Greenwich Borough 2-3 Slimbridge - We expected to go as far as we did last season, admits disapointed Greenwich Borough assistant Paul Blade
Greenwich Borough 2 – 3 Slimbridge
|Location||Princes Park Stadium, Grassbanks, Darenth Road, Dartford, Kent DA1 1RT|
GREENWICH BOROUGH 2-3 SLIMBRIDGE
The FA Cup First Qualifying Round (Sponsored by Emirates)
Sunday 13th September 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium
GREENWICH BOROUGH assistant manager Paul Blade admits the pressure is on to win the Southern Counties East Football League title after coming unstuck in The FA Cup.
Greenwich Borough enjoyed their best ever campaign in The FA Cup last season when they reached the Fourth Qualifying Round, losing 2-1 away to Conference North side Worcester City, who went on to beat 1987 winners Coventry City in the First Round.
Hopes were high for the Kent side of reaching the Second Qualifying Round but with more holes in their defence than a sieve, Evo Stick Southern League Division One South & West side Slimbridge, who went into the game in the bottom five, returned to Gloucestershire with a 3-2 victory.
Greenwich Borough’s largest crowd of the season saw the home side take the lead through Mohamed Eisa’s eighth-goal of the season after only 252 seconds, before their defensive frailties came to the fore.
Greenwich Borough were the better side for the opening 20 minutes but Conner Heffernan headed in an own-goal, Jack Twyman nipped in front of two men to head home a second, before holding midfielder Conner Heffernan gave away a penalty, which was drilled into the top corner by Paul Fahay.
Gary Alexander drilled home a free-kick early in the second half to score his 33rd career goal for Greenwich Borough, but they couldn’t find an equaliser as Slimbridge – who were promoted after finishing third in the Western League last season – held on.
“Hate going out in these earlier rounds and you want to do yourself justice and see how far you can go,” said a clearly disappointed Blade afterwards.
“We expected to go as far as we did last season so that’s disappointing.
“To get ourselves in front like we did and probably could have been three up within that time, it could’ve been game over.
“A mistake, own goal, gets them back in it. They’re on the front foot a little bit and then everyone’s seen the mistakes that we’ve made to go in 3-1 down at half time.
“It looked like a couple of heads went down, body language and at half-time we tried to rally them around and gee them up because I felt we were still in the game. We expected to win!
“We said to them ‘get another one, get back in it and anything could happen’ so obviously we did – it wasn’t quite enough.”
Greenwich Borough boss Ian Jenkins reverted to a four-man defence, although he gave Mudiaga Wanogho his debut at right-back, bringing him in from the club’s under 21 side.
Danny Young partnered Rob Gillman at the heart of defence, while Gary Borrowdale played at left-back, but Jenkins will need to bring in more resilient players after now conceding 15 goals in their last four games.
But going forward, Greenwich Borough are a joy to watch and they created their first opening after only 53 seconds.
Danny Phillips linked up with Eisa and Conner Heffernan, who alongside Peter Sweeney were sat in front of the back four, had his shot deflect off Twyman for Adam Thomas to make a comfortable save.
Conner Heffernan floated an inch-perfect diagonal pass sailing over Richard Thwaite’s head and Eisa cracked his left-footed volley across keeper Thomas from 16-yards, the ball agonisingly hitting the far post.
“A great ball from Conner, a good touch from Mo and you fully expect him to score,” said Blade.
“We had a great 15 minutes. We sort of did tear them apart for 15 minutes. There was only one team that looked like they were going to score!”
But Eisa didn’t have long to wait to score his eighth goal of the season as Greenwich Borough took a deserved lead.
Phillips played the ball into Jake Britnell, who played the ball inside back to Phillips, who flicked a pass into Eisa’s feet, who took a touch to place his right-footed shot across Thomas to roll his shot into the bottom far corner from 12-yards.
Blade said: “Good goal, a good team goal. We’ve worked on that stuff on Thursday, team shape and things like that. It’s nice to see it come off.
“We fully deserved to go 1-0 up. I know it was only four minutes but we were right on the front foot. We’ve started brightly so to score a goal straight away was good and it sets us up.”
It appeared that the higher league outfit were in red and black striped shirts as Greenwich Borough were the dominant force.
Blade agreed, saying: “We was the better side! We were doing all the right stuff and then we stopped doing the right stuff, stopped doing the things we were getting a lot of joy from and we sat back a little bit.”
A big kick straight down the middle by goalkeeper Craig Holloway was brought down under control by Alexander, who played the ball inside to Britnell, his left-footed chip from 22-yards being pushed over the bar by Thomas’ left-hand.
Alexander spread the play to sweep the ball out to Conner Heffernan, who stung the keeper’s fingers with a right-footed drive from 30-yards.
It all started to go wrong when Conner Heffernan scored an own goal with 24 minutes on the clock.
Swans’ left-back Adam Mace swung in a free-kick with his left-foot from the right into the penalty area and Conner Heffernan’s header sailed into the bottom corner of his own net from eight-yards.
“We gave away a silly foul and they put the ball in the box and the centre halves should’ve dealt with it,” said Blade.
“I thought Conner would’ve headed it away and it’s come off the top of his head straight into the corner.
“It’s disappointing because they haven’t had to do a lot to get themselves back into the game. We gifted them a goal!”
Eisa picked the ball up on the halfway line and ran with the ball for 40-yards and once a couple of yards inside the box he scuffed his right-footed shot just past the foot of the left-hand post.
Slimbridge were now playing with a spark and Twyman whipped in a cross from the right but Edward Ward powered his header past the right-hand post.
Blade added: “It lifted them a little bit and they went on the front foot. We sort of had our heads down and didn’t do much.”
But Slimbridge took the lead with 30 minutes on the clock through Twyman’s first goal of the season.
The Swans enjoyed a spell of pressure in and around the Greenwich Borough box and the ball came out to Samual Blackie in space down the right. He floated over a cross towards the near post and Twyman showed more desire than Wanogho and Young to plant his header into the top far corner of the net from four-yards.
Blade said: “The second goal, again, poor marking, letting a centre midfielder run straight through the middle and head it in. That’s another disappointing goal to give away.
“He had got in between, he had two boys and he just made the run and no-one went with him, which is poor defending.
“If you’re going to poorly defend like that in the box, with balls going in, you don’t defend, you don’t pick up, don’t get in front of your maker, they’re always going to score and he did.
“That was the disappointing goal out of the three. That was the very disappointing part.”
Greenwich Borough squandered an excellent chance to draw level 90 seconds before they crashed.
Conner Heffernan swung in a corner from the left which sailed over everybody and Alexander directed his downward header agonisingly past the near post from four-yards.
Blade admitted: “A great chance! That’s unlike Gary. He thrives on them. We didn’t lose the game because of the header but it’s an opportunity to get straight back into the game again.”
Slimbridge, though, had one foot in the next round when they scored their third goal in the 39th minute.
Lone striker Sean Lawson played a low ball inside into Fahay, who stumbled to the deck after Conner Heffernan’s clumsy tackle and referee Lee Brennan pointed to the spot.
Fahay stepped up to drill his right-footed penalty high into the top right-hand corner, although Holloway dived to his left and got a hand to the ball but couldn’t prevent the rising ball crashing into the net.
Blade said: “The third goal was the killer, to go in at 3-1 at half-time. Two-one is always a great shout because you’re still in the game, you’re only a goal behind, but when you’re looking to get three to win and two to get back I it, it is tough.
“It was a good strike. It was rising into the top corner so he got a hand to it.”
Conner Heffernan suffered a nightmare first half and reflecting on his challenge, Blade added: “But again, tackling from the wrong side and people not doing their jobs and someone else doesn’t do their jobs and then another person takes the responsibility and gets in to make a tackle from behind in a dangerous area where you can’t do that and if you do you have to make sure you get the ball. He didn’t, he was clumsy, goes over, it’s a penalty.”
One neutral supporter claimed at half-time that some Greenwich Borough players were just going through the motions.
Blade replied: “A few choice words (were said) to a few of the boys. A few of them needed a little wake-up call and a little bit of a gee-up in respect of what’s expected of them, what’s needed off them.
“You’re playing in the biggest Cup competition in the world! That’s what it is. It’s the best competition to play in – at any level – because it’s at any level whether top of the Premier League, all the way down to the bottom of the bottom league, so you need to have a bit in you.”
Slimbridge were to be denied a fourth goal after only 139 seconds into the second half.
Substitute Cameron Heffernan, who replaced Wanogho at the break to slot in at right-back, was booked for his foul on Fahay and Blackie’s right-footed curling free-kick was heading in at the near post but for Holloway to tip the ball onto his near post and the ball was cleared away from inside the six-yard box.
Blade added: “Again, another silly free-kick that we didn’t need to give away and the geezer took a good free kick and a good save and that keeps you in the game.”
The referee spotted Mace’s off-the-ball foul on Britnell and Greenwich Borough gave themselves hope through Alexander’s third goal of the season in the 53rd minute from the resulting free-kick.
Alexander stepped up and drilled his right-footed free-kick around the four-man wall and Thomas dived to his left but couldn’t get near to the ball as it screamed into the net.
GOAL: Gary Alexander scored his 33rd career goal for Greenwich Borough, a 53rd minute free-kick, but Ian Jenkins' side came unstuck against Slimbridge in The FA Cup First Qualifying Round.
Photo: Alan Coomes
The former Millwall player, now 36, always performs.
Blade said: “Gary takes responsibility, he’s the talisman up there. He helps a lot of the young boys. He talks well. He takes the responsibility which we ask many players to do and gets us back in the game.
“You think 3-2, get another opportunity at some point, 3-3, you get a replay which we’d take that at half-time.”
Greenwich Borough raised their tempo and Britnell cut in from the left but his speculative curler from within the left channel sailed harmlessly around the far post.
Alexander and Borrowdale linked up well down the left and Eisa rolled the ball out to Conner Heffernan, who drilled his right-footed shot towards goal from 25-yards, which forced Thomas to palm the ball away towards safety, high to his left.
Blade added: “It was a good save. Another yard away from him I don’t think he would’ve got it. It was another great strike from him. It would’ve been nice to see that one go in. It would’ve definitely made an interesting ten minutes, but you just can’t reply on free-kicks. We need more than that!”
Phillips latched onto the loose ball down the right to drill over a cross, but the ball bounced off Eisa’s head and looped over the bar from eight-yards.
But the longer the game went on Leon Sterling’s side were content to sit back on their slender lead and Greenwich Borough ran out of ideas.
Phillips won his side an 80th minute free-kick after a bookable offence tackle from Richard Thwaite and Alexander’s right-footed free-kick from 35-yards was palmed over the bar by Thomas, diving to his left.
Slimbridge went close with the last goalscoring opportunity inside the final three minutes.
Twyman played the ball into Dean Turner, who found Fahay, who floated over a cross towards the far post but substitute Jamie Martin glanced his header wide from eight-yards.
Slimbridge’s players celebrated at the final whistle like they had beaten a League outfit in the First Round, having their celebratory team photo taken in front of their joyful small band of supporters in the stand at Princes Park, while leaving Jenkins and Blade concentrating on the league.
Second-placed and unbeaten Corinthian visit Princes Park on Tuesday night and with Greenwich Borough in seventh, eight points adrift of leaders Hollands & Blair, Blade insisted: “Alright, we’re out of The FA Cup, it’s disappointing but obviously it’s something we can concentrate which we will do because Tuesday is a tough game. Corinthian haven’t lost. It’s another league game and we need three points.
“Every game we lose is disappointing but we want to win every single game between now and the end of the season in the league and in the cup and our objective is solely to win the league, get out this league because we need to get out of this league.
“Of course there’s pressure but it’s how you use the pressure and it’s how you deal with it.
“Yes, there’s pressure because the club wants to go up so there’s pressure. It’s no different to our pressure. We put pressure on ourselves because we want to win. We hate losing so there is pressure. That’s what happens when you’re in an ambitious club. They want to go forward.
“There’s no point in running a club that’s bottom of the league that wants to survive. There’s no point in that!
“We want to be involved in the club that wants to go forward, got ambition, want to go up and the pressure comes with that so we fully understand the job in hand and fully understand what our goals are and we have to make sure we achieve that.”
Greenwich Borough: Craig Holloway, Mudiaga Wanogho (Cameron Heffernan 46), Gary Borrowdale, Peter Sweeney (Jordy Akumwami 79), Conner Heffernan, Danny Young, Jake Britnell, Gary Alexander, Rob Gillman (Billy Bennett 88), Danny Phillips, Mohamed Eisa.
Subs: Jack Clark, Chris Saunders, Adam Griffin, Scott Kinch
Goals: Mohamed Eisa 5, Gary Alexander 53
Booked: Cameron Heffernan 47, Rob Gillman 51, Danny Phillips 90, Billy Bennett 90
Slimbridge: Adam Thomas, Samual Turl, Adam Mace (Ryan Thwaite 54), Alex Hoyle, Richard Thwaite, Edward Ward, Dean Turner, Jack Twyman, Sean Lawson (Scott Bamford 74), Samual Blackie (Jamie Martin 64), Paul Fahay
Goals: Conner Heffernan 24 (own goal), Jack Twyman 30, Paul Fahay 39 (penalty)
Booked: Adam Mace 52, Samual Turl 67, Richard Thwaite 79
Referee: Mr Lee Brennan (Clapham, London SW12)
Assistants: Mr William Davis (Earlsfield, London SW18) & Mr Godfrey Cooke (Wandsworth, London SW19)