Greenwich Borough 3-2 Hastings United - We wasn't at our best tonight clearly but its results what count, says Gary Alexander

Tuesday 27th September 2016
Greenwich Borough 3 – 2 Hastings United
Location DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 27/09/2016 19:45

Ryman League Division One South
Tuesday 27th September 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium

GREENWICH BOROUGH player-manager Gary Alexander says his side weren’t at their best tonight despite winning their seventh game on the bounce.

Last season’s Southern Counties East Football League champions moved up a place into fourth in the Ryman League Division One South table on 22 points from 10 games, a couple of points behind new leaders Dorking Wanderers.

Greenwich Borough got off to a flying start with central defender Danny Young and striker Rob Denness both scoring following their only two corners of the game inside the opening five minutes at the DGS Marine Stadium in Eltham.

Darren Hare’s Hastings United side, though, were impressive and they deservedly clawed themselves back with a set-piece goal of their own, scored by central defender Ollie Rowe, before central midfielder Barry Cogan (who was sent-off at the death after picking up two yellow cards) equalised through a long-range deflected drive on the hour-mark.

But Jake Britnell came off the bench at the interval and lashed in the winner to inflict Hastings’ second defeat in 12 league or cup games this season, leaving them in 12th place on 12 points from eight league outings.

“It’s a massive result! Hastings are one of the favourites for the title and to get a win, Hastings coming back from 2-0 down there seemed to be only one winner but I’ve got character in that dressing room and that’s what we’ve shown,” said Alexander, who has won 23 of his 33 games in charge of Greenwich Borough.

A crowd of 165 were treated to a game of high-quality, played between two clubs who will be challenging for the top five places come the end of the season.

Greenwich Borough got off to a dream start by taking the lead after only 99 seconds.

Mohamed Eisa floated in a corner from the left towards the near post where Young stretched to stab his right-footed volley across goal and into the bottom far corner of the net from 10-yards.

“They’ve had a long journey up, we had it last week going to Ramsgate but we started bright,” said Alexander.

“I said if we can start bright and we get set-pieces, we might catch these out and we scored two goals inside the first 5 minutes, which is our best start of the season.

“We work on set-pieces, that’s why we work on set-pieces.  Games in the Ryman League are won on set-pieces and that’s exactly what’s happened tonight.”

Greenwich Borough doubled their lead with their next corner with four minutes and 24 seconds on the clock.

This time the corner came in from the right, swung in by Peter Sweeney and Denness’ first attempt was blocked by keeper Lenny Pidgeley, but the former Hollands & Blair striker stabbed the ball over the line through a crowd of players.

Alexander added: “As I said, Ryman League games are won on set-pieces and that was massive and I’m lucky enough to have people in there of considerable size where we can create chances.

“I’d rather be 2-0 after 87 minutes but it’s early, but (we had) 85 minutes to obviously hold on, not hold on but go out there, can we get a third and can we really punish them? But it wasn’t to be.

“But credit to Hastings, one of the best sides we’ve played this season. They knock the ball out really well, their heads didn’t drop and they came at us and really threw everything at us.”

Hastings United then stamped their authority on the game, against a Greenwich Borough side that set-up with a 4-3-3 formation during the first half, before switching to 4-4-2 after the interval.

Good wing play from Harry Stannard saw him twist and turn his marker Glenn Wilson before cutting the ball back to Frannie Collin, whose left-footed shot on the turn from eight-yards was saved comfortably at the near post by a stooping down Craig Holloway.

Greenwich Borough were kicking down the slope in the first half and Denness released Eisa hurtling down the right channel and Pidgeley rushed out of his penalty area to make a vital block from the striker’s shot.

Alexander said: “If he knocked it around him or the keeper goes and Mo has a tap in. It’s one of them, but it’s not really a chance.

“We didn’t really create many chances in terms of open play.  I think more of our chances came from set-pieces tonight and that’s credit to Hastings, they’re a very good side.”

Alexander played a loose pass back towards the touch-line, which was collected by Hastings’ left-back Reece Butler, who whipped in a cross, which was flicked on by Matt Bodkin in the middle and Cogan’s right-footed drive was blocked by Holloway’s right thigh as he got down low to his left at his near post.

“Craig’s one of the best keepers in the league, he makes saves. He read it, he got off the line and got close to him and didn’t allow him any time to get his shot off so it’s a fantastic save,” said Alexander.

Right-winger Bodkin was in the middle of the park when he cracked a right-footed volley towards goal from 40-yards, forcing Holloway to claw the ball towards safety, high to his right, on the half-hour mark.

Alexander added: “Craig’s is one of the top keepers in the league, he’s there to save shots and I fancy him to save any shot from 40-yards.”

The hard-working Denness used his strength to make progress down the right wing, only to be fouled by Cogan. 

Sweeney swung in the resulting free-kick with his left-foot but Luis Morrison came up from the back to use his shoulder to loop the ball across goal and past the far post.

Collin, who was dropping a lot deeper to collect the ball, missed a great chance for Hastings in the 41st minute.

Butler’s inswinging corner came in from the left, Holloway stretched to palm the ball straight to Collin, who smacked his right-footed volley high over the bar from 12-yards.

“He was causing us problems,” added Alexander, who was one of Greenwich Borough’s attacking trio tonight.

“You’ve seen our squad tonight, it’s a little bit patched up. We’ve made a few changes there tonight. 

“To have Frannie Collin dropping that deep and wanting the ball is happy days for us but he came more into the game in the second half and caused us a few problems.”

Hastings still had time to drill a speculative shot wide from 35-yards through central defender Richard Davies and Bodkin lashed his drive over the bar after being released by Collin’s pass.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Alexander said: “To go in at 2-0 up, the next goal was vital, we never got it!  We had a chance and we said if we stay solid and don’t concede we win the game but unfortunately we went out there and conceded two goals!”

Cogan picked up his first booking when he contested a decision from referee Jack Packman after striker Alex Akrofi was bundled over inside the penalty area.

But Alexander owned up to allowing Hastings United to deservedly pull a goal back, five minutes and 47 seconds into the second half.

Cogan swung in his fourth (of six) corners from the right and Alexander allowed Rowe time to plant his downward header in past Holloway, who dropped down to his knees but couldn’t prevent the defender scoring his first goal of the season.

“I take the blame for the first goal, I missed the header and the fella tapped it in,” admitted Alexander.

“I went to head it, I was marking the space and I thought I could win the header.  I came off the fella who scored. I thought I could win it and I missed it so I take the blame on that one!

“I should’ve stood in front of him, I left my man to try to win the ball but I’ll take that one!”

A passing bus going down Middle Park Avenue was more at threat from Eisa’s lashed right-footed free-kick from 28-yards, as Greenwich Borough relied on set-pieces than open play as a goalscoring method tonight.

Hastings United deservedly equalised on the hour-mark through Cogan’s first strike of the season.

Stannard played the ball inside to an unmarked Cogan, who unleashed his right-footed drive from 30-yards which was heading towards the right-hand corner, but the ball took a wicked deflection and nestled inside the bottom left-hand corner, beating a flat-footed Holloway.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” added Alexander.

“It’s a deflected shot. Craig’s going the way of the shot, our luck might change now. We’ve conceded a few deflected ones early doors and we’ve managed to go on and get a winner today.”

When asked his thoughts while being pegged back by a very good Hastings outfit, Alexander replied: “Two-two, stay in the game for as long as possible. We’ll obviously get another chance. I’ve got pace on the bench. I’ve got pace on the pitch with Mo and I’ve got Britnell and there’s always going to be danger.

“We weren’t at our best tonight clearly but obviously it’s results what count – it’s a massive result!”

But Greenwich Borough snatched the victory only 141 seconds later through super-sub Britnell’s fourth goal of the season.

Eisa’s right-footed drive from the edge of the box brought a brilliant full-length diving save out of Pidgeley, low to his left, the keeper denied Britnell from the follow-up but Britnell lashed his right-footed shot high into the roof of the net from 12-yards to win it for the home side.

“Peter Sweeney’s got a slight knock. I think he’s taken a whack on his foot and it's swollen up. He went out second half but he couldn’t run and he was honest enough to own up and say he’s not there.

“I’ve got players who can do a job and Brits come on at half-time and he’s ended up scoring us the winner.

“Two great saves from Pidgeley. I know Pidgeley well, he’s one of the best keepers in the league. He’s another top keeper. I know him well, played together at Millwall and that’s what he does, he makes saves but luckily for us he couldn’t make the third one.”

When asked why Britnell started the game on the bench, Alexander replied:
“Jake’s been suffering with a chest infection. He had a little bit to do with work and things like that. We’re a squad, we’re not a massive squad. Everyone will get their opportunity. Playing Saturday-Tuesday takes its toll so everyone gets their chances and Brits has played his part tonight by coming on and scoring that winner!”

Cogan played the ball to an unmarked Collin, who hit a low right-footed daisy-cutter into Holloway’s hands from 35-yards, before Akrofi cut in and flashed his left-footed drive past the right-hand post from similar range.

Collin collected the ball in midfield and clipped the ball down the channel for Akrofi , who cut the ball back to left-back Butler, who took a touch before whipping in a cross for Rowe to come up from the back at the far post to loop his header just over the crossbar with 12 minutes left.

Greenwich Borough resorted to playing hopeful balls up to lone striker Denness for the final 10 minutes, only for Hastings to keep putting the ball back into their penalty box.

Greenwich Borough almost snatched a third goal on the break when Britnell charged down the right and found his only team-mate in the Hastings box, but Denness’ header was easily gathered by Pidgeley.

Cogan floated in a free-kick from the right but Hastings sub Jack Harris steered his header comfortably into Holloway’s hands.

Eisa’s second free-kick of the night was a lot closer, whipping the ball just past the foot of the near post from 35-yards.

Hastings United had the last chance of the game through Collin’s free-kick.

He put both hands on his hips before forcing Holloway into diving to his right to push his 30-yard free-kick around the post.

“I expect Craig to save that. It’s low, it’s his side. I expect him to save it, so without really troubling him, it was a comfortable save,” said Alexander.

Hastings United finished the game with ten-men when Cogan picked up his second yellow card after stopping Eisa breaking away down the left wing inside injury-time.

Alexander said: “Two yellow cards. We’ve had that, we’ve been on the end of two yellow cards the other weekend and there’s nothing you can do. You commit those fouls, they’re yellow cards. It’s the ref’s decision so there’s nothing you can do about that.  They probably eased a little bit of pressure of us having 11-v-10 with five minutes to go, which was nice.”

With his side winning seven on the bounce, fourth-in-the-table after their first 10 games at this level, Alexander is pleased with the progress being made by the newly-promoted side.

“We’re creeping along nicely. People keep talking about Greenwich have got this and Greenwich have got that. If only they knew! 

“We’re working hard. We work hard as a unit and we don’t have a big squad and if we can keep going under the radar people want to keep talking about us so be it, but we’ll keep going along with our business quietly and see where it takes us and getting results.

“We work in blocks of eight and the first block of eight was good, can be better, we probably deserve to be a little bit better but we’re in our second block and that’s six points from six so we can’t complain about that!”

Greenwich Borough: Craig Holloway, Glenn Wilson, Lewis Clark, Peter Sweeney (Jake Britnell 46), Luis Morrison, Danny Young, Amadu Waritay, Bradley Pritchard, Rob Denness, Gary Alexander (Charlie MacDonald 70), Mohamed Eisa.
Subs: Luke Miller, Jean-Terach Bavangila, Emmanuel Shoderu

Goals: Danny Young 2, Rob Denness 5, Jake Britnell 63

Booked: Glenn Wilson 88

Hastings United: Lenny Pidgeley, Myles Judd, Reece Butler (Steve Watt 88), Barry Cogan, Ollie Rowe, Richard Davies, Matt Bodkin, Simon Johnson, Alex Akrofi (Victor Adeboyejo 84), Frannie Collin, Harry Stannard (Jack Harris 71).
Sub: Ryan Nicholls

Goals: Ollie Rowe 51, Barry Cogan 60

Booked: Barry Cogan 47, Reece Butler 54, Richard Davies 85, Simon Johnson 89

Sent off: Barry Cogan 90

Attendance: 165
Referee: Mr Jack Packman (Margate)
Assistants: Mr Christopher Myatt (Dartford) & Mr Simon Cutler (Sheerness)

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