Phoenix Sports 2-2 VCD Athletic (3-2 penalties) - I think our attitude and mentality let us down a little bit, admits VCD Athletic boss Keith McMahon

Tuesday 01st December 2015
Phoenix Sports 2 – 2 VCD Athletic
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 01/12/2015 19:45

(Phoenix Sports win 3-2 on penalties)
Kent Reliance Senior Cup Second Round
Tuesday 1st December 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

VCD ATHLETIC manager Keith McMahon criticised his players’ attitude and mentality after being knocked out of the Kent Reliance Senior Cup on penalties by their neighbours.


Phoenix Sports were making their debut in the competition and they booked a trip to Vanarama National League South leaders Ebbsfleet United in the Quarter-Finals after winning 3-2 on penalties after an end-to-end game was locked at 2-2 after 90 minutes.

Adrian Stone – who has scored eight goals for Southern Counties East Football League side Sevenoaks Town this season – opened his account to give Phoenix Sports an early lead.

VCD Athletic turned it around and led at the break after central midfielder Davidson Tejaiye and striker Lheureux Menga scored.
Phoenix Sports forced a penalty shoot-out through Ricky Freeman’s nineteenth goal of the season.

Phoenix Sports prevailed 3-2 in the shoot-out as all three left-footed players all failed to hit the target and Nwokeji saw the tenth penalty saved by Phoenix Sports keeper Steve Phillips, who made two saves.

McMahon said: “Disappointed to lose a game of football, lose a game on pens or lose a game.

“I’m disappointed with the way we played to be fair because the last 8-10 games we’ve been excellent in these games. 

“You make changes but I just thought the lads coming in could’ve come in and done the same and proved a bit more of a point but I don’t think that they did.

“Yes, listen, we’ve come through with hopefully no injuries. With penalties it could’ve gone either way so I’m not too fussed.

“I’m pretty certain if Budd didn’t make the mistake we would’ve won the game quite easily because I thought second half they wasn’t quite bothering us too much. 

“They struggled with the wind and we was getting a little bit on top but listen it’s just one of those things. We’ve just try to put it behind you and get on really.

“The lads that played tonight got some minutes. The ones that are normally in the side you just want them to get through but I think I’m a little bit disappointed with some of their attitudes if I’m 100% honest and you just have to try to not let you down.”

Phoenix Sports’ manager Steve O’Boyle said: “Thoughts on the game was I thought the first half hour we were the better team. We had a few chances where I thought we could’ve taken a couple of them, which was a bit disappointing.

“We went 1-0 up and to be honest with you the last 15 minutes of the first half, once they got their goals, I thought they was on top and we was defending a little bit towards half-time.

“We was against the wind first half and the boys did say at half-time – it didn’t look quite bad on the side - but it was quite strong on the pitch.  I don’t know, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt really.

“But second half there wasn’t really much in the game, both teams cancelled each other out. It had a draw all over it.

“I was already sorting out what I was going to do for the penalties because I didn’t think there was going to be a winner tonight.”

This was the only second competitive fixture between the two neighbouring clubs, divided by Woodside Road.

Phoenix Sports won the Erith Hospitals Cup Final 2-1 back in 1997 at Erith & Belvedere’s former Park View ground in their only previous competitive meeting.

When asked about beating their next door neighbours, O’Boyle said: “It’s nice to get one over on VCD, nice to get a win, nice to get a better performance than Saturday, but I’m more focused on the league games.

“I’m ok. I’m not excited or anything like that. I’m more pleased with a better performance today.  I’m not going to celebrate. If we beaten them in the league or anything like that I’ll be celebrating like anything.

“It’s a cup game. Yes, we’ve had a few changes tonight from Saturday, I’d imagine they have as well.  I’m just pleased with the performance. Saturday was hard and we was well beaten (at Harlow) on Saturday.

“We’ve played a Ryman Premier team and whoever we’ve played in the Ryman Premier this year, I know people say it’s a one league jump but we’ve played a few in the Ryman Prem now, I’ve not really seen that so that must be good for us.”

McMahon often visits Phoenix Sports socially and feels disappointed to lose the local bragging rights as his players just didn’t seem too bothered.

“My job is the VCD manger and it’s to get points in the league. People are talking about it in the week, the committee, is it a big game and things like that? Every game of football is, but my priority is Saturday (away to Grays Athletic) and today it just seemed flat. We just seemed a bit flat in stages. We strung a few moves together and looked a decent outfit and we’ve got pace but we just changed the formation to accommodate a few players today and it didn’t suit us.

“We went 4-4-2 and I think we looked a bit lost with it, if I’m honest.”

Phoenix Sports made five changes to the side that suffered a 4-0 defeat at Harlow Town at the weekend, which put them in ninth-place in the Ryman League Division One North table on 34 points from 24 games.

VCD Athletic made four changes to the side that were held to a goal-less draw at home to Leiston, a result that keeps them in the bottom two in the Ryman Premier League table on 13 points from 22 league outings.

VCD Athletic created a couple of chances inside the opening four minutes.

Firstly, Kojo Awotwi was put through on goal but the Vickers’ right-winger drilled his shot over the bar after only 25 seconds.

Then, Ashley Probets threw the ball to Arron Wickham, who whipped in a cross towards the far post for Awotwi to send his header past the post whilst under pressure, six-yards from goal.

Phoenix Sports should have scored from their first chance.

Freeman swung a free-kick in from the left towards the far post which was hooked back across goal by Adem Ramadan and Chris Hill produced a typical central defender’s finish, stabbing a poor shot straight into Rob Budd’s hands from two-yards.

But Phoenix Sports did open the scoring swiftly afterwards, with 12:11 on the clock.

Ramadan put Stone through on goal – the striker beating the offside trap to run through and slot his right-footed shot underneath the goalkeeper to find the bottom right-hand corner from just inside the box.

O’Boyle said: “Good finish. He’s come in and he’s something that we’ve been missing, he’s that sort of battering ram that we haven’t got and most teams in the Ryman have got one and we haven’t really got that.

“We probably didn’t use him as much as we could’ve done second half.  He’ll hold the ball up for you, he’ll win his fair share of headers and we’ve been looking for that all season really and I think he had a good game, especially a good first half.”

Stone was withdrawn just before the end though a shoulder injury, O’Boyle revealing: “I’ve just spoken to him. I don’t think he’s that bad. I just think he’s got a blow to the shoulder or he might’ve not wanted a penalty, I don’t know.”

McMahon added: “A good ball and a good goal from them from the little move they done and finish.

“Disappointed with us. I think the two centre halves (Bruce and Joseph) couldn’t get tight enough in the first 10-15 minutes and just stood off them and I think that’s what happened.  They didn’t get tight. From them it was a good goal, little passing move and a decent finish but a bit slack from us.”

Phoenix Sports should have doubled their lead during a dominant spell.

Ramadan swung in a corner from the right towards the far post and Stone’s downward header from eight-yards was brilliantly saved by Budd, diving to his right and using a strong right hand to turn the ball away.

But VCD Athletic weathered the storm and equalised with 28 minutes on the clock.

Nwokeji swept the ball across the penalty area from the left hand side and Menga touched the ball into Tejaiye’s path, who picked his spot with a first time drive into the bottom left-hand corner from 12-yards.

McMahon said: “Decent move, a little bit of football. I think we opened them up three or four times just before that to be honest.

“I think it was coming and a little bit of quality showed for that, the little glimpses we showed.”

O’Boyle said: “We’ve had the ball just inside the half and we’ve given the ball away cheap and from our point of view it wasn’t a good goal. It might’ve been from their point of view but from my point of view we’ve got to be doing a little bit better on the ball there. We gave it away. They got in behind us and scored so I would say we need to be a little bit better there.”

This started a spell of dominance from the Crayford-based visitors.

Wickham cut inside from the left and drilled his right-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, Phillips making a low save to his right.

Poor defending at the other end by Ricardo Joseph, however, let in Stone, but his attempted chip was clawed away by the advancing Budd.

Probets swung in a corner from the left which was headed away towards the edge of the penalty area, Wickham hitting a volley just over the Phoenix crossbar from 20-yards.

Probets then swung in his fourth corner of the game which came out to Nigel Neita, who was denied by Phillips sticking out his left leg to make a smart block.

Probets then whipped in a free-kick with his left-foot and Menga got in between two defenders to head straight at the Phoenix keeper.

Therefore, it was no surprise when VCD Athletic took a deserved lead after 36 minutes.

Menga latched onto a long ball and cut across the Phoenix Sports penalty area, moving from centre to left with the ball, but poacher Nwokeji stole the ball and dinked his shot across Phillips and bounced into the bottom far corner, despite Lewis Mingle’s attempts to clear the ball off the line.

McMahon said: “He was given a start – and Menga tonight – they both need to try to get some minutes just to see what they’re like.

“Mark scores goals. He always has at this level and he just needs minutes under his belt.  I think that’s his second game of the season he’s started so it was a decent finish from him – that’s what he’s about.

“I actually thought Menga played quite well today up top. He was a handful. That’s only his second start of the season for us as well. He’s a bit of a threat. We’ve gone in front. We were dominating and just took the lead.”

O’Boyle added: “I told them at half-time we got caught flat. We haven’t got bundles of pace back there tonight but we’ve got caught flat and the one thing we done last year we was one-up and three round and there was not three round that time.  I think he rolled one of our boys in the box as well.

“From our point of view, I think we could’ve done a bitter better with both goals.”

A long free-kick from Vickers’ right-back Frantz Tchonang was powerfully struck on the angle by Nwokeji, which was saved by Phillips at his near post.

Phoenix Sports fought back and created a couple of late first half chances.

Poor defending from sloppy Joseph let in Freeman, who whipped in a cross from the right, which was headed away by Joe Bruce and Russell Bedford’s left-footed angled drive from 20-yards was saved and held by a diving Budd.

McMahon said: “Comical defending, if I’m being honest!

“We’ve been solid at the back. That’s our back four and if you’d seen us Saturday we was excellent against a side that’s pushing for the play-offs.  We was solid and we have been for the last 6-8 weeks.

“Tonight, I just thought Ricardo Joseph didn’t have his best game. He’ll tell you that but they’ve been dependable so I’m not overly worried with them because they’ve been excellent but both teams struggled to defend today.”

Bedford then launched a trade-mark long throw into the Vickers penalty area and Freeman’s hooked shot on the turn from 12-yards, which screamed over the crossbar.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

O’Boyle said: “I basically said to them at half-time, we actually had the wind second half. I wanted to get it into Adrian Stone into his feet and use him as a bit of a wall really.  It was either that or can we get the ball wide and I thought that would’ve been the way we go on and win the game.

“The other thing as well I wanted us to make sure we kept a clean sheet in the second half. I didn’t want to concede any more goals.”

McMahon said: “I didn’t go mad. These games you’re in a no-win situation. Of course you want to win. Our confidence has been excellent. We’ve been playing well in the last nine or 10 weeks. We’ve got all the squad together. You don’t want to hammer anyone’s confidence. I just said ‘guys, you’re treating this like a pre-season game’.

“Our passing has let us down a bit, more than a little bit and I said we need to put a bit of a shift in or we’ll work hard on Thursday (at training).

“I just thought our final ball could’ve been a bit better. We’ve done things that we’ll never, ever do in a league match. We tried to play silly passes when we shouldn’t, little chips, little dinks and give the ball away. We never do that, we haven’t been doing that over the last three months! We’ve been doing the basics and I thought we took it easy and we played it like a pre-season game so I asked them to just step it up a bit.”

Phoenix Sports created the first second half chance after only 19 seconds.

Hill played the ball out of defence before Jason Goodchild swept the ball out wide to Ramadan down the right and after cutting inside his right-footed flicked shot was saved comfortably by Budd at his near post.

Phoenix Sports went close following their second corner after 50 minutes.

Freeman swung the ball in from the right and Stone was lurking unmarked at the far post to sweep his right-footed shot on the turn just past the near post from 15-yards.

Nwokeji then released Awotwi, who powerfully struck a right-footed drive which was saved by the Phoenix keeper.

Freeman then played a free-kick short to Jamie Mascoll, who drilled his shot over the bar from 30-yards, before Vickers went up the other end and were also off-target.

Tchonang clipped a ball up field, Menga brought the ball down and slipped the ball inside for Awotwi to send his chip past the right-hand post from 10-yards.

Tejaiye then swept a first time curling effort from 30-yards which forced Phillips into gathering the ball at the second attempt on the hour-mark.

Phillips then made a low save to his right to prevent Wickham sweeping his right-footed shot into the bottom near corner from 35-yards.

But Phoenix Sports accepted a gift from visiting keeper Budd to equalise after 64 minutes.

Left-back Mingle clipped the ball down the line for winger Mascoll to run down the channel before whipping in a low deep cross.  Budd made a costly mistake by letting the ball flash underneath him, the ball landed at Freeman’s feet, who turned the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from eight-yards.

O’Boyle said: “I don’t think we used out wide men that well.  I don’t think we used Adrian Stone that well either second half but the second goal did come from our wide men putting the ball in the box.

“He doesn’t miss from there,” O’Boyle said of Freeman’s strike.

“He’s been on good form this year. He’s scored a lot of goals again this season. I would say that’s probably a goalkeeper error. If Steve Phillips was doing that, I wouldn’t be too pleased.”

McMahon admitted his goalkeeper was at fault for the equaliser.

“I thought we was going to get the third. I didn’t think they were going to score, no disrespect, I thought they struggled with the wind.

“He’s really disappointed in there and you could see his reaction afterwards.

“He’s come in and his last three games, he’s been brilliant for us. He’s called ‘keepers’ and it’s gone underneath him and he’s got a tap in but listen you’d rather it happen today than Saturday.

“We have to pick ourselves up. We weathered a five minute bit of pressure and we had chances where a better final ball we could’ve finished the game.

“But I think the game was so slow for us with no tempo and that’s just not us.”

Stone could have won it for Phoenix Sports in normal time but his dink went past the advancing Budd, who was relieved to see Tchonang showed enough desire to get back on the line to hook the ball away, much to O’Boyle’s disappointment.

He said: “With the wind, I thought that might’ve just edged in. It’s one of them, you don’t really know how close it was, do you? It could’ve been a million miles away, we just don’t know.  The defender’s done well, got back and covered but if I was a striker if I don’t well to get it over the keeper, you want enough to get over the line.”

VCD Athletic also had a chance to win it when Probets hit a stunning curling effort with his left-foot from 35-yards, which forced a great fingertip save out of Phillips.

O’Boyle added: “I actually thought he dropped it in! It was a good shot. He’s a good player, Ashley Probets. Our two wide men have caused a lot of full-backs problems this year. I thought he had a very good game their left-back and haven’t taken him one once. He’s a good, solid defender and set-plays and on the ball you know he’s dangerous. I thought he looked really good out there tonight.”

McMahon said: “Good save from the keeper. Ash has got a decent strike. We had a couple of chances where it’s just the final ball. Nigel Neita’s got down the by-line a few times and cut inside and pulled it back so did Ritchie Graham. It’s just the final pass.”

Neita showed some tricks down the left to whip in a great cross but Wickham’s downward header forced Phillips to make a low save to his left.

But neither side could snatch a late winner so the game was decided by a penalty shoot-out.

When asked his thoughts, O’Boyle said: “Get all of my left-footers off! I’ve got a thing about left-footed penalty takers – I don’t think they can take penalties and it proved tonight, three misses and they was left-footed penalty takers.

“We got two off. I would’ve kept Adrian Stone on actually. We got Lewis Mingle off and got a couple of boys on to take a couple of penalties. It’s a lottery isn’t it really? If you look around on the bench and think I wouldn’t mind him having one. Let’s try and get him on the pitch and we did.

“Helge took a good penalty. I put Cesc on though and he missed!”

McMahon admitted: “I thought our attitude and mentality wise let us down a little bit. We wasn’t sharp. They don’t really know the history some of them, they don’t know how close it is between the two clubs and didn’t really come here for that sort of game.

“We’re really focused on what our job in hand is and I think a few people was looking at that as well, which is disappointing.

“But I’m not going to make a big deal of it, if I’m honest with you.”

Bedford put Phoenix Sports in the driving seat by sending Budd the wrong way, hitting his right-footed kick into the bottom left-hand corner.

Probets continued the left-footed penalty curse, hitting the right-hand post, as VCD Athletic failed to convert their first kick.

Mascoll left-footed penalty was saved by Budd, diving to his right.

VCD Athletic made it 1-1 after two kicks each, Wickham’s right-footed penalty finding the bottom right-hand corner, with Phillips guessing the wrong way.

Helge Orome, who came off the bench deep into time added on at the end of the game, repaid his managers faith by clipping his right-footed penalty in off the left-hand post to give Phoenix Sports a 2-1 lead.

But Neita’s left-footed penalty was saved low by Phillips, just to his right.

Another late Phoenix Sports substitute, Giannoulis Fakinos, fluffed his lines as his right-footed penalty struck the left-hand post.

Menga made the score 2-2 after eight penalties when he rifled his right-footed penalty into the top left hand corner.

Goodchild placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner and Phoenix Sports booked a trip to Stonebridge Road when Nwokeji’s right-footed penalty was kept out by Phillips, diving to his right to make his second save.

O’Boyle added: “My theory on left-footed penalty takers, you look back and they normally always miss in a penalty shoot-out.

“Yes, we’ve done well. I’ll be honest with you. I did say before the penalty shoot-out there’s no pressure on us whatsoever because we’ve never won one since I’ve been here! We’ve had a few. We’ve never won so to be the first at Phoenix to win a penalty shoot-out and we’ve done that so I’m pleased.”

Phoenix Sports can now look forward to playing against the biggest club that they’ve faced in their entire history – Ebbsfleet United – in the Quarter-Finals.

Steve Gritt and club secretary Peter Danzey were at this game tonight and O’Boyle cannot wait to take his side to Stonebridge Road.

“Phoenix playing against Ebbsfleet is fantastic, yes brilliant, I’ll take that. We knew that was the case before the game.  It will be nice to go to play there, lovely.

“It’s a nice place to go, obviously their paying a lot and lot of money out. They’re favourites to win the National League South this year. I’ll imagine there will be a half decent crowd over there. Yes, it will be a good night for the club and this shows how far the club has come. We’re playing in this cup competition for the first time ever and you are going to come up against teams like that. It’s good for the club.

“My main priority is the league and that is my priority. If you offered me tonight or three points on Saturday, I know what I would’ve taken.  I’m more focused on the league games.”

For VCD Athletic boss McMahon he admitted he’s not bothered exiting the competition.

When asked about the penalties, he replied: “The penalties were shocking on both sides, weren’t they? Good God.  I think one penalty I went ‘good pen’, maybe one from each side. Menga from us and their young lad (Helge) who drilled it in the side netting, I think it might’ve come in of the post.  The rest of them, the goalkeeper’s have guessed the right way.  Would’ve scored all of them, I think, the penalties were awful.”

Reflecting on Nwokeji’s final, saved spot-kick, McMahon said: “Mark Nwokeji is a goalscorer and he’s missed. He’s hit the target. 

“I’m not sitting here pulling my hair out. I didn’t go mad at them after the game.  I just said to them we need to keep confidence, we need to look at the reality.

“There’s people in the club, chairman and things like that who are mostly bitterly disappointed because there are some bragging rights. 

“The game hasn’t come at a great time for us. We’re quite an intense side and to have to go and play tonight we are looking at one eye on injuries and we did speak about that.

“It was a catch 22 for us and the lads just took their foot of the gas a little bit. I just think we could’ve maybe stroll through the game and win the game – but we didn’t!

“If we had won it 3-2 we would’ve said not a great performance. Pens are pens.

“I love this club, Phoenix, I’m here a lot, I’ve got some great friends here and good luck to them, I wish them all the best. I’m not overly bothered.”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews, Lewis Mingle (Helge Orome 90), Russell Bedford, Scott Whibley, Chris Hill, Adem Ramadan (Harrison Carnegie 79), Jason Goodchild, Ricky Freeman, Adrian Stone (Giannoulis Fakinos 90), Jamie Mascoll.
Subs: Alistair Gordon, Richie Hamill

Goals:  Adrian Stone 13, Ricky Freeman 64

Booked: Scott Whibley 63

VCD Athletic: Rob Budd, Frantz Tchonang, Ashley Probets, Arron Wickham, Joe Bruce, Ricardo Joseph, Nigel Neita, Davidson Tejiye (Ritchie Graham 79), Lheureux Menga, Mark Nwokeji, Kojo Awotwi (Mathias Bakare 71).
Subs: Harry Brickwood, Donovan Simmonds, Richard Avery

Goals: Davidson Tejiye 28, Mark Nwokeji 36

Attendance: 73
Referee: Mr Scott Rudd (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Joe McKay (Maidstone) & Mr Joe Stokes (Canterbury)