Phoenix Sports 3-5 AFC Hornchurch - I can't accept defending like that, says Phoenix Sports' manager Steve O'Boyle

Saturday 26th September 2015
Phoenix Sports 3 – 5 AFC Hornchurch
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 26/09/2015 15:00

The FA Cup (Sponsored by Emirates) Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 26th September 2015
Stephen McCartney  reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS’ manager Steve O’Boyle says he cannot accept his side’s poor defending after crashing out of The FA Cup by losing an eight-goal thriller.

AFC Hornchurch, who went into this all-Ryman League Division One North tie sitting in the top five on 20 points from 10 games, progressed through to the Third Qualifying Round by winning this game through Phoenix Sports’ defensive frailties.

Jim McFarlane’s side raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening thirteen minutes through Abs Thompson’s header and a beautiful curling shot from striker George Purcell, scoring his 14th goal of the season.

Ricky Freeman scored the first of his three goals to bring thirteenth-placed (with 14 points from 10 games) Phoenix Sports back from the dead.

AFC Hornchurch’s striker David Knight then scored twice in the space of seven minutes to put the Essex side back in the driving seat at 4-1 on the hour, before Freeman scored his second of the game.

Any chance of a comeback was extinguished, however, when the Urchins headed home a fifth goal through substitute Leon Smith.

Freeman converted his hat-trick from the penalty spot to score his ninth goal of the season to complete the goalscoring on a warm and sunny day in Barnehurst.

This was the furthest that Phoenix Sports have reached in The FA Cup, having beaten Ryman League Division One South side Guernsey 2-1 in Lewes in a replay,  after a 2-2 home draw.  They then stunned Ryman Premier League side Lewes 2-0 at home, but AFC Hornchurch ended their run.

O’Boyle said: “Thoughts on it were, our defending from set-plays was just not good enough!

“If we had defended properly today we might’ve got something out of it.  You can’t score three goals at home and lose the game!

“It’s nothing to do with the back four or the back five or whatever, but they’ve scored three goals from a long throw today and one from a corner.  It is people switching off and not concentrating. Five goals conceded again today, sorry, I can’t accept that.”

AFC Hornchurch set the tone by dominating from the first whistle and Purcell was fouled some 30-yards from goal and the striker’s resulting left-footed free-kick forced Steve Phillips to hold on to the ball by making a low save.

Reflecting on his side’s start, O’Boyle said: “That was from our centre! We took centre and we were on the back foot when we should be on the front foot.

“It went back from our centre, it’s gone back to our goalkeeper. He should’ve took a touch and from then we couldn’t get out of our half for the first 10-15 minutes because of that! We should’ve been putting them on their back foot.”

AFC Hornchurch deservedly opened the scoring with 11 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Junior Luke launched a throw into the Phoenix penalty area, the ball was flicked on by Dave Collis, which sailed across Phillips towards the back post and Thompson showed the desire to nip in to nod his header into the net from six-yards.

O’Boyle said: “I still think Steve Phillips should’ve come and got it! It was in his six-yard box so I think he should’ve got it and I thought Lewis Mingle was caught flat-footed at the back.

“It’s about second balls. We don’t react to second balls and the flick on and we got caught ball watching and the geezer’s just nipped in around the back.”

Phoenix Sports were facing a mountain to climb when Purcell produced some quality just 72 seconds later.

Thompson won the ball and fed the Gravesend-born striker, who cut the ball onto his left foot before curling a beautiful shot around Phillips to find the far corner of the net from 25-yards.

“Really bad giving them a two goal start really,” admitted O’Boyle.

“I weren’t happy with the first goal. The second goal we gave the ball away and the geezer’s finished it really well but you can’t give teams like Hornchurch a 2-0 lead!

“It’s exactly the same as Cray Wanderers away,” added O’Boyle, whose side were crushed 5-0 at Hayes Lane.

“First 20 minutes we were doing ok, they scored a goal and a minute later we’re 2-0 down.

“We’ve got to learn and we’ve got to learn quick that when we do concede – and that’s happened twice now – we can’t do it.  It’s just, I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it, a lack of professionalism really.”

Joey May played the ball inside to Knight, who smashed his shot high and wide of the far post from sixteen-yards as Phoenix Sports were all over the place defensively.

The Kent side did, however, ease their way back into the game.

Midfield playmaker Michael Jenner – who made his return from Southern Counties East Football League pacesetters Hollands & Blair - drove a free-kick into the penalty area. The ball got stick in between Freeman’s legs, but he managed to tee up Chris Hill, but the central defender lofted the ball forward allowing Sam Mott to gather at ease.

Phoenix Sports’ central midfielder Jason Goodchild then flashed his speculative right-footed drive past the left-hand post from 30-yards.

The hosts continued their good spell of pressure and Jenner fed winger Adem Ramadan, who unleashed his right-footed angled drive over the bar from 25-yards.

AFC Hornchurch were dangerous from set-pieces and a post saved Phoenix Sports in the 26th minute.

May swung in a free-kick from the left channel, which was palmed away by Phillips, who blocked Knight’s low shot and Purcell picked up the loose ball, ran into the box and slipped his angled drive across the keeper which bounced against the far post and was cleared away.

O’Boyle added: “I don’t remember that one.  I might’ve had my head in my hands!”

Former Thamesmead Town and Welling United keeper Mott caught Jenner’s clipped left-footed shot, before Hornchurch went close again just before the half-hour mark.

Knight ran the right channel and cut the ball back to right-winger Thompson, who floated in a cross and Purcell’s left-footed drive from 20-yards flashed just wide of the right-hand post.

Purcell then stroked a diagonal out to Thompson down the right who whipped in another cross and this time Knight directed his free header from 16-yards across the goal and Phillips comfortably gathered the ball outside of his goal-mouth.

Phoenix Sports’ first clear cut chance arrived when Yacine Gnahore played Freeman in behind the Hornchurch back four but the striker’s angle was tight, Mott making a low save to his right.

“I think his done alright. He’s got the shot on target,” said O’Boyle.

“He didn’t really have any support at all. He had no options but to do that. The angle was against him really but he’s hit the target so you can’t ask for more really.”

But Phoenix Sports swiftly pulled a goal back with 35 minutes and 23 seconds on the clock.

Jenner swung in a right-footed free-kick from the left and Hill was close to the left by-line when he cut the ball back to Freeman, who placed his right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

O’Boyle said: “Good set by Chris Hill, good finish from Ricky Freeman.

“I think we finished the half quite strongly. I think we scored a good goal. It was a well-taken goal, a well-worked goal, but we’re 2-0 down and we were chasing the game all afternoon.”

May swung in another right-footed free-kick from the left-channel, which Phillips came for and dropped and was thankful to Hill to clear the ball away as Hornchurch’s left-winger Tobi Joseph went in search to net his ninth goal of the season.

Hill went up the other end and went close to equalising when his glancing header sailed agonisingly past the far post after another quality delivery into the box by Jenner, before Mott saved low from Freeman’s dipping free-kick.

O’Boyle added: “I thought it was an easy save for the goalkeeper really, yes he hit the target.”

Phillips produced a brilliant save to deny Purcell on the stroke of half-time.

Phoenix right-back Ryan Andrews failed to clear his lines and Joseph cut the ball back to Purcell, who smashed his left-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner, but Phillips used his outstretched right hand to palm the ball away.

“But another one. I keep on saying it to my boys when they’re clearing the ball we’ve got to start turning teams and we don’t do it enough often enough.

“Our clearances don’t really go far enough and it was a ball that should’ve been getting their boys turned and it went straight to their centre midfielder so distribution weren’t very good and they nearly punished us for it.”

Despite being 2-1 down and playing, at times, poorly, Phoenix Sports went into the break still in the game.

But any chances of clawing themselves back into the game were damaged when Knight scored his 13th goal of the season in the 53rd minute.

Luke launched another throw in from the left and an unmarked Joseph looped his header towards goal from the corner of the penalty area and Knight touched the ball past Phillips.

O’Boyle said: “I’ve just had a major go at them in there. The boys who’s won the header hasn’t lost a header all day so we’ve stuck our smallest player (Adem Ramadan) on him. We’ve got to be picking him up, not our smallest player on the pitch. I want him as far away from the area as possible so I think that was a shocking goal to give away! That should’ve been avoided if we had switched on.”

Phillips tipped over May’s inswinging free-kick from the left, before Scott Whibley made a great diving tackle to prevent Purcell making further progress through on goal after the striker cut in to the penalty area from the right.

AFC Hornchurch ensured the tie was slipping away from Phoenix Sports with a fourth goal on the hour mark.

Jared Chouman – who moved from central defender to right-back after Billy Coyne was forced off with a suspected injury to his right knee earlier in the second half – launched a long throw from the right.

The ball found its way over to Knight at the far post and the unmarked striker placed his right-footed drive into the bottom left-hand corner.

O’Boyle said: “Unmarked! Second ball again. We didn’t win the first, didn’t win the second. It weren’t good enough! Defending was shocking and I can’t accept defending like that! Believe me it’s something that I just can’t stand defending like that and its basic defending.

“We’ve switched off, not concentrating and we’re flat footed and we’re not winning the first ball and we’re not winning the second ball.”

But to Phoenix Sports’ credit, they were not going to be knocked out without a fight and Freeman scored his second of the game in the 69th minute, curling his right-footed shot into the right-hand corner from 25-yards after poor goalkeeping from Mott and pressure from substitute Christie Pattison, who had only just come on.

“The goalkeeper came out, didn’t he. It came back out to Ricky and he sort of lobbed it back in over the defenders head – good finish!

“I thought the young boy, Christie Pattison, when he came on sort of got us going a little bit.  The reason behind that goal was because he got in behind their defenders and we stretched them.

“The goalkeeper had to actually come off his line and that’s why it’s fallen to Ricky Freeman. It was a good finish.”

Thompson whipped in a cross from the right which sailed over to Knight, who cracked his right-footed volley towards goal, which was saved by Phillips low to his right.

But O’Boyle was clearly upset with the manner that AFC Hornchurch scored their fifth of the game in the 72nd minute.

May swung in a free-kick from the left which sailed over the entire Phoenix defence and unmarked substitute Smith planted his header into the roof of the net from 15-yards.

He said: “Free header. Yacine was marking him. I still do not know what he was doing there! I do not know what he was doing. The geezer got a free header at the back post.

“It’s come a long way, we’ve had a long time to sort ourselves out and the geezer’s had a free header. It’s just not good enough. That will bug me all night!”

But Phoenix Sports took 96 seconds to score what O’Boyle described as a consolation goal.

Gnahore turned his man outside the Hornchurch penalty area and slipped the ball into Jenner’s path and he was tripped inside the box by last-defender Thompson and referee Graham Kane pointed to the spot.

Freeman stepped up to drill his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.  The power of the shot hit the metalwork at the back of the goal and bounced back out and the three-goal striker (who also scored a hat-trick in their 3-0 win at Redbridge in midweek) grabbed the ball and ran back to place it back on the centre spot in a matter of urgency.

O’Boyle felt Hornchurch should have been reduced to ten men at that point.

“Fouled by the seven, last man and didn’t even get booked! It wouldn’t have made a difference today but I’m just on about consistency because if that goes against us we’re probably down to ten-men.

“Ricky Freeman has scored a hat-trick and he’s on a losing side. I won’t be too pleased. It was a consolation goal!”

But AFC Hornchurch created three more chances in the final ten minutes as Phoenix Sports could not stage a comeback.

Jenner trod on the ball inside the Phoenix half and May fed the ball to Purcell, who cut inside from the left and powered an angled drive, which flashed across the keeper and past the far post.

Knight was released down the right and his low cross picked out unmarked substitute Calvin Poku at the far post and his shot was saved by Phillips beside his right-hand post.

Purcell then cut the ball onto his lethal left-foot and his angled drive from 25-yards was destined to scream into the far corner, but for a fine save from a diving Phillips, who turned the ball around the post.

O’Boyle said: “The game was finished, it was over, so they’ve had a couple of chances towards the end. It was quite a comfortable win for them really.”

Phoenix Sports have scooped £4,925 in much-welcomed prize money from their FA Cup run this season.

O’Boyle said: “Of course it does (help). It would’ve helped a bit more if we had won (the £4,500 prize money) today.

“I said to the guys before we went out ‘let’s make sure after the game whatever happens here today we have no regrets’.

“Well to be fair I thought we’ve got a few  regrets here today. When you get beat let’s get beat by doing our jobs and being as good as we can and I think there was a few poor performances out there today and it’s happening a little bit too often.”

Phoenix Sports have now conceded 15 goals in their last four games and have conceded 28 in 14 games this season.

Last season the club’s formidable defensive line kept 29 clean sheets in 54 games, form that helped them win the Southern Counties East Football League title last season.

Phoenix Sports play AFC Hornchurch again at home on Tuesday night – this time with league points up for grabs.

O’Boyle said: “It’s not good enough! I can’t accept that and we can’t carry on shipping goals like that.”

“Tuesday night, let’s see if we learn from our mistakes, hey?

“I just want to win 1-0. Let’s go back to basics and being boring and winning 1-0. We’ve done that quite often last year and I take a few more of them this year but we’ve got to liven up.”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews, Lewis Mingle, Michael Jenner, Scott Whibley, Chris Hill, Harrison Carnegie (Jacob Mingle 79), Jason Goodchild, Ricky Freeman, Yacine Gnahore (Chinedu McKenzie 79), Adem Ramadan (Christie Pattison 68).
Subs: Steve Springett, Jack Dimmock, Danny Kemp

Goals: Ricky Freeman 36, 69, 73 (penalty)

Booked: Jason Goodchild 85, Ricky Freeman 89

AFC Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Billy Coyne (Leon Smith 50), Junior Lake, Jared Chouman, Elliot Styles, Joey May (Calvin Poku 81), Abs Thompson, Dave Collis, David Knight, George Purcell, Tobi Joseph.
Subs: Harry Baker, Liam Burgess, Paulius Ditkevicius, Callum Chafer

Goals: Abs Thompson 12, George Purcell 13, David Knight 53, 60, Leon Smith 72

Booked: Elliot Styles 43, Dave Collis 85

Attendance: 213
Referee: Mr Graham Kane (Brighton, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr James Harding (Burgess Hill, West Sussex) & Mr Nick Blogg (Horsham,  West Sussex)