Greenwich Borough 1-0 Lewes - We're certainly pushing to make sure we secure a play-off spot, says Greenwich Borough boss Gary Alexander

Saturday 25th March 2017
Greenwich Borough 1 – 0 Lewes
Location DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP
Kickoff 25/03/2017 15:00

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 25th March 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium

GREENWICH BOROUGH manager Gary Alexander says he wants his side to secure a play-off place in their remaining six games of the season.


The club remain in third-place in the Ryman League Division One South table after striker Charlie MacDonald, 36, scored his 21st goal of the season to settle a poor game that was played under blue skies but blustery conditions.

Tooting & Mitcham United remain top on 95 points from their 41 games despite suffering a 2-0 defeat at Horsham.

The play-off places are occupied by Dorking Wanderers on 89 points from 40 games, followed by Greenwich Borough (79 points), Corinthian-Casuals (78 points from 41 games) and Carshalton Athletic (74 points from 41 games).

Hastings United are sixth on 73 points from 40 games while Lewes, who were in fifth-place at the start of play, drop down to seventh in the table on 73 points from 41 games after suffering their 14th league defeat of the season today.

Alexander was asked what his players’ gave him today.

“Work ethic, hard work,” he replied, during the post-match press conference that was held in the physio room.

“I’ve watched Lewes a few times. They grind teams down and they work their socks off.  If you don’t match them, they beat you, but in tough conditions today, my team worked their socks off.

“It’s a massive three points.  People say they don’t look at the table, we know where Lewes were, they were sitting just behind us. They would’ve come here thinking if we win this we go level with Greenwich (on 76 points).  I drummed this into the boys and they showed great character to create the chance to win the game.”

Greenwich Borough started the game initially on the front foot for the first five minutes, before the game turned into a battle against the wind and will go down as one of those games you forget about in a hurry, but a big three points to claim.

“It’s difficult at this time of the year, playing in the wind and the ground’s a little bit bobbly,” said Alexander.

“We tried to wet the pitch before the game because we want to try to play football but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be able to mix it and we’ve shown that we can mix it.”

Mohamed Eisa raced down the right channel and his low centre was cut out by Lewes keeper Chris Winterton, low to his right, before Lewwis Spence cut the ball onto his left-foot before blazing over from 25-yards.

Lewes produced a fine move when Jack Dixon and Lloyd Harrington linked up in midfield, Ghassimu Sow escaped handball shouts to play the ball out wide to right-back Steven Brinkhurst, but his cross sailed over the jumping Jonte Smith and his marker Nathan Paul at the far post and keeper Craig Holloway was able to gather the wind assisted cross.

In fact, the crowd of 206 had to wait until the 19th minute for the first real opening.

Lewes committed bodies forward and put Greenwich Borough under pressure but one long ball out of defence by Paul, was flicked on by MacDonald and Eisa latched onto the ball before hooking his half-volley over the bar from 15-yards.

“I think the wind had a lot to play with not much happening out there,” admitted Alexander.

“It was difficult conditions, any through ball seemed to roll out every time. It was always going to be tough but a game of not many chances but first half we pressed them in and had the better of the game without looking in any danger at all and created a half chance and that’s all it was really.”

It was a cagey game throughout. Thankfully, MacDonald’s composed finish – although Lewes keeper Winterton is at blame for standing like a statue as the ball rolled past him – settled the dull encounter with 24 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

Malachi Hudson – playing on the left of a three-man midfield – made an impressive debut and from inside his half he hooked the ball forward.  Stacey Freeman attempted to clear his lines but his clearance was charged down by a pressing MacDonald, who from 40-yards from goal ran downhill and into the box to roll his left-footed shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

“Good decisions. We turned teams into areas and didn’t give up on lost balls, turned bad balls into good balls as Charlie does, he pressed the defender. We said if we press, they give it back, that’s what happened and he’s created the chance for himself.

“A good decision from Malachi to hook it on to get the defender turning.  You fancy Charlie when he goes through one-on-one. You fancy him to score every time and he did.

“Charlie’s come in. He didn’t get a pre-season with us (though injury) and he’s showing what he’s all about, he’s scoring goals, but not only does Charlie score goals, he brings other players into the game and he’s been outstanding over recent weeks.”

Alexander was impressed with Hudson, who along with Travis Gregory, joined the club after leaving their league rivals East Grinstead Town.

“Malachi’s done very well, worked his socks off, not only does he want to go forward but he helps out defensively as well and works his socks off. He’s a terrific talent and he’s created a number of chances today,” said his manager.

“Travis (Gregory) came on (after 64 minutes) and did very well, got hold of the ball and made a few good runs. I’ve got two quality young players there to add to the ones that we’ve already good.”

Greenwich Borough were the more likely of the two teams to score during the first half.

Bradley Pritchard released Eisa down the right channel again and in an attempt to cut the ball back to MacDonald, Winterton cut out the ball and held on to it as he dived low to his right.

Alexander said: “My wide men got into great areas. Mo, Malachi, got into some great areas and on other days they might’ve picked someone out.  Nathan Paul, getting down the side as well and putting in a couple of great deliveries.”

Former Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient midfielder Pritchard then threaded the ball out to Paul, who fed Eisa and once again his cut back didn’t reach its target as Winterton was on his guard at his near post.

Pritchard showed clever feet inside a congested Greenwich Borough half but managed to thread the ball in behind to put Eisa through on goal, who drove a low shot towards the bottom corner, but the busy Winterton dropped to his knees to divert the ball behind for a corner.

Eisa played the resulting corner short to Spence and Eisa clipped his shot which was grabbed at chest height by the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Alexander said: “I’ve watched Lewes play a few times this season and they’re a good side but the pitch has made it tough for both sides today and probably wasn’t a pretty game but it was about getting the result and we did.”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, the Greenwich Borough manager replied: “Go out second half, the wind’s against us. This half we’ve had a good spell with the wind but go out second half and make sure we compete because if we don’t compete, I’ll say it again, like a side like Lewes they’ll run all over you.

“But we managed to compete and we limited them to very few chances.  They hit the bar and Craig (Holloway) made one save and we’ve more than matched that in the second half with our efforts.”

Lewes had to improve during the second half and with the wind with them they put in a much better performance and created three goalscoring chances.

They used their intelligence to keep the ball on the deck and with that tactic they created their first chance of the game in the 52nd minute.

Left-back George played the ball inside to number 10 Jack Dixon, played it back to George, who played the ball inside to Sow, who fed the ball back to Dixon, who played the ball inside to an unmarked Harrington.

The former Dover Athletic man unleashed a right-footed curling, dipping shot towards the bottom far corner from 30-yards, forcing Holloway to get down low to his left to push the ball towards safety.

“He’s used the wind there and that’s a good save from Craig,” said Alexander.

“It’s pretty much similar to the first half. The wind was always causing us problems getting it out of our areas but my back four and my midfield three stood up to it and we were solid.”

Greenwich Borough created a chance in the 18th minute of the second half when Eisa floated over a free-kick from the left towards the far post where Glenn Wilson hooked his shot over the crossbar from six-yards.

Alexander said: “Again, it’s a half chance. We saw in the first half that it was difficult to defend them. 

“We just said make sure we’re on the front foot and pick up seconds and it’s bounced, Wils’ has had a swing of it but I’d rather it go over there than them break on us.”

Eisa’s last action of the game before being subbed was to feed MacDonald the ball, the match-winner turning on the edge of the box before blazing his shot over the bar.

Alexander felt his central defender Callum Donaghey should have scored his first goal for the club at the halfway point.

Lewis Clark floated in a corner from the left towards the unmarked Donaghey, who sent his downward header past the far post from 12-yards.

“I’ll go in the dressing room in a minute and tell him he should’ve scored! He’s got a 50p head. We work on set-pieces and Callum’s a threat in both boxes. He defends well and he gets on the end of them and on another day we’ll score,” said Alexander.

Holloway was called into action for the second time in the 71st minute when Paul failed to cut out a sublime pass.

Freeman clipped the ball out of defence up to Dixon, who played a sublime through ball to put George in behind Paul, but Holloway rushed out towards the corner of his box to smother his shot, spreading himself low to his left to make a vital block.

“Again, we’ve got Craig in goal, he’s there to save shots and that’s what Craig does, he makes saves,” said Alexander.

“As I said it’s very difficult to go through a game and not give a team any opportunities, especially at these levels because of concentration but they’ve had, you’ve told me about limited chances, so I’ve got to be pleased.”

Referee Leigh Crowhurst made a brave decision in the 79th minute despite Paul clearly tripping Lewes substitute striker Stephen Okoh, after failing to clear a bouncing ball inside his penalty box.

“Heart in mouth obviously because we’ve seen them given but fortunate for us today because the luck favoured us and it wasn’t given,” said Alexander.

“On another day it might’ve been given. I’m not saying it was a pen, I’m not saying it isn’t a pen, but on another day I’ve seen refs at this level give penalties – which are pens – and I’ve seen vise versa, so it’s one of them. We had lady luck on our side on that one today.”

Lewes were playing well and looked favourite to grab an equaliser and that moment almost came in the last eight minutes following their fourth and last corner.

Substitute Jamie Brotherton delivered a deep corner from the right, central defender Freeman had to retrieve the ball, played the ball inside to Okoh, who turned and swept a left-footed drive over Holloway’s right shoulder, only for the ball to crash against the crossbar before dropping behind for a goal-kick.

Alexander said: “My back four and my midfield will be disappointed. We didn’t react to the ball that dropped and we allowed him to get a shot off so that’s come from us causing our own problems there. He’s hit the bar but limited chances for them today, I can’t complain about that.”

The referee played five minutes and 10 seconds of injury time and Greenwich Borough were very professional in their approach to run the clock down.

Hudson was to be denied a dream debut goal just 56 seconds into injury time when he won the ball on the half-way line on the right, danced forward, cut into the penalty area before hitting a left-footed shot that was beaten away by Winterton.

Alexander said: “That’s why Malachi’s joined us. He does that week-in-week-out. He done it against us a few times this season. He travels with the ball well and gets us up the pitch. Not only does he travel with the ball, he creates himself chances and creates other chances, so a fantastic debut from him.”

Alexander ensured he had plenty of bodies back in the dying seconds and Wilson whacked a 30-yard free-kick down Winterton’s throat at the end as Greenwich Borough sealed a massive three points against a promotion rival.

Alexander who led Greenwich Borough to the Southern Counties East Football League title last season, is happy with his club’s standing in the top three at the higher level.

“Happy to be in and amongst the play-offs, happy to be there, but we take nothing for granted,” he said.

“We make sure we prepare right for every game from now until the end of the season, going into games to make sure we secure our play-off spot because nothing’s guaranteed in football.

“So we’ll make sure we stay with the boys, we keep the pressure up and hopefully we can keep winning games and see where it takes us.

“For Greenwich Borough, we’ve come out of the SCEFL last year and we’re competing in the Ryman South and we’re sitting third.

“Lewes are a massive club. People talk about budgets. I’m sure they have a massive budget.  Well, I know they have because there’s plenty in that room that I tried to sign, they told me what they earn and it was too much for me to pay, so it’s one of them. As much as people say – I’ll like to get that out there as well – but it’s nice that we’re up there.

“We’ve challenged for most of the season, put ourselves in a position when we may have won the league. On this occasion it's probably got away from us.  We’re certainly pushing to make sure we secure a play-off spot.”

Bottom-of-the-table Godalming Town were relegated on 21 points with five games to spare following their 1-0 defeat at Ramsgate this afternoon.

Three Bridges are second-from-bottom with 25 points and they are 12 points adrift of safety with only six games to go.

Chatham Town, who are one point better off, could well be playing Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division football next season after a shocking 4-1 home defeat to the team immediately above them, Guernsey.

Alexander takes his side to Three Bridges on Tuesday night.  The hosts have lost their last four games, have gone six without a win and have leaked 10 goals in their last three outings.

“Massive game, tough game. We had a good game with them down here (winning 4-2 on 22 October),” recalled Alexander.

“Every game’s a good game, every team competes, Three Bridges will be no different.  They’ll be wanting to stop us from progressing. We want to go there and be as professional as we can about the result and make it difficult for them and hopefully come away with something. It’s a game-in-hand for us.”

Greenwich Borough then travel to Herne Bay (1 April) and then to Molesey (8 April), host Godalming Town (15 April) and travel to Bromley for their derby game at Cray Wanderers (17 April), before their campaign ends with a home game against Guernsey on the last day of the season (22 April).

When asked what he wants from his players’, Alexander replied: “Six wins! I want to go into it the best form possible. I wouldn’t want it any other way!

“If I play football not to win a football match, I wouldn’t be involved so I want to win six games. Will we win six games? Who knows? It’s football and my boys in there should want to win six games because you’ve got to enjoy winning games.

“Winning eight will be better but we’ve not guaranteed a play-off yet so we have to make sure we win enough games to guarantee a play-off place for us.”

With the Ryman League transfer deadline day fast approaching, Alexander was asked whether he will bring in fresh players.

“Possibly not. I’m happy. I’ve just strengthened.  We’ve now got 18 solid players where we’ve got a mixture of boys who can play in certain positions and we’ve got a decent 18 so now I don’t see why I should be moving unless something stands out massively. I won’t be moving anymore.”

Greenwich Borough: Craig Holloway, Nathan Paul, Lewis Clark, Glenn Wilson, Danny Young, Callum Donaghey, Lewwis Spence, Bradley Pritchard, Charlie MacDonald (Rob Denness 89), Malachi Hudson, Mohamed Eisa (Travis Gregory 64).
Subs: Peter Sweeney, Liam Hickey, Liam MacDevitt

Goal: Charlie MacDonald 25

Booked: Bradley Pritchard 56

Lewes: Chris Winterton, Steven Brinkhurst, Matthew George, Lloyd Harrington, Stacey Freeman, Alex Malins, James Hammond (Ronnie Conlon 73), Ghassimu Sow (Stephen Okoh 57), Jonte Smith, Jack Dixon, Charlie Coppola (Jamie Brotherton 66).
Subs: Adria Munoz Fernandez, Lloyd Cotton

Booked: Stacey Freeman 62, Lloyd Harrington 88

Attendance: 206
Referee: Mr Leigh Crowhurst (Uckfield, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Stuart Marriott (Ashford) & Mr David Joseph (Forest Hill,  London SE23)

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