Phoenix Sports 0-2 VCD Athletic - Derbies don't really mean too much for me but it's an important three points for us, says VCD Athletic boss Keith McMahon

Sunday 30th December 2018
Phoenix Sports 0 – 2 VCD Athletic
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 30/12/2018 14:00

Bostik South East Division
Sunday 30 December 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

VCD ATHLETIC manager Keith McMahon refuses to claim the local bragging rights because his two sons play in the Phoenix Sports’ youth ranks.

A record crowd of 453 flocked through the turnstiles to watch these two clubs that are only separated by Woodside Road and it was VCD Athletic that claimed those local bragging rights, courtesy of second half goals from striker Charlie MacDonald, 37, and substitute right-winger Malachi Hudson.

“I thought we deserved it over 90 minutes,” said McMahon.

“There wasn’t much in it first half but I thought we were the better side second half.  We were stronger but the first goal was always going to be interesting. 

“I’m pleased with how we came out second half. We didn’t play to our potential first. We gave them a bit of credit. We didn’t pass the ball like we normally do but I thought we defended unbelievably so I was pleased with that.”

McMahon heaped praise on his two centre-halves Joe Denny and Junior Baker calling them both “outstanding!”

“Second half, I don’t think they had a shot on goal, if I’m honest, not a proper one. We put our bodies on the line and in derbies that’s what you’ve got to do.  We played with four centre-halves because we know Jeff Duah-Kessie and Alex Teniola are a handful up front and we needed cover there but I thought we might’ve had enough going forward in the end and we did.

“I’m over the moon. It’s great for the club. The derbies don’t really mean too much for me.  I’ve got a boy who plays here and my other boy and everyone here (at Phoenix Sports) is my mate and you can’t put it down to one game but it’s an important three points for us.

“I’ve been hounded all week about this game and you just have to take it as it is. I’ve been doing it long enough, it’s a game.  I would be disappointed if we lost to any side in this league. If we won you’ll be as happy as we won to any side.

“I’m not going in their bar with my mates (and claim the bragging rights) we’re going to have a beer.  My committee will enjoy it and their committee won’t because they’re two rivals but they’re big friends as well, the clubs, and people need to keep remember that. Yes, we want to beat each other but mainly we want to be successful.”

On the attendance, McMahon replied: “What a great idea from both managers to play it today! We had a chat before and I’m over the moon for the club. It’s a great day. It’s not a great result for Phoenix but I’m over the moon that people have turned out and watched .”

Phoenix Sports manager Paul Bryon said: “I thought first half we had the chances. We had a header in the first five minutes that should’ve tested the keeper. We’ve had two other chances we didn’t test the keeper.

“The game plan worked, we kept them quiet in the first half. We knew what they were going to do and everything worked and it was going well, I think.

“Second half they were better than us and it showed.  We lost our discipline and it’s a great finish from the fella – if he’s meant that.  There’s not a lot you can do about that and then we lost a little bit of our shape and discipline chasing the game.

“The second goal killed the game really. A couple of my big players didn’t turn up today and it’s fairly disappointing really, the result. I thought we deserved a little bit better than that, especially with the first half performance.”

Phoenix Sports went into the derby sitting in ninth-place in the Bostik South East Division table with 25 points from 17 games, while VCD Athletic were one place lower on the same number of points but with a game in hand.  Vickers climbed up to eighth-place following their ninth league win, while Phoenix Sports extended their winless run to six games.

Phoenix Sports missed a glorious chance to open the scoring after two and a half minutes, following their first of five corners.

Left-back Lewis Clark floated in a deep corner from the right and holding midfielder Zak Bryon was left in space at the far post while standing on the six-yard line and planted his free header across the keeper and past the far post.

Bryon, senior, added: “He tried to be too cute and put it in the corner. You’ve just got to hit the target from that range and I think it’s a goal. We talked to him in the changing room and said you should be around the back because his movement’s quite good and really he’s ought to be doing better.”

McMahon added: “Slack marking from us. Zak knows he should’ve done better but he’s a young lad, I’m sure he’ll score his next one.”

Phoenix Sports created another chance following their second corner.

Clark swung the ball in from the right again and Bryon was left unmarked at the far post again but he smacked his right-footed half-volley over from six-yards.

VCD Athletic created their first opening in the 18th minute.

Baker clipped the ball up to MacDonald, who flicked his pass inside to release winger Courtney Barrington down the left and he cut into the penalty area and drove his shot straight at Steve Phillips.

Barrington rode a sliding tackle from Jack Barry to reach the by-line and he cut the ball across towards the near post for MacDonald to stab the ball into Phillips hands, who gathered at the second attempt.

Phoenix Sports central-midfielder Solomon Taiwo swept a first time shot which flashed just past the diving keeper and just past the foot of the near post from 25-yards in the 25th minute of the game.

VCD Athletic holding midfielder Aymun El-Moyhalbel, 18, had a decent game and he burst forward after stealing the ball from Taiwo but his shot lacked composure and dragged his shot harmlessly wide of the target from 22-yards.

Phoenix Sports created a great chance in the 32nd minute when Kweku Ansah released striker Duah-Kessie down the right and he dragged his shot past the diving Mant and past the far post with an angled drive from 15-yards.

It was a frustrating day for Duah-Kessie, who was caught offside on six occasions, the first five coming in the first half.

Bryon said: “There’s two things that I’m frustrated about that.  I said to him if you’re at an angle and we’re two-v-one square the ball. Their second goal is a typical example of that where MacDonald squared the ball. If he squares it it’s a goal but we also said if he does shoot, the other forward (Teniola) has got to hit the back post because it’s either going in or going wide and if you slide in at the back post, it’s a tap in.  We just weren’t alive up top today.”

On Duah-Kessie being caught offside, Bryon said: “We spoke about that at half-time as well. It’s just his starting position, he’s got to get back quicker and start deeper, especially when he’ll get the better of their centre-halves. He’s been away Jeff, he had 90 minutes in the resssies but he was a bit rusty today.”

McMahon said: “It was an acute angle, it was slack marking from us. They’ve rolled it in and Jeff’s hit a decent strike but it’s a tight angle and if he scores then it’s a great finish but it was a warning sign.  Their front two for them are a handful and they’re big, strong and have got pace and to keep a clean sheet against them means we’ve done well.

“I was pleased with how we defended, we were solid.  It’s easy to have a go at a forward for getting caught offside but he plays on the shoulder.  We worked on it at training on Thursday as well, not getting people offside, just working on our defensive shape.  Sometimes at this level he switches off but he’s only young and if he weren’t doing that he’d probably play at a higher level but I was pleased with the way that we defended.”

VCD Athletic right-back Jake McIntyre cut in from the right flank and space opened up in front of him but his left-footed drive flashed past the right-hand post from 30-yards.

Barrington was about to pull the trigger after cutting into the penalty area but a brave sliding tackle from Danny Young ensured the ball looped up and bounced just past the far post.

Taiwo received a low pass from left-wing-back Lee Bird and tried to curl his shot into the top far corner from 30-yards, only to see the ball sail harmlessly high and wide of the mark.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Bryon said: “At half-time I said I’ve asked you before the game three things, effort, character and shape.  I said understand what your next phase of the game is because they try to switch it and put it wide.

“I said half the job was completed.  Had we taken our chances we would’ve been going in 2-0 up and now you’ve got to give me more. I just thought these games is hard, we had a training session on Thursday but we were a bit tired in the second half.”

McMahon added: “I was pleased. We didn’t play the football we’ve been playing. All we needed to do was step up 20%.  It was a bit scrappy, we gave it away in really good areas. We got down the flanks quite a lot and weren’t positive enough and they caught us on the break and it was just believing in what we were doing, move it a bit quicker, keep our shape and we’ll score – and we did!”

Phoenix Sports were a threat from set-pieces and after 180 seconds Clark delivered an out-swinging corner from the right and Barry made space at the back of the penalty area to guide his header straight at keeper Joe Mant, who made a comfortable catch.

Bryon said:  “We huffed and puffed without really testing the keeper.  There’s a couple of opportunities there with a bit more composure we would’ve tested him.  I have to be honest, on chances I thought we deserved something out of the game.”

El-Moyhalbel went on a mazy 40-yard run and after skipping past Barry his right-footed shot from 20-yards was caught by Phillips, diving to his right to make the save.

“He’s a 19-year-old and he’s a good lad. He’s in and out of the side but he’s learning. He’s more of a winger but he’s got so much energy, got good feet and we’re teaching him the basics and he’s coming on,” McMahon said of El-Moyhalbel.

“He was lively and he was unlucky. Maybe if he weren’t booted he would’ve gone through a bit closer but it was a decent run. It just showed when we went at them a little bit what we could do.”

VCD Athletic took the lead with 11 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a classy finish from MacDonald, his 17th goal of the season.

Alastair Gordon clipped a free-kick into the penalty area and MacDonald flicked the ball over Clark’s head before watching the ball drop and lashing a right-footed half-volley past a diving Phillips to score from 10-yards.

“It’s a great training ground move. We’ve been working on that a lot,” said McMahon.

“Maybe he fizzed it in a bit harder than he should’ve. We know he couldn’t keep launching balls in the box because that’s what they’re good at so if we can get Charlie in that hole and his first touch was unbelievable and his finish is what Charlie MacDonald does.

“I thought he led the line brilliantly today.  People just keep going on about his goals but his work-rate, he holds the ball up, he brings players in and that’s what he’s here for and he’s come up with the goods for us.

“Seventeen goals is not a bad return is it? He had 10 in pre-season, not bad for an old git as people say! It’s not just goals that he brings to the team. I’ve listened to other managers Tony Russell (at Cray Wanderers) saying he’s a joy to work with and he is – he’s unbelievable!”

Bryon added: “The difference was the first goal, it was either a bit of quality or a bit of luck.

“The centre-halves have got to do a little bit better for me there and be a bit stronger.  I thought he miss-hit the kick there and it’s a great touch if he meant it and he got on the end of it and reacts and you know what he’s got in those areas, he’s deadly! He was probably the difference today.”

Vickers second holding midfielder Dominic Odusanya drilled a 25-yarder straight into Phillips’ chest as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

Phoenix Sports created another opening following a corner when Clark floated the ball in from the right and quiet striker Alex Teniola planted his header over at the near post.

Bryon said: “Story of our day, that’s another free header in the box, just outside the six-yard box and you’ve got to be working the keeper and we didn’t. The more we talk about it now, the difference was taking chances,” admitted Bryon.

McMahon added: “Again, they’re not even half-chances. He’s whipped it in and if he scores a header there it’s a brilliant header but we were tight. We made it difficult for him.

“We knew Phoenix are dangerous from set-plays. They’ve got some good players but I did think we really defended well today apart from Zak’s header, they didn’t have a free header and even Alex was challenged and I was pleased with that.”

VCD Athletic produced a great move and the base of the near post saved the home side in the 81st minute.

Substitute Hudson made an impact when he came on and played the ball into El-Moyhalbel, who played in Barrington but his left-footed shot on the angle 12-yards from goal clipped the base of the near post.

McMahon said:  “What a move as well! We opened them up and we slid it in and you think game over! It looked like they had to come at us and we knew if we sat we knew we would get chances.  He’s gone through and Steve’s come out and it’s an acute angle and he knows he should’ve scored!”

Bryon added: “We were pushing for an equaliser. We were loading it and they kept their two wide men wide. We looked tired. They were always going to hurt us late on but we lost our discipline.

“We lost our shape a little bit so the game opened up and we were chasing it with 10 minutes to go.”

VCD Athletic doubled their lead with 36 minutes and 15 seconds on the clock, although the Phoenix manager claimed there was an offside in the build-up.

Hudson was just inside the Phoenix half when he slipped the ball in behind to put MacDonald through on goal and once inside the penalty area he squared the ball inside for Hudson to slid in ahead of Zak Bryon to poke the ball into the net from eight-yards.

Bryon said: “Offside! All day long! You could see from the side. Keith moans about refs every day on the radio and they’re wary about it. There was a couple of poor decisions from him. He didn’t have a terrible game but that’s a big decision!

“There’s three of them offside and it was obvious but it is what it is.  We have to take our chances. If we take our chances and they score that goal it doesn’t matter. We didn’t take our chances.”

McMahon added: “No controversy whatsoever! I was bang in line. He was massively onside! Charlie had Jack Barry right up behind him so he was wrestling him so there was no way he was offside!

“Ask any of the fans behind me and they will tell you.  Maybe from down here it looks offside but it ain’t.  They’ve got caught and he’s gone through and you think Charlie’s going to score here but how unselfish was that and what a good substitution by the way!

“Malachi’s been out 16-17 months with a cruciate and he’s played games here and there. He’s frustrated because he wants to play more and we need to get him more minutes but it’s good to see him playing. He’s got loads of ability and we’ve just got a couple of wingers who are playing really well at the moment so he has to bide his time but he came on and done a job for the team today and won us the game.”

Phillips pulled off a great reaction save when he dived to his right to tip the ball around his near post after Barrington’s low angled drive from 15-yards took a deflection of Barry.

Teniola swept a first time shot on the turn which flashed past the left-hand post from 25-yards and their two front men linked up well at the death.

Duah-Kessie cut in from the left towards the edge of the Vickers penalty area and he put the ball on a plate for Teniola, who drilled a right-footed half-volley from within the D, which was gathered by Mant on his knees to keep his clean sheet.

Bryon said: “I think that’s the first time really we had a shot on target but it went straight down the keepers throat – we have got to be doing better!”

Phoenix Sports are without a game next Saturday due to Thamesmead Town’s sad demise and host second-placed Hastings United here on Saturday 12 January, while VCD Athletic host sixth-placed Ashford United at Oakwood seven days earlier.

Tommy Warrilow’s side have 30 points in the bag and are just a place and a point behind a Horsham side that occupy the final play-off berth.

“I’m pleased for the club. It’s a big three points for us, a great defensive display, overall I thought a deserved win,” said McMahon.

“We knew that we have a couple of games in hand on a few teams which we have to win.  We knew we had a difficult month coming up. We had a hard game against Greenwich Borough, which we were super in a 4-1 win. We knew this was tough and we’ve got Ashford at home next week, which is going to be really tough.

“We have to hang in there, we’ve got a lot of youngsters and we just have to keep playing and believe.

“We’re under no pressure here. It’s been one of the most enjoyable seasons since I’ve been at the club. We’ve had a solid side and people want to be here and want to play and train and believe in what we’re trying to do.”

Summing up, Bryon said: “Frustrating, simple as that. It’s very frustrating. We made a game of it and we should’ve done better!

“We’ve got a tough month, we’ve got Hastings, Horsham and Whyteleafe.  The last nine games apart from VCD, we’ve done well against all these teams already this season so we’ve played everybody now and they should be points on the board for us so we’ve got to be in and around it.

“We’ve got a tough run. We’ve got to pick some points up. We’ve drawn too many games and there’s no two ways about it. We’ve got to start winning games!”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews, Lewis Clark, Zak Bryon (George Whitelock 82), Danny Young, Jack Barry, Lee Bird (Tony Robinson 70), Solomon Taiwo, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Alex Teniola, Kweku Ansah (Jonathan Miller-Annor 82).
Subs: Conrad Lee, Ashley Probets

Booked: Jack Barry 52

VCD Athletic: Joe Mant, Jake McIntyre, Ricardo Joseph, Aymun El-Moyhalbel (Tyrone Guthrie 90), Joe Denny, Junior Baker, Alex Gaggin (Malachi Hudson 77), Dominic Odusanya, Charlie MacDonald, Alastair Gordon, Courtney Barrington.
Subs: Jack Steventon, Tom Cecil, Ali Fuseini

Goals: Charlie MacDonald 57, Malachi Hudson 82

Attendance: 453
Referee: Mr Craig Barnett (Basildon, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Reece Pinchback (Wickford, Essex) & Mr Ryan Fox (Benfleet, Essex)