Greenwich Borough 1-2 Hythe Town - What we wanted to do is have something to play for in the last game of the season, says play-off chasing Hythe Town boss Sam Denly

Saturday 07th April 2018
Greenwich Borough 1 – 2 Hythe Town
Location Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 07/04/2018 15:00

GREENWICH BOROUGH  1-2  HYTHE TOWN
Bostik South Division
Saturday 7 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

HYTHE TOWN boss Sam Denly says today’s deserved win at Greenwich Borough shifts the momentum in this exciting promotion race.

 

The Cannons have closed the gap on Walton Casuals to just one point going into their last four games in the Bostik South after coming away from Eltham with three massive points in the bag.

Zak Ansah capitalised on sloppy Greenwich Borough defending to give Denly’s side the lead against a flat home side.

Otherwise quiet striker Jack Barham popped up to sweep home his 35th goal of the season (nine of them coming for Phoenix Sports) to grab Greenwich Borough a lifeline.

But Hythe Town snatched the victory with five minutes and 31 seconds into time added on through Ansah’s clinical finish, taking the 23-year-old striker’s tally to 16 goals for the Reachfields Stadium club.

Denly has now won nine and drawn two of his 12 games in charge since the club parted company with Clive Cook, while this was Paul Barnes’ third defeat in 13 games (winning nine and drawing the other) since taking over from Gary Alexander.

“Listen, I thought we were excellent again today,” said a delighted Denly.

“At one-all, we were scratching our heads a little bit. It was a very soft goal to give away.

“The boys have shown great character to get a goal in the 96th minute, it just shows the desire that we’ve got it in the team.  Zak Ansah has been quality since I’ve come here and again he’s been outstanding.

“It’s a massive win.  Like I said to the boys in there, the momentum’s slightly shifted a little bit. Walton have lost today and we’ve gone and won and we’ve got a midweek game and they haven’t so if we go and get a win on Wednesday night (at home to Sittingbourne) we find ourselves in a play-off spot coming into next weekend and that’s a massive win today and fully deserved.”

Greenwich Borough boss Barnes added: “Disappointed, very disappointed.  I don’t feel really we ever got going in the game.  To give two soft goals like that you’re never going to win a game of football.  Credit to Hythe, they stuck to their guns and applied themselves and worked really hard, made it difficult for us and they got their rewards.”

Lewes (92 points from 42 games) and Carshalton Athletic (90 points from 41 games) occupy the two automatic promotion places.

Cray Wanderers move up to third-place (83 points from 43 games), Greenwich Borough slip a place to fourth (83 points from 42 games), Corinthian-Casuals (82 points from 42 games) and Walton Casuals (77 points from 42) games, but Walton Casuals slipped up by losing 1-0 at home to Carshalton today so Hythe Town in seventh-place on 76 points from 42 games are ready to pounce and grab a play-off place.

Greenwich Borough went into this game on a seven match unbeaten run and having won the Bostik South manager-of-the-month award and Barnes got struck down by the curse.

“I know everyone said about it,  I mean I haven’t really paid too much attention to it. It’s nice to be recognised but we don’t do it for the recognition.  We’re trying to do something a bit bigger and better but it wasn’t to be again today.”

A crowd of 151 watched a disappointing game which was largely cagey as both sides couldn’t afford to lose.

Greenwich Borough left-back Becka-Kah Dembele flashed a right-footed free-kick from 35-yards past the left-hand post in the 14th minute.

Hythe Town right-back Salvyn Kisitu played in a low cross towards the near post and Liam King’s flicked shot was blocked by goalkeeper Michael McEntegart, whose quick thinking saw him come off his line to make a vital block from close-range.

But the former Welling United keeper was called into making a fine one-handed save in the 17th minute.

Hythe Town produced a fine move inside the final third as Darren Oldaker played the ball inside to Kieron Campbell, who slipped the ball in behind Nathan Paul and Rian McLean to put in Ansah, who placed his low shot across the keeper from eight-yards, but a strong left hand denied him.

Denly said: “We started very well. We had good early opportunities first half and I said to the boys we could’ve come in two or three up really but their keeper has kept them in it at times but they were good chances we’ve created.”

Barnes added: “We talked about how they would set-up and how the front lads would be a theat. I’ve watched a lot of Hythe, again, it was more of our bad play that encouraged them to get on the front foot rather than their good football.  I think it was more of our errors on our point, which allowed them to go on and grow into it.”

Hythe Town picked up a couple of injuries during the game.  Striker Liam King was forced off early and central defender Connor Sanders went off just before the winning goal.

“Liam King’s got a slight hamstring so we’ll assess it and see how bad that is,” revealed Denly, who didn’t have much strength in depth on the bench today.

“Connor’s just gone over on his ankle. He’s been out for six months with a groin injury so we’re hoping it’s not too serious and we can get him through.”

Hythe Town were using the slope to their advantage and another chance was created inside the opening 20 minutes.

Ryan Palmer passed to Campbell, who released Ansah down the left and he cut inside to drill a fierce left-footed angled drive from 12-yards, which was pushed up in the air by McEntegart, before catching the ball as it dropped down.

Oldaker, who impressed more in the first half than the second half, whipped in a teasing cross-come-shot from the left by-line, which was punched up by the busy keeper before he grabbed hold of the ball as it dropped.

Hythe Town deservedly opened the scoring with 32 minutes and 19 seconds on the clock – although it was gifted to them by sloppy defending.

Paul threw the ball back to McLean but the 19-year-old’s back-kpass back to his goalkeeper was poor and a mixture of a slow reaction from McEntegart and alert thinking and pace from Ansah ensured the Hythe striker latched onto the loose ball and slotted his right-footed shot across the keeper to nestle into the bottom far corner from eight-yards.

“It was a gift but Zak Ansah’s playing off shoulders and he’s gambling as and when he needs to and he’s a fantastic striker and he’s gone and nicked one,” said Denly.

“We probably should’ve been two (in front) if I’m being honest and we fully deserved it. What we wanted to do then is see it out for the half but what was going through my mind was we deserved to be in front, if not by a bigger margin, so I was pleased.”

Barnes added: “I’m not being funny, if you give away a goal like that, you’re going to struggle in the game!

“To be fair to Rian, he’s been superb since he’s come in on loan from (Vanarama National League side) Leyton Orient and let’s be honest that’s why he’s here, to develop and learn from mistakes.

“I think we could’ve avoided it by not throwing the ball backwards and encouraging the pressure in the first place but it comes from game management.

“I wouldn’t single Rian out for the mistake because it’s part of his development and he’ll learn from that one.”

Hythe central defender Ryan Johnson snuffed out Barham’s threat but he gave the striker a headed chance, which he looped into Will Godmon’s hands after meeting Sam Corne’s floated cross in from the left.

Something was missing from Greenwich Borough’s play today and Barnes tried to put his finger on why that was the case.

“Our togetherness that’s been so crucial for us, energy, that will to help your friend out if anyone did make a mistake or anyone needed that little bit of support in and around the pitch, and that quality where you get that confidence from working hard and knowing that your friend is supporting you and when you get the ball in attacking areas, express yourselves.”

Denly said: “We defended well today, it was a good all-round performance and we were certainly creating good chances first half but also second half we kept theirs to a minimum as well.

“Listen, they’re a good side, they’re up the top five or six for a reason because they’re a good team, they have been over the course of the season but I think we managed the game well and we managed the players well.  I thought we were excellent first half.”

Ali Fuseini, who played behind Barham, but couldn’t get up to support the talisman striker, tried to score from a speculative right-footed drive from 35-yards, which bounced into Godmon’s hands for a comfortable save.

A big kick from McEntegart then dropped down for Fuseini, who flicked the ball up and cracked a shot towards goal from the edge of the Hythe box but this effort was comfortably saved by Godmon.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Barnes said: “We said at half-time we were very disappointed because our performance showed it was a bit disjointed in the first half.  The boys were flat and we talked about it and we never got to the tempo, especially that togetherness that’s been so good for us. We struggled to match that in the first half and it all added up to make for a difficult day.”

Denly said: “Much the same! Like I have been most weeks. I thought we were excellent in the first half but in 45 minutes in football anything can happen and we had to make sure we came out and played exactly the same.  I think we done that. It was about game management for me and our football was excellent throughout.  Obviously disappointed with the sloppy goal but we showed the character to come back and get a win.”

Hythe Town deserved their lead at the break and they created another chance to double their lead after only 46 seconds into the second half.

A quiet Ryan Palmer floated in a free-kick from the left and Sanders came up from the back to glance his downward header wide from 12-yards.

It was a flat affair and Greenwich Borough put in a poor performance.

Bradley Pritchard played the ball out to winger Travis Gregory, who beat the offside flag and cut inside but lashed his shot harmlessly high and wide from 18-yards just on the hour-mark.

A big kick from Godmon was cleared out to Campbell, who struck a right-footed angled drive from the edge of the box, which forced McEntegart to hold the ball as he dived low to his right.

Pritchard threaded the ball out to Gregory, who cut inside and stroked a right-footed drive from 15-yards, which was charged down by Sanders and was pushed around the post by a diving Godmon.

“Second half was a lot better.  The boys came out with a lot more energy in the second half,” added Barnes.

“We changed it, got a reaction from the subs that came on and we effected the game. There was still something that wasn’t quite right. It was still disjointed but more individuals than a team collective today, which was disappointing.”

Dembele swung in the home side’s third corner of the game and this was met by Gregory’s powerful header, which only just cleared the crossbar.

Hythe Town had a chance to snatch the lead inside the opening 20 minutes when Campbell slipped the ball through to Ansah, who tried to prod the ball past a grounded keeper, who grabbed hold of the ball to his left before the ball could roll into the bottom corner from inside the six-yard box.

Barham was isolated up front on his own but Barnes changed that and brought on physically strong unit Omari Delgardo-Hibbert and this changed matters considerably as Greenwich Borough equalised with 29 minutes and 16 seconds on the clock.

Delgardo-Hibbert made progress down the right channel, moved a low pass inside to fellow substitute Junior Aikhionbare who teed up Barham, who swept his deflected shot past Godmon from eight-yards in the centre.

“We know what we’re capable of if we can get people in the areas that we want to get them on the ball,” said Barnes, who praised the two subs in the build-up.

“I think one of the things since I’ve come in I thought we didn’t have that focal point of an attack if the game wasn’t going our way, just something a little bit different, just call it a more direct approach for someone for Jack to play off so that was the thoughts behind it.

“It’s worked well in other games. I thought that had the impact that we wanted it to have.”

Barham is expected to move into the pro game at the end of the season.

“Jack’s attitude is superb, he’s a hard-working lad and he always wants to improve.  He’s still got a lot to learn and develop in order for him to push on where he wants to go but I support him and I back him to make a step in any direction he wants to go because he’s good enough that’s for sure.

“I think he could be a professional footballer. I think he’s got the ability to.  I
think he still needs to work on his all-round game. Whether that’s two or three levels up, whether that’s National League or National League South for a year, only time will tell, who knows?

“People didn’t expect Mo Eisa to make the transition into League football (moving from Greenwich Borough to League Two side Cheltenham Town) as well as he has so sometimes you need the opportunity. I know Jack has the quality to show people he’s good enough.”

Denly said: “The goal was disappointing! I thought we controlled the game today.  They’re a good side Greenwich and we know that but I think over the course of the game we controlled it and we kept their chances limited and it was a sloppy goal and one that we can learn from but I think over the course of the 95 minutes or whatever we played in the end, they’ve been very limited in their opportunities.

“It was a soft goal and things we can work on.  We all got dragged across a little bit and when the ball gets played in to the box all off a sudden there’s a man spare, which isn’t ideal but again, listen that’s the one chance they’ve had and they’ve scored from it so we need to learn from that but overall I thought we defended well.”

The ball sat up nicely for Aikhionbare to smack a half-volley over the Hythe Town crossbar from the edge of the box but this vital game appeared on course to peter out to a draw that neither side wanted.

Holding midfielder Chris Kinnear played the ball into Ansah’s feet and his right-footed drive from 25-yards was held low by McEntegart as sluggish Hythe produced a move that lacked tempo and pace.

But Hythe Town claimed a vital victory with a last-gasp winner that may prove massive in the race for promotion into the Bostik Premier.

Kinnear ran over to Oldaker and whispered words of advice in his ear before the free-kick was taken from the left-hand side.

Oldaker played a low free-kick into Ansah’s feet at the near post and the striker turned on a six-pence to plant his shot through a crowd of players into the bottom far corner from 12-yards to win the game.

“I thought we’d always get one more chance and if I’m being honest Zak’s created a chance out of nothing,” said Denly.

“That probably wasn’t the chance we were looking for but he’s turned on a sixpence and slotted it.

“Listen, I’ve got belief in this squad, they’re great, full of quality throughout and all the time we’ve got players like Zak Ansah in the team, you always got a chance of nicking a winner.

“Zak’s a fantastic striker, I’m speaking to him about next season but his quality, there’s no question. He can play as high as he wants the boy, he’s a fantastic striker and he’s showing that by scoring goal after goal, brace after brace and we’re lucky to have him and all the time he keeps doing that, we’re going to be in a strong position.”

Barnes was bitterly disappointed with the goal that condemned his club to their fourth home defeat of the season.

“It was just one lack of discipline and game management that allowed them to go on and win the game,” he said.

“Poor goal, very poor goal to concede, at any level of football you can’t concede a goal like hat.  We wasn’t set-up well enough and then we didn’t deal with the second phase of it when we’ve allowed him to turn.

“It’s a good for his point of view, he’s done what he’s needed to but we’ve got to be better than that because that wasn’t good enough!”

Greenwich Borough host Thamesmead Town on Tuesday night before travelling to Ashford United on Saturday.  They play at home to Hastings United on 21 April and finish the campaign with a trip to Herne Bay seven days later.

Barnes said: “We need to bounce back, like what we’ve talked about since I’ve come in, where we want to get to in our targets.  We always knew a certain number of wins will be enough to get us across the line, now we know that we can’t afford to make any other slip ups now because you come away from that with a draw and it’s not what we wanted to where we wanted to get to but now the pressure’s on, we’ve got to go and win the last four.”

Hythe Town also play four more games, against Sittingbourne (home, Wednesday 11 April), Chipstead (home, Saturday 14 April), travel to East Grinstead (21 April) and end the campaign with a make-or-break home game against Corinthian-Casuals on 28 April.

Denly said: “The target will be four wins. We’re crunch time of the season now and form wise there’s no reason why we can’t win all four. What we wanted to do is have something to play for in the last game of the season.  Every game is difficult at this level but we earmark the next three games as games where we have to be at it and to take maximum points from and that hasn’t changed.”

Greenwich Borough: Michael McEntegart, Nathan Paul, Becka-Kah Dembele, Sam Corne, Rian McLean, Danny Fitzsimons, Travis Gregory (Nassim Dukali 78), Bradley Pritchard, Jack Barham, Ali Fuseini (Omari Delgardo-Hibbert 66), Ryan King-Elliott (Junior Aikhionbare 54).
Subs: Callum McGeehan, Justice Owsu

Goals: Jack Barham 75

Booked: Sam Corne 85

Hythe Town: Will Godmon, Salvyn Kisitu, Michael Turner, Chris Kinnear, Ryan Johnson, Connor Sanders (Mitchell Chapman 90), Ryan Palmer, Darren Oldaker, Zak Ansah, Liam King (Josh Stirman 19), Kieron Campbell.
Subs: Charlie Owen, James Nurden, Henry Arnold

Goals: Zak Ansah 33, 90

Booked: Zak Ansah 69, Chris Kinnear 83

Attendance: 151
Referee: Mr Jamie Wells (Worthing, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Joshua Gregory (Warlingham, Surrey) & Mr Fabien Le Houezec (Highbury, London N5)

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