Greenwich Borough 3-4 Corinthian-Casuals - They showed passion and desire which out-fought us in the end, admits disappointed Greenwich Borough boss Gary Alexander
Greenwich Borough 3 – 4 Corinthian-Casuals
|Location||DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP|
GREENWICH BOROUGH 3-4 CORINTHIAN-CASUALS
Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Semi-Final
Tuesday 25th April 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium
GREENWICH BOROUGH boss Gary Alexander blamed poor defending for their shock defeat to a side that had 10 men on the pitch for 70 minutes.
Corinthian-Casuals produced a shock result to progress through to Saturday’s Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Final, where James Bracken’s men will travel to league runners-up Dorking Wanderers, who beat Hastings United 4-3 on penalties after the game was locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes of football.
Tooting & Mitcham clinched the title despite their 1-0 defeat at Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, as the top two sides finished their campaign on 105 points. Greenwich Borough finished their debut campaign in third on 95 points, a couple of points ahead of Bracken’s men, while Hastings United completed their campaign with 82 points on the board.
Corinthian-Casuals arrived in Eltham with seven wins on the bounce, while Greenwich Borough were unbeaten in eight games, but this was the first time this season that Alexander’s men have leaked four goals in a game and it was the third time that they have lost to the amateur club.
A crowd of 427 flocked through the turnstiles on a chilly night at the DGS Marine Stadium in Eltham and Greenwich Borough got off to a dream start by taking the lead after only 205 seconds through Mohamed Eisa’s 24th goal of the season.
But Tolworth-based Corinthian-Casuals equalised through Shaun Okojie’s penalty before they lost central midfielder Coskun Ekim through a harsh red card after 20 minutes.
Corinthian-Casuals took the lead through former Crystal Palace striker Reyon Dillon, before a sublime free-kick from midfielder Peter Sweeney brought Greenwich Borough level going into the break.
Corinthian-Casuals stunned Greenwich Borough further through Mu Maan’s wicked deflected free-kick, before man-of-the-match Okojie volleyed in his 39th goal of the season.
Greenwich Borough skipper Glenn Wilson’s cushioned volley kept the crowd on the edge of their seats but Corinthian-Casuals deserved their victory leaving Alexander experiencing the bitter low of losing in a Ryman League play-off for the first time.
“Disappointed. We had our opportunities, got to give full credit to Corinthian-Casuals for the passion and the desire they showed having gone down to 10 men,” said Alexander from inside the physio room.
“This season, for whatever reason, we’ve found it tough playing against 10 men. I don’t know whether it’s the mindset of my team but obviously it’s happened on a few occasions but I’m giving full credit to Corinthian-Casuals, they showed the passion and desire, which out fought us in the end.
“They’re a very good side, on the counter they’ve got pace and they’ve got power and our defending tonight, as a back four, I’ve said to them in there, wasn’t good enough! It just wasn’t good enough!
“There were too many balls bouncing and if you let balls bounce the big fellas they’ve got up top will cause you all sorts of problems and we gave two goals away in the second half through letting balls bounce and by silly mistakes.”
Greenwich Borough got off to a dream start in this seven-goal thriller.
Sweeney swung in a corner from the right, keeper Danny Bracken palmed the ball away and Wilson put the ball back into the box towards the far post which was headed across goal by Danny Young and Eisa’s right-footed shot on the turn from 12-yards hit a divot and deceived Bracken into the centre of the goal.
Alexander said: “Again Eisa’s got his shot off. If you don’t shoot you don’t score and on this occasion it’s gone in for us but it counts for nothing now!”
Eisa then played the ball into Malachi Hudson, who cut onto his right-foot and from 20-yards his angled drive was pushed behind into the side netting by Bracken.
A poor clearance from Bracken was hit first time by Lewwis Spence from 40-yards, but the visiting keeper made a comfortable catch.
But a sign of poor Greenwich Borough defending came in the 18th minute through Wilson’s foul in the box.
Ekim’s cross was knocked down by Jack Strange on the edge of the box and Maan turned inside the box and was fouled by Wilson and referee Tom Bishop pointed the spot.
Okojie sent Craig Holloway the wrong way, placing his right-footed penalty to right-of-centre to bring Corinthian-Casuals level with 17 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.
“What can we do? (It’s a) penalty. As I’ve said my back four tonight couldn’t defend as we’ve defended. We pride ourselves on not conceding goals and we’ve conceded four at home tonight. My back four looked like they haven’t played together tonight for whatever reason, I don’t know.
“It’s a big game but it just didn’t happen. We’ve been terrific all season but it’s a difficult one to take but if you don’t defend properly as a back four, as a team, you’re not going to win football matches and that’s cost us tonight.”
Referee Bishop pulled out a red-card to send Ekim off rather harshly for a high-kick on Spence inside the centre circle with 19 minutes and 25 seconds on the clock, as Corinthian-Casuals seemingly had a mountain to climb at the time.
Alexander admitted: “To be honest, I don’t think it was going to be a red! I probably didn’t think it was a red because the ref took an awful long time but he’s deemed to catch him in the face. It’s a high foot and he’s made his decision. It’s one of them. It’s probably found them a little bit more energy.”
But they showed desire to double their lead, with 22 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock, through Dillon’s fine finish.
Greenwich Borough left-back Liam Hickey suffered a nightmare night as he failed to cope with Dillon’s pace all night.
Hickey failed to tackle the striker as he cut in from the right and from a tight angle, Dillon drilled his right-footed shot under Holloway into the bottom far corner of the net.
Sensing injustice of having a man sent off, Corinthian-Casuals’ players nearly jumped into the crowd and two of their supporters jumped over the perimeter fencing to join in with the celebrations.
“Again, we can look back on all the goals and he shouldn’t be getting in that situation where he can drive at Hickey,” said Alexander.
“Hickey should be doing better and he’ll know that. We know that. As I’ve said, my boys, I’m not going to knock them because my boys have been fantastic all season but like I said we didn’t defend right tonight, whether as a back four or as a team and if you concede four goals you don’t win football matches and we’re sitting here now and we’ve scored three goals at home and haven’t won. I don’t expect to lose when we’ve scored three goals.”
Greenwich Borough equalised through a quality free-kick from Sweeney, with 33 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.
Mahrez Battache clattered into Hudson 25-yards from goal and Sweeney stroked a high-quality left-footed free-kick over the wall and past Bracken’s despairing dive high to his left to find the top right-hand corner.
Alexander said: “Sweeney’s got that you know. He’s got us back in the game and they’re down to ten and it’s perfect timing. A great free-kick and we’ve lost a football match.”
Corinthian-Casuals went close following their third corner of the night.
Jordan Clarke swung in the ball from the left and Dillon’s run was untracked and he glanced his free header across goal and past the far post from 14-yards.
Harry Donovan fed the ball into Sweeney’s feet and he played the ball up to Eisa, who hit a right-footed swerving drive from 25-yards, which moved in the air and stung Bracken’s fingers, the keeper gathering the loose ball at the second attempt.
“On the night you’ll probably go through there and it’s 10 chances we’ve had and on days we’ve scored three goals and we should score more but tonight it’s down to communication and not defending correctly,” said Alexander.
Greenwich Borough should have upped their game during the second half and won the game quite comfortably – but the heart and desire was coming from the men in white shirts tonight.
When asked what he told his players’ at the interval, Alexander replied: “They’re down to 10 men, be patient in possession, keep the ball, move it, get the two forwards, get the full-backs high. Can we get it to our wide men early?
“But again, conceding a sloppy goal so early, what minute did they score in the second half? 59? So 15 minutes into the second half we’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb.”
Corinthian-Casuals got out of the traps on fire and the powerfully built and talented Okojie stole the ball off a sloppy Donovan in the final third, cut past Wilson but scuffed his left-footed shot past the left-hand post from the edge of the box after only 58 seconds.
Greenwich Borough were to be denied by the woodwork shortly afterwards when Eisa’s corner from the right was headed on by Young and the quiet Charlie MacDonald’s close range header clipped the crossbar.
Bracken danced along his goal-line to his right to catch Sweeney’s left-footed free-kick from 28-yards, which was sailing towards the top left-hand corner in the 55th minute.
“Sweeney’s went in there, he’s hit the target but there was never enough pace on it and the keeper just skipped across and caught it,” added frustrated Alexander.
Corinthian-Casuals missed a glorious chance to take the lead on the break when Okojie’s pass had Hickey struggling yet again to keep track on Dillon, who scuffed his left-footed shot flashing past the right-hand post with only Holloway to beat from 12-yards.
Alexander said: “They’re big strong boys and if you don’t compete with them and they get the better of you they can bully you and that’s what happened tonight. We’ve conceded four goals by probably being bashed up at times.”
It delayed the inevitable, as Corinthian-Casuals grabbed a fortuitous lead in the 59th minute.
Maan stroked his right-footed 25-yard free-kick into the wall and Holloway was moving to his left to catch the ball comfortably. However, the ball bounced off Donovan in the wall and the deflection wrong-footed the keeper and sailed over his head into the roof of the net.
Alexander said: “It’s deflected but again I’ll go back to the defending. It’s a nothing foul. We gave away silly fouls in silly areas and that’s what they’re good at. They’ve got a big side, a big strong side where they cause problems. They pick up second balls, they compete and that’s where it causes problems so it’s a silly foul. I think it was two mistakes within 30 seconds from my back four which led to that.”
Wilson was left in acres of space so the central defender hit a speculative low right-footed drive harmlessly wide of the target from 35-yards.
A ball over the top put Dillon through on goal but Holloway advanced to the edge of the box and spread himself to prevent the impressive striker chipping the ball over the keeper’s head.
Spence cut the ball back to Eisa, who drove a low angled drive with his right-foot, which was cut out by Bracken, low to his right.
Clarke reached the by-line and floated over a cross towards the far post where Okojie sent his free header sailing across goal and past the far post from 10-yards.
Strikers Okojie and Dillon should be snapped up by higher league clubs going by their impressive performances tonight.
Okojie killed off Greenwich Borough by scoring Corinthian-Casuals’ fourth goal of the night with 14 minutes left
Clarke swung in a corner from the right, the ball was cleared out to Battache, who clipped the ball forward. The ball was knocked down by their central defender Strange and Okojie hit the ball on a right-footed volley into the top right-hand corner from 12-yards.
A yellow flare was let off to the left of the goal as around 100 travelling fans went berserk again.
“Too many free headers in my penalty area. I’ve got some big boys in there, they’ve got some big boys, I expect us to compete better,” bemoaned Alexander.
“Again, I just relate back to the defending tonight, it wasn’t good enough and we’re letting balls bounce and that’s exactly what happened. We didn’t seem to have any communication, we didn’t know where each other were. Balls were bouncing in our penalty area and that’s’ what the big man does. He relies on that and he pounces and he did.”
Hickey had time and space to deliver a deep cross into the box from the left which was met by a diving header from substitute striker Robert Denness, which Bracken held low to his right.
Sweeney swung in a corner from the right where an unmarked Hickey powered his free header over the bar at the near post from 15-yards.
Okojie fed Dillon down the right again and forced Holloway to get down low to his right to parry the angled drive, before the Greenwich keeper pounced on the loose ball.
Greenwich Borough scored a consolation with seven minutes remaining when MacDonald came to life to deliver a decent low cross from the right flank towards the near post and Wilson cushioned right-footed volley found the bottom right-hand corner from 12-yards.
“It’s exactly what we said at half-time, be patient in possession, get the balls wide, get crosses into the box, people in the box because they had a midfield three. We could’ve got joy down the wing and did we do it enough? Probably not!”
Corinthian-Casuals hit their hosts on the break again as two substitutes linked up inside injury time.
Josh Gallagher released Warren Morgan, who drilled his right-footed shot towards goal, which was beaten away by Holloway.
Denness, 28, came on for Greenwich Borough with 20 minutes to go, and is bitterly disappointed that he isn’t going to be given a shot at playing in the Ryman Premier League for the first time in his career next season.
“Just really disappointed with the result,” the former Hollands & Blair striker said post-match.
“I’ve come on when it was 3-2. I thought I’d come on and hopefully make the difference. Obviously the goal they scored was a deflection, I think it hit Harry (Donovan) and it’s gone into the net.
“When a sides’ got 10 men really we should be on top so I was coming on, being positive. I wanted to be positive and make a difference but it’s a bit disappointing really, I don’t really have any words.
“It’s my first season at Greenwich, we’ve had a successful season getting into the play-offs.
“Over recent weeks as well, we’ve been in good form, strong defensively, been scoring goals and we were fully confident and prepared, I think, the best we can for this game. We just came up short today. I don’t know why that is. There was a couple of errors. There were chances we could’ve taken so it just wasn’t our day. It’s a semi-final at the end of the day and both teams don’t want to lose.”
The only person who thought Ekim’s 20th minute kick on Spence was a red-card offence in the entire ground was the Clapham-based referee.
“It looked a bit harsh from where I was sitting, I was on the bench,” added Denness, who lives in Gillingham and is a schoolteacher, and finished runners-up to Greenwich Borough in last season’s Southern Counties East Football League title race.
“Yes, you would’ve thought it would’ve given us a boost and kick on from there and take hold of the game and control the game and we found that a little bit difficult and when we got the equaliser I thought we were going to go on and win – but they got the third goal from the free-kick.
“I haven’t got many words really at the moment because myself and the team, it's our debut season and we wanted to go up this season and push on to the Prem.
“It’s a long old season and after that many games you get to this point and you just want to win and get to the Play-Off fFnal and have an opportunity to go up and all those games really mean nothing now.”
When asked how his team-mates reacted to the defeat after the game, Denness revealed: “Everyone’s disappointed. We weren’t shouting at each other. It is what it is. There isn’t any words is there. Everyone’s disappointed. What can you say? We just have to kick on next season, work hard pre-season and go from there.
“It’s our debut season, finishing third so yes next season why not win the league and that’s what we’ll set out to do, definitely. You want to be champions. Our form going into the last few games, going into the play-offs, we’ve shown that we can do that.
“This was the biggest game in my career that I’ve played in. I haven’t played in any games like this where we are going for going up a league. I haven’t played Ryman Prem so this definitely was the biggest game of my career.
“It’s disappointing tonight. It would’ve given the team a chance to play in the Play-Off final for the first time in the club’s history and to go on in the Prem would’ve been unbelievable, even for myself so it would’ve been the highest level I would’ve played at.”
Greenwich Borough: Craig Holloway, Nathan Paul (Travis Gregory 87), Liam Hickey, Peter Sweeney, Glenn Wilson, Danny Young, Lewwis Spence, Harry Donovan (Stefan Wright 73) , Charlie MacDonald, Malachi Hudson (Rob Denness 70), Mohamed Eisa.
Subs: Liam MacDevitt, Lewis Clark
Goals: Mohamed Eisa 4, Peter Sweeney 34, Glenn Wilson 83
Booked: Harry Donovan 16, Glenn Wilson 67
Corinthian-Casuals: Danny Bracken, Juevan Spencer, Dave Hodges, Coskun Ekim, Jack Strange, Danny Dudley, Mahrez Battache, Mu Maan, Shaun Okojie, Reyon Dillon (Warren Morgan 87), Jordan Clarke (Josh Gallagher 87).
Subs: Jamie Byatt, Josh Uzun, Shaun Brown
Goals: Shaun Okojie 18 (penalty), 76, Reyon Dillon 23, Mu Maan 59
Booked: Mahrez Battache 54, Danny Dudley 56
Sent off: Coskun Ekim 20
Referee: Mr Tom Bishop (Clapham, London SW4)
Assistants: Mr Joseph Stokes (Dover) & Mr Stuart Marriott (Ashford)
Fourth Official: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester)