Erith Town 3-0 Rusthall - Every Cup competition we're in it to win it - even The FA Vase - we want promotion this year, you don't set out to finish 12th, you want to go and win things, says Erith Town boss Adam Woodward
Erith Town 3 – 0 Rusthall
|Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
ERITH TOWN 3-0 RUSTHALL
Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Third Round
Tuesday 5 December 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue
ERITH TOWN manager Adam Woodward says he’s going into every competition looking to win it – including The FA Vase – after booking a place in the Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals with a comfortable win over Rusthall at Bayliss Avenue.
The Dockers went into this Third Round tie sitting in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 33 points on the board from their 17 league games, five points adrift of leaders Faversham Town.
Rusthall, meanwhile, arrived in Thamesmead sitting in the bottom six (sixteenth) in the table with 15 points from 18 games, nine points clear of the sole relegation berth, currently occupied by Dan Scorer’s Kennington, who have three games in hand.
Both sides were handed a bye into the Second Round of the Challenge Cup and faced First Division sides, with Erith Town beating Tooting Bec 3-1 here at home, while Rusthall saw off Forest Hill Park 4-0 at Jockey Farm Stadium.
Erith Town scored three second half goals to seal their passage into the last eight of the League Cup competition, with central midfielder Ladic Melconian scoring his fifth goal of the season, attacking midfielder James Dyer and striker Harry Taylor each scoring their 13th goal of the campaign against a lacklustre Rusthall.
Erith Town made three changes to their side that beat Athletic Newham 2-0 in The FA Vase at the weekend, while Rusthall made two from their abandoned game at home to Glebe, which they were losing 3-1 at the time.
“We’re in the hat. I thought we huffed and puffed first half. We didn’t have much quality in front of goal. I don’t think we was ever in any danger but credit to the boys second half, they came out and stepped it up and got into the next round,” said Woodward, whose side join Corinthian, Faversham Town, Holmesdale and Tunbridge Wells already in the last eight.
“Defensively, I thought we was exceptional, really, really impressed with us defending. That’s three clean-sheets in a row now, which is the foundations we built on last year and I think we need to keep building on that.
“We had 18 clean-sheets last season and if you don’t concede, you don’t lose the game.”
Rusthall manager Jimmy Anderson said: “I thought it was a good game. They’re a good side, they’re doing well this season. We’re in, not a difficult period, but it’s a different season from last season, but every season is but all in all I thought it was quite a good game.
“I gave players’ minutes tonight that haven’t been playing. I gave a couple of young boys run out, which I was really pleased with.
“The result was a lot better than the last time we came here (losing 5-1 on 30 September) in the league, so that’s pleasing.
“What was pleasing, I felt like the way we played. The last two weeks we’ve trained. Up until that point we haven’t really been training because the facility hasn’t been available due to the amount of games we’ve been playing and stuff like that, so the last couple of weeks we’ve been working on a few things so that was quite pleasing and we saw it come into play tonight, how we want to play out from the back and get through midfield.”
A sparse gathering of 53 witnessed a poor quality first half, but Erith Town were the better side throughout.
The Dockers created their first opening inside the opening six minutes.
Recalled left-back James Truman clipped the ball up to Harry Taylor, who chested the ball and brought the ball under control on the corner of the box before playing a 10-yard square pass to Dyer, who drilled his right-footed shot over the top of the near post from 25-yards.
A big kick from Dockers’ goalkeeper Mackenzie Foley, was allowed to bounce twice outside the Rustics’ box before left-winger Henry Arnold drilled a low shot from 18-yards, which was comfortably gathered by visiting goalkeeper Tommy Taylor.
“I think we had a few chances but I thought we were very, very lacklustre in front of goal and we needed to step it up,” admitted Woodward.
“We never looked in danger but the attacking third didn’t quick click. It’s not always going to happen. You can’t always click. We were getting in the right areas but not making the right decisions, which was disappointing but second half we stepped it up.”
Rusthall created their first opening in the 15th minute, a well-worked three man move.
Centre-half Callum Adonis-Taylor passed to left-back Abdullah Khalil, who sent winger Kalani Barton charging down the line before cutting inside and towards the edge of the penalty area but his weak shot lacked conviction and was comfortably gathered by Foley.
“He didn’t get enough power behind the shot. I thought Kalani was really lively tonight. For a young kid he’s come in and I was impressed with how he coped.
“I’ve got to pay Erith a lot of respect. They’ve got a good side, got fantastic facilities here. The pitch was lovely, it suited how we wanted to play.”
Woodward added: “I don’t think Foley had a lot to do tonight. I think the back four, the two players in front, George Goodwin has added a lot of quality to our side (since his arrival from Beckenham) and he protected the back four superbly.”
Erith Town’s right-back Joe Chalker played the ball inside to George Goodwin in space and the former Beckenham Town midfielder clipped the ball into the Rusthall box where Harry Taylor found space away from Rusthall centre-half Daniel Blunn to hook a left-footed volley across the keeper and past the far post from 15-yards.
Arnold released winger Ollie Milton (who was forced off with an Achillies injury at the break) down the right and he played the ball into an unmarked Melconian, whose left-footed drive from 30-yards bounced a couple of times before being comfortably saved by Tommy Taylor, down on his knees.
Erith Town wasted a glorious chance to take a deserved lead following the third of their eight corners in the 37th minute.
Dyer raised both of his arms before floating a left-footed corner from the left towards the back post. Goodwin rose at the back stick to knock the ball back with his head and Harry Taylor’s header screamed over a crowd of players and crashed against the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
It was a frustrating first half for Harry Taylor, who was also caught offside on five occasions before the interval and just once in the second half.
“Harry had a lot of chances tonight, half-chances and that one was a gilt one, just head the ball in the goal moment,” said Woodward.
“I think he’ll be disappointed he hit the bar but these things happen. He then got himself back into the game and obviously took his chance later on but they’re chances he’s got to score and he’s missing a couple of sitters at the moment and he's beating himself up about it. I think he’s over-thinking it.”
Anderson claimed: “We felt on our bench it was a foul on Callum Taylor by Goodwin, so they’ve hit the bar. It didn’t go in but it’s a chance for them.”
Rusthall kept treating the ball like a hot potato with central midfielder Martin Youngah the main culprit upon his return to the side following injury but Anderson’s side went close to grabbing the lead with the last kick of the half.
Holding midfielder Ben Branch played the ball into striker Luke Adams, who laid the ball off to right-winger Jack Lyons, who cut inside following a long run and from outside the D curled his left-footed shot around the foot of the far post.
Anderson said: “That was a good move. Jack’s got a lovely left foot and when we get in those positions, it’s quite promising for such a young age (16). The boy has got a good future in the game.”
When asked how the winger is coping with the ninth-tier of English football, Anderson replied: “We’re taking it game-by-game. He’s a young kid, certain individuals want to smash him up in the air but he rides the challenges pretty well and there’s other teams that will sit off him and give him time and space to do what he can do.
“He’s a very good talent, bundles and bundles of ability and a pleasure to manage. In the changing room he’s quiet but he listens and he wants to learn and he’s always been a first-team player this season (having impressed during the club’s FA Youth Cup campaign). He’s doing really well. He’s not there making up numbers, he’s there because he deserves to be there and we’ll hopefully push him on to better things in the future.”
Both managers were asked what they said to their troops during the interval.
Woodward said: “I just felt we needed to improve with our quality in front of goal. The likes of James Dyer need to show a little bit more quality, same with Ladic (Melconian) and Harry Arnold.
“There was nothing overly tactical that we spoke about. I just felt we needed to keep doing what we’re doing, be patient and the chances will come.”
Anderson added: “We was really positive. We were quite happy with how we were dealing with them. They’re a good team. They’ve made three changes but they were still very strong.
“James Dyer is a massive player. Harry Taylor, he’s a presence up top, then you’ve got Henry Arnold on the other wing who scores goals for fun, so they’re very good going forward so we felt that we nullified that. They were a little bit wasteful in and around the box. I felt like we could get out and we were quite confident coming into the second half.
“The disappointing thing is at half-time Ben Branch our central midfielder started getting sick and was throwing up in the changing room so we had to make a change at half-time so we had to bring him off. People think I brought him off because he was on a yellow card but I know he can manage a game. We dropped Luke Adams in there, which is not the role he would normally do and then they score straight after half-time.”
Erith Town should have smashed the deadlock just 32 seconds into the second half.
Foley’s big kick upfield was flicked on by Harry Taylor outside the box and Arnold placed his left-footed shot past the foot of the right-hand post with keeper Tommy Taylor rooted to the spot.
“A positive start in the second half. Henry’s got to score and he knows he’s got to score,” insisted Woodward.
“We spoke about it when he came over and he was kind of disappointed he hasn’t scored. I said to him he’s got to be putting it away.”
Erith Town took a deserved lead with three minutes and 28 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a miss-placed header from the versatile Adams.
Adams started the game up front and dropped into holding midfield after Branch had to be withdrawn, before finishing the game beside Blunn at the heart of defence.
Adams’ poor header dropped and Melconian looked up and noticed the goalkeeper was off his line, before smacking a right-footed half-volley screaming into the right corner of the net from 30-yards.
“He saw the goalkeeper off his line and we identified that before the game that Tommy (Taylor) plays high off his line and if we get a chance and the ball drops down, try and shoot and it’s a fantastic finish from Ladic,” said Woodward.
Anderson said: “I thought there’s a load of errors what builds up to him. It’s a hit and hope from him, let’s be fair. It’s a long ball up – I’m not criticising them – and Luke’s headed it and Luke needs to have a call but he’s playing in a position where he’s not used to and he’s headed it back. It goes over my centre-halves head. He runs onto it and hits it first time. Tommy probably isn’t set because he isn’t expecting that to happen and yes it looks like a very good goal so fair play to the boy.”
Erith Town hit Rusthall on the counter-attack as Youngah’s attempted pass out to substitute Addo Amankwah was intercepted by Chalker before Melconian played the ball over to Arnold, who cracked a left-footed rasping drive towards the top near corner from 25-yards, which forced Tommy Taylor dive to his right to push around his post for the Dockers’ sixth corner of the night.
Woodward added: “A good strike, a good save. We got hold of the ball and I felt it was a really good save by Tom. It was what we were building on, trying to get shots off.”
Anderson said: “I thought Tom did well. I thought Tom did alright tonight. I’m critical on Tom. We have three keepers at Rusthall, one’s very young. Tom’s the oldest one (24). It’s what we’re working with this season and Tom did very well tonight, making some very good saves. I think his kicking could be better but that’s something that we can work on.”
Rusthall should have grabbed an equaliser, just 92 seconds before falling two-goals behind.
Chalker had his pocket robbed close to the half-way line by a pressing Barton, who released half-time substitute striker Hayden Velvick, who had a great chance to score his fourth goal of the season but lacked composure inside the box and steered his left-footed shot past the near post from 10-yards with only Foley to beat.
Anderson said: “I thought Hayden came on up front and was a real threat and that was the positive thing for me in the second half.
“We should probably be one-all. We broke really well. Kalani, he played well and were talking Jack Lyons is 16, Hayden is 17 and Kalani is 18. It’s very young at the minute but it’s what I love to do. I like to give people a chance. The age doesn’t really bother me.”
Woodward added: “They had a chance midway through the second half from our mistake and their little things that teams can capitalise on. If that goes in, it makes it one-all and it’s a completely different game and they’re tails are up.
“The players’ may think I’m being a little bit harsh when I’m giving instructions out and moaning about things but we have to make sure we switch on. Clean sheets are a must for us and we have to make sure we don’t concede.”
Erith Town killed the game off by scoring their second goal, with 23 minutes and 15 seconds on the clock.
Always impressive James Miles (who replaced Milton at the break) played a sublime 30-yard through ball which split open Khalil for Dyer to latch onto before cutting into the box and driving his right-footed shot across Tommy Taylor to find the bottom far corner with a clinical strike in a one-v-one.
Speaking about Dyer’s 13 goal haul, Woodward said: “He’s had a good start, coming up to Christmas now.
“I thought he was really poor tonight. I thought he was leggy, looked tired, looked really tired. He came off tonight and said, ‘I feel tired tonight’.
“You can’t knock the kid, he’s scored. Sometimes he held onto the ball to long but he’s been exceptional since he’s come to us. He’s one hell of a player and he took his goal really, really well with his weaker foot as well to bury it into the bottom corner. It was a great finish.”
Anderson added: “Milo’s got that in him. They want to drive. They want to find a pocket. I think Abs my left-back should and probably could do better with James Dyer. I felt like he showed him too much respect and James Dyer is in very good form this season, so fair play to him.”
Erith Town produced an off-the-cuff corner routine to score their third goal, with 36 minutes and 7 seconds on the clock.
Miles seemed to scuff his right-wing corner into the D and Harry Taylor got to the ball before his marker before playing the ball back to Miles, who whipped in a cross from the right and Harry Taylor made a run towards the near post to bury his header into the back of the net.
“We’ll say it’s a training ground routine, I don’t know what they were doing, they done it together. It was a good ball into the box and a good finish for Harry,” said Woodward, who heaped praise on substitute right-winger Mustapha Amodu who won the corner.
“The build-up play before that was exceptional from Mustapha. I thought he worked tirelessly when he came on and knocked the ball across the goal. It gave us a corner so the goal comes from that.”
Anderson added: “James Milo, I’ve worked with him before and I have a great relationship with him. I don’t know what he’s tried to do with the corner but it’s gone back out to him and we haven’t dealt with the runners and we haven’t seen the set-piece out and it’s a great ball in from him. He’s got that in his locker and their striker has got in front of my defender. I don’t know whether Milo was trying that – maybe it’s worked on?”
The Rusthall goalkeeper made a couple of comfortable saves to thwart Arnold and Harry Taylor late on as Erith Town ran out comfortable winners to extend their unbeaten run to nine games going into Saturday’s league games.
The Dockers welcome Scott Porter’s Hollands & Blair to Bayliss Avenue on Saturday, while Rusthall travel to Ashford to play Kennington.
Blair were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Lydd Town tonight and are in fifteenth-place in the table with 16 points (four wins, four draws, nine defeats), while Dan Scorer’s Kennington are nine points adrift of Rusthall.
“It will be tough. Hollands & Blair have had a little bit of a change around with personnel so we’ve got to make sure we prepare right and we go into the game as we always do. We’ll train on Thursday night and hopefully get the three points on Saturday,” said Woodward.
Goals from Dyer and Melconian sealed the 2-0 win at Athletic Newham in The FA Vase and the club can now look forward to an away trip in the Last 32 on Saturday 13 January.
Hilltop (based in Ruislip and Combined Counties League Premier Division North) or near Southampton based side Hamble Club (Wessex League Premier Division) play their Third Round tie at Bedfont Sports FC on Sunday.
Erith Town are pushing on all four fronts and Woodward made his aspirations for the season clear.
“It was tough, a really tough place to go. It wasn’t a nice ground with a running track. I think there was about 30 people there but we went there and got the job done. The pitch was borderline playable but we got in the hat and that was the main positive thing,” reflected Woodward on their experience in East London.
“We’ve equalled the club’s FA Vase record again, which is good for the players and we’ve got to try to go one step further than we did last year. It will be tough. We’ll prepare, it’s not until January, so it’s at the back of the mind now.
“We’ve got to fully focus what we’ve got coming up. We’ve got a tough six game league programme coming up. I’m worried about the league. I’m not worried about the Vase, until we have to play the game.
“Like I’ve said from the start, as a manager, you don’t go into competitions going ‘I want to finish midtable,’ We’re in this league to win it. Every cup competition, we’re in it to win it. We want to win things, even The Vase. You don’t enter the FA Vase to get knocked out. You want to go as far as you can.
“You saw the team selection tonight, there were three changes from Saturday’s team. We’re not overly changing sides and resting people. We want to take every competition seriously and we want promotion this year and we do want promotion. There’s no ifs or buts about it and we’ve just got to make sure we keep ourselves in and around the hunt but as a manager you don’t set out to finish 12th, you want to go and win things.”
The Rusthall manager, meanwhile, was asked whether he is looking over his shoulder going into the Kennington game.
“The thing is, in this league, is Kennington is a big game because it’s our next game. Every game is big. We’ve got Kennington at the weekend and they will see it as a must-win game. We’ll see it as a game that we need to try and win. Kennington will be hard.
“But the way we played tonight, the way we’ve been performing recently, we haven’t been getting results. We were well in the game against Glebe and playing really well, unfortunately the game got abandoned (due to fog).
“I’m not looking over my shoulder. I’m not looking at Kennington but Kennington are a good side. There are no bad sides in the league. The thing is I take it game-by-game and we will pick up points throughout the rest of the season, there’s so many games (22) to play.
“Do I feel like we’re safe? No. There are loads of games to play.”
Anderson revealed that Louis Anderson, Ryan Styles and Tariq Ibrahaim will be added to Saturday’s squad after being ‘rested’ tonight.
“I feel like a club like Rusthall, I’ve been here a long time now and the main thing is to keep producing players. I’ve been quite successful. I feel we’ve produced players over the years that have gone on and played for different teams.
“We are where we’re at and a successful season will be to be an established Step Five side and if we can achieve that then fantastic – so that will be a success.”
Erith Town: Mackenzie Foley, Joe Chalker, James Trueman, George Goodwin, Ryan Mahal, Tom Ash, Ollie Milton (James Miles 46), Ladic Melconian (Jake Lovell 86), Harry Taylor, James Dyer (Mustapha Amodu 76), Henry Arnold.
Subs: George Hall, Jamie Miller
Goals: Ladic Melconian 49, James Dyer 69, Harry Taylor 82
Booked: James Trueman 75, George Goodwin 90, Adam Woodward (manager) 90
Rusthall: Tommy Taylor, Jeffrey Njuguna, Abdullah Khalil, Ben Branch (Hayden Velvick 46), Callum Adonis-Taylor, Daniel Blunn, Kalani Barton, Martin Youngah, Luke Adams, Ryan Atkinson (Addo Amankwah 60), Jack Lyons.
Subs: Louis Anderson, Tariq Ibrahim
Booked: Ben Branch 34
Referee: Mr Michael Corderoy
Assistants: Ms Abi Oyeleke & Mr Sylvester Aina
Observer: Mr Mark Joy