Phoenix Sports 1-2 Dartford - There's still some places up for grabs, says Dartford boss Tony Burman

Sunday 24th July 2016
Phoenix Sports 1 – 2 Dartford
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 24/07/2016 13:00

Pre-Season Friendly
Sunday 24th July 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

DARTFORD manager Tony Burman says his side must work on their poor shooting despite claiming victory over local neighbours Phoenix Sports.

An uninspiring first half saw both sides shoot over from outside the penalty area, which disappointed the sun-kissed crowd of 163 at Mayplace Stadium in Barnehurst.

But all three goals were scored by substitutes during a much improved second half.

The impressive Ellis Brown came off the bench at the interval and the Dartford winger lifted the depressing game by drilling his shot into the roof of the net inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

They doubled their lead through Ben Francis’ penalty, before Phoenix Sports pulled a goal back through Jordan Campbell with three minutes remaining.

Burman took his side over the road to VCD Athletic on Friday night, losing that game 3-2.

He said: “We’ve had Friday night’s game and Phoenix today. I’ve been pleased again with the work-rate. It’s not perfect but we don’t want it to be perfect in pre-season but it’s building up to two weeks’ time when we start the season.

“We wanted to play the two local sides away and try and help them out like other clubs in higher leagues help us out.  We’ve had the two games, we’ve done that instead of training and it was tough on people who got 45-60 minutes.

“I’m pleased with that. We have another tough game on Tuesday night (at home to Gillingham) and again that’s within 48 hours so yes, it’s all good for the pre-season.”

Phoenix Sports manager Steve O’Boyle said: “I thought first half we gave them a really good game. We started better of the two teams.  They had a spell in the middle part of the half where they were on top and I think we finished stronger.

“Second half, I think the goal just after half-time killed us a little bit and our energy levels dropped.  They were the better team in the second half. From our point of view I thought our defensive shape was pretty good. All I could take out of the game are positives.”

When asked about hosting a club of Dartford’s status, O’Boyle replied: “It’s just a good fixture, isn’t it? You’re playing against good players and completely different from the other night. We played Corinthian (winning 6-1) and we had a lot of the ball and today we haven’t had a lot of the ball. 

“Second half we were working on our defensive shape and at the end of the game a lot of our players were very tired. That only adds to your fitness for the start of the season.”

With both sides packing five players each in the middle of the park, the first half was poor entertainment on a Sunday afternoon.

Burman agreed, adding, “Totally right! We had a number of chances but didn’t hit the target and at this moment in time that’s something we will be working on. It’s not right now but it will be right, hopefully, for the start of the season.”

Phoenix Sports created the first opening inside seven minutes.

Theo Fairweather-Johnson swept the ball out to winger Dajon Golding, who was in Dartford’s Academy last season, who took on Dartford left-back Tom Wynter and managed to whip in a cross into the Dartford box.  The ball came out to Russell Bedford, who brought the ball under control before his 25-yard drive sailed over the crossbar.

O’Boyle said: “I was really pleased with how we approached the game and the only thing I will say from us when we got into shooting positions we probably never pulled the trigger when we should’ve been taking a chance and making their keeper make a save.”

Dartford left-winger Becka-Kah Dembele whipped in a cross into the Phoenix penalty area and the ball came out to Alex Brown, who suffered similar fate from similar range.

Wynter called for the ball and received it from Alex Brown’s pass and clipped the ball down the line towards Luke Wanadio, who played the ball inside to Dembele, who cracked a dipping drive just over the crossbar from 25-yards.

The first shot on target went to Phoenix Sports in the 21st minute.

Left-winger Christie Pattison ran into a Dartford brick wall on the edge of the box and the ball was poked to Fairweather-Johnson, but his low shot from 22-yards was comfortably saved by Deren Ibrahim.

Alex Brown threaded a low pass to Andy Pugh, who cut the ball back to winger Luke Wanadio and his cross deflected off Zac Bryon and Steve Phillips gathered.

Dartford wingers Wanadio and Dembele swapped flanks as their skipper Bradbrook hit a left-footed shot sailing over the crossbar from 22-yards, as Dartford failed to get in behind the solid partnership of Lewis Mingle and Jack Barry.

Dartford started to spray the ball about on the deck around the half-hour mark, with Wanadio hooking his shot on the turn high over the bar from outside the box after four of his team-mates linked up well.

Dartford’s higher-league ability to keep hold of the ball was eye catching as their slick passing had Phoenix Sports’ players struggling to keep it together. All that was missing for Dartford was the ability to test Phillips in goal.

“The passing and the organisation was better and the back four and I thought all in all it was a good work-out,” added Burman.

Bradbrook fed Wanadio, whose right-footed shot deflected off Bedford inside the box and looped into Phillips’ hands for a comfortable catch.

Bradbrook stroked a left-footed drive from 25-yards which was saved comfortably by Phillips, low to his left.

Dartford went route-one in the 39th minute when keeper Deren Ibrahim’s big kick down the middle was flicked on by Bradbrook and fell to Wanadio, who cut in from the left and cracked a right-footed dipping drive just over the bar from 30-yards.

Phoenix Sports were presented with an excellent chance to call Ibrahim into action but left-back Ashley Probets’ free-kick was driven into the base of the wall, which summed up the lack of quality during the first half.

But they were given a chance at the end of the first half, courtesy of one of Bedford’s trademark long-throw which dropped at Fairweather-Johnson at the far post and his shot on the turn bounced into Ibrahim’s hands for a comfortable save.

O’Boyle said: “It was a half chance really. At least Del’s had to make a save! Russell’s got that throw and we’ve got that in our armoury and we’re maybe unlucky there!”

“It’s awkward,” added Burman, on Ibrahim’s quiet afternoon. “Sometimes you want that, sometimes you don’t but he got a good work-it and he’s done a training session (on the junior pitches behind the goal) with Barry Bell, the goalkeeper coach.”

Dartford stayed outside at the break and Burman had to act to lift the dire game and Ellis Brown added an attacking threat down the wing that was clearly lacking.

The Darts stalwart said: “We just said keep knocking the ball the way you were doing, keeping the ball, make them do the running. We felt it was still a good work-out and we said the chances we created we haven’t hit the target and that’ will be the next thing to be working on.”

O’Boyle added: “I told them I couldn’t wish for a better half really. It was a really good performance first half and I told them that we need to carry that on.  A few final adjustments we wanted to do regarding our front three. We wanted to play them closer together, not too far apart and just ran through a few things.”

Ellis Brown produced a thumping finish to break the stalemate in the 50th minute.

Wanadio swung in a corner from the left, Phillips came off his line and flapped at the ball, which came out to Ellis Brown, who drilled his right-footed volley through a crowd of players into the roof of the net from 17-yards.

Burman said: “Ellis has come on and he got a hell of a lot of pace. He plays in the right position, with his link up he’s got a lot of work to do but we’d like to encourage him to run at people because of his pace. If he does, he can be a decent player.

“It was a great finish. The three or four that didn’t go in, in the first half, Ellis has hit the target and it’s gone in. It was pleasing, it was a nice strike and it settled us down again and the boys came on and played well second half.”

O’Boyle added: “I think that was a pretty poor goal. I think we lost the ball in possession leading up to the goal as well and that’s how the corner came about really. We haven’t won a second ball on the edge of the box. Their man has got in front and we haven’t anticipated and he’s hit a shot from the edge of the area into the net.”

Another half-time substitute, Richard Seixas, failed to replicate the goal when his shot ballooned high over the crossbar after being set-up by man-of-the-match Ellis Brown.

Ellis Brown then played the ball up to Pugh, the Dartford striker hitting slicing a powerful drive from 30-yards about 30-yards wide of the target.

Dartford started to dominate on a warm and sunny day and they squandered an excellent chance to double their lead in the 57th minute.

Right-back Tom Gardiner clipped a long ball out of defence which sailed over Probets and Mingle to put Francis through on goal but his shot was poor and hit straight at Phillips who made the save.

Burman, laughing, added: “Again, he’s hit the target so that’s an improvement on the first half!”

O’Boyle added: “If one of their players is clear on goal and he doesn’t score, we’ve done alright, we’ve done our bit haven’t we?”

Keaton Wood, who slotted in at left-back for the second-half, played the ball down the line to Wanadio, who cut in and his deflected shot was saved by Phillips.

Gardiner swept a free-kick into the Phoenix box on the hour, which was headed away and Bradbrook’s left-footed drive from 22-yards was deflected past the right-hand post.

A corner from Albert Jarrett was cut back to Ellis Brown, who took a deft touch before going close with a dipping drive.

The two then combined again but this time Ellis Brown’s first time shot was saved comfortably by Phillips.

Dartford deserved their two-goal lead when a grounded Barry was penalised by referee Constantine Hatzidakis for handball and Francis grabbed the ball and put it down on the spot and placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Phillips going the right way, with 68 minutes on the clock.

“Ben got a bit concussed against Millwall and he wasn’t at the races really on Tuesday night so we gave him 45 minutes,” said Burman.

“It’s nice for him to pick the ball up and said he wanted to take the penalty, which is a good thing. He’s another good prospect.”

O’Boyle revealed why he doesn’t want his players to concede penalties during their campaign.

“Well, we’ve already said Steve is the worst penalty saver in the world! There’s a little bit of banter in the dressing room, he knows how we feel when we concede a penalty – he doesn’t normally save too many!

“He’s a really good goalkeeper, but he’s just no good at penalties!”

Phoenix captain Bedford had a chance to pull a goal back for his side but his poor shot went past the left-hand post, following their only corner of the game, taken left-footed by Probets down the left.

An over-hit pass from Seixas was retrieved by Ellis Brown, who played a low-pass to sub Michael Habte, but his left-footed shot from 25-yards followed the game’s pattern of sailing over the crossbar.

Seixas’s passing range improved when he played in Ellis Brown, whose right-footed chip was caught by Phillips in the 73rd minute.

Phoenix Sports created a great chance to give themselves a lifeline in the final nine minutes.

Bedford pinged a brilliant diagonal pass to release Campbell down the right and he played the ball inside to fellow substitute striker Aaron McCallum, who swept his shot past the left-hand post from 12-yards, despite being unmarked in the centre.

O’Boyle said: “He never got a connection on it, did he? I thought it was a good chance really. We’ve got to be taking those chances really.”

Jarrett sped down the left and delivered a low cross of high quality but Francis slid in and poked his shot which forced Phillips to make a low save to his left.

More good wing play from Ellis Brown saw Seixas curl his shot around the far post.

Phoenix Sports grabbed a consolation in the final three minutes.

Zac Byron played the ball up to Pattison, who put Campbell through on goal and he drilled his high shot from 15-yards across sub keeper Tony Coxall, 17, into the far corner.

O’Boyle added: “Really pleased, good goal, good finish. It was nice to get a goal, really pleased with that.”

Meanwhile, O’Boyle revealed that Pattison has just returned from a trial with relegated League One side Charlton Athletic.

“Still waiting to hear, as far as I’m concerned he’s still on a contract with Phoenix and he’s our player. He’s played 90 minutes today, which was pleasing for us because he hasn’t played too many minutes for us in pre-season but it was pleasing for us to have him playing 90 minutes today.”

Burman said: “It was an opportunity for me to play some of the boys who are in the Academy. It’s very important for me to keep them in and around the first team squad, get them experience of being in with the other players and also being in the first team.  I thought a lot of them, although they only got around 15 minutes, it’s still a good experience for them, especially when some of them are only seventeen years of age so I was pleased overall with how it went.

“Tony’s came on and gone in goal and yes, we’ve conceded but also he made a really good save and it’s just helped me to give him a little bit of knowledge and experience for when they might get their chance.

“We got caught, we lost the ball in possession when we had a throw and it went through and the fella’s got in behind. It happens, it’s one of those things.”

Phoenix Sports were to be denied at the death when Probets threaded the ball through to McCallum, who was denied by a brave save by the 17-year-old Dartford Academy keeper.

Burman said he is delighted to bring his Dartford side to Phoenix Sports, who finished 14th in their debut Ryman League Division One North campaign.

He said: “The league clubs help us out by coming to Princes Park so I think we should help out the local clubs. I think there was a decent crowd there (VCD) on Friday night and Phoenix got a decent crowd here today. That’s what we try to do. It’s a club that over the last few years’, they’ve been on the up. I know all the directors here and Boylie’s done an excellent job. I’m pleased for them.”

Dartford are at home to Gillingham on Tuesday and Norwich City on Saturday, before kicking off their Vanarama National League South campaign with a home game against Wealdstone on Saturday 6 August, looking to build on their top eight finish last time out.

“Two massive games in respect of people getting really fit.  We’ll be running around again probably and hopefully these games will give them a little bit towards getting fitness,” said Burman.

“Wealdstone? That’s what we’re all working towards.  There’s some places which are definitely up for grabs.  We’ve got 14 signed players at the moment as in contracted players and we’ll do our best to add to that and see what happens. We’ll have 16-17 players who will probably be signed up and the Academy players will be involved. The Academy is very much part of our thoughts in the next few years.”

Phoenix Sports, meanwhile, host Whitstable Town (Tuesday), Sittingbourne (Friday), Erith & Belvedere (2 August) and Chatham Town (6 August) before kicking off their league campaign at relegated Brentwood Town on 6 August.

“I’m pleased with what we’ve got. I think we’ve got a decent side here,” said O’Boyle.

“We finished 14th last year and I aim to beat that this year. I want to be challenging this year up and around the play-offs. That’s the sort of mentality that I’ve got. I’m not one of these managers who sits in midtable. I’m not like that. I like winning and that’s what I’ll aim to do this season.

“I think we’ve got a really good bunch here. One maybe two short other than that I’m really pleased with what we’ve got.  We could do with someone in the final third maybe, other than that, I’m really happy with what we’ve got.”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews, Ashley Probets, Russell Bedford, Jack Barry, Jacob Mingle, Jack Hopkins (Malik Ouani 74), Zac Bryon, Christie Pattison, Theo Fairweather-Johnson (Aaron McCallum 66), Dajon Golding (Jordan Campbell 59).
Subs: Aaron Sekhon, Charlie Andrews

Goal: Jordan Campbell 87

Dartford: Deren Ibrahim (Tony Coxall 78), Tom Gardiner (Temitope Eweka 78), Tom Wynter (Richard Seixas 46), Tom Bonner, Ronnie Vint, Keaton Wood (Joel Mensah 78), Luke Wanadio (Albert Jarrett 59), Elliot Bradbrook (Michael Habte 65), Andy Pugh (Amadu Waritay 65), Alex Brown (Ben Francis 46), Becka-Kah Dembele (Ellis Brown 46).
Sub: Danny Harris

Goals: Ellis Brown 50, Ben Francis 68 (penalty)

Attendance: 163
Referee: Mr Constantine Hatzidakis (Bromley)
Assistants: Mr Piotr Zachwieja (Chatham) & Mr Billy Woods (Bexleyheath)