Phoenix Sports 0-0 Corinthian-Casuals - To get anywhere near the play-offs we need a good run but it's going to be tough, says Phoenix Sports boss Paul Bryon

Saturday 30th December 2017
Phoenix Sports 0 – 0 Corinthian-Casuals
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 30/12/2017 15:00

Bostik South Division
Saturday 30th December 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS manager Paul Bryon says it’s going to be tough to go on a run to gatecrash the Bostik South Play-Off party.


They remain in eighth-place in the table with 41 points in the bag from their 27 league outings after making third-placed side Corinthian-Casuals look ordinary during this poor goal-less stalemate.

Lewes (57 points from 26 games) and Cray Wanderers (54 points from 25) remain in the automatic promotion places, while Walton Casuals and Carshalton Athletic (52 points from 27), Greenwich Borough (51 points from 27) and Corinthian-Casuals (50 points from 27) complete the quartet inside the play-off zone.

Hythe Town are eight points adrift, one point clear of Phoenix Sports, who have it all to do if they are to grab a top six finish in their final 19 games of the season.

But on chances, this can be considered two points drop for the Barnehurst-based hosts against a club that reached the play-off final before losing on penalties to promoted side Dorking Wanderers last season.

“Well, first thoughts are, if you look at their league position and our league position obviously 0-0 looks like quite a decent result but I’m certainly disappointed,” admitted Bryon, following his fourteenth game in charge of the club following Steve O’Boyle’s shock departure.

“I thought first half on the chances created we were probably the better side and I thought that they were there for the taking.

“Our top four were a little bit below par today, if they were on par we would probably have won that game today.”

It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for both side’s lone strikers as Jeff Duah-Kessie and Reyon Dillon endured a bad day at the office.

Former Crystal Place striker Dillon was caught offside on six occasions as Danny Young and Lewis Mingle were brilliant at the heart of Phoenix Sports’ defence, while Gabriel Odunaike was caught in the trap four times.

Phoenix Sports created their first opening inside the opening five minutes.

Goalkeeper Steve Phillips, who often swept up some overhit passes, launched a big kick towards the edge of the Corinthian-Casuals box. The ball was superbly brought under control by Kweku Ansah, who teed up a chance for Jack Hopkins, hitting a first time right-footed drive from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by Danny Bracken.

“It was a bit of a powderpuff shot, I think, he didn’t really trouble the keeper,” admitted Bryon.

“We said if we can get in behind them and win the headers, if we have to go long and get in behind them we could hurt them and we showed that in the first few minutes.”

The crowd of 100 had to patiently wait until halfway through the first half before the home side’s second chance.

A floated free-kick from left-back Ashley Probets was headed across goal by Duah-Kessie, Gil Carvalho’s shot was charged down and Duah-Kessie swept his rushed shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from 16-yards.

“Jeff’s been absolutely brilliant for us since he’s come in and today he didn’t have his best game,” admitted Bryon.

“He reaches such high levels we expect him to be delivering that week-in-week-out, which is harsh for someone playing up there on his own and he’s playing 90 minutes. He’s got a little knock so he wasn’t really good like he has been but he still done a job for us so I can’t moan at him really.”

Former Sittingbourne winger Carvalho received a poked pass into his feet by Duah-Kessie, before he turned his man inside the box and his right-footed drive from 16-yards on the angle was comfortably held by Bracken.

“A good turn from Gil but a bit of a powderpuff shot.  He’s got to learn to put a bit more pace on them,” said Bryon, who wasn’t pleased with his side’s work in the final third.

“I’ve just said to them in the dressing room, we probably had five shots in the second half and three or four in the first half and we’ve got to do a bit of work on that because the actual technique there wasn’t brilliant if I’m being honest.”

Corinthian-Casuals were poor in the first half and failed to call goalkeeper Steve Phillips into any action inside the first half.

A diagonal pass from winger Max Oldham went into Dillon’s feet but he failed to dig the ball out from under his feet and Tony Robinson made a block tackle inside the penalty area.

“When we played them away, going forward they were decent,” said Bryon.

“I said at half-time the back four and the centre mids were doing their job, they were playing well as they kept them to no chances. I was really happy with that.  We need a bit more composure.  We were having too many touches up top in the first half.

“It was a good first half defensively and I was very pleased with it.  Coming in I was a bit frustrated that we haven’t created more.

“Normally, when our front four are playing well, they interchange and rotate and use their pace and get out and get in behind them but they were off their game today.  They weren’t sharp, they weren’t picking up any loose balls so my whole team talk was about the front four and what we had to do with them.”

It was evident from very early on that this game would end in a goal-less stalemate.

Duah-Kessie played up front on his own, Ansah failed to get close to him and attacking wingers Carvalho and Christie Pattisson were all toothless in attack, while the back four and two central midfielders worked tirelessly to keep Corinthian-Casuals quiet for 70 minutes.

The visitors produced a decent move in the 52nd minute.

Central midfielder Ben Cheklit played the ball into Hamilton Antonio’s feet, and he drove forward before playing the ball on his outside to Gabriel Odunaike, who drilled his deflected shot into the side netting.  Corinthian-Casuals won the corner count 5-0 but did nothing with them.

Conrad Lee threw the ball to Carvalho, who turned left-back Coskun Ekim but stroked a woefully weak shot towards the bottom far corner from 18-yards, which was meat and drink for highly-rated keeper Bracken.

“A powderpuff shot for me.  He’s a men who will open up the space well but he’s got to put a bit more power behind that if he’s going to trouble the keeper,” added Bryon.

Bryon explained why a disappointing Carvalho was substituted in the 57th minute.

“Because he was worrying me a bit defensively.  He’s skilful but he didn’t threaten and we put up with him sometimes.  When we played them away he was outstanding, he really hurt them but I didn’t think he was on top of his game today. 

“ I wanted to get Danny Phillips on in the middle and Kweku Ansah, who is defensively astute – and then I thought we get Danny on and if he started passing the ball in the final third, I thought we could hurt them.”

Phoenix Sports should have smashed the deadlock in the 63rd minute.

Probets played the ball back to keeper Phillips, who launched a big kick, which Duah-Kessie chased down the left channel.  He cut into the box and Bracken rushed off his line to smother the shot and Pattisson failed to put the rebound away as Ekim made the block.

Phoenix Sports’ right-back Lee drove forward before drilling his left-footed shot sailing over the crossbar from 25-yards.

“Just before he hit it I actually thought ‘this is going in,’ because he’s got a decent strike on him!

“I said to them just after the game we’ve had four or five shots all gone over the bar. We just need to work on that but Conrad does have a great strike on him and I thought this is going to test the keeper – unfortunately it didn’t!”

Corinthian-Casuals first opening arrived in the 70th minute.

Cheklit’s driven free-kick summed up the game, poor, smashed Kweku Ansah in a two-man wall and Duah-Kessie failed to break as he was tackled by Cheklit, who strode forward before unleashing a right-footed dipping drive from 35-yards, which only just cleared the crossbar.

“Last 20, we pushed on a little and we opened it up and the game opened up.  They went from back to front very quickly, which is always going to create chances.  It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes when I was really concerned.”

Robinson, who slotted in beside Young when Mingle limped off injured in the final 13 minutes, powered a header forward to release substitute Danny Phillips, who couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet and Callum McAllister wanted the ball more inside the box to make the tackle.

And 40 seconds later, at the other end, three Phoenix players swarmed around Oldham, who reached the left by-line but couldn’t prevent the ball rolling behind for a goal-kick.

But Mingle’s withdrawal played in to Corinthian-Casuals’ hands and they created some glorious chances to snatch a victory that they didn’t deserve.

Substitute Zak Bryon, who slotted in beside Hopkins inside the Phoenix Sports engine room, gave a sloppy pass away straight to Oldham in the middle of the park and he strode forward before cutting inside and hitting a left-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 35-yards.

Steve Phillips got down low to make a crucial save and was relived to see Bobby Kwatt’s flag was raised for offside by the time that Odunaike pounced on the loose ball to stab the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from a couple of yards from the goal-line with 80 minutes on the clock.

Byron said: “At the end of the day, I couldn’t tell you whether it was offside or not because I looked straight at the linesman and everyone’s going ‘oh no’ on the bench. I looked straight at the linesman because often when that happens and someone taps it in on the line like that there is a chance of offside so the linesman got his flag up.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good result for us that he was offside and if he was that’s not a goal.”

Goalkeeper Steve Phillips jumped up to pluck the ball out of the air to prevent substitute Josh Uzun drilling a right-footed half-volley into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards just 56 seconds later.

Bryon said: “A good stop from Steve, he’s an outstanding keeper. I thought he could’ve done better with the one before. He’s saved us time and time again.  He didn’t have a great deal to do today apart from the last few minutes and when he was called upon he was there.”

A slick Phoenix move inside the final third from Danny Phillips and Ansah resulted in Ansah hit a first time right-footed drive sailing over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Corinthian-Casuals built patiently through Cheklit, substitute Josh Uzun and Oldham, which saw McAllister given time and space on the right to hit a right-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which took a deflection before screaming past the far post.

And the Tolworth side almost snatched it with the game’s final chance.

Right-back Fraser Walker played Oldham on the overlap and he whipped in a cross towards the near post for Dillon to have his big moment but all he could do was hook the ball looping over the crossbar from eight-yards.

“I don’t think he had his best game.  He hurt us away, I don’t think he had his best game,” Bryon said of Dillon.

“I think it was a difficult one for him. It was quite a high bouncing ball, he tried to place it and it just went over the bar, thank goodness!”

Reflecting on the stalemate, the Phoenix Sports manager said: “I thought apart from the last 10 minutes, when we were in control of the game comfortably, I thought we weren’t excellent going forward but we did hurt them.  I thought on chances we had the better chances, a bit more composure in the final third, we probably would’ve got all three points.

“We’ve taken four points off them. They were top when we played them away and beat them 2-0 (on 21 November) and we got a point off them today.  If you had given that to me at the beginning of the season I would’ve taken that all day long but I do have a little bit of a feeling there it was two points dropped today on the way the game went.”

When asked what was missing from his players today, Bryon replied: “Just the composure in the final third!  The movement up there wasn’t as good as it has been. We were a little bit lacklustre up there.  We weren’t sharp and that’s when we hurt teams and it just wasn’t there today.

“But at the end of the day we’ve had a half decent run. For the size of the club we are competing against the top three or four teams and we’ve done very well against most of them and I can’t really moan too much.”

A 2-0 home defeat to promotion chasing Greenwich Borough on Boxing Day and today’s result has put a dent in Phoenix Sports being a surprise package within the play-off hunt.

Bryon added: “Look, the ambition is to finish as high as possible.  It’s a big gap there now to get anywhere near the play-offs. We need a good run. We’ve got most of our hardest games before the last 10 of the season and my target is to be in and around tenth upwards by then and hopefully we can go on a run in the last 10 games.  You never know but it’s going to be tough.”

VCD Athletic go into the Battle of Woodside Road on Monday afternoon (15:00) in the bottom six after losing 3-1 at Walton Casuals today.  Keith McMahon’s side have bagged 29 points from their 25 league outings.

Looking ahead to the Oakwood clash, Bryon knows nothing but a win will do.

“We have to look to Monday now.  It’s three points! For the people who watch us and pay £9 or whatever it is to get in every week this is the biggest game of their season so we’ve got to turn up!

“It’s going to be a battle from start to finish.  I know Keith well.  I know what he’ll do, he’ll press us.  I think we’ve got a little bit more quality than them going forward but we’ve got to be solid, especially for the first 20 minutes.

“We’ve got to realise the importance of the game. It’s my job and Grant Spelling’s job to get the players up for that and then come out like a train and get that tempo going.”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Conrad Lee, Ashley Probets, Jack Hopkins, Danny Young, Lewis Mingle (Zak Bryon 77), Gil Carvalho (Danny Phillips 57), Tony Robinson, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Kweku Ansah, Christie Pattisson.
Subs: Onoriode Ogboe, Akeeb Adeyemo, Danny Kemp

Booked: Tony Robinson 64, Conrad Lee 85

Corinthian-Casuals: Danny Bracken, Fraser Walker, Coskun Ekim, Callum McAllister, Jack Strange, Terry Murray, Max Oldham, Ben Cheklit, Reyon Dillon, Gabriel Odunaike, Hamilton Antonio (Josh Uzun 73).
Subs: Omari Hibbert-Delgado, Brandon Johnson, Malachi Robinson, Andrew Herring

Attendance: 100
Referee: Mr Lee Dyson (West Malling)
Assistants: Mr Wally James (Sidcup) & Mr Bobby Kwatt (Walworth, London SE17)

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