Phoenix Sports 1-1 Tonbridge Angels - We played some really good stuff against a top side and I thought we were unlucky not to win the tie, says Phoenix Sports boss Steve O'Boyle

Saturday 31st October 2015
Phoenix Sports 1 – 1 Tonbridge Angels
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 31/10/2015 15:00

The FA Trophy First Qualifying Round
Saturday 31st October 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

TONBRIDGE ANGELS manager Steve McKimm has read his side the riot act after admitting the club are lucky to still be in The FA Trophy.

Phoenix Sports went into their first ever home FA Trophy tie – after coming away from Whyteleafe with a 1-0 win in the Preliminary Round – sitting in ninth-place in the Ryman League Division One North table.

They were on course of pulling off their greatest ever result when man-of-the-match Adem Ramadan slotted home on the break.

Tonbridge Angels, who arrived in Barnehurst sitting in the top six in the Ryman Premier League table and unbeaten on their travels in the league, salvaged a draw through Sonny Miles’ acrobatic overhead kick early in the second half, but Phoenix Sports missed some brilliant chances to cause a giant-killing act.

“I thought we were the better team,” said Phoenix Sports boss Steve O’Boyle afterwards.

“We played some really good stuff against a top side and I thought we were unlucky not to win the tie.

“I’ve just said to the boys in there, the tie’s not over.  They’re obvious favourites for the home game and we’ll go there and if we play like that again we’ll see how we go.”

McKimm was clearly an unhappy man during the post-match press conference.

“I’ll take that replay because we were absolutely appalling first half,” admitted an always honest McKimm.

“I give them credit for the work that they’ve done. They were hardworking. We didn’t turn up! I warned them about what they’d be like and let’s be honest about it, we’re lucky to be in the hat! I’ll hold my hands up to that.

“It was inept. It was poor. If I lambast them too much, I need them to perform for me on Tuesday because we need to get through this game.

“Have they got any more? I’m not sure. Have we got any more? I’d like to think so because that hasn’t been served up all season and today I told them in there at half-time I weren’t happy with them and we told them now.

“It was poor, disappointing. Only two or three players come out with credit there. That’s not right.”

Tonbridge Angels started the game on the front foot as they stamped their higher-league authority on last season’s Southern Counties East Football League champions.

Lee Carey played the ball into Nathan Elder, whose flicked pass played in his strike partner Luke Blewden, but Steve Phillips rushed off his line to smother the ball at the 11-goal striker’s feet.

“It was a chance because he’s made a save,” said O’Boyle.

“I can’t actually remember the build-up to it but I thought he got in a little bit too cheap for me and Steve Phillips has come out and pulled off a decent save.”

Anthony Riviere and Nick Wheeler linked up well down the left and the impressive Wheeler cut into the Phoenix penalty area to reach the by-line.  He pulled the ball back to the unmarked Charlie Webster, who stroked his left-footed shot on the turn over the bar from 12-yards.

But Phoenix Sports weathered the ten minute spell and should have taken the lead inside 15 minutes.

Harrison Carneige swept a first time ball in behind James Folkes and Sonny Miles to put Ramadan through on goal.

The impressive winger rounded advancing goalkeeper Anthony Di Bernardo, who dived to his right in an attempt to block the ball, but Ramadan cut inside and blazed his right-footed angled drive over the crossbar from 15-yards on the left-hand side of the box.

O’Boyle said: “He still had a lot to do but really if you want to pause the game and tell him what to do, it would’ve been to go round the goalkeeper and slot it straight away.

“He’s tried to put the goalkeeper down and he hasn’t gone down and the chance had gone and the shot went over the bar.”

Tonbridge Angels’ best first half chances seemed to come from Elder’s forehead.

Miles had originally clipped the ball out of defence and Elder directed his header across goal.  The ball was retrieve by Wheeler (the Angels’ best player on the day), who whipped in a cross and Elder jumped to loop his header over the bar from six-yards.

Carneige skipped past Tonbridge Angels’ left-back Jack Parter to reach the by-line on the right-hand side and his speculative shot from a tight angle was too ambitious and Di Bernardo stuck out a strong left hand to turn the ball around his near post.

Parter advanced down the left to whip in an excellent cross towards the far post and Webster ghosted in to hook his deflected wide.

Wheeler whipped in the resulting corner from the left and Elder sent another towering header over the bar from six-yards.

McKimm said: “Nathan was decent. We didn’t play much football. I was disappointed with that.

“They sat two central midfielders in front of our back four which they’ve obviously had us watched, done their job. 

“I can’t take nothing away from them. I’ve got to give them credit. They worked harder than us.”

But the giant-killing was on the cards when Ramadan scored his second goal of the season with 29 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Helge Orome was inside his own half when he produced a quality swept through ball – in behind Folkes and Miles – to put Ramadan through on goal and he kept his composure to place a beautiful right-footed shot past the flat-footed keeper to find the bottom left-hand corner.

“Fantastic finish, fantastic ball,” hailed O’Boyle.

“I thought that ball was on all day for us today, a little ball in behind. Yes, a fantastic finish and it was a fantastic ball from Helge.”

It appeared that both sides had scouted their rivals and were looking to attack down the left hand side for most of the game.

But O’Boyle revealed he was unable to watch Tonbridge Angels last Wednesday as their game at Grays Athletic was postponed due to the Essex club’s FA Cup replay at Welling Untied 24 hours earlier.

He said: “No homework done. I was going to watch them on Wednesday night and the game was postponed!”

McKimm added: “We was wide open! No cover on the centre half and they was able to go through and score, so we’re fighting an uphill battle.”

The goal lifted Phoenix Sports and the large travelling Tonbridge Angels contingent just couldn’t believe what they were watching!

Phoenix striker Ricky Freeman cut the ball into the path of Alistair Gordon, whose right-footed angled drive deflected past the foot of the post from 18-yards.

Webster sent a right-footed curler over the Phoenix crossbar from 25-yards after Parter and Wheeler linked up well down the left and Riviere swept the ball out to the other side of the pitch.

McKimm was clearly upset with his side’s poor performance as he walked back from the away dressing room with a face like thunder on a warm and sunny opening hour of the game before the temperature dropped.

When asked what he told his troops during the interval, McKimm replied:  “Nothing to be repeated in a newspaper or a website because I absolutely let them have it!

“It’s the first time this season I’ve had to do it but they deserved it because again they wasn’t good enough and to the standards they’ve set themselves – not what I’ve set them – the standards they’ve set themselves over the past few weeks, they’ve let themselves down.”

O’Boyle added: “I said to them at half-time that was probably one of the best halves we’ve played all season!

“I praised them and told them how well they’ve done and basically told them they need to do it again second half if we’re going to win the tie.

“I did actually say to them over the last few weeks my half-time team talks haven’t been like that because we’ve been losing or not doing things right.  It was nice to go in at half-time to praise them rather than have a go at them.”

Tonbridge Angels went close to equalising after only 76 seconds when Carey’s right-footed dipping free-kick from 28-yards curled agonisingly around the near post as Phillips dived to his right.

Poor goalkeeping from sloppy Di Bernardo, kicking the ball straight to Freeman some 35-yards from goal, saw him cut the ball inside to Ramadan, who came agonisingly close to scoring, but the keeper dived low to his left to turn the shot around the post.

Tonbridge Angels grabbed an equaliser with 9 minutes and 42 seconds on the second half watch through Miles’ second goal of the campaign.

Blewden looped in a long throw into the penalty area from the right and Phillips stretched high to his right in an attempt to palm the ball away to safety, but the ball dropped at Miles, who hit an acrobatic overhead kick, which looped across the keeper to find the top far corner of the net.

McKimm said: “Sonny’s always going to be a threat from set-pieces. He puts himself about in there and he got his just rewards so a good goal from him.

“He’s got back in the box again and scored a good goal, an overhead kick.”

“If we had gone on and got one in the next ten minutes when we’ve got a lot of pressure who knows what could have happened but we didn’t.”

O’Boyle added: “It was a poor goal really. I can’t really fault our back five today.  We were splendid at the back and just a lapse of concentrating really has cost us.”

Phoenix Sports immediately went up the other end and almost regained the lead.

Ramadan found Carneige with a sublime diagonal pass and the winger’s right-footed drive forced Di Bernardo to make a low save to his right at his near post

“I thought we played excellent second half,” said O’Boyle.

“It was like playing an away game at home really. We hit them on the break and I thought we played some good football.

“We were comfortable in possession, we were dangerous on the break and dangerous out wide and to be honest with you, with a little bit of luck we could have won it by a few more goals.”

O’Boyle was full of praise for Carneige and Ramadan, who were both immense.

He said: “They were fantastic today. I thought they were hard to handle, pace and they was direct and we hurt them in wide areas.  We’ve been telling us to do that for the last few weeks.”

Freeman reached the by-line down the right and cut the ball back to Gordon, who spun Miles inside the box, but drilled his right-footed angled drive over the crossbar.

Wheeler then whipped in a deep cross after hugging the left touchline but Elder planted his header straight at Phillips on the hour-mark.

Freeman was destined to score his fifteenth-goal of the season to send Phoenix Sports deservedly through to the next round after 68 minutes.

It will go down as the miss-of-the-season.

Poor defending from Parter allowed Freeman to cut in, ghost past keeper Di Bernardo and there was only going to be one outcome from a striker of such a goalscoring pedigree.

However, it seemed time stood still as the crowd of 244 expected the ball to bulge the back of the net, but Freeman just wanted to walk the ball in and his right-footed shot was destined to nestle inside the bottom corner.

However, full credit must go to Tonbridge Angels’ right-back Folkes, who made up for his earlier mistake, to show enough desire to get across the box to clear the ball off the line.

O’Boyle said: “It was a bad miss but I can’t criticise him! He’s had a fantastic season for us. He’s won games on his own this season up there. He’s scored some fantastic goals for us.

“All strikers miss chances and he’s missed one there.

“I won’t be surprised if he goes there Tuesday and scores an absolute worldy and wins us the tie. Strikers miss chances. When they miss chances they have to get over it and go again.”

Phoenix Sports’ secretary Alf Levy confirmed after the game that Freeman is suspended for the replay.

McKimm was asked his thoughts on the let-off.

“It weren’t the first time that happened! Before that with Laurence Ball as well, so there’s a communication problem there and like I say what I won’t do is hammer the players too much because I need them again and I need them all season.

“Everyone is allowed an off day but it seems our off days happen in the cup.  I don’t like it.”

Freeman went close to making amends for that horror miss six minutes later when he curled his right-footed 30-yards free-kick agonisingly just over the crossbar.

O’Boyle added: “I thought it was going wide all the way. It was a well-struck free-kick. He’s actually scored two free-kicks in the last couple of weeks.  I think when we do get a free-kick you put him on it and you half fancy your chances.”

Miles was stretchered off the pitch late on in the game after a challenge from Phoenix Sports midfielder Jason Goodchild.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the incident.

O’Boyle said: “To be honest with you I actually didn’t see the challenge but what I have been told it was a strong challenge but Jason Goodchild had been fouled in the lead up to it.

“But I don’t think it was any different to the one he (Miles) did (on Adem Ramadan) in the first half, a really, really strong challenge, but nothing was said, really strong, excessive force.  The referee chose to play on there.

“I never saw the challenge. Jason Goodchild, he tackles like that. He’s very strong in the challenge, even though it was a free-kick to us.”

McKimm said: “He’s got injured through two of my players not dealt with a winger cutting in. He’s gone in to win the ball. He’s come through won he ball and gone over the top and we’ll have to see how he is but it doesn’t look too good.  Disappointing that because his two mates have let him down.

“He’s got the ice pack on there on his ankle at the minute.  We’re not sure. Melvin (Slight, our physio) may send him to an x-ray but I’m not sure. They’re working on him at the moment.

“You could hear it. He’s said he’s heard the referee’s whistle so he’s tried to clip the ball and the geezer’s gone through, won the ball, don’t get me wrong, he’s won the ball but it’s the follow through and he’s caught him.

“If they want to moan all they have to do is have a look at it. He’s got all stud marks up his ankle so it’s quite a bad one.  The referee didn’t deem it too bad, booked the fella.”

Both sides could have snatched victory as the game went into time added on.

Carey delivered a hanging free-kick from the left which was met by a header from Miles’ replacement, Jerrome Sobers, but the ball bounced into Phillips hands.

Phoenix Sports substitute Christie Pattison couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet when he was put through on goal with only Di Bernardo to beat.

O’Boyle said: “Chris has gone through there at the end and he hasn’t even got a shot away. You’ve got to get a shot away and make the goalkeeper work – and he hasn’t!”

Despite their poor performance today, Tonbridge Angels are still favourites going into the home replay at Longmead Stadium on Tuesday night, but O’Boyle is keen to pull off a giant-killing.

“We’ll be going down there midweek and listen we’ll give it a go,” said O’Boyle.

“There’s no point feeling sorry for yourselves. It hasn’t worked out, we haven’t won the game. We’ve played really well. We go again Tuesday and we’ll see what happens.”

McKimm said: “Let’s go to the higher scale, Chelsea lost again today at home so it’s football. You’ve got no given right to win. What you’ve got to do is earn the right and in the first half baring one or two we didn’t earn the right.”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Helge Orome, Richie Hamill, Alistair Gordon (Christie Pattison 81), Lewis Mingle, Chris Hill, Harrison Carnegie, Jason Goodchild, Ricky Freeman, Giannoulis Fakinos, Adem Ramadan.
Subs: Steve Springett, Scott Whibley, Ryan Andrews, Jacob Mingle

Goal: Adem Ramadan 30

Booked: Jason Goodchil 82, Helge Orome 90

Tonbridge Angels: Anthony Di Bernardo, James Folkes, Jack Parter, Lee Carey, Laurence Ball, Sonny Miles (Jerrome Sobers 87), Charlie Webster, Anthony Riviere, Nathan Elder, Luke Blewden (Ellis Brown 61), Nick Wheeler.
Subs: Tom Parkinson, Steve McKimm

Goal: Sonny Miles 55

Booked: Charlie Webster 73

Attendance: 244
Referee: Mr Nick Dunn (Deal)
Assistants: Mr Ollie Butcher (Canterbury) & Mr Mike Marsh (Herne Bay)