I knew my remit as reserve team manager is to develop players but in my opinion part of development is how to win football matches and how to win important games.

“This is my second season here and to achieve a cup final against a very renowned and experienced football club like Erith & Belvedere, I’m very, very proud of my management staff of Martin West, Reggie Boatswain and Keith Lawrence and George Jones, it means a lot to us that we’ve achieved something of this magnitude for the football club and hopefully these young players will remember this cup final because it’s a very, very important cup competition.”

Erith & Belvedere have banked 52 points in their league campaign and have five games left to play, starting with Sutton Athletic visiting Park View Road on Saturday.

Kotey’s men, meanwhile, have banked 37 points and also have five left and travel to FC Elmstead on Saturday.

Erith & Belvedere: Tommy Taylor, Chris Page, Chris Mirrlees (Jonathan Murray 67), George Bryan, Darren Wheeler, Jason Mensah, Max Williams, Jamie Miller (Tahjae Anderson 56), Arlie Desanges, Nad Nwitua, Dominic Odusanya (Yacine Gnahore 67).
Subs: Junior James, Luke Coleman

Goals: Chris Page 79, Arlie Desanges 83 (penalty)

Booked: Chris Mirrlees 66

Phoenix Sports Reserves: James Boughtflower, David Adekoya (William Reavill 90), Callum Flynn, George Jones, Sam Fitzgerald, Andrew Jones, Kehinde Aileru, Joe Smith (Frederick Olafsen 69), Lewis Afflick, Ramell Lake, Richard Sesay.
Subs: Josh Dalsan, Chukwubikem Osadebe, Andrew Dythe

Goals: Lewis Afflick 34, 116, Frederick Olafsen 89

Attendance: 80
Referee: Mr Jordan Whitworth (Catford, London SE6)
Assistants: Mr Sikiru Idris (Camberwell, London SE5) & Mr Ahcene Yahiaoui (West Ham, London E15)
Fourth Official: Mr Tunde Adebayo (Bexleyheath)

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