Greenwich Borough 2-3 Millwall - We're going to enjoy every moment of it, says Greenwich Borough player-boss Gary Alexander
Greenwich Borough 2 – 3 Millwall
|Location||DGS Marine Stadium, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HP|
GREENWICH BOROUGH 2-3 MILLWALL
Friday 29th July 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from DGS Marine Stadium
GREENWICH BOROUGH player-manager Gary Alexander says he wants his side to enjoy their debut Ryman League Division One South campaign.
The 36-year-old former Millwall ace guided the club to promotion after only 19 games in charge after taking over from Ian Jenkins and finishing 12 points clear of runners-up Hollands & Blair in the Southern Counties East Football League title race.
A crowd of 740 flocked through the two turnstiles at the DSG Marine Stadium as Greenwich Borough marked their return to Eltham after a seven year exile in Bromley (at Holmesdale’s Oakley Road) and Dartford.
Greenwich Borough have secured a 30-year lease with Cray Valley’s Maurice McAnallen and owner of Badgers Sports Ground at Middle Park Avenue, while Cray Valley will continue to play their home matches at the ground with Greenwich Borough as head tenants. Micky Cantwell’s Gym and Badgers Sports Club will be sub tenants to Greenwich Borough.
It has come a very long way since the days of then manager/secretary Steve Firkins, who guided the club to the top of the Kent League back in September 2010, revealing that the club had £35 in the bank while sharing at Holmesdale.
Firkins said at the time: “We’re top of the league with 35 quid in the bank. It’s a massive struggle, people don’t realise. We did have somebody come forward with a little bit of money last year but it ran out after two months. It was an uphill struggle and there’s no other word for it. We told all the players at the start of the season there’s no money available and hopefully we will push on like we have done and get on with it. The majority of the players have stayed loyal and I can’t fault that. A lot of them are pals and have grown up together over the years in the various youth and reserve sides I’ve had. They just want to play and play a decent level of football and that’s what’s keeping us going really.”
Move forward nearly six years and Greenwich Borough welcomed Millwall’s youngsters to their new home and even led 2-1 for seven minutes in the second half.
The Lions grabbed the lead, against the run of play, when winger Kris Twarder’s cross took a wicked deflection of former Margate right-back Glen Wilson, 30, and looped in.
But Greenwich Borough equalised and took the lead, thanks to a couple of gifts from Millwall, accepted by Jake Britnell and winger Mohammed Eisa.
But Alexander, who got through 78 minutes himself in the middle of the park, blamed tiredness for letting Millwall clinch the victory, a penalty from striker Jamie Philpot and former Maidstone United striker Alfie Pavey coming off the bench to notch the winner with 13 minutes to go.
When asked what tonight felt to him playing against the club he’s scored twice at Wembley Stadium for and supports, Alexander replied: “It’s just another game to be honest. Obviously it’s Millwall, it’s a pre-season friendly. It’s a good pre-season friendly. You could see that by the crowd that turned up. It’s good for the boys, they’re playing in front of a crowd but at this stage of the season it’s about fitness.
“We’re disappointed to lose because we don’t want to lose any game but that’s part and parcel of football but it was a great work out.”
Millwall created the first opening after only 50 seconds when left-back Noah Chesmain reached the by-line to whip in a cross but Harry Smith (who is on trial from newly-promoted Ryman Premier League side Folkestone Invicta) couldn’t keep his deflected header down.
Greenwich Borough struck the top of the near post with their first attempt.
Peter Sweeney played a corner short to Eisa, who ran along the by-line of a pristine playing surface and his shot deflected onto the top of the near post.
Alexander swept a free-kick out to Wilson, who was given time and space to float in a cross from the right for lone striker Michael Power to loop his header into Ryan Sandford’s hands.
But Greenwich Borough produced a clever free-kick, which called the Lions keeper into making a comfortable low save to his right.
Former Lions’ pair Sweeney and Alexander combined well but the player-boss cut back was gobbled up by the stopper.
Greenwich Borough defender Danny Young, on the whole, kept Smith quiet but the tall striker got in front of him to flick his first time shot past the foot of the right-hand post after Philpot played a low centre in from the right.
Millwall grabbed the lead, against the run of play with 21 minutes on the clock.
The ball was played out to Twarder down the left channel and he whipped in a cross into the penalty area. The ball deflected off first defender Wilson and looped over Craig Holloway’s left shoulder and dropped in at the far post.
“I thought we had a good spell in the first half,” said Alexander, who wore the number 19 shirt tonight. Ryman League secretary Kellie Discipline revealed after the game that squad numbers 1-20 can be used in the Ryman League this season.
“Obviously the goal was probably against the run of play like you said, a deflected goal, but we had a good spell there and we had a good spell in the second half, for probably first 20 minutes of the second half we dominated.
“There’s nothing you can do about that (goal). It’s just unlucky. Glen blocked the cross, it’s deflected over Hollers. Hollers knew it was in straight away, he was shouting ‘it’s done me!’. It just looped into the corner.
“It’s swings and roundabouts. Mo put in a free-kick in the second half and it loops in at the back post and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
It should have been two but Holloway pulled off a great save, tipping over Harry Donovan’s right-footed angled drive from 25-yards after Twarder’s left-wing cross came out to him.
Alexander added: “Craig made a good save again but we’re playing against a quality side so we’ve got to expect them to have a few chances but we limited them. They scored from a deflected cross and we limited them to probably, that was the only save Hollers made in the first half, which was tipped over the bar so we’ll take that.”
Eisa, who scored 36 goals last season, used his pace to race down the left wing, cut into the penalty area but his low drive was comfortably saved by Sandford at his near post.
Twarder threaded a low pass through to Smith, who brought the ball under his spell outside his box and once a couple of yards inside the Greenwich box his low shot was comfortable saved by Holloway, low to his right.
Millwall were now clearly on the front foot after Greenwich Borough’s bright start to the game.
Twarder played a short corner to Chesman, who cracked a curling drive from the left hand side, which forced Holloway to get a strong left-hand to the ball to palm the ball towards safety after 35 minutes.
Rian Bray’s clipped a hanging cross out of Millwall’s defence, the ball was knocked down by Philpott and Smith cut in and his deflected drive flashed past the foot of the right-hand post.
When asked his thoughts at the break, Alexander revealed that he wanted more from his side.
He said: “To be fair, I had to get into a few of the boys at half-time because we needed to play with more desire. Millwall were hungrier, quicker to the ball and they got to the seconds for a lot of the first half. We had to rocket a few at half-time and they came out and showed what we’re all about.”
With Alexander’s words of encouragement still ringing in his players’ ears, the home side created the first chance of the second half after 129 seconds.
Sweeney played a free-kick short to Eisa, who cut in from the left and swept his 25-yard drive high over the crossbar.
Rowan Ricketts’ – a half-time substitute – swung in Greenwich Borough’s fifth corner of the game – keeper Sandford decided to punch the ball away when he could have caught it – but Sweeney sliced his volley wide from 22-yards.
Millwall created a decent move when Donovan played the ball into Smith’s feet and he laid the ball out to Philpot on the right but instead of passing the ball square to Smith, decided to chip the ball into Holloway’s hands for a comfortable save.
But poor defending from Millwall right-back Danny McNamara gifted talented Britnell the equaliser on the hour-mark.
Britnell latched onto a poor pass from McNamara some 35-yards from goal and ran into the penalty area and kept his composure to slot his right-footed shot past Sandford from 10-yards.
Britnell is clearly talented and a lot will be riding on his shoulders in the Ryman League this season.
“We expect that from Brits, we expect him to nick balls like that up the pitch. We expect him to be able to travel, he’s as quick as, so he travels with the ball well and it’s a great finish,” said Alexander.
The finger of blame will point to keeper Sandford for gifting Greenwich Borough the lead in the 64th minute.
Greenwich Borough were awarded a free-kick when McNamara lunged at Britnell down the left flank and Eisa stepped up and whipped in the resulting free-kick, which was beaten in by the flapping Sandford at the far post.
“Great delivery from Mo, in-swinging, great delivery and if you put balls in those areas you’ve got half a chance. Any keeper can make that mistake so I’m sure he'll bounce back,” added Alexander, who first came to the club as a player when Jenkins was in charge.
Alexander confirmed tonight that he will feature for the team during the course of the season and leave his assistant manager John Mackie in the technical area giving out words of encouragement like he did tonight.
Alexander said: “I thought I done alright. It’s about fitness. I need to be fit, make sure I’m fit. We’ve got a couple of knocks so made sure I’m fit for the start of the season. I need to play the same amount as any of the other lads and I’m going to play a part in the season and we’ve got to make sure that I’m as fit as them.
“Yes, if I need to play, then I’ll play. I’m more than capable of playing, you can see out there tonight but I want to give the other boys their opportunity and if I have to play or I feel I have to play, then I’ll play.”
Alexander wanted his side to see the game out with a memorable victory on a memorable night for the club.
“It’s a pre-season friendly so for me it’s about fitness. Can we see the game out? We’re leading games and if we lead games and we get beat we’re going to be disappointed but we’re playing against a quality side, we’re playing against lads who are training every day and we train twice a week. A lot of times I’ve watched pre-season friendlies already and when the top sides are playing a little bit of fitness comes in so we know we can work on that and we will do.”
Another free-kick fell to Greenwich Borough but Sweeney’s whipped dipping effort sailed over the crossbar from 25-yards.
Things were going well for Greenwich Borough but referee Lee Dyson awarded a controversial penalty to Millwall when he claimed Wilson used his hands in the box while heading the ball away.
Philpott stepped up and sent Holloway the wrong way, firing his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner with 19 minutes left.
“I thought the goal should’ve been given rather than the penalty because I don’t think it was a pen,” said Alexander.
“Glen Wilson’s headed it and the referee said he handballed it but there was no handball in there, even their players were saying ‘why has he given handball for?’ It was a header. I didn’t see a handball but refs make decisions so we have to deal with that.”
As expected, with Millwall five leagues above newly-promoted Greenwich Borough, fitness took its toll and Millwall finished the game on the front foot.
Twarder started to dominate the left-hand side and his deep cross was met by Pavey’s mis-directed header, which was collected by Holloway.
Millwall launched a long throw into the box and Philpott cut the ball across the face of goal for Pavey to slid the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards.
Pavey, who was sent out on loan to Vanarama National League side Aldershot Town towards the end of last season, will be keen to get a chance in League One this coming season.
Alexander said: “It’s a sloppy goal. We know it’s come from a throw-in over the far side where again we have to be better but again it might be a little bit of tiredness creeping in towards the end of the game where their fit boys. We train twice a week. We’ve got be better and making sure we deal with throw-ins and free-kicks and we have to be switched on.
“Millwall were slightly brighter in that situation but we’ve got to make sure we stop conceding sloppy goals.”
Pavey produced great skill when he controlled the ball as it dropped down from the dark clouds above and his 30-yard drive took a deflection of Rob Gilman and Holloway made the save.
Pavey then latched onto Chesman’s cross into the box but flicked his shot straight at the Greenwich Borough stopper.
But Greenwich Borough were to be denied a late equaliser, courtesy of a brilliant save from Sandford.
Kieren Dejali swung in a corner from the left and sub striker Cisco Embela’s powerful header was destined to fly into the top left-hand corner, but the diving keeper palmed the ball over the crossbar to deny Greenwich Borough on their big night.
Alexander said: “Cisco came on, to be fair to Cisco he’s been working really hard. He knows what he needs to do on his game. He’s come on and he’s tried his best there and he was unlucky not to score and the goalkeeper made a great save.”
Alexander thanked Millwall fans for attending tonight’s game and revealed he will be sending a much-changed squad to Hollands & Blair’s Darland Avenue ground on Sunday afternoon to contest the Southern Counties East Football League Roy Vinter Challenge Shield.
Greenwich Borough then host Leyton Orient on Tuesday night before travelling to runners-up Dorking Wanderers on their Ryman League debut on 13 August, before hosting newly-promoted Horsham here on Tuesday 16 August.
“We’ve had a game tonight so it’s going to be tough to play again on Tuesday so they’ll be a few changes on Sunday. A few youngsters will get an opportunity and we’ll go down there and just enjoy the day,” revealed the Greenwich Borough boss.
“They’ll (Hollands & Blair) will be up for it but again it’s pre-season. I’ve got boys who need minutes. I’ve got under 21 boys who need minutes so we’ll be going there, it’s another game of football.
“We’ve got another game on Tuesday, then we’ve got to make sure we’re right, whether that includes working hard and including a lot of my first team on Sunday, I don’t know yet.”
Dorking Wanderers travel to SCEFL side Beckenham Town tomorrow and Alexander says he will be in the crowd at Eden Park Avenue to cast his eye on last season’s runners-up.
“We’ll prepare right,” he said. “Dorking are at Beckenham tomorrow so I’ll be down there to watch Dorking play, see what they’re about. We’ll show everyone respect. We’ve heard a lot about them but we’ll respect every side, whether it’s a top side or a bottom side, we’ll show everyone the same respect and make sure we’re right for every single game we play in.
“Listen, we’re a new side, we’ve just come out of the Kent League (Southern Counties East Football League). We’re a new side, it’s the first time we’ve played in it so we’ve got to enjoy every moment of it.”
Greenwich Borough: Craig Holloway, Glen Wilson (Owen Price 86), Lewis Clarke, Peter Sweeney (Patrick O’Connor 84), Rob Gilman, Danny Young, Kurtis Cumberbatch (Rowan Ricketts 46), Jake Britnell (Kieren Dejali 72), Michael Power (Jeff Duah-Kessie 86), Gary Alexander (Cisco Embela 78), Mohammed Eisa (Amadu Waritay 65).
Sub: Rowan Forde
Goals: Jake Britnell 60, Mohammed Eisa 64
Millwall: Ryan Sandford, Danny McNamara (Ryan Green 68), Noah Chesmain, Harry Donovan (Eze Ebuzoeme 79), Rian Bray, Paul Rooney, Joshua Shonibare (Lewis White 75), Kyron Farrell, Harry Smith (Alfie Pavey 69), Jamie Philpot (Matt Day 84), Kris Twarder.
Sub: Sam Jackson
Goals: Glen Wilson 21 (own goal), Alfie Pavey 77
Referee: Mr Lee Dyson (Gravesend)
Assistants: Mr Joe Dann-Pye (Maidstone) & Mr Jamie Eacott (Walderslade)
Fourth Official: Mr Chris Myatt (Dartford)