Fisher 1-1 AFC Croydon Athletic - We want to be looking up rather than down, says AFC Croydon Athletic boss Antony Williams

Monday 29th February 2016
Fisher 1 – 1 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Champion Hill Stadium, Dog Kennel Hill, Edgar Kail Way, East Dulwich, London SE22 8BD
Kickoff 29/02/2016 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League
Monday 29th February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Champion Hill Stadium

AFC CROYDON ATHLETIC manager Antony Williams says he is aiming to finish in the top eight at the end of their first season in the Southern Counties East Football League.

The Rams remain in ninth-place having secured their 35th point from their 26th league game after being held to a draw by a Fisher side that leapfrogged over Erith Town in to thirteenth-place on 30 points from their 28 league outings.

AFC Croydon Athletic opened the scoring after only 31 seconds through striker Louis Blake’s eighth-goal of the season.

Fisher ensured the game ended all-square through a quality finish from highly-rated midfielder Chan Quan just before the break.

Fisher finished the game with ten-men as substitute Frazer Bent was sent-off at the death for allegedly kicking visiting goalkeeper Dan Burnett.

“I’m a little bit disappointed not to take all three points but three unbeaten now, which is our best little run that we’ve had all season,” said Williams afterwards.

“We challenged them to give us three on the spin, unfortunately small margins we didn’t do that but we’re really pleased with the performance now.

“I think based on the clear cut chances, yes (we should’ve won), probably in the second half maybe but I guess on the balance of the whole game a draw’s probably a fair result.”

Fisher manager Dean Harrison, who last year moved from New Cross to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, admitted: “We’ll take a point!

“No, not pleased, I want to win, especially at home, but listen they’re a good side, they do what they do well.  They put it in areas, they know what they’re doing. Listen, they’re ninth aren’t they? They’re above us so it’s a point for us. It’s a point. I’m not pleased, I want to win!”

AFC Croydon Athletic went into the game with back-to-back wins over Erith & Belvedere (2-0) and bottom-of-the-table side Holmesdale (5-1), while Fisher lost to Tunbridge Wells (0-3) and Beckenham Town (1-3).

AFC Croydon Athletic got off to a flying start by opening the scoring with their first attack.

Fisher kicked the game off but Rams’s central defender Liam Harwood pinged a diagonal pass to release winger Josh Smith bursting down the right at pace.

Smith whipped in a low cross into the penalty area for Blake to steer his first time shot across the keeper and nesting into the bottom far corner from eight-yards.

“It was a great little move,” hailed Williams, following his club’s quickest ever goal scored in the Southern Counties East Football League.

“We asked them to start with a good tempo. We know Liam Harwood has got that good little ping ball on him as well so we got in to good areas.

“We keep saying to Josh, he gets into some good areas all the time, just put it into areas rather than pick men out and Louis being a threat (put it away), so delighted with our start.”

Harrison added: “It was a good goal. They worked it wide, that’s what they tried to do all night, got it out wide to the wide boys. He put in a good delivery and they filled the box up, just caught us cold.

“A bad start. I’m thinking ‘oh, what are we doing first minute?! Unbelievable! You’re getting off to the worst start!’ 

“If there was one good thing, they’ve scored so early so you’ve got all that time to get one back but you don’t want a start like that!”

The impressive Callum MacLean swung in a free-kick from the left, which was heading towards the top near corner, but Joel Hannington did well to punch the ball towards safety.

AFC Croydon Athletic started the game as a dominant force and should have doubled their lead in the 21st minute.

MacLean was given time and space to whip in a cross from the right which found Fred Fleming unmarked at the far post and the central defender hit his shot on the turn over the crossbar from 16-yards.

“I think for 30-35 minutes we were very good to be honest with you,” said Williams.

“I think he was unlucky. He could’ve looked better if he caught it a little bit worse. He could’ve bundled it in but maybe he’s caught it too well.”

Fisher’s first opening arrived three minutes later, which hardly troubled Burnett.

Quan cut the ball inside to his central midfield partner Joe Jackson, who scuffed his first time shot rolling into the keeper’s gloves from 25-yards.

Fisher started to probe as the game edged towards the half-hour mark, with highly-rated Quan lighting up the club’s last scheduled Monday night match at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill Stadium before the club’s emotional return to Rotherhithe next season.

Quan swept the ball out to left-winger Will Agbo, who played a give-and-go to give Quan a chance of scoring, but he stretched as he stroked his left-footed shot from 22-yards, which inevitably ballooned high over the bar and out of the ground.

“It took us a while to get into the game, especially after they scored,” said Harrison.

“If you score first minute you’re going to get on the front foot. It’s going to give you a little bit of momentum and it knocks the stuffing out of the team that concedes, so it took us a little bit of a while to get back into it.”

AFC Croydon Athletic came close to doubling their lead when MacLean played the ball out wide to winger Raheem Sterling-Parker (no relation to the Manchester City star) who cut into the penalty area and his drive deflected off Robert Curtis and bounced against the outside of the foot of the near post and behind for a corner.

Harrison said he was pleased with Curtis’ efforts since having a chat with the central defender.

He said: “Rob did alright tonight. Rob’s been growing. We’ve had a good chat me and Rob a month or so about him, about what a good defender he could be. He’s been alright. He’s been good for us the last few games.”

Williams added: “Another good chance. Raheem’s a good threat for us so on balance of play I think first half we were the better side, for sure.”

MacLean swung in the resulting corner from the left, which flashed across numerous bodies and Fleming’s stabbed shot was cleared off the line by Harry Bugden.

MacLean was off-target with a couple of shots from just outside the penalty area, before Fisher got back into it.

Alfie Nunn pumped a free-kick into the Rams’ penalty area and Quan flicked the ball up and smacked his volley over the bar from 22-yards.

Visiting keeper Burnett pulled off a great save when he palmed over Agbo’s drilled left-footed drive from 30-yards.

Harrison said: “Will was good all night. He wanted to get into areas and he affected the game. I thought the keeper made a decent save, it was a good effort.”

Williams added: “We were a little bit disappointed we didn’t press the ball a bit higher.  We said that to them so we allowed them to make space.

“Probably about 35 minutes in we dropped off too deep a little bit, maybe they was tired, I don’t know, but we allowed them to get back into it and you could see their chances were coming.”

AFC Croydon Athletic striker Blake then cracked an angled drive which screamed down Hannington’s throat.

Fisher equalised with 41:52 on the clock through a moment of class from Quan.

The away side switched off as Jeff Allen threw the ball short to Nunn, who took a touch before threading the ball through to Quan’s feet.  The talented midfielder flicked the ball up, swivelled to drill his half-volley from 16-yards across Burnett, the ball bouncing into the bottom far corner.

Harrison said: “It was funny because I was speaking to Danny (Steele), my assistant just before the goal that everything Croydon did is two touch. They don’t have extra touches when they don’t need it. They just go two touch, bang, bang, into areas, move the ball quickly and it was how we scored the goal.

“Alfie had two touches into Chan, he had two touches and it was a goal. It just goes to show if you do things quickly at this level – or any level I would imagine – that you get rewarded for it.

“I’ve got too many boys in the team who want extra touches when they don’t need them.

Chan, who scored a sublime 35-yard chip against Beckenham Town last week, received praise from Harrison.

“Chan’s a great player, he’s doing really well for us and he’s a good lad as well. I like him. His work-ethic was a lot better tonight. He worked really hard and he tried to make things happen. He was good.”

Williams added: “It was a great finish but for us defensively down our left-hand side three of them got caught underneath the ball and that allowed them to turn in there and that was what we were unhappy with at half-time.

“We created our own problems today really, from a throw-in we’ve allowed them to score that so take nothing away from Chan, he’s a good player. It was a good finish.”

Harwood launched a long throw into Fisher’s penalty area but Blake’s back-header sailed into Hannington’s hands for a comfortable save.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Harrison admitted he wasn’t pleased with his side’s first half performance.

He said: “I gave them a bit of a rollicking to be honest because I wasn’t happy with a lot of the things we were doing, so we knew what we needed to do.

“We needed to get closer to them in the middle, we needed to turn their back four because we’ve got Sheldon (Gooden) playing on the shoulder who wants the ball in behind all the time. Their back four is as slow as you like and we weren’t playing the ball in behind them, so it’s not rocket science is it?!”

Williams added: “Just keep going to be honest with you. We were quite happy with the first half performance. We created our own problems at times a little bit but we just said to them perhaps we can squeeze the game up a little bit higher and get at them and be patient because a chance will come.”

Fisher created the first chance of the second half after only 127 seconds.

Nunn clipped a free-kick from the edge of the centre circle towards the edge of the box for Curtis to come up and direct his back-header straight into Burnett’s hands.

MacLean and right-back Danny Cumber linked up well down the right and fed Smith, who cut into the penalty area and curled his shot just around the far corner from 15-yards on the right-hand side.

But Hannington pulled off a brilliant diving save to prevent AFC Croydon Athletic claiming a deserved victory.

The busy Bradley Wilson swept the ball out to MacLean on the right, who cut inside and drilled his left-footed shot towards the far corner, which forced Hannington to dive full-length to his right to palm the ball towards safety.

Williams said: “Callum got himself in some good positions, considering he can barely play because he’s our assistant manager. We have to pick and choose the games with him but he’s certainly a threat when he plays.”

Harrison added: “Joel did well. He made a couple of good saves tonight. He’s last line of defence has been good for us. He’s only 19, he’s a good prospect.”

Hannington kept Fisher in the game by making another fine save as the half edged towards the halfway point.

Burnett launched a big kick straight down the middle of the pitch, the ball was flicked on by Fleming, which put MacLean through on goal but his left-footed shot was blocked by the advancing Fisher stopper.

The Fisher manager said: “He stood up well, blocked it, did well. 

“Dan did well, got around his keeper and that’s what you expect a centre half to do. He’s another young lad, he’s only 19 and he’s another good prospect. He did what a defender should do and got behind his keeper and cleared it off the line.”

Williams added: “Callum’s a little bit disappointed with himself in there that he hasn’t done better to be fair but it’s a good save and then the second one how it’s not gone in, I don’t know.  There were two cleared off the line (one in each half) but we probably should’ve sored and killed the game off there.”

Hannington pulled off his third vital save of the second half with 21 minutes left.

Smith reached the by-line and cut the ball back for Wilson to unleash a drive which brought the very best out of the 19-year-old keeper, diving to his right and getting a strong right-hand to the ball.  The ball came out to Sterling-Parker, who was denied by a goal-line clearance from Daniel Flemming.

Fisher squandered an excellent chance to snatch victory when Agbo played the ball into Quan, who threaded the ball through to substitute Max Rothwell but he scuffed a poor shot straight at Burnett when he only had the keeper to beat.

“He was unlucky. It was on his left foot and he didn’t get enough contact on it, Chan creating again,” added Harrison.

AFC Croydon Athletic squandered another great chance to claim the three points through two of their substitutes.

Justin Scott cut the ball back from the right channel to Glenn Boosey, who flicked the ball up and smacked his left-footed volley dipping just over the crossbar.

Williams added: “He had a good bit of quality Glenn, he’s disappointed with that in there again. He said he should’ve got his shot off a little bit earlier. He normally hits the target, he’s normally good for 20-25 minutes at the moment.”

Fisher threatened towards the end and Quan twisted and turned his way into the penalty area, only for the visitors’ to smuggle the ball into touch.

Fisher almost snatched the victory in the final four minutes.

Nunn floated in a free-kick from the left into a crowded penalty area where Curtis rose with Blake only for the ball to loop against the crossbar.

Harrison added: “I think it came off a defender. It hit the bar, that’s how it goes if your luck’s not in, your luck’s not in!”

Williams said: “Louis Blake’s flicked it off the bar.  We defended well there. We went a little bit scrappy in the last 15 minutes but we blooded two under 18 substitutes (Darren Appanah and Justin Scott) at the end and our left-back (Fergus Ward) is under 18 as well.

“We had seven first team starters missing tonight. We were pretty delighted to come out there and taken a point.”

Fisher substitute Alfie Roche had the last chance of the night when his 20-yarder was saved comfortably by Burnett.

The Fish were reduced to ten-men inside injury time when referee Isaac Searle was called over by assistant Anthony Andrews and sent off Bent after he clashed with Burnett.

Harrison said: “I asked the referee at the end and the linesman and apparently they fell on the floor after the corner and Frazer’s kicked out and kicked him in the face.

“Now, I know Frazer very well. I will defend my players anyway, any manager would. Frazer is one of those boys that he’s not going to do that so if he’s caught him by accident, he think’s he’s caught him with his hand as he got up, like pushed him.

“But the linesman said he’s kicked him in the face so. I didn’t see it and I believe Frazer on this one and I think he’s been a little bit hasty there with his decision, the linesman.”

Arsene Wenger, sorry Williams, admitted: “I didn’t see it! I didn’t see it at all. I actually didn’t see it so I didn’t see what was going on!”

Thirteenth-placed Fisher welcome third-placed Ashford United on Saturday. Danny Lye’s side are 15 points adrift of leaders Hollands & Blair, although the Nuts & Bolts have five games in hand on Paul Piggott’s side.

Harrison, who’s side are now 17 points clear of the relegation zone, said: “Have we gone up a space? That’s nice, that’s alright.  Listen, I told you from the start I’ll take midtable, that was our aim.

“I told the boys in there what we weren’t doing this season at the start of the season was picking up draws. We were losing games where we should’ve had draws out of them. We kept getting caught out. A point’s a good point. 

“We just have to keep safe, keep ourselves up this year and have a look at the bigger picture, which is next season, so we’ll just keep grinding away and keep doing what we can.

“The Ashford game will be fun. We did well down there (losing 2-1 in December) but I don’t think they expected us to do so well, so I think they’ll be better prepared this time.

“They’re on a good run, so we know it’s going to be a tough game. I’ll put ten behind the all and we’ll see how we go.”

Ashford United then welcome AFC Croydon Athletic to Homelands Stadium next Tuesday, but before then it’s the Croydon derby at Mayfield Stadium on Saturday.

“We want to keep looking up rather than down. That’s important and finish the season as strong as we can,” said Williams.

“We set targets to make sure we didn’t get relegated, that was the first target, I don’t think we’re going to do that now!

“Now we’re setting a top 10 finish. I think the squad in there and the boys missing are good enough for the top eight and if we get that this year then we can kick on next year.”

Fisher: Joel Hannington, Jeff Allen, Harry Bugden, Alfie Nunn, Daniel Flemming, Robert Curtis, Luke Haidarovic (Alfie Roche 71), Joe Jackson (Max Rothwell 46), Shelton Gooden, Chan Quan, Will Agbo (Frazer Bent 82).
Subs: Daniel Lawson, Ade Adeniyi

Goal: Chan Quan 42

Booked: Alfie Nunn 66

Sent Off: Frazer Bent 90

AFC Croydon Athletic: Dan Burnett, Danny Cumber, Fergus Ward, Fred Fleming, Liam Harwood, Tony Martin, Josh Smith (Glenn Boosey 74), Bradley Wilson, Louis Blake (Darren Appanah 87), Callum MacLean, Raheem Sterling-Parker (Justin Scott 72).
Subs: Haydn McLean-Hayles, Louie Fox

Goal: Louis Blake 1

Attendance: 86
Referee: Mr Isaac Searle (Herne Bay)
Assistants: Mr Michael Begley (Battersea, London SW8) & Mr Anthony Andrews (Erith)